Burdekin Cotton Gains Momentum

22 January, 2009

Cotton planting in the tropical Burdekin region in north Queensland is likely to exceed 1000 hectares this season, which has emerged as a transition year from experimental to commercial cropping.

Speaking on the weekly CSD Web on Wednesday video, Burdekin agronomist, Paul Grundy, said six growers are involved and plant establishment has been satisfactory, despite replanting of some fields due to an unfortunate combination of dry then wet conditions.

Whereas last season cotton was planted following sugar cane, which deprived the following cotton crop of nutrients, this season plantings have followed mung beans, soybeans, millet or corn, which have helped renovate the soil and rebuild organic matter.

“To cut a long story short, this year we don’t have any fields following directly after cane. All of the fields are either following a grain crop or following some sort of legume or millet crop as a break crop between the cane and the cotton that is now planted.

“Most of that grain was harvested either in November for mung beans or for the maize right up until early December, so there has been only a 2 – 3 week turnaround between that and the cotton going in.

“From the soil tests that we have seen, there is some good residual nitrogen in the ground and we are hoping that as that stubble breaks down it should break down a lot more rapidly so we are expecting nutrition to be a little less problematic this season compared to last.

“Last year what we found a lot of growers put on all their nitrogen up front and with the big wet that we had last year a lot of that nitrogen was lost either in leaching or denitrification.

“What most growers have opted for this year is to put half of their nitrogen on up front with a blend with their full amount of P and K and in some cases S, and what they will do is come back through during the season a month to 6 weeks after planting and either side-dress with urea, sulphate of ammonia or Easy N depending on what their circumstances are.

“So most growers this year are spreading their risk and splitting their applications and provided the weather kind to us, even though it is quite wet now, we should see some good weather somewhere in the next couple of weeks that will allow people to do that.

“We had some early waterlogging losses, but we haven’t seen any diseases associated with the seedlings that are out there at the moment, and the crops that are in do look quite good.”

The Burdekin has received up to about 500mm since planting thanks to Cyclone Charlotte, plus winds of 100 – 110km per hour and driving rain.

“At this stage I don’t think there will be any major problems, but I guess what one hopes is that when we get towards the end of February that this sort of weather leaves us behind and we get those fine sunny days that the Burdekin is renowned for,” Paul Grundy said.

Experiments in the region this season involve cotton’s response to both wet and dry conditions; fine-tuning pix applications to suit the local environment; time of planting options; plant growth control issues; green manure applications; variety options; and tailwater measurements to minimise run-off residues.

January 22, 2009