CENTRAL Queensland cotton growers have their crops up and running earlier this season after lobbying successfully to have the sowing window advanced on previous years.
CSD extension and development agronomist John Marshall, Dalby, said the cotton sowing window in CQ started on September 8, about a week earlier than had been the case in the past few years.
“Quite a few of the farmers took the opportunity,” he said.
“The early window is addressing an issue they have had over the last five or six years where there have been a lot of problems with bad weather and rain in mid-January and early February affecting the mature crops.
“So the industry there has tried the strategy of planting earlier and trying to get the crop matured earlier and picked possibly in January instead of extending into February.”
Mr Marshall said the early crop in CQ had been sown under ideal conditions.
“From a weather point of view, they couldn’t have asked for better conditions with air temperatures that week ranging from 16 to 38 degrees. The cotton was popping out of the ground in five days.”
Further south on the Darling Downs, Mr Marshall said the sowing window opened at the normal time of October 15 and would run through to November 24.
“Season wise, there is fairly good water on the Downs and reasonably good fallows so we are expecting a slightly above average area to go in, particularly with cotton sitting around the $480/bale mark,” he said.
“And it is reasonably attractive to dryland growers at that money.
“We are hopeful it will be around 40,000 paddock-hectares of irrigated cotton and could be up to the same with dryland.
“My feeling is we had excellent results with dryland last year both yield and quality wise.
“The soil moisture profiles are there again, and sorghum prices are up and down, driven by what is happening with the wheat crops. I think Downs growers will be back into dryland cotton as part of their rotations.”
In NSW, planting is well underway in the State’s cotton growing valleys where more than half this season’s crop has already gone in.
CSD extension agronomist Rob Eveleigh, Wee Waa, said it would be one of the bigger plants in NSW this season.
“It may not be as big a crop as in 2011-12 but it will certainly be one of the biggest we have had,” he said.
“The water situation in most valleys is good. The Macquarie Valley is the worst off, but most of the others are in reasonable shape.
“It will be an issue if we don’t get some rain in the new year, but it is okay for the moment.”
Mr Eveleigh said while there was good water availability in most valleys, the widespread dry conditions meant there had been high early demand on irrigation reserves for crop establishment.
“Most people have had to pre-water or water up. There were a few people in the upper reaches of the Namoi Valley who were able to plant into rain moisture,” he said.
“But people are using a lot of water early on. West of Wee Waa they are using anywhere from 1.75 to 2.5 megalitres to get things started. They are using a fair portion of their allocations just to get the crop established.”
Mr Eveleigh said there would be a large plant of dryland cotton this year.
“Some has already gone in on the rain we had a few weeks ago,” he said.
“Some areas are done, others need rain in the next few weeks to allow them to make a start.”