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Community & Business

11 April, 2021

Cotton Growers Tour rated huge success

NUTRIEN Ag Solutions Tolga branch manager, Tom Mugford believes cotton could be the answer to many of Far North Queensland's cropping related questions and was thrilled with the outstanding level of interest shown by local farmers and potential investors from other areas.


SUCCESS: Nutrien Ag's Account Manager - Merchandise, Lucy Pedersen with local agronomist, Olivia Pezzelato, maize farmer Roger Pezzelato and Kaban cotton grower, Clayton Dalgety were interested to see the cotton growing at Redbend Farming, Hot Springs.

BY SALLY TURLEY 

NUTRIEN Ag Solutions Tolga branch manager, Tom Mugford believes cotton could be the answer to many of Far North Queensland's cropping related questions and was thrilled with the outstanding level of interest shown by local farmers and potential investors from other areas.

Nearly 140 participants gathered at Tolga on March 25 to take part in the Cotton Growers Tour organised by Tom and Advanced Farm Services Senior Agronomist, Maurilio Rezende Silva Neto and their team, to explore the potential of cotton as a more resilient and productive crop for the region. 

The crowd of interested farmers and cotton industry experts, accountants, bankers, potential investors and media were taken to four properties where cotton is already being grown in Far North Queensland, to show what is possible in this new frontier. 

The first stop was the Dalgety's property near Kaban, then on to RedBend Farming just out of Hot Springs, before arriving at St Ronans station about 70km west of Mt Garnet for lunch and finally back to Wombinoo Station, to have a look at the Jonsson family's 700ha of trial dryland crop. 

He said while cotton cost substantially more than maize, sugar and peanuts to grow, the net return per hectare growers could achieve from it would still easily outstrip any other crop choice commonly grown on the Tablelands.

“Constant monitoring of the crop and an ability to respond quickly to weather events and predator invasions was integral to farming cotton,” Mr Mugford said. 

“Cotton is a more intensive crop that needs to be checked weekly and farmers need to be prepared to get out there and bog the tractor to maximise the benefit of a rain event.” 

Being genetically modified meant cotton was resistant to sucking bugs and glyphosate which made it the ideal plant for use in rotation with established crops.

It would not be affected by residual from Roundup used on weeds from previous crops and it would require far less sprays than other crops because of its resistance to predators. 

This resistance also made cotton a natural choice in the war against the Fall army worm, as cotton did not appear to be one of its preferred meal choices. 

Furthermore, farmers' existing planting and spraying equipment could cross straight over to cotton, reducing the costs involved for growers. 

Mr Mugford said he was also very excited about the benefit locally grown cotton would offer the cattle industry here by providing high protein seed as a competitively priced by-product for northern cattle. 

Based on the level of excitement shown on the day and the amount of follow up enquiry and discussion he had received, Mr Mugford believed the number of hectares under cotton would double by next year and that it would take only two-three years to reach the almost 17,000 hectares under crop/100,000 bales a year required to attract a cotton gin to the area. 

For those wanting to take up the challenge Mr Mugford said he had been gearing up the local branch to be in a position to help growers. 

“We already have the best agronomist in the business, in Maurilio Rezende Silva Neto, and he is currently training up a new graduate agronomist to have the advisory capacity required in the near future,” he said.   

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