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James Quinn’s wrap up of the 2012/2013 season

As the 2012/2013 dryland cotton season draws to a close, many growers may be looking back upon the year to learn from their decisions and to celebrate their windfalls.

To wrap-up the season, this week we chatted to Cotton Seed Distributors (CSD’s) Moree based Agronomist, James Quinn, about the high and lows of the year.

James is an Extension and Development Agronomist for CSD and has been involved in the cotton industry since 1996.

Q. What will you remember about the 2012/2013 dryland cotton season?

“The dryland cotton crop of 2012/13 will be remembered as one in which the dryland cotton area was not large, but showed the potential and endurance of the plant – as well as highlighting the profitability of this crop in a rotational program,” James said.

Q. How did the season start?

“Initially optimism was high for dryland cotton, but seasonal conditions conspired against many with a complete lack of opportunity to plant,” James said.

“No general rainfall and hot and dry westerly wind across Northern NSW and South Western Queensland limited our planting opportunities. Those who did plant had trouble establishing a viable stand but those who persisted were rewarded at the end of the season – perhaps leaving some growers who cut fields out, now wondering what might have been.

“The hot and harsh conditions persisted throughout post planting and made early growing conditions very difficult – but thankfully, the cotton plant with its explorative tap root, held on throughout November and December.

“Another clear indication of the harshness of the first half of the summer was the wilting and withering of established Sorghum crops – Sorghum crops struggled to establish and grow in these conditions and many were abandoned and sprayed out in early January.”

Q. When did the season turn around?

“Thankfully for many, rainfall finally came on the Australia Day Weekend as a residue of the TC Oswald cyclone. This was a welcome relief as crops were starting to hit the wall and the indeterminate nature of the cotton plant allowed it to capitalize on this event and kick into gear.

“Quite pleasant growing conditions through February and March enabled the plants to amass quite sizable boll load and the clear and warm conditions which stretched through April enabled the later bolls to mature.”

Q. So what have the final Dryland cotton yields been like?

“Dryland cotton yields have been at or above average which is a fantastic result – not only considering the unforgiving conditions in the early part of the season, but also as the season drew to a close the price of Australian cotton increased,” James said.

“At planting, the price was around $390/bale and it ended with a price of $500/bale. Not many dryland growers had forward sold bales at the lower end of the range, so combining the yields and elevated prices, it was a very profitable outcome.”

Q. Any final words James?

“This season will be remembered for many things, but mainly it has highlighted the toughness and endurance of the cotton plant, enabling it to hang on in the most extreme growing conditions,” James said.

“But this season was also a reminder of the profitability of dryland cotton in the rotational program, with results exceeding all other cropping options in the past season.”