Seven years after his last cotton crop was decimated by floods, Baralaba grower Ross Hutchinson has returned to the game.
He said going back to cotton was not an easy decision.
“2010/11 hurt a fair bit – losing all the cotton,” he said. “But we just had to climb our way back out of it again.”
Before then he had grown cotton for 20 years, and it was very much an integral part of the Roxborough rotation. After the flood event, Mr Hutchinson moved away from cotton to cereal crops, lured by wheat prices sitting around $320/tonne.
He then trialed corn, followed by chickpeas and mungbeans when prices for those commodities rose.
But when more than 350mm of rainfall filled his ring tank in recent months, Mr Hutchinson said cotton emerged as a realistic option.
His first cotton was planted six weeks ago but a quick 60mm of rainfall after an in-crop irrigation saw 300 hectares of the 1000ha crop re-planted.
Mr Hutchinson has planted his cotton in 1.5m rows – something not commonly seen in the area, and which required some inventive modifications to a picker. He made the decision after altering his rows to 1m four years ago to work with 3m machinery.
The cotton was planted on the back of chickpeas at a rate of 15 seeds to the metre, to see an average of between 12 and 13 plants to the metre.
He has not fertilised yet, but said he will put 500kg of urea on before Christmas.
The Hutchinsons operate on 3500ha at Roxborough and recently purchased a 3700ha nearby block to expand a Droughtmaster breeding and fattening operation.