WA’s cotton harvest underway

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Growers in Western Australia’s Kimberley region have begun harvesting the state’s first commercial cotton crop in about a decade.

A contract harvester from Queensland has arrived and will spend the next month baling up around 800 hectares of GM cotton.

Grower Matt Gray says he’s really happy with how his crop went, but isn’t sure on if he’ll grow it again next year.

“At this stage probably not,” he said.

“When us growers got together at the start of the season it was a lucrative crop due to the price, but that has come back a fair way and the logistics of getting it trucked over to Dalby in Queensland to get ginned is rather expensive,

“So at the moment I think it’ll remain as a one-off for now.”

The price for cotton at the start of the year hit record highs of beyond $1,000 a bale, but has since dropped by more than half.

Mr Gray says he’s still hopeful his crop will make a profit, with yields of around 8 bales a hectare.

He says the success of this year’s crop bodes well for the expansion of the Ord Irrigation Scheme.

“I think it’s quite possible that cotton could be an industry here in the future,” he said.

“I think we’ve proved that we can grow it, and it was a good thing for the growers to grow it this year, because with Ord Stage 2 coming online it was good to show everyone else that other crops are available to be grown in this area.”

Cotton researcher Penny Goldsmith has been overseeing this year’s crop.

She says it’s been a challenging year in the Ord for growing cotton, which makes the expected average yield of 8.5 bales a hectare, a fantastic result for growers.

“It’s been a challenging year because we had a late wet season, which meant there was a rush to get the crop in and establishment probably wasn’t so good,” she said.

“We’ve also had a fairly cool year, which the cotton handled alright, but there were a few times where it wasn’t so good for it,

“We’ve also had a few interesting pest problems, but with all of those challenges if we get 8.5 bales a hectare it’ll be good and if we get more we’ll be laughing.”

Ms Goldsmith says the bulk of the Ord cotton crop was made up of the variety ‘Sicot 71 BRF’.

She says it’s a crop which can be profitable in the Ord Valley, especially if there’s investments made into a local processing facility.

“I think there’s a few infrastructure issues which need to be taken care of, as well as some industry investment,

“But we can grow it here, we can get decent yields and it’s certainly got a future.”

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2011/s3342717.htm

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