Roma crops waiting on clear skies

Wheat harvest in full swing


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Dean Johnson in the 400 hectares of Seamer variety chickpeas on Kenormac, Roma.

Dean Johnson in the 400 hectares of Seamer variety chickpeas on Kenormac, Roma.

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Some farmers are praying for enough rain to plant a sorghum crop, while others a looking for clear skies to harvest.

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While many farmers are hoping for a good drop of rain to allow for a reasonable sorghum plant, chickpea growers are praying for clear skies and warm days so crops can be harvested. 

For the Johnson family, Arbroath, Roma, it’s all just a waiting game at the moment, with 400 hectares of Seamer variety chickpeas ready for the header. 

Planted into a full profile in the third week of May at their property, Kenormac, Dean Johnson said they were lucky enough to avoid frost damage. 

“All of our farming country is on top of the hills, so we're pretty lucky that way, but I think we got down to minus five, so we were very lucky we didn't get hit,” he said.

“We got hit pretty bad last year and it completely annihilated our crop.”

The widespread dry conditions has meant many people couldn’t plant a winter crop, but Mr Johnson said they were lucky to get the rain they did. 

“It's not the best year we've had, but we don't expect so much out this way so we're quite happy,” he said.

Thirty millimetres of rain in August fell at just the right time, with the crop still green, giving it the boost it needed, but a further 40mm in several falls since spraying the crop out in September hasn’t been ideal.

“We had 35mm out of the last fall which we needed for the cattle because the grass is getting pretty dry, but the crop certainly didn’t need any,” Mr Johnson said. 

“We had 2mm overnight and looking at the forecast there seems to be something predicted every single day.

“At this stage, it’s not doing any harm, but I think it’s getting a lot softer because of the rain, so we’ll need a few hot days to harden again before we get on to harvest.” 

Harvest for the Johnsons will likely kick off at Arbroath in their 800ha of Suntop and Gregory wheat with demand from local feedlots driving the market.

“Because the wheat’s more valuable than the chickpeas, which is quite unusual, we will start on the wheat and then go into the chickpeas,” Mr Johnson said.   

“We’re thinking the best of the chickpeas will go 2t/ha, but we won’t average that across the entire crop.”

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