Concern for cotton quality in big wet

Gregor Heard
By Gregor Heard
May 12 2022 - 1:00am
WORST FEARS: Cotton producers are hoping there is not a repeat of this incident from several years ago where unginned cotton was ruined by rain.

SOUTHERN Queensland and NSW cotton producers with product still to be picked are hoping the massive weather system currently moving through Central Queensland will fade by the time it hits them.

With plenty of cotton still to be picked heavy rain has the potential to damage quality through staining and impact yield by dropping mature bolls to the ground.

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CSD extension development agronomist Bob Ford said while it appeared certain farmers with unpicked cotton would receive rain there was a lot riding on how much ended up in the gauge.

"If we received 30mm or less we'd probably be able to cope with that fairly well, but if it pushes up to 50-75mm then that is where we would start to get concerned about damage," Mr Ford said.

He said there was still unpicked cotton on the Darling Downs and through much of his region in northern NSW.

"Through the Namoi Valley we're probably around 30 per cent picked, so there is a lot of cotton sitting there."

He said the rain was just one of a number of logistical factors hampering picking.

"We had great weather for picking early this week in the Namoi but many were at a standstill because they could not get the equipment.

"A lot of the contractors are still up in Queensland where there have been delays with rain and high moisture levels, we're probably already two to three weeks behind where we usually are and this rain is going to delay things further."

The Bureau of Meteorology is tipping an unusual pattern for the rain band, which has already dumped more than 150mm on places such as Charters Towers and Townsville, in that it is expected to move through the western half of NSW with greater intensity than coastal areas.

Falls of in excess of 50mm are tipped for traditionally low rainfall zone cotton growing regions such as Bourke and Walgett but less is forecast in the Upper Namoi Valley and other cotton growing parts of the Liverpool Plains.

Mr Ford said an initial round of quality downgrading would see losses of around $50 a bale.

"It is not ideal but given the high price of cotton at present growers would probably absorb it, they just don't want to see crops standing out there in the paddock too long."

He said previous late seasons had resulted in cotton not being fully picked until August.

"Once you get to this time of year it can get frustrating finding suitable weather to pick and even when things are good you only get a few hours before the moisture gets up, so any delays at this time are not particularly welcome."

On the flip side, he said there were cotton growers that had got crops off and had double cropped with wheat.

"These people would be fairly happy with the rain as it will establish those winter crops well, so not everybody is upset with the weather."

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Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

National Grains Industry Reporter

Gregor Heard is Fairfax Ag Media's national grains industry reporter, based in Horsham, Victoria. He has a wealth of knowledge surrounding the cropping sector through his ten years in the role. Prior to that he was with the Fairfax network as a reporter with Stock & Land. Some of the major issues he has reported on during his time with the company include the deregulation of the export wheat market, the introduction of genetically modified crops and the fight to protect growers better from grain trader insolvencies. Still involved with the family farm he is passionate about rural Australia and its people and hopes to use his role to act as an advocate for those involved in the grain sector. Away from work, he is a keen traveller, having spent his long service leave last year in Spain learning the language.

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