Growing on success for CQ cotton

Late rain drives 'phenomenal turnaround'

Cotton
The Hutchinson family began picking cotton on May 12 and enjoyed perfect picking conditions until wet weather moved across Qld this week. Picture: Michelle Hutchinson

The Hutchinson family began picking cotton on May 12 and enjoyed perfect picking conditions until wet weather moved across Qld this week. Picture: Michelle Hutchinson

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A late break in the season has delivered a complete turnaround for the Hutchinson family.

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The Hutchinson family at Moura are enjoying a "phenomenal turnaround" in their cotton following January rain which allowed them to grow on their crop.

The 640 hectares of 746, 714 and 748 varieties, planted between the end of August and the end of October, endured a tough start but Greg Hutchinson said you wouldn't know it now.

"Some of the early stuff we had to replant three times because we had cold shocks and then had rain on them," he said.

"Up until January, when we started getting some rain, half of it hadn't had an irrigation and you weren't even going to harvest it.

"We had some water and some cotton did get full irrigations but in the end it was nearly ready to defoliate before the rain."

Mr Hutchinson said rather than defoliating, they grew the crop on - a decision which has paid off.

"We're glad we did because we're getting 12 to 14 bale yields off it depending on the paddocks, so it's been well worth growing on and the quality should be good too.

"Back in February we thought we'd forward sold too much, but now we're probably in the opposite situation where we're getting these higher yields that we probably haven't sold enough."

"It's the latest we've ever started picking in our lifetime," Greg Hutchinson said. Picture: Michelle Hutchinson

"It's the latest we've ever started picking in our lifetime," Greg Hutchinson said. Picture: Michelle Hutchinson

Forward selling at "up towards $600 a bale", Mr Hutchinson said while he would have liked to sell the balance of the crop at that price, the recent downturn in the market isn't disastrous.

"To go from February where we had crops only a foot high and hadn't had any irrigation, to now looking magnificent, it's a phenomenal turnaround," he said.

"The intention was to plant a lot more but we just never got any rain in December.

"We planted some good cotton right at the end of the window, 31st of December, last year (2018/19 season) and it yielded 10 bales.

"So late cotton did perform for us up here and we were ready to put it in (again), but the rain just came a couple of weeks too late for us."

Mr Hutchinson said what has been proven again this year is the exceptional ability of the central Queensland region to grow crops on and harvest above average yields at base grade or better quality. The rain also meant the Hutchinsons were able to plant 320ha of corn and 400ha of mungbeans.

"There was just a fantastic run in the river and we probably pumped more water than we've ever pumped before," Mr Hutchinson said.

"We got nearly 40 days of water harvesting back in February/March so that enabled us to fill everything up, and then we had excess water so we went and put corn and mungbeans in all the cotton ground that we pre-fertilised ready to plant cotton in.

"The corn is looking exceptional at the moment and it will be a good rotation to come back into cotton in August/September."

Amongst the busyness of harvesting cotton and mungbeans, as well as double cropping back into wheat, the family has also been undertaking extensive infrastructure developments.

"We're levelling an additional 500 hectares of flood irrigation and when we finish that, we'll go back to building some more dams," Mr Hutchinson said.

"Last year, we built three dams, about 4500 to 5000 megalitres of storage, and we're probably going to do similar, if not more, this year."

A decision to grow on rather than defoliate has paid off for the Hutchinson family, with yields of 12 to 14 bales per hectare. Picture: Michelle Hutchinson

A decision to grow on rather than defoliate has paid off for the Hutchinson family, with yields of 12 to 14 bales per hectare. Picture: Michelle Hutchinson

The development comes off the back of 90,000ML of water being released from the Strategic Water Infrastructure Reserve into the Dawson Valley Water Management Area.

"We were successful in picking up a large amount of water out of that so that's given us impetus to go and put more pumps in and put more dams in.

"When you've got water, you can actually do things; gives you that enthusiasm to go ahead and be a bit more aggressive in your planning."

Mr Hutchinson hoped the state government would continue to allow growers in the region to access the water beyond the three year period that it was slated for.

"There's a lot of farmers doing a lot of development on the back of it because we couldn't wait around for the Nathan Dam to be built or the government to come and do something for us, so we're doing it ourselves."

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