Queensland Cotton’s Emerald gin manager Rick Jones said more growers are planting at the same time this year, which will assist with ginning. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

Balancing act with electricity

Electricity is the main driver behind when the Emerald cotton gin will operate this season.

AFTER a long ginning season last year on the back of the extended planting window, the current season is looking like an easier ride for Queensland Cotton’s Emerald gin manager Rick Jones. 

With about 150,000 bales through the gin during the 2016/17 season, Mr Jones said this year he is expecting even more. 

The extended planting window which came with Bollgard III was great for the region as a whole, with more dryland opportunities and crop rotation choices, but Mr Jones said from a ginning perspective, it did pose some new challenges. 

The extended growing season has an obvious flow-on effect of longer ginning times, and with a marked split between early and late cotton last year, the Emerald gin was operating for six months of the year. 

This year, Mr Jones said about three quarters of the region’s expected crop has been planted early, mostly due to the success of last year’s early plant. 

Mr Jones said for Queensland Cotton, the challenge now was finding the most cost-effective way to operate the gins with cotton coming in for so many months.

While the Emerald gin operated seven days per week as is usual in past seasons, the Moura gin only operated from Monday to Friday, with weekends off. 

Mr Jones said this proved effective, but came with other challenges, like electricity costs. 

As a high demand user, the gins pay a large amount every month that they operate – whether they operate for one day, or thirty days of that month. 

While taking into consideration the amount of cotton coming in, the cost of starting the gin, and the workforce, Mr Jones said it became a balancing act. 

“It’s going to be a fair bit of management just trying to work through that,” he said. 

He said it was only late cotton, planted between November 30 and December 30, which caused concern. 

“The real late stuff is the hardest because… it just takes longer for the bolls to open and then the defoliant takes longer to work,” he said. 

“When they plant from August 1 until September 1, there might only be a weeks difference in picking date in that, but when you plant from November 30 to December 30, there could be six weeks difference in picking.”

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