Cotton – a rotational keeper at Bellata

06 July, 2017

Img_0270_2_-_low_res

Grant Lowien at "Black Mountain", Bellata

Easier insect management, simplified weed control and good industry support were just some of the reasons that Grant Lowien chose to return to dryland cotton this season.

Grant, who farms with his mother Karen and brother Andrew at “Black Mountain”, east of Bellata in north west New South Wales, said it was the introduction of new varieties containing Bollgard® 3 Roundup Ready Flex® technology that prompted him to re-join the cotton industry; after a fifteen-year break since it was last grown on the property.

“Dad used to grow cotton in the 1990’s but it was a lot of work back then. I wasn’t working on the farm at the time, but I remember Dad was always out spraying at night.

“When my brother and I returned to farming, we decided to keep it simple by sticking to sorghum as a summer crop, double cropped into chickpeas and then a wheat or fallow rotation.

We like double cropping back into chickpeas, so in our scenario it wasn’t economically viable to grow cotton under the previous Bollgard II® Resistance Management Plan (RMP),” said Grant.

Changes to pupae busting requirements under the new Bollgard 3 RMP has provided the Lowiens with greater double cropping flexibility out of cotton, and allowed them to maintain valuable stubble, providing greater moisture conservation.

“So this season, when Bollgard 3 Roundup Ready Flex came out, we thought we’d give it a go.”

“We get a lot of Johnson grass out here, and have trouble controlling it in the sorghum. By rotating away from a cereal-based program with a broadleaf crop such as cotton, we’ve been able to insert a weed break into our crop rotation plan,” said Grant.

The Lowiens planted 400 hectares of Sicot 748B3F cotton this season, under “perfect” conditions.

“We planted our first 250 hectares on an absolutely full profile, and just as I pulled the planter out we got 50mm of rain, which brought every single seed up. Because of the rain, we then planted another 150 hectares of cotton, which was short fallow out of sorghum, and then just as we finished this paddock, we got another 80mm,” Grant explained.

“This gave us perfect establishment and every seed bouncing out of the ground. It was all very easy – but that’s when the rain stopped. We got a storm around Christmas and then nothing else until later in the season.”

In a season that challenged even the most seasoned cotton growers, Grant said they are still very pleased with cotton’s performance.

“For a tough season we did well. Most other summer crops struggled with the heat, but cotton held up comparatively well. We averaged 2.25 bales to the hectare across the board and were happy with the quality. Our yields would have been a lot better, but our 150 hectares on short fallow struggled and pulled yields back. A little bit more rain would have made it more rewarding, but you can’t make it rain!”

“Cotton fits well in our dryland enterprise and undulating country. We’ll be keeping it in our rotation for at least the next three years,” said Grant. “We’ve found the cotton industry impressive in its support of new growers. From variety and agronomic advice, to marketing and finding a contractor to strip our cotton, it was all really easy.”

With the cotton industry continuing to expand into new regions, the planting window widening in many areas and interest in dryland cotton increasing each season, Monsanto and Cotton Seed Distributors have collaborated to develop an online resource hub to simplify the steps in growing cotton.

Acres of Opportunity (www.acresofopportunity.com.au) is a consolidated source of up-to-date information and advice on both irrigated and dryland cotton farming in Australia, aimed at new and future cotton growers.

Launching at the Australian Cotton Trade Show on the 26th – 27th of July 2017, it will bring together tools, information and resources from multiple industry sources all in the one, easy to use website.

By following the 8 Golden Rules (for dryland cotton) or the 10 Point Plan (for irrigated cotton), growing cotton has never been easier. New growers can connect with experts in their region, and find out about upcoming events through the website. Specific dryland and irrigated crop management guides have also been developed to support first time cotton growers and to complement the online resources.

Although Grant’s first cotton growing experience has been positive, he acknowledges that some new growers may have struggled with the tough season.

“A resource like Acres of Opportunity would be of value to growers who are sitting on the fence, thinking about growing cotton. There is a lot of great information out there – the cotton industry are leaders in the support they provide to growers – but when you’re getting started a simple, easy to navigate resource would be really beneficial”.