Cotton rejuvenating southern NSW towns11 Jul 2018
The increase in cotton hectares in the Deniliquin region of southern New South Wales is helping rejuvenate the area.
Grower Greg Sandford, who runs a mixed cropping enterprise east of Deniliquin, said it was important they looked at different crops and cotton was an excellent option.
“I went for a drive early last summer up to Coleambally with the agronomist. There is so much cropping and the area is alive,” Mr Sandford said.
He said that over many years a lot of irrigation water had disappeared from the Deniliquin area and there was a need to produce more with less.
“You've got to start looking at alternative crops so you can make a decent return on.
“We trying to make do with a lot less water so everything now is coming back to returns per megalitre,” he said. “I used to grow rice but the returns just weren't there.
“I am laying my country out so it is versatile and I can grow whatever crop I like.” For Mr Sandford, part of that was installing four pivot irrigators.
“You need a system where you can move in and out of crops to whatever is profitable at the time."
Mr Sandford said this season he made a decision to put in cotton. After initially looking at 20 hectares, he increased the area to 270 hectares because of the attractive prices on offer.
“I was probably pretty lucky because I've picked a fairly good summer to grow it," he said.
Preparation was a key to moving to cotton and started with tests conducted by a soil scientist from Adelaide.
“We dug pits and checked our soils out properly,” Mr Sandford said.
“It was a bit daunting at the start, trying to learn all about it. You are learning all of your machinery needs, your layouts and the agronomy. I was lucky in that I got onto a really good consultant who's helped me right from day one with everything.”
He said the main difference between cotton and rice was a seven-day watering cycle.
“With rice you set it up and as long as your levels are right it doesn't matter too much. But with cotton there is a lot more work on the irrigation side of things.”
One major advantage of cotton was the ability to forward-sell the crop and know exactly what you are going to get per bale at the end of the season.
“You can do your budgets,” Mr Sandford said. “You know the average yield, the costs and the returns.” He said that one problem with rice is the lack of certainty about returns.
Mr Sandford said the Bollgard® 3 and Roundup Ready® Flex technology that has been introduced to the cotton industry has been impressive.
“In the old days cotton didn't have a good image when the plane was going over it 18 times every year for insects. That's all gone now and Roundup keeps the crops and other areas clean as well."