Farmer Focus: Wet weather and slugs hit Western Australia

It’s been a very trying year here in the south of Western Australia. After one of the best starts to the season in many years, it hasn’t stopped raining.

Now, let me first state that coming from one of the driest continents on earth, I’m not complaining about the rain, but like chocolate, sometimes you can have too much at once.

The first half of seeding was great. Much of the conversation within the crew was about how great it was not to have all the dust, how well the crop was coming up and how fast we were getting through the seeding programme.

Then we had 100mm of rain in one day and everything stopped. The talk moved from how good the season was going to how we were going to get the tractor, bar and airseeder out of that sloppy, muddy hole. We had a neighbour who had to dig the tractor out with an excavator and needed 1,000hp to pull it out.

Getting bogged has to be one of the biggest time-wasting exercises you can have in farming. Not only does everything stop, but the risk of damaging equipment also increases.

We drag around some pretty big seeding equipment, with the average unit weighing about 35t. It takes some skill to get them out.

While we were battling the wet, a new problem we haven’t seen on our farm before crawled out of their holes and started eating everything – slugs.

How can you go from never having a problem to them eating everything? It’s a fight that has lasted the past two months, with some areas baited three times and still unable to grow a crop.

On top of all this, we have had a very cold, wet winter. Most of the crops have been sitting in water for the past six weeks, with very limited chances of spraying or spreading. Things were looking a bit grim.

But the sun came out last week and we’ve been enjoying sunny days. The crops are greening up with the nitrogen we’ve been able to finally get out and with all that moisture, we’re set up for a big finish.

Rob Warburton farms 3,000ha with his wife Jen and two daughters in Kojonup, below Perth, in Western Australia. Cropping includes wheat, barley and oilseed rape. Wildflower seed is grown for retail. Merino sheep are reared for wool and meat.

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