North West farmers cotton on to good drop


District agronomists say cotton plantings across the North West would get a massive boost from last week’s solid rainfalls.

The rain was even more welcome because of the trend in our district away from irrigated cotton towards dryland cotton, Wee Waa cotton seed merchant Robert Eveleigh said.

Mr Eveleigh, an extension and development agronomist with what he says is the only cotton seed merchant in Australia ? Cotton Seed Distributors at Wee Waa ? said that our district’s crop was centred around the Namoi and Gwydir valleys, with most of it planted around Moree.

He said after last year’s record national crop of about 570,000 hectares, planting would be up for the 2011-12 season.

“The area planted this coming year Australia-wide will be as big, maybe as much as 80,000 hectares more,” Mr Eveleigh said.

He said irrigated cotton was traditionally planted in a one-metre row spacing but the distance between rows was double this (a technique called skip-row planting) when the dryland method was used ? which would probably mean lower yields.

He said since last season another 20 to 30 growers had also started to grow cotton.

“We’ve got a few new ones in the Upper Namoi,” Mr Eveleigh said.

“Dryland has the potential for a significant number of new growers … Certainly seed sales … are certainly greater than what they were last year.

“Traditionally, the biggest areas (of cotton planted in our district) has been irrigated and that has still been the case but, particularly last year, there was an increase in dryland.

“Most of the crop will be planted (in October). The prospects are pretty good: we’ve got a full dam in Keepit … that’s a good start to high yields (because of the irrigation potential).

“There’s a full profile of moisture (in the soil, which will be good for dryland plantings).”

Department of Primary Industries Gunnedah district agronomist Bill Manning said the rainfall would greatly assist cotton growers.

“It will be good for sowing cotton and it will be valuable for the later winter crops,” Mr Manning said.

Moree East district agronomist Rebecca Byrne said the ideal time for planting cotton was when the soil moisture was 16 per cent and higher.

“During that mid-to-late September period is where those conditions occur,” she said.

Ms Byrne said the 2011-12 crop looked promising because of last season’s high yields and high prices received for crops.

“The planting area increased threefold in Moree for the 2010-11 season ? that was largely price driven,” Ms Byrne said.

Growers last season had obtained between $500 and $1000 per bale.

A few weeks ago, the bale price was about $450, Mr Eveleigh said.