Cotton Stories

Delungra growers are taking cotton to new heights

18 Nov 2019
JohN Thompson
John Thompson from Delunga is taking cotton to new heights

As the Australian cotton industry shifts further east, Delungra dryland grower John Thompson has learned a thing or two about what it takes to achieve productivity and profitability gains in a region not traditionally suited to cotton production.

John farms with wife Sarah on their mixed cropping and grazing operation, 20 kilometres north west of Inverell, in the eastern edges of the Gwydir Valley.

After watching the success of dryland cotton at nearby ‘Wallangra Station’ for the preceding two seasons, John and Sarah decided to plant cotton as part of their summer crop rotation for the first time over the 2016-17 season.

“I was really curious to see how it would go at this altitude and this far east – and it went really well for us (that year),” said John.

“My theory behind growing cotton is that it’s an exponential return if you grow the big yield.”

It paid off for the couple, achieving a yield of 3.88 bales per hectare and taking out the Gwydir Valley Cotton Growers Association Dryland Crop of the Year in their first season.

It was also one of the most elevated cotton crops in Australia, planted at 650 metres above sea level.

After a rotation out of cotton in the 2017-18 season, John and Sarah planted cotton again in 2018.

“As soon as (the price) hit over $600 (per bale), we got excited,” said John.

As one of the first farmers to grow cotton in the area, John sees great potential for dryland cotton as a profitable and sustainable rotational option.

“Being further east, there are some benefits – higher altitudes so therefore cooler nights, higher rainfall – and that does help with surety,” he said.

“We’ve had terrific industry support, everyone’s been really positive – CSD, Bayer – and also getting pickers to come here has fortuitously worked out quite timely for us.”

The Thompsons are also part of Cotton Seed Distributors (CSD) variety trial program, testing out the suitability of different varieties for their production system.

CSD Extension and Development Agronomist for the Gwydir Valley, Alice Curkpatrick, sees great opportunities for cotton production in the region.

“It’s really exciting to see cotton growing east of the Gwydir,” said Alice.

“I feel like there’s real potential in this part of the world with the milder summers, higher rainfall and some beautiful cotton growing soils.

“CSD are really keen to see cotton growing east of the Gwydir. We’re trying different varieties, seeing what grows best and we’re happy to help out any farmers who are interested in getting involved.”

“I’d definitely encourage other growers in the area to have a look at cotton and consider it,” said John.