Falls of up to 50 millimetres across southern Queensland this week have given cotton growers a boost as they prepare to plant.
While the rain won't boost water storages, it will help soil moisture levels prior to planting, which is expected to start this week.
The widespread rain has lifted spirits around St George as growers stare down the barrel of what is shaping up as one of their smallest plantings in years.
St George Cotton Growers Association president, Scott Armstrong, said the rain would assist growers’ pre-irrigation, but with such limited amounts of water in storage it wouldn’t change the seasonal outlook.
“It's certainly been very dry in the catchment area of the river that supplies our irrigation,” he said.
Mr Armstrong said there had been a lot of pre-watering going on in the area and he expected growers to start planting in the first week of October.
“The price is good so we'd all love to grow as much as we can, but we can only do what we can with the water that's available to us, and at the moment that's fairly limited,” he said.
“If more water becomes available we will certainly take advantage of that.”
Border region welcome rain
Cotton Growers Services Goondiwindi representative, Robert Austen, said growers in the border rivers area would wait until mid-October to plant, but many had also started to pre-irrigate.
Mr Austen said while it was hard to say how much water was available in the area, many growers’ reserves should be fairly full.
“We had a flood event back in April where everyone managed to pump and because it was sort of the end of the cotton season we haven't really had much use for it,” he said.
“So unless they've used it for their winter crop because they've had no rain through winter they should be looking pretty good for this coming cotton season.”
Prior to this week’s rain, Mr Austen said it was likely going to take a fair bit of water to get the moisture profile up, but the good soaking this week will be timely for many.
Cotton Australia Narrabri regional manager, Paul Sloman, said his region was looking good for irrigated cotton, but dryland cotton would be anyone’s guess.
“We need rainfall badly for the dryland cropping,” he said.
“If we don't get any rain, there won't be any dryland, simple as that.”
Speaking of the water situation in the area, Mr Sloman said storages were slightly down on last year.
“Because of last year's excessive heat in January when it was a peak irrigation time, a lot of people ate into this season's water budget,” he said.
“And there hasn't been any inflows to speak of into the dams to replenish that.
“Figures are slightly down on last year on the irrigation side for sure.”
Mr Sloman said some people in his region had also started planting slightly earlier than normal.
“Traditionally people do wait until October, but it's a little bit warmer at the moment, and people are just ready so they're going,” he said.
Riverina hoping for record plant
Not feeling the pinch due to a lack of water this season is the Riverina area.
Cotton Australia Riverina regional manager, Honi Anderson, said planting was in full swing in her region.
“The advantages of last season were that we had a very wet winter, whereas this time we’ve had a dry winter so the guys have been able to get their preparation done well and truly in time,” she said.
While it is earlier than normal for farmers in the Riverina to be planting, Ms Anderson said the soil temperatures have made it possible to get in sooner.
“Mid-October is probably when peak planting happens, but it has warmed up in the last week or so, so I wouldn't say it's super early, but it's good timing.”
While not everyone in the Riverina has access to their full water allocation, Ms Anderson said growers must have enough water to see the crop right through being that it’s shaping up to be one of the biggest plantings for the region to date.
Ms Anderson said while water wouldn’t be a problem for growers this season, bugs were certainly a looming issue.
“If we do get a bad Mirid season there's a fair bit of chemical that can be sprayed that's toxic to bees, so it's a matter of communicating between the cotton industry and the beekeepers,” she said.
“Cotton Australia urges all cotton growers to register for BeeConnected, be aware of potential spray drift and talk to their neighbours.
“Other than that, it's all building up to be a really cracking season.”
Bollgard III the variety of choice
As for the variety of cotton being planted across southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, the choice has been very consistent.
Mr Sloman said that Bollgard III is the variety of choice.
“Last year was its first rollout and it performed well under quite stressful conditions with the really hot summer, so hoping this year might be slightly milder so we can properly see its true potential,” he said.
Mr Austen said Bollgard III 746 and 748 were the varieties of choice in the Goondiwindi area because it’s closest to what growers know.
“They've got the Bollgard gene, they're roundup ready, they've also got good fibre quality and length for turnout,” he said.
Mr Armstrong said growers in the St George area have also chosen the same varieties.
“They are dominating the variety of choice now with all the latest technologies that's in those varieties,” he said.
Bollgard III is also the variety of choice because of its extended planting window.
The variety can be planted as late as the end of December, giving dryland farmers the chance to get that much-needed rain before planting a crop.