Cotton planting kicks off in Central Queensland

13 September, 2018

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Planting started early again in Central Queensland this season, with many growers planting in August and a large number of those putting the planters into the paddock on the first day that the planting window opened.

Planting early has proven to be quite successful in the past two seasons (under the new RMP); in particular, the 2017-18 season yielded exceptional results across many farms in the region. Emerald saw some growers produce their highest ever average yields, which were celebrated recently at their annual grower awards dinner.

One major benefit of the early plant is the time that growers have to prepare beds, especially in back to back cotton situations. Being quite a common practice in Central Queensland, the ability to break down cotton residue and to control volunteers in back to back fields is very important to maximise yield potential and to maintain farm hygiene.

Plantings across the Central Highlands have been less this year when compared to last, due the level of Fairbairn Dam and the reduced irrigation allocation for growers, which is the lowest it has been in some time. This lack of water meant that growers have had to ensure everything was in place at planting to encourage good germination and seedling establishment.

Cool conditions, particularly cool mornings slowed crop establishment somewhat in August, with some areas even experiencing frost in mid-August and temperatures recorded down as low as -4°C. Despite these conditions, replant has been minimal, which is a testament to both the grower practices in preparation and planting, as well as the tight QA protocols around CSD seed.

On the back of the cool weather, emergence and establishment have been slow, with some crops taking up to three weeks or even longer to fully emerge. However, the end of August brought with it the beginning of Spring and temperatures have improved dramatically as a result. Those crops that have been sitting idle or developing slowly should now begin to power on, driven by the accumulation in day degrees and favourable conditions.

The expectation is that planting will continue on into September in Central Queensland, with some growers holding off during August, waiting until conditions were more favourable. It is likely that we will again see cotton plantings scattered throughout the coming months and that there will also be late planted cotton this season in the region, depending on rainfall and water availability. The hope from the entire industry is that we will see a change in the weather soon, which will bring welcome moisture for dryland planting opportunity and hopefully some runoff to boost irrigation water availability, going forward into the season.

By Sam Lee, Extension & Development Manager – Queensland