Renewed Interest in Dryland Cotton at Tulloona

26 March, 2009

More than 20 growers, agronomists and cotton merchants recently attended a Cotton Seed Distributors dryland cotton field walk at Boardman Agricultures’ ‘Backspear’ at Tulloona, between Goondiwindi and Moree.

CSD’s Goondiwindi-based extension and development agronomist, David Kelly, said interest in dryland cotton is increasing because of the ease of management with the Bollgard II® and Roundup Ready Flex® technology and comparative gross margins with summer crop options.

“This region is particularly well suited to dryland cotton – good heavy soils that hold plenty of moisture, and an ideal climate. There used to be quite a bit of cotton grown here but insects, coupled with some dry seasons, caused dryland acreage to decline.

“Bollgard II technology has reduced the insect problem, with spraying reduced from ten times or more in the 1990s, to only once or twice in recent seasons– less than sorghum.”

David Kelly said the key checklist for those considering dryland cotton was to only plant on a full soil moisture profile; employ an experienced cotton agronomist; and speak to locals who have been growing cotton consistently for the past few seasons.

“Cotton is certainly not without risks, but some good planning and know-how behind you will help eliminate a lot of them,” David Kelly said.

CSD’s Moree-based extension and development agronomist, James Quinn, said the results of an extensive on-going gross margin analysis was showing positive signs for cotton.

“Cotton obviously costs more to grow than sorghum – roughly $900 per hectare in a single-skip configuration – about double that of sorghum.

“It’s worth noting however, from a cash-flow perspective, both crops cost about the same up until February or March – so you are close to getting paid yourself by the time some of the big cotton expenses come in – such as harvesting and technology fees.”

James Quinn said even at current cotton and sorghum prices, the gross margin for cotton was around five times that of sorghum using actual yields being produced in the area this season.

“A cotton yield of around 4.5 bales per hectare at $425 per bale, including seed, will deliver a gross margin of around $1000 per hectare. Compare this to a 4.5 tonne per hectare sorghum crop at $150 per tonne on-farm – you’re looking at about $200 per hectare, although these figures are subject to some variability between farms, “ Mr Quinn said.

CSD is conducting about 10 large-scale replicated dryland cotton variety trials this season, with early yield results already available here on this website.

25 March 2009