As the cotton planting window draws to a close in the Central Highlands, all eyes are on the sky with the hope there will be a break to the season.
It’s been a tough season in the region, with growers having just six per cent of their allocation coming out of Fairbairn Dam and minimal carryover water.
Add in a run of hot weather at the beginning of December and the early planted crops are certainly showing signs of the tough conditions.
Chris McCullagh, Codenwarra West, Emerald, said like every other grower in that part of the world, they were well back on their planting this year.
“We probably had 800 hectares of cotton last year, with a combination of irrigated, semi-irrigated double-skip under the pivots, and dryland,” he said.
“This year we've only got 170ha of flood irrigated cotton at this stage.”
Many growers will be hoping to take advantage of high commodity prices this season, but that will all depend on whether the heavens open in time.
“We're about to plant a 100ha pivot double-skip with the tail water that we've accumulated off the flood,” Mr McCullagh said.
“We have plans for another two pivots to plant double-skip in, but it needs to rain soon otherwise the window will close for us.
“Everyone is just praying the rain will come because there will be opportunity, but at the moment we're stretching the waters and hopefully that'll get us through to a rain event and give us enough water for this crop we've got planted and maybe a little bit more.”
Forced to plant later than usual this year, Mr McCullagh said he was hoping that would work in their favour. “Hopefully we're closer to rain. The crop held up well in the heat but that’s because it hasn’t got the fruit load on it,” he said.
“The early crops, people are just going flat to keep the water up because there'll be peak demand now with flowers and bolls, trying to fill everything up and hold it over.”
The tough summer season comes off the back of a minimal winter crop in the region.
“This is the first winter we haven't had wheat or chickpeas planted; we normally get something somewhere.”