White Gold: Balonne's top year

White Gold: Balonne's top year


Cotton
Peter Hill with grandson, Harry Carrigan.

Peter Hill with grandson, Harry Carrigan.

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COTTON growers are revelling in record yields as picking gets well and truly under way throughout Queensland.

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COTTON growers are revelling in record yields as picking gets well and truly under way throughout Queensland.

At Bloomfield near St George, in the state's south-west, Peter Hill takes a drive around the property with his 14-year-old grandson Harry Carrigan.

After receiving 82mm of rain over the weekend, mud is still picking up on his tyres - something that hasn't happened in a while.

The softly spoken irrigator has been "dabbling in cotton for 15 or more years, but on a bigger scale probably only five or six".

Of all those years, he has no doubt this is his highest yielding crop to date.

"They're exceptional yields - it's the same everywhere," Mr Hill said.

All but 20 hectares of his 248ha crop has been picked at the main family property, Goorarooman, between Nindigully and Thallon.

Picking of the 258ha crop at Bloomfield has been delayed by the rain, but will begin soon.

He is anticipating they will average 5.5 bales/acre across the board from the Sicot 74BRF crop.

Last year he received about 4 bales/ac.

"It's a bonus if we get any more," Mr Hill said.

"Until you've had some ginned you, just don't like to say. This has just been an exceptional year, because of the weather, no doubt.

"Just the way the summer turned out and the varieties are getting a bit better, I think.

"It took a hell of a lot of water this year and of course it's fairly hot, but I think it cooled at the right time before the heatwave, you know?

"A fair bit of fruit stayed with the bush, whereas normally it would fall off."

While the family patriarch admits he still starts a few siphons when needed, he said the cotton was mostly taken care of by his and wife Cathy's large extended family.

Daughter Fiona and husband Josh Carrigan look after Bloomfield's crop, a property acquired 18 months ago by the Hill family.

Goorarooman's cotton is under the trusty eyes of daughter Rebecca and husband Dugald McIntosh, along with Peter's son Matthew Hill and wife Jane - who also happens to work for Cotton Australia.

Young Harry is one of eight grandchildren to make up the third generation living on the family properties.

For a family who is now firmly entrenched in cotton production, Mr Hill said he first got into the industry because he "had the water and that seemed to be the crop to grow".

"It's one that used to make the money. It hasn't been going so well the past few years, but this one looks like it'll be a good one."

Queensland Cotton's Ben Suttor estimates 30 to 40pc of cotton in the St George area was picked prior to the weekend's rainfall.

"The quality of the cotton is looking excellent - top quality, top grades and reasonable to good turnout," he said.

Mr Suttor predicted the clear skies and dry heat should have the plants drying off fairly quickly, with picking pushed back about 10 days."

"We just hope the favourable drying conditions reduce any impact on quality caused by the rain," he said.

With prices holding firm at $530/bale plus, Mr Suttor was looking forward to seeing the picking season progress.

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