Western Cape wheat farmers welcome winter rain

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Andries Theron, Moorreesburg farmer and vice-chairperson of Grain SA, said he received reports from the different wheat growing regions in the province and all farmers reported good rainfall over the weekend. From the Southern Cape region to the Swartland and Moorreesburg, farmers reported rainfall of between 30mm to 70mm over the first weekend in June.

“Apart from the intermittent hail and heavy downpour experienced in some areas, most of the province also enjoyed lighter, but long lasting showers, typical of the Western Cape winter, which penetrated deep into the soil to replenish the water table.” 

Theron said there have been no reports of damage suffered due to scattered hail storms. “A large percentage of wheat plantings have been lying dormant, waiting for rain, and luckily the wheat plants that have come up are still too small to suffer hail damage.”

Theron said that as a result of recent rainfall, farmers were now much more positive and expecting a good harvest, but Swartland farmer Koos Blanckenberg said it was too early to predict what the 2013 season would yield. Blanckenberg, a grain farmer from Philadelphia and Grain SA’s representative for the Swartland region, said they received only 7mm of rain in May compared to the long term average of 63mm.

He said that while the rain that fell during the first weekend in June came just in time, dry conditions during May could still have an impact on crop yields. “The last time we received this little rain during May was in 2004 and that year the average wheat yield was about half a ton lower than usual. In 2012 the average wheat yield on farms in the Western Cape was about 3,66t/ha,” he said.

But, Blanckenberg said, if the weather played along for the rest of the season, 2013 could turn out to be a good season for grain farmers in the Western Cape after all.