Dryland cotton looks good at Talwood

25 February, 2010

When 50mm of rainfall in early September provided the team at Reardon Farms, Talwood, with a planting opportunity in their dryland wheat fallows they spread their bets – cotton and sorghum.

While dryland cotton is perceived by some as a risky option in the western districts – by using wider row spacings, planting on a full moisture profile and using Bollgard II technology, this part of the bet looks to have paid off.

Farm Manager of Reardon Farms, Tim Richards said both crops were planted in the second week of September and endured a very tough three months in the ground, between cold snaps, high winds, dust storms and heat extremes.

“By mid December, with no in-crop rain, the sorghum was burning in the boot and struggling to get a head out, so we cut the worst of it for hay. The cotton was still hanging in there but was starting to look for a drink,” he said.

The drink it needed came in the form of 200mm of rain over the Christmas and New Year period which completely filled the soil moisture profile, ensuring a good yield for the cotton.

Cotton Seed Distributors agronomist James Quinn said improved varieties, the biotechnology options and flexibility to use wider row configurations had reinvigorated the interest in dryland cotton in recent seasons.

“This crop at Talwood is a prime example – you’ve got the planting operation, Roundup Ready herbicide over the crop, a couple of insecticides if warranted and that’s it – a very simple crop to grow with a nice gross margin as well,” he said.

“This crop also shows the benefit of cotton’s strong tap root – being able to hold on for three and a half months with no rain, and while the sorghum is dying, the cotton kept slowly ticking along,”

When Reardon Farms and their agronomist Michael Brosnan showed an interest in dryland cotton this season, James Quinn took the opportunity of placing a large scale replicated Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex variety trial on the paddock.

“We’ve included the current commercial varieties Sicot 71BRF and Sicot 80BRF as well as three new experimental lines that may be commercial for the 2010 planting,”

“Siokra 24BRF is a vigorous okra-leaved variety with very good fibre quality – it will be absolutely ideal for dryland production in western districts such as this,”

“CSX323BRF is a line, hopefully better yielding than Sicot 71BRF and CSX326BRF is a premium fibre quality line – so both these will be very interesting for dryland growers,”

“It’s great to get opportunities like this to put our varieties in trials where the conditions turn out to be really tough. When growers are deciding which variety to grow next year, we’ve got results from crops grown in all sorts of conditions – good and bad.”

“We hope to pick this trial in late April – I wouldn’t like to put a yield figure on it just yet, but I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Mr Quinn said.

25 February 2010

Further information:
James Quinn 0428 950021

Above: Tim Richards, farm manager, Reardon Farms (left) and CSD’s James Quinn (second from right) show Moree agronomists Rob Holmes and Phil Davies through the wide row cotton planted at Reardon Farms, ‘Wolonga’.