Black basalt soils, on contoured rolling hills east of Bingara at 535 metres above sea level, wouldn't seem ideal to plant a debut crop of 142 hectares of dryland cotton.
However, the proof is in the pudding for Graham and Laila Hosegood, Aller Farming, Bingara, who with the support and knowledge provided by McGregor Gourlay agronomist Alice Jorgensen, have produced a crop that should deliver worthy yields.
The Hosegoods usually grow winter cereals and summer crops like soybeans. They planted 80 ha this season and then barley was sown into the stubble after harvest.
Sheep is another big part of their enterprise, with about 1000 first cross ewes, and finishing home bred and store lambs as trade prime lambs.
Sorghum is not considered a summer crop option as the damage by cockatoos is too much to bear.
The step into cotton was from a base of limited knowledge and the experience in their first crop has been positive.
"We have been overwhelmed by the support from within the cotton industry, and if conditions are right, "they will probably go again", Graham Hosegood said.
"The cotton industry offers an incredible amount of support if you want it. More so than being a cereal grower," he said.
A wet growing season, with only one dry spell in early January has set up the crop and only a shortage of pickers is preventing them from revealing the success of their venture.
"An outbreak of Alternaria, a leaf spot that turns the foliage to a purple, black colour worked in their favour as it reduced their defoliation sprays to just one application, where other cotton growers might have to use two or three applications," Ms Jorgensen said.
The variety grown was 748B3F, with five per cent of the area sown set aside as a refuge crop, using the variety 812RRF.
A big issue will be the picking, as the rolling hill and contoured paddocks are not suitable for the self-propelled balers. So basket pickers and modules will be used to pick and prepare the cotton for transport to a gin.
"Basket pickers are lighter, more manoeuvrable in our hills and contoured paddock," Mr Hosegood said.
Plans were considered to plant winter cereals back into the cotton stubble, but delays with the wet Autumn have shelved that idea.
Ms Jorgensen said Integrated pest Management (IPM) was an important part of the crop's management and there was little in the way of sucking pests like Mirids that needed control.
"In fact, nearby soybean crops needed more attention from Mirids, they didn't really bother the cotton.
Ms Jorgensen said planting took about one week and then at end of that week, 25mm of rain fell on the newly planted crop.
"The seed was planted at a rate of 11 per lineal metre, with the hope that eight (plants) would survive. I think we got every one of those 11 seedlings," she said.
Grassy box woodland conservation project
Graham and Laila Hosegood run two properties, Barrak and Montana, east of Bingara and thanks to Graham's father's interest in the environment, a large portion of grassy box woodland was left uncleared and in pristine condition.
About 690ha is cultivation country, and there is 202ha of improved sub-tropical pastures, grown mostly on their lighter basalt soils.
They have enrolled about 140 hectares into two portions into an environmental covenant as part of the Biodiversity Conservation Trust.
Eucalyptus albens, known as the white box, remain in good numbers and to date, two koalas have been seen moving around at ground level.
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