Improved varieties helping make cotton viable at Forbes13 Jun 2018
The improvement in varieties and technology has made cotton a viable option on the property Kywong owned and operated by Robert Scott, south-west of Forbes in the Jemalong irrigation district.
Mr Scott said they previously grew corn on their irrigation country but last season switched to their first-ever year of cotton.
"It was the improvements in the technology and the varieties,” he said. “The introduction of varieties such as Sicot 746B3F now suit this climate and it was worth considering growing cotton. The gross margins certainly make it worth doing."
“The weed control is fantastic and being a corn crop last year, there were volunteer corn plants that came up through the year. An application of Roundup tidied those up and any other problem weeds.”
He said the first year success means they will grow cotton again if water is available.
“What I like about the crop is the way it maximises or optimises everything you give it: the sunlight, the water, the fertiliser, the agronomy – if you can get the package right then it will perform.”
He said communication with their neighbours about their intention to grow the crop and the need to avoid spray drift was paramount during the growing season.
“I've been very open with everybody for twelve months to make sure everybody knew what I was doing. Because cotton is new to the area it’s going to take a while for it to be fully accepted and for everybody to become educated about their spraying. The immediate neighbours have been positive.”
Preparation was a key to growing the crop with time spent in lasering paddocks and setting up infrastructure with channels and drainage.
“If you are going to irrigate you have to be able to deliver the water,” Mr Scott said. “You also have to be able to get it off the paddock and drainage is just as important as delivery."
The 120 hectares of cotton was planted in the second week of October and irrigated up in the week that followed.
“We have a local agronomist who is specialising in cotton and he's monitoring the crop twice a week and he's using other technologies, satellite imagery, moisture probes and soil testing. He has the experience and knows what is required so I am relying on his advice."
Mr Scott said return per hectare was fundamental in growing irrigated crop. Water use of nine megalitres per hectare was needed last season.
“It is a longer season crop than I am used to growing so the last watering took us into March, with harvest by the end of April."
The enterprise relies on contractors for all specialist machinery which includes hilling up, fertilising, sowing, the laser levelling and any other earthworks.
For cotton, harvest pickers have come through from more northern regions and gins are available at Trangie in the north and Griffith in the south.