Central Queensland update

21 June, 2018

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With the now almost year-round cotton season in Central Queensland drawing closer to an end for 2017/18, preparation and plans are well underway for the 2018/19 season. The variety trial and Ambassador Network program for 2017/18 is still ongoing in the region, with two late plant irrigated trials yet to be picked, both receiving their second defoliations in mid-June after being grown on. As always, trial results are being uploaded to the CSD website as soon as possible, following the completion of a trial, once yield and quality data has been finalised.

The early planting window in August is fast approaching and in response, CSD have kicked off their annual Cotton Management Tour (CMT). The Central Queensland legs of the tour at Emerald and Theodore were first cabs off the rank, and have already been conducted in mid-June. Bringing the CMT dates forward from the traditional mid-July timeframe gives growers and consultants in these regions the opportunity to discuss trial results and management information before planting, while also aiming to provide as much information as possible prior to the first early order date, which is June 27th for the coming season.

While the early picked cotton crops have had ample time for crop destruction and bed preparation, following good February rainfall and warm temperature conditions, later planted fields have had less than ideal weather conditions leading into the coming season.

The very dry ground conditions have left beds cloddy and stubble has not broken down, making preparation a challenge, especially for those fields that will be planted back to back. Ensuring beds are prepared as best as physically possible and attention to detail when planting will be very important in order to get the best possible plant establishment under the cooler conditions for an August plant in Central Queensland, especially with the lower density varieties such as Sicot 746B3F.

Although water allocation for irrigation is forecast to be lower than previous seasons, particularly in Emerald, where Fairbairn Dam is at its lowest level for a number of years and allocations look like being well down, prices are very good for the coming season. The cruel irony here is that growers will be limited on the amount of bales they are able to forward sell due to the uncertainty in available irrigation water.

Recently there has also been a lot of interest in dryland cotton for Central Queensland, with a number of growers having success with dryland crops this season. A very dry autumn has seen vast areas which were prepared for winter crops remaining in fallow to date. Late winter rainfall or an early spring break could potentially see a very large move to dryland cotton, considering the current bale price. CSD are committed to ensuring that quality seed is available for the planting season and are doing everything possible to be well prepared for the situation of an industry wide plant in a short space of time.

As we move toward the beginning of the next season with cotton prices staying up, here’s hoping for good weather, better than average rainfall and a bumper season in 2019.

By Sam Lee, Extension & Development Agronomist – Queensland.