Cotton exchange brings perspective


A VISITING cotton consultant from the US says the flooding that Northern NSW and Queensland growers experienced during the past two seasons is a challenge farmers in his home state of Arizona rarely face.

Danny Hensley is an independent cotton consultant based in Parker, Arizona, and is visiting Australia as part of an annual agronomist exchange program run by Malcolm Pursehouse of Pursehouse Rural, and funded by Bayer Crop Science.

Each year an American cotton agronomist visits during the Australian growing season, while an Australian returns the favour during the US season.

Mr Hensley caught up with Queensland Country Life at Moura. He has worked as a cotton consultant for 37 years, servicing clients predominantly in four valleys along the Colorado River, in Arizona and California.

Mr Hensley said because Colorado River growers grew crops away from the riverbank in desert country protected by levees, flooding was rarely an issue.

Likewise, he said, while dry-land cotton was a viable option for many Queensland growers, Arizona and California farmers did not have the climate to plant without irrigation.

Mr Hensley flew back to the US on the weekend after 16 days touring all the major cotton-growing valleys in NSW and Queensland.

While unable to divulge any trade secrets, Mr Hensley did show Emerald growers suffering from boll rot from wet weather a few ways to manage the problem.

“They’d never heard of what I was doing and a couple of the growers actually got pieces of paper to write down details to see if they could adapt that to their practices here to help with the boll rot,” he said.

“You’re never going to get rid of boll rot, but you can alleviate some of the problems.”

He said apart from flooding, he found the Australian cotton industry very similar to the US.

“We’re all irrigated, low desert, whereas over here you have dryland and irrigated farming,” he said. “Your temperature is quite a bit different; normally we don’t have to deal with floods and humidity.”

Mr Hensley’s clients farm, on average, about 1200 hectares of cotton, the largest about 6000ha. They normally achieve averages of nine to 11 bales/ha.

He said one of the most satisfying parts of his career had been helping growers use new technologies to increase yields from an average of two to 2.5 bales an acre (6 bales/ha), now up to a five bale/acre average (12bales/ha).

That’s pretty dramatic,” he said.

Mr Hensley represents a company called Fertizona in Arizona, and was shown around Queensland farms by AGnVET Services.