Dryland's promising kick off as recent rain boosts confidence

Turner Farming plants dryland cotton for the first time after promising seasonal start


Promising start to the summer season prompts family operation to plant cotton for the first time.


WIND, rain and storms often fill growers with mixed emotions during spring.

However, while some regions have been set back by recent rain some growers in NSW's North West region have been given a major boost by recent weather events.

Despite fears the rain may have delayed winter harvest, the spring showers have in fact given growers such as Angus Turner the perfect sub-soil moisture levels to plant cotton, all the while not detracting from his family's operation, Turner Farming, from beginning the harvest of winter crops.

"That last bit of rain we had in mid-October actually probably couldn't have come at a better time," Mr Turner said.

"It wasn't enough rain to delay our winter harvest, in fact it may have helped some crops along a bit, but it also paved the way for us to put in our sorghum and now our dryland cotton.

"On top of that, the moisture level is high enough now it won't need too much more rain for the time being and hopefully it turns off long enough for us to get our winter crop off with now hassles."

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Along with his father and two brothers, Mr Turner has helped plant 320 hectares of dryland cotton as well as 1100ha of sorghum on their properties Vieta at Edgeroi and Bellata, between Narrabri and Moree.

This season will mark the first time Turner Farming will plant dryland cotton, a development Mr Turner said he was eager to explore.

"We wanted to spread the risk a bit by diversifying what we were planting, but the current price of cotton was pretty attractive too," he said.

"The moisture level we have at the moment was also a pretty-big factor in the decision to give it a go as well.

"You don't often have moisture levels like this and while dryland cotton might not be the most sustainable crop when it's dry, when it's wet like this it can out run sorghum for sure."

The summer crops make up part of Turner Farming's overall cropping rotation, which this year has also included canola, wheat, faba beans and chickpeas.

"As far as planting profiles go, it doesn't get much better than this," Mr Turner said.

"Rain-wise, we will pretty right now until we've finished harvesting the winter crops and hopefully the rain can hold off that long.

"Even though it is only our first year growing it, I'd say if the dryland cotton goes well this year we will look to probably include it in our rotation pretty regularly."

Mr Turner said the season could still present many challenges, despite the promising start.

"There is still a long way to go in the season, so we're not getting too far ahead of ourselves, but it is looking pretty promising," he said.

"Given there is a bit of talk about a wet summer, I think one of the bigger problems we may face is it being too wet to get out there and pick it come May.

"It wouldn't be a bad problem to have when you consider how dry the district was just two years ago, but it could be a bit of a problem though."

Currently, the price of cotton is expected to remain high even with an expected national crop of 4.5 million to 5.5 million bales predicted this season.

"I think it's pretty handy to get two pretty good seasons like this back-to-back, especially considering how tough the previous few years had been," Mr Turner said.

"It looks as though demand will stay pretty strong and while your overall yield can vary quite a bit in dryland crops, it still seems pretty promising at the moment.

"Hopefully we can get another good run at it weather-wise like we did during winter."

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