It was about this time last year when the Finlay family from Texas, who were already in the grip of drought, had the intuition it was going to be a tough, hot summer for their cotton season.
The family partnership consists of Bruce and Margaret and their three sons Greg, Dougal and John and their families at Emu Plains.
According to Dougal, it was then they made the decision they would plant their crop in a skip row configuration for the first time to extend the length of time between waterings.
In late October they planted 107 hectares of Sicot BRF 674 into a cover crop of Moby barley on twelve inch spacings. They let it grow to knee-high then planted the cotton in 36 inch spacings skipping every third row.
"This gave us more resilience during the heat-wave growing conditions," Dougal said.
"We left the barley standing and planted between the rows."
Before planting they watered up the ground by using their underground bore allocation from the Dumaresq Valley Aquifer using a centre pivot overhead irrigator.
"We are relying on our underground bores for 85pc of our irrigated farming," he said.
"Once the crop was planted it received 10 waterings throughout the growing season giving it equivalent of 15 inches of rain on the old scale, or 3.8ML/hectare."
The crop received three sprays for weeds using Roundup, but only one spray for Mirid insect pressure.
"While it was a shocking growing year and we had to carry the crop through, the only bonus was the little or no insect pressure," he said.
The season only got worse for the family on December 14, when a severe hail storm hit and they had between 15 to 20 millimetres of rain.
"This storm completely flattened our cover crop and defoliated what was assessed at 70 to 80 per cent," Dougal said.
He said the crop then recovered and picking got underway for 10 days finishing on June 28.
"Considering the terrible conditions we were happy with the overall result," Dougal said.
Overall the crop yielded 7.4 bales/hectare delivering the Finlay's nearly 800 bales. The family had forward sold 750 bales to Namoi Cotton and locked in an overall price of $600/bale plus seed value.
The family has 1420 hectares on the Dumaresq River and also grow hay, peanuts, and run cattle. Their main stay is growing 5000 tonnes of hay annually, but are back to growing about 2500 tonnes of square bales due to the drought.
"We are holding off on our summer planting intentions and waiting to see if we will see a significant improvement in the season."