Small crop packs a punch

Small crop packs a punch


Cotton
Patrick and Sally Downes with their dog Boots in their Sunbrook wheat, planted on Anzac day.

Patrick and Sally Downes with their dog Boots in their Sunbrook wheat, planted on Anzac day.

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DESPITE a smaller crop than usual, this year's cotton yields are reaching record highs and getting the industry excited.

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DESPITE a smaller crop than usual, this year's cotton yields are reaching record highs and getting the industry excited.

Cotton Australia chief executive Adam Kay said many cotton areas had been producing yields at levels never before seen.

"Australian yields are the highest in the world but this is taking us to new levels," Mr Kay said.

"They're definitely record yields."

Mr Kay said the Australian cotton crop was on track to produce more than 2 million bales this year because of the promising yields.

"There are a lot of people getting five to six bales an acre off irrigated crops, that's pushing the national yield up."

Not enough ginning has occurred to determine the quality of most of the cotton, but Mr Kay said generally, it was looking pretty good.

"Any crop that's had a bit of rain on it hasn't been ginned yet, but we're hoping it holds up," he said.

About 60 per cent of Australia's overall crop has been picked, with northern cropping zones most advanced.

Southern croppers have, in general, had 20pc of their crop picked.

The Macquarie Valley had 40pc of its crop picked, the Namoi and Gwydir valleys had about 70pc off.

The south of the state has produced about 25pc of the national crop and Mr Kay said it was expected to deliver about 500,000 bales.

The majority of picking is finished in the Mungindi region, where some producers recording record yields.

B and W agronomist Mick Brosnan, Mungindi, said there had been incredible yields coming off crops with some producers recording 13.6 to 15.3 bales a hectare.

The boll count has also been very high with producers recording about 200 bolls to the metre throughout the area and turn outs have also been positive.

Mr Brosnan said there had been reports of 45pc turn out going through the gin.

"Anything better than 40 is good," he said.

Despite significant rain at Easter, Mr Brosnan said everybody hoped the moisture wouldn't cause too many downgrades with colour.

Because most growers planted late, most were only half way finished defoliation when the rain fell, meaning not as many bolls were open.

Usually, growers in Mungindi would have had to plant their crops earlier to ensure the entire farm was done in time, but with a smaller plant, they were able to hold off.

Cotton Grower Services (CGS) Narrabri branch manager Michael Smith said yields had been higher than average throughout the Wee Waa and Narrabri district.

Mr Smith said in the west, near Wee Waa, farmers were recording between 15 and 16 bales a hectare, although it lessened closer to Narrabri.

The Narrabri area is producing yields of about 13.5 bales a hectare, although Mr Smith said some had been pushing the 15 bales/ha mark.

"They're still very good yields," he said.

Anything picked before the rain has been really good quality and Mr Smith said the gin turn outs have been very high.

"We've heard of anywhere between 41.5pc up to 45pc,'" he said.

Farmers who had big rainfall before picking were reporting some colour downgrades, although Mr Smith said there still hadn't been much cotton ginned and classed in the area.

He said the area experienced a good growing season, dodging any weather events that could cause water logging and any heat waves that could have affected yields.

Similarly, Mr Brosnan said most planting in the Mungindi region occurred later in October, so crops missed a lot of the warmer weather.

"It did get very hot in early November but that didn't affect us much because the crops hadn't really started fruiting yet."

The season was ideal for cotton growing, with mostly beautiful sunny days topping at about 36 degrees.

Mr Kay said Auscott's new gin had come online in Hay, which would boost grower confidence in the district's potential.

Auscott's Hay grower services Eddie Redfern said majority of cotton yields in the area had been up to 10 to 11 bales a hectare.

"Most of the guys have a smile on their faces, especially in comparison to last year," he said.

Mr Redfern said seasonal conditions throughout the season were favourable, and the area missed a lot of the rain events northern producers received later in the season.

"We had about two inches (50 millimetres) in April, but that hasn't been too bad," he said.

"Our season is a bit further delayed than up north."

The Hay gin represents a major milestone for Auscott.

It is expected to be fully functioning by mid-May, in time for growers to start ginning.

Mr Redfern said prior to this year the area had two ginning facilities, which at times were put under pressure with the cotton production down south.

The new gin is expected to ease the "bottle necking" which occurred, as well as giving growers another marketing option.

Cotton pulls through after hail

Although they were hit with two hail storms, Jordan and Simon Cosh, "Karoola", Pallamallawa, still had a cotton crop worth picking.

Jordan and his father Simon planted 760 hectares of Sicot 74BRF bollgard cotton in late September, which Jordan said was unusually early.

"We usually plant in late October to mid-November, but with high soil temperatures and available moisture, we sowed earlier," said Jordan Cosh (pictured).

He said they had a good start to the season, with adequate rainfall before planting.

However, their crops were significantly damaged by a large hail storm that hit the area in December.

"The cotton came back remarkably well until it was hit by another hail storm in March, before defoliation," he said.

The extent of how much the two hail storms damaged the Coshs' yields is still unknown, as a lot of the crop hadn't been ginned yet, but Mr Cosh said he hoped it wouldn't be too bad.

There were several producers in the area who had crops affected by the hail storms, some badly enough to prevent harvest.

"It wasn't an ideal season, but we were just very grateful to have a crop, especially because of how dry it's been," Mr Cosh said.

The story Small crop packs a punch first appeared on Farm Online.

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