The Ord’s First commercial cotton harvest in a decade

12/5/2011

Harvest has almost finished on the first commercial cotton crop planted in the Ord River Irrigation Area (ORIA) of Northern WA, in nearly a decade.

Of the 800 hectares planted some crops have yielded up to 8 bales/ha, which in a cold year with a rain affected harvest is very positive, Andrew Cripps, agronomist with the Ord Co-op, Kununurra, WA, said.

“I think in a normal year 10 bales/ha is more than achievable.”

A lack of infrastructure in the ORIA means all cotton bales will be transported about 3,500 kilometres to a gin at Dalby in southern Queensland.

“We have had a very rain affected harvest, with thunderstorms and wind causing some crops to shed quite badly.

“Yields have been affected by up to 25% in some cases. I dare say lint quality will be affected as well.

“We have trucked some cotton to Dalby where it has been ginned. Initial quality results for cotton, not rain affected, were excellent.”

The year was challenging, Mr Cripps said, due to a long wet season and a late start planting the crop.

Growers planted Bollgard II stacked with Roundup Ready Flex varieties on the black clay-loams of the ORIA.

“Considering it was the first time many of the growers have grown cotton they did an excellent job adapting to the new crop,” Mr Cripps said.

Planting and preparation was rushed, he said, and in some cases plant stand was less than desirable. The year was also unseasonably cool and not ideal for cotton.

“I would expect in a normal year the Bollgard II stacked with Roundup Ready Flex varieties will perform even better.”

Growing genetically modified cotton was a huge advantage, Mr Cripps said.

“Without GM cotton, we would have sprayed up to 10 times throughout the year with insecticide. We sprayed only twice this year.

“I look forward to seeing GM in more crops.”

Growing cotton in the ORIA has proved the region’s suitability to the plant.

“The information we have gathered this year will be invaluable going forward as an industry.”

Mr Cripps said the cotton industry in the Ord Valley still faced a number of issues, particularly a need for further land to sustain a viable cotton industry and post-harvest infrastructure.

To this end, a further 8000ha of irrigation has been announced under the state government’s Ord Stage 2 project and Mr Cripps said the Ord Co-op was interested in working with industry and government on developing post-harvest facilities.


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