A COMBINATION of good prices, a change in seasonal conditions, better varieties and flexibility in licensing has attracted more farmers to cotton this season.
Nationally, about 270,000 hectares has been planted, which includes 208,000ha irrigated and 62,000ha of dryland cotton.
Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay said the cotton planted could produce a national crop of 2.3 or 2.4 million bales depending on weather throughout the season.
It’s a huge change from the estimated crop of 200,000ha in mid October.
Rain in late October spurred cotton planting, but it’s not only seasonal conditions contributing to the uptake of cotton.
NSW farmers have now planted 121,000 irrigated hectares and about 40,000 green hectares of dryland.
The industry has welcomed a few new growers as they look to take advantage of moisture with what is now considered a less risky crop, Mr Kay said.
Growers have been given extra confidence with the bale prices holding firm around $500.
“When prices are up it certainly helps encourage the dryland growers to plant,” he said.
“The price is right and over the past five years there’s been a lot of developments that have made cotton production less risky.
”We’ve got insects well and truly under control with Bollgard and Monsanto is sharing risk by having the end point loyalty program where you only pay for what you produce.”
The introduction of improved cotton varieties over the past decade, particularly for dryland cotton, has also made the crop attractive.
“We’ve now got cotton varieties that have got good length so we’re seeing less discounts in length for dryland cotton when the right varieties are selected,” Mr Kay said.
“What normally causes a shortening of the fibre is moisture stress after the plant has flowered and there are some very severe penalties for shorter fibres when the cotton is ginned.
“The number of times we see that has been reduced because the length of these varieties is definitely superior to what we had 10 years ago.”