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8 stages of success

1. Pre-planting


Like most aspects of farming, prior planning can assist in minimising potential issues during the season. The following checklist should be considered before planting dryland cotton.

1a. Consultant

Golden Rule — Engage an experienced cotton consultant to assist you in all aspects of the management of your crop. Even the most experienced cotton growers use consultants.

1b. Field selection

Plant-available water capacity

Golden Rule — Select suitable soil types. Cotton will perform best in soils with a good plant-available water holding capacity.

Selecting soils that can hold in excess of 180 mm in the top 150 cm of soil is a good rule of thumb. This is particularly important in regions with lower potential for in-crop rainfall. There is also the opportunity to match planting intentions with differing soil types and water holding capacities through variety selection and planting row configuration, thus increasing the amount of soil moisture available to the plant.

Ground cover

Golden Rule — Utilise stubble cover. The benefits of stubble to the farming system include improved infiltration rates, extended planting opportunities, protection for young seedlings, habitat for beneficial insects etc.

1c. Row configuration

Row configuration diagram

Dryland cotton growers can use planting row configuration to manage their growing costs and maintain yield and fibre quality. Decisions on what row configuration to use in different scenarios are based on:

  • Soil type
  • In-crop rainfall potential
  • Seasonal outlook
  • Commercial experience in your region.

Find out more about how row configurations can affect your gross margins.

1d. Contact your Technology Service Provider (TSP)

Growers using Bollgard® 3, Bollgard II® and Roundup Ready Flex® technologies must be accredited. Your TSP can provide further information.

1e. Marketing options

Make contact with cotton merchants to discuss what marketing options they have available to dryland growers.

1f. Contractors

If you are going to use contractors for some farming operations, start organising them well before planting. Contractors can assist with any or all of:

  • Planting
  • Spraying
  • Picking
  • Cartage

1g. Weed control strategy

Golden Rule — Have a plan for weeds. Don’t rely solely on Roundup Ready Flex technology.

Although the Roundup Ready Flex system offers good in-crop weed control, growers still need to practice integrated weed management. You should plan for the control of problem weeds or weeds not on the Roundup Ready Herbicide® with PLANTSHIELD® by Monsanto label such as fleabane. Furthermore, a plan for the control of ratoon and volunteer cotton plants after the crop should also be developed.

1h. Plan for refuge crops

Refuge crop

An area of refuge crop to produce susceptible moths is a vital component of the Bollgard II® Resistance Management Plan. It is important to understand the reasoning behind the refuge crop and how it may impact on farming operations.

2. Planting

2a. Make sure refuge has been planted before planting Bollgard II cotton

You must plant your refuge within the two-week period prior to planting Bollgard II cotton.

2b. Full moisture profile

Golden Rule — Plant on a full moisture profile. Cotton is not the most vigorous of seedlings and is quite susceptible to adverse conditions at emergence.

Avoid planting if surface moisture is marginal, unless you are set up to move dry soil and plant deep into moisture. Adequate soil moisture reserves will allow the crop, once established, to grow for 2–3 months without rain.

2c. Variety selection

Golden Rule — Use an appropriate variety for your circumstances. Ideal characteristics of a dryland cotton variety are:

  • Indeterminacy
  • Reliable yield potential
  • Inherently good fibre quality characteristics

2d. Even plant stand

Golden Rule — Aim to establish an even, gap-free plant stand of 6-8 plants per linear metre.

Planting rate may need to be adjusted to suit the planting conditions. An even plant stand is desirable to generate a uniform crop, which is easier to manage for the whole season.

3. Weed control


By using skip-row planting configurations, there is a lot of area without a crop cover. The capability to spray Roundup Ready Herbicide with PLANTSHIELD® by Monsanto over the top of the Roundup Ready Flex cotton crop has simplified weed control, however, herbicide applications should still be targeted at the appropriate weed growth stage and size.

4. Squaring to cut out


The cotton crop grows rapidly and daily water use increases dramatically. Good crop agronomy and available moisture during this phase will increase yield potential. Your consultant will be monitoring the crop for:

  • Soil moisture status
  • Fruit numbers and retention
  • Crop growth rate
  • Nodes above white flower
  • Insect activity
  • Weeds

5. Crop cut out to defoliation


Growth of the cotton crop is starting to slow and daily water use will decrease. Boll numbers are set and the plant concentrates on boll fill. During this phase your consultant will be monitoring the crop for:

  • Soil moisture status
  • Maturity and percentage of open bolls
  • Insect activity

6. Defoliation


This is a critical time and the culminating task in growing the crop. Effective defoliation is reliant on available soil moisture, crop maturity and good product selection including: rate, timing and spray coverage. Most crops require two passes to achieve adequate leaf drop and boll opening.

7. Picking and ginning


Due to the requirement of specialised equipment, most dryland cotton is contract harvested. Some issues you may need to consider:

  • Harvesting and cartage contractors need to be aware of crop time lines to ensure the picking operation is done efficiently
  • Once cotton is within a covered module it is weather proof and can be stored for extended periods. Locate module pads in areas which are free from debris and where surface water will not pond, and where there is ample semi-trailer access
  • Contamination. Australian cotton has a reputation for being very clean and debris free. Ensure that rubbish and other foreign materials are kept away from cotton modules.

8. Post-crop management


Golden rule. Effective removal of plant residues post-picking is critical for successful insect and weed resistance management and fallow effectiveness in harvesting rainfall.

Ratoon and volunteer cotton plants can be persistent weeds within the cropping rotation and the presence of Bollgard volunteers/ratoon cotton in any refuge will diminish the value of the refuge and must be removed as soon as possible. For more information, download the volunteer guide and Bollgard 3 Resistance Management Plan or read the ‘Volunteer and ratoon cotton’ section of the Cotton Pest Management Guide.

To further mitigate the risk of resistance, each grower of Bollgard 3 must undertake Helicoverpa spp. pupae destruction in fields with a higher probability of carrying over wintering pupae – please refer to the current Resistance Management Plan for full details.