Turning back the clock on cotton news

Industry growth chronicled in the pages of QCL over 85 years

Cotton
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By the time the first QCL was printed on July 25, 1935, farmers had been trialling growing cotton for several decades.

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The Queensland cotton industry has expanded exponentially since the first edition of Queensland Country Life on July 25, 1935, and so too has the news coverage.

The Queensland cotton industry has expanded exponentially since the first edition of Queensland Country Life on July 25, 1935, and so too has the news coverage.

By the time the first Queensland Country Life was printed on July 25, 1935, farmers had been trialling growing cotton for several decades.

But it would be several years before the publication started reporting on the crop, owing to the 'Bible of the Bush' being the official organ of a graziers' association.

Much like coverage of the grains industry, any mention of cotton in the early years was in relation to the commodity's application to the grazing industry.

This included the price of cotton seed as a feed ration addition, the quick returns of growing one cotton crop before planting a permanent pasture of Rhodes grass for a mixed farming operation, and calls for graziers to receive federal government subsidisation like cotton growers.

The March 3, 1938 edition reported on the value of futures markets and how woolgrowers could benefit.

"Many Australian woolgrowers and wool merchants have already realised the benefits which they can derive from the futures market. There is no doubt that, before long, the practice of "hedging" the wool clip will be as common in Australia as the practice of "hedging" the cotton crop in the United States of America, where the greatest part of the cotton crop is hedged on the cotton exchanges."

The early 1940s saw a rise in coverage of cotton growing, coinciding with the state government's cotton extension scheme and the Commonwealth's appeal for more cotton.

Papers from 1940-49 included more coverage of cotton than that of the previous decade or the following one, owing to the growth of the industry, but the coverage remained brief in nature.

Coverage of record cotton prices, crops failing on account of industry neglect from government, and new harvesters being imported were all squeezed onto pages that boasted larger stories about 'Buffalo Fly Menace Countered' and 'Copper Sulphate and Nicotine Sulphate - Treatment of Hair Worms'.

Cotton's presence within this publication remained brief until the early 1960s, when the first large-scale crops were successfully grown, heralding the start of the modern Australian cotton industry.

Then, the papers were breathlessly calling cotton "white gold" and coverage grew.

Today, stories of the cotton industry are no longer buried several pages back, totalling just a few sentences. Instead, news from the industry - including record yields, drought-affected crops, community concerns, and research breakthroughs - can be found across any number of pages, including the front page.

A blast from the past

A journey through the QCL archives shows that while the prominence of cotton industry news has changed, the issues plaguing the industry are strikingly similar.

In the January 8, 1942 edition, the headline 'Water Runs To Waste' jumps out from the page. Commenting on the season's disappointing cotton crop Mr Don Elliott, hon. secretary of the Dawson Valley Development League, said: "There is little use in blaming nature for our own neglect."

"The Dawson River is capable of growing all the cotton required if we had the means of watering the crop for the short period between germination and the arrival of the usual monsoonal rains. Sufficient flood waters ran to waste in the Dawson River last and every year to grow cotton to spare.

"The position as I see it is this: A much abused nature sent us the water, but we let it run to waste, and now bemoan our fate that there is insufficient cotton for the war effort."

Despite a recently-released industry sustainability report revealing that producing a bale of cotton now uses 48 per cent less water, 34pc less land, and 97pc less insecticides than in 1992, water remains a huge topic of conversation and point of contention.

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