GROWERS in southern NSW are beaming after ideal temperatures and a rain-free picking season paved the way for a bumper cotton crop.
Irrigated yields averaged 12 to 13 bales a hectare, up on nine to 10 bales/ha last season.
Cotton Australia chief executive Adam Kay said a national harvest of 2.2 million bales was expected.
“A number of growers are reporting record yields as high as 15 to 16 bales/ha on the back of magnificent growing conditions in many cotton growing valleys,” Mr Kay said.
“We expect this season’s average Australian yield to be well above the 2013-14 average of 9.95 bales/ha, already the highest cotton yields in the world.”
Southern valleys in NSW had experienced an exceedingly good season, with more than a quarter of the national crop grown south of the Macquarie River – a huge feat given cotton really only became established at commercial levels in the region in the past five years.
“These growers have access to more reliable irrigation entitlements from the Snowy Mountains.”
Elders Griffith agronomist Richard Malone forecast next year’s southern cotton acreage could total close to 45,000ha – up from 37,000ha this year.
“These yields have put a positive spin on the industry down here; last year growers were left with a sour taste from poorer results,” Mr Malone said.
The bumper 2015 season had led growers to consider increasing their cotton plantings next year, particularly those who grew both cotton and rice.
“Cotton is generating the best return per megalitre particularly where yields and prices are now,” he said.
“It’s not uncommon to use 10 megalitres a hectare for cotton, but rice is more variable at about 12 to 16 megalitres/ha.”
Southern growers had the potential to push the yield even further if the season went with them.
“It’s not unrealistic to think we could achieve 16 to 17 bales/ha,” he said.