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Dryland Cotton – the agronomic pro’s and con’s

Cotton Field at sunsetMany growers include cotton in their dryland rotation system each year. Like any crop they use in their system, it has its pluses and minuses. Following are some pro’s and con’s to a rotation for using dryland cotton compared with sorghum, as told to us by growers who use both crops.

Cotton pro’s

  • Better gross margin in average and above-average yield situations
  • Tap rooted crop:
    • Vigorous forager/recycler of nitrogen from depth (often don’t need to apply additional fertiliser)
    • Can hold on for long periods in skip row situations
    • Can open up country, removing compacted areas
  • Longer maturation means larger window to capture and use in-crop rainfall
  • Wide planting window – mid-September to mid-November
  • Few lodging or standability problems
  • Handles extended dry periods post planting better than sorghum
  • Roundup Ready Flex® option simplifies weed management and provides an opportunity to get on top of grass weeds
  • Bollgard® 3 reduces the requirement for pupae busting if the crop is defoliated before 31 March. However, where pupae busting does need to occur, with Bollgard 3 the requirement is for 30cm both sides of the plant line to a depth of 10cm. Find out more.
  • Provides a break from cereal diseases such as crown rot
  • Fewer final product handling issues than grains
  • Relatively tolerant to weather damage around harvest
  • A range of marketing opportunities.

Cotton con’s

  • High input costs BUT many of these are not incurred until late in the season
  • Tap rooted crop may leave the soil profile very dry at the end of the season
  • Minimal useful stubble at the end of the season
  • Re-growth plants can be difficult to manage if root cutting or mulching has not been done correctly
  • Roundup Ready Flex volunteers will require products other than glyphosate to control them in subsequent fallow or crop
  • Difficult to control some broadleaf weeds in crop – particularly fleabane and vines
  • Susceptible to drift from broadleaf herbicides
  • Loss of soil moisture from pupae busting where required.