Patrick, Emily, and James Dawson were keen to celebrate the yields at Deneliza Downs. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

Yields up, smiles abound in Central Highlands

Read all about the Central Highlands cotton season - with comment from Monsanto, Queensland Cotton, CSD, a local grower, and contract picker.

EMERALD cotton growers who took a punt and planted early are reaping the rewards; with yields keeping smiles on plenty of faces. 

This season Deneliza Downs, east of Emerald, planted half of their cotton crop early, and Denis Kiely said there were definitely no regrets about the decision. 

The family operation planted 420 hectares of cotton, with half sown in late August, and the other going in on the back of a chickpea crop in early-to-mid December.

Contract picker and Mr Kiely’s son-in-law Sam Dawson said this season was barely comparable to the last. 

“The yields are ten times better than last year up here,” Mr Dawson said.

Sam Dawson and his father-in-law Denis Kiely, Deneliza Downs, Emerald, in one of the farm's stand-out cotton fields. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

“And down south they’re having a really great start, so hopefully it’ll be a great year all round unless a weather front comes in and ruins it.”

A Queensland Cotton spokesperson said ginning would commence in Emerald this week, however the Moura gin would not kick off until March.

The spokesperson said this was not expected to be an issue in the Moura region. 

“Moura gin will commence in March as only two growers have commenced picking and there is not sufficient volume available to maintain production,” he said. 

“Both gins will commence production on one shift. Schedules will be increased to 24-hour production as required.

“We expect to gin 50,000-plus bales at Moura, and 70,000 bales at Emerald.” 

Mr Kiely said early indications had them hoping for between 12 and 13 bales to the hectare for the August-planted crop, a far cry from last year’s in the region which saw a lot of growers pick only around eight bales/ha. 

Mr Kiely said a solid growing season with ideal weather and very little pest pressure played a part.

The Dawson family, kids James, Emily, and Patrick (front), and Jodie and Sam on Deneliza Downs, Emerald. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

The early cotton was irrigated eight times, and only sprayed once. 

“It has been a beautiful hot, dry end to the season,” Mr Kiely said. 

“It’s beautiful picking conditions.”

Mr Dawson, who is a contract picker, said he would be heading from Emerald towards Moree, and then down to Griffth and Hay. 

He said the extended planting window had posed new challenges for picking teams. 

”It is making for a few challenges (with) having that clash with the southern part of Australia’s season as well,” he said. 

With pickers spread out over the 1700km distance between the furtherest cotton valleys, he said it would be interesting to see what challenges would arise when picking times collide in Queensland and NSW later this year. 

Monsanto update: 

PERFECT PICK: Picking of Emerald's early cotton has finished for most growers, but later August cotton and early September is still being picked.

BUMPER yields in the Central Highlands region are bolstering confidence in the cotton industry after a few tough years for local growers. 

Monsanto regional business manager Emma Brotherton said the warm days and cool nights leading up to Christmas greatly benefitted early crops.

“The insect pressure was also lighter for the early plant. It’s been a bit tougher for later plant as the heat has increased in January,” she said. 

“We are pleased to see yields ranging from 11 -14 b/ha for the early picking and we expect those yields to decrease slightly for the later plant. 

“Overall feedback from growers is that the Bollgard 3 technology is holding up really well and the varieties are performing which means growers are continuing to enjoy their experience with cotton this year.”

This year saw planting window one consist of four varieties: 746B3F, 748B3F, 754B3F, and 714B3F.

Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

Ms Brotherton said all varieties had performed well in the region, with a good mix of each planted.

“Fifty per cent of the area was planted to 746B3F, 25 per cent to 748B3F and the remainder of the area split between 754B3F and 714B3F,” she said.

“Variety selection relies on the best fit of a variety to each field on every farm, with careful consideration of the agronomic factors to optimise its performance in yield and quality.

“For the remaining third of the area planted in planting window two, resulted in closer to 50:50 split of 746B3F and 748B3F.

“The second planting window also contained 10 per cent 714BRF, and remaining area close to a fifty/fifty split of 746B3F and 748B3F.”

Now in its second season, Ms Brotherton said the Bollgard III technology had proven to have more benefit than just the extended window. 

“Bollgard 3 has given growers the flexibility to fit cotton into their farming system... the reduction in the refuge area required if planting early means a greater return for farmers as they are able to grow more cotton while maintaining the integrity of their insect Resistance Management Plan,” she said. 

CSD update:

Picking underway at Deneliza Downs. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

WITH picking underway in the Central Highlands and Dawson Valley cotton regions and yields more than impressing, the industry is celebrating a great start to the year. 

A Cotton Seed Distributors spokesperson said “the seed ordered for this season follows a very similar trend to last year and the breakdowns are very similar also, with Sicot 746B3F being the most popular, followed by Sicot 748B3F and then Sicot 714B3F”. 

“Growers in CQ are using the maturity differences and growth habits of the varieties as part of the management decision for their crops. (for example) Sicot 714B3F is often planted the earliest as it usually has very good establishment and may handle a cool change better than the other varieties when emerging,” they said. “It is also a slightly faster maturing variety, which may spread out the picking dates of fields at the end of the season.  

“Sicot 748B3F is a more popular choice for dryland, however it is less likely to be planted in the late part of the season under irrigation, as it is a more indeterminate variety and takes longer to mature. Sicot 714B3F and Sicot 746B3F are the most common varieties planted late season.”

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