Print Post Approved Publication No. PP 100002296
DECEMBER 2016â€“JANUARY 2017
Volume 37, No.7 $7.70
SLW: Embracing IPM to reduce resistance risk
Indigo launches water efficiency product for cotton
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December 2016–January 2017
Cotton Research Roundup
Cotton Australia tackling thorny issues of Basin Plan, spray drift 12 www.cottongrower.com.au
The Australian Cottongrower
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Silverleaf whitefly: Embracing IPM to reduce resistance risk
A new era dawns for Bollgard 3 refuges
Changes in soil salinity, sodicity and nitrate under irrigated 26
cotton Spotting cool cotton critters at night
Indigo launches water efficiency product for cotton
The World Cotton Market
Irrigation Feature… Benchmarking cotton under centre pivots and lateral moves 42 IrriSAT update
Take care of those on-farm storages
Managing cotton pests with Sero X and petroleum spray oils
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2 — The Australian Cottongrower
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SoilWaterApp – tracking soil water
On the scrapheap – nearly! – Part 2
Survey and Design – My Plans or Yours
SLW: Indigo launches Embracing water efficiency IPM to reduce product for resistance risk cotton
A new report has been released which benchmarks the performance of centre pivot and lateral move systems. See page 42. (PHOTO: Jamie Condon)
December 2016–January 2017
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What a mess this season is becoming. While some crops in central Queensland are approaching cutout, on the other side of the irrigation channel there may be growers working feverishly to turn country around for cotton planting after a (mostly) successful chickpea or winter cereal crop.
Further south, the range of planting dates is not as pronounced, but a combination of many factors has produced a big spread of planting and many late crops. One of the major factors has been the introduction of Bollgard 3 with an extended planting window and reduced refuge requirement. But the chickpea ‘boom,’ the wet and cool spring conditions, generally good cereal and chickpea yields and the good prices on offer for both chickpeas and cotton have all had an influence. It’s all good, but there are certainly potential dangers from planting after the middle of November. Hopefully we get a finish to the season like this year and it doesn’t end in tears. As long as the chickpea price holds up and we have enough water available, it does suggest that a fundamental change in the cropping system could be underway in northern NSW and Queensland. Or it may be just an isolated opportunity – one that growers are taking full advantage of if they can. Either way, it seems like Bollgard 3 will make dryland cotton the summer crop of choice for an expanding group of growers in suitable regions, which will further boost the ‘floor’ in production of cotton in Australia.
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The other boost to the ‘floor’ in recent years has been the continued expansion of production in the more reliable regions of southern NSW and into Victoria. Unfortunately, that expansion has been (temporarily) halted this year – ironically due to too much water. But if we can get through this delayed season OK, 2017–18 could be a huge season. Speaking of huge, from everyone involved with The Australian Cottongrower, we wish you a huge and happy Christmas and New Year, rain when needed and sunshine when not, and a perfect finish to the season.
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4 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
In this issue... SLW: Embracing IPM to reduce resistance risk
Indigo launches water efficiency product for cotton
Over the past couple of seasons, silverleaf whitefly (SLW) has become a serious pest problem for many growers in the central and southern production regions. See story��������������������������������������������������������������������� Page 18
Indigo, a company based in Boston, has launched its first commercial product – Indigo Cotton – which helps improve the plant’s water use efficiency. The company utilises fungal endophytes within plant tissue to help optimise crop health and improve productivity. See story��������������������������������������������������������������������� Page 33
A new era dawns for Bollgard 3 refuges Pigeon peas represent about 80 per cent of the refuges cultivated to offset Bollgard cotton in Australia. The peas that are grown have originated from several defunct grain lines. This loss became the industry’s gain, as pigeon peas were found to produce twice as many Helicoverpa pupae as unsprayed conventional cotton, providing cotton growers with a more efficient refuge option. See story��������������������������������������������������������������������� Page 22
Spotting cool cotton critters at night Families in the Border Rivers region recently enjoyed a family wildlife discovery and spotlight evening at ‘Taraba’ near Toobeah, hosted by Cotton Rivercare Champion, Mark Palfreyman. See story��������������������������������������������������������������������� Page 32
Irrigation Feature Five seasons of benchmarking data relating to centre pivot and lateral move (CPLM) irrigation systems is now available and shows the year-toyear variability in water productivity. See articles starting��������������������������������������������������� Page 42
SoilWaterApp – tracking soil water Crops rely on a steady water supply but because of Australia’s unreliable rainfall, most crops are highly dependent on water stored in the soil to tide them over dry patches. An extreme example is central Queensland’s winter crops, where 65 per cent of their water comes from water in the soil at planting. See story��������������������������������������������������������������������� Page 54
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December 2016–January 2017
The Australian Cottongrower — 5
Cotton Research Roundup… Bruce Finney.
areas (farmers, industry, customers, people and performance) during this year, working collaboratively with researcher partners and growers. In this column for The Australian Cottongrower, we take a look at some of the highlights of the 2015–16 year.
Year in review: CRDC RD&E achievements 2015–16
Continuing our investment in worldleading cotton RD&E In 2015–16, CRDC invested $21 million into cotton RD&E on behalf of Australia’s cotton growers and the Australian Government – continuing our long-standing commitment to delivering real outcomes for growers and enhancing the industry’s performance. We invested into 290 RD&E projects across five key program
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The future of cotton irrigation – irrigation automation The CRDC-led Smarter Irrigation for Profit project is a largescale, ambitious project designed to achieve a 10 to 20 per cent improvement in water productivity, efficiency and farmer profitability across the cotton, dairy, rice and sugar industries. Within cotton, one of the major focuses is irrigation automation and in 2015–16 CRDC supported the CottonInfo Irrigation Automation Tour, which took 40 cotton growers to the southern irrigation industry to see surface irrigation automation technologies in action. Participants of the tour were impressed with the technology; 95 per cent said they would do something differently on-farm as a result of what they had learned on the tour.
Taking research to the field: Nutrition researchers tour The CRDC-supported CottonInfo nutrition tour delivered a series of five nutrition field days to growers across five cottongrowing valleys in February 2016, taking the latest developments in nutrition research to 360 cotton growers and consultants. The tour involved 10 leading CRDC-supported industry researchers who presented on and discussed a range of important cotton nutrition topics, helping growers realise optimal yields and fibre quality, reduce costs and emissions, and increase margins. The tour resulted in a 35 per cent increase in understanding of soil health and nitrogen use efficiency among attendees and a 52 per cent increase in understanding of loss pathways and greenhouse gas emissions.
World’s first facility into cotton climate change research
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In a first for the cotton industry globally, a national facility for cotton climate change research has been co-established by CRDC and CSIRO at the Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI) near Narrabri to investigate the impact of climate change on cotton production, and evaluate the likely effectiveness of adaptation strategies. Over three cotton growing seasons, CSIRO will be measuring cotton growth, production and resource use efficiency in detail, with new in-field poly-tunnels established at ACRI maintaining elevated CO2, temperature and variable soil water availability. December 2016–January 2017
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Cotton Rivercare Champion demonstrates river stewardship To demonstrate the best practice management of rivers and riparian areas, CRDC has appointed cotton grower Mark Palfreyman as the Cotton Rivercare Champion under the National Cotton Rivercare Champion project. As the champion Mark will demonstrate to cotton growers and the general public how best management practice maintains and/or improves the good condition of riparian areas. Under the program, long-term monitoring sites are being established on the Palfreyman family farm to look at water quality, the condition of native vegetation and the diversity of local fauna with results shared in real time via social media.
CRDC commissions first-ever resilience assessment CRDC commissioned the Australian cotton industry’s first resilience assessment to better understand how to help the industry best adapt to change and to identify critical threats and opportunities for future investment. The assessment looked at three levels of cotton production: the farm, the region and the whole of industry. It found that there are key drivers and shocks acting across the industry, and that industry leaders and growers need to be aware of the impact of those drivers and of the changing nature, frequency or severity of shocks to better prepare and respond to them.
Can cotton be used for 3D printing? The CRDC-supported Cotton rapid customisation feasibility study conducted by QUT aimed to assess the feasibility of using cotton as a feedstock in rapid customisation processes such as
3D printing. The project identified areas within the broad range of rapid customisations where cotton has a clear advantage due to its inherent material qualities. The project found five areas for future research and investigation: OO On-site fabrication of cotton-based filtration products; OO On-demand manufacture of bespoke furniture; OO Next generation lifestyle garments and accessories; OO 3D printing of children’s toys; and, OO Patient-specific smart wound dressings using cotton-derived cellulose and rapid customisation.
CRDC supports new cotton innovation: Ever-dry self-cooling fabric The CRDC-supported, Deakin University-led Ever-dry selfcooling cotton fabrics project has successfully developed a new coating technique that gives cotton fabrics added functionality: the ability to regulate moisture, breathability and surface temperature. This important innovation has the potential to considerably increase the use of cotton in clothing ranges, including sportswear, summer clothing and defence force uniforms. Work is now underway on the development of a commercialisation plan.
Cotton’s first Workforce Development Strategy CRDC and Cotton Australia collaborated to deliver the industry’s first Workforce Development Strategy. The strategy is focused on delivering workforce outcomes for growers on farm, and ultimately will ensure that the cotton industry is able to attract, retain and develop people who will drive industry competitiveness. The strategy provides a shared and focused plan to ensure cotton industry organisations’ investments in workforce target key priorities and are well coordinated and deliver maximum outcomes.
Demonstrating best practice in cotton production The CRDC-supported Australian cotton production and best practice documentaries project, delivered by QDAF, aims to communicate scientifically based crop production, protection and best practice principles to a diverse audience through a series of short, easily accessible videos. To date, 85 short videos have been produced, ranging from pre-season planter maintenance and planting tips through to overcoming challenges for new growers in the southern districts. The videos, which are published on the CottonInfo youtube channel, have collectively received 15,000 views.
Year in review: CRDC organisational highlights 2015–16 25 years of cotton RD&E led by CRDC October 2015 marked 25 years of the CRDC – 25 years of cotton RD&E, invested in by cotton growers and the Australian Government and led by CRDC. The milestone was marked through the release of a special edition of the CRDC Spotlight magazine, and a subsequent publication CRDC: 25 years of RD&E, which outlined the 25 key RD&E achievements in the cotton industry over 25 years.
20 years of GM cotton: CRDC R&D underpins stewardship The industry’s first Bt cotton (Ingard) was introduced in 1996, so 2016 marked 20 years of GM cotton in Australia. CRDC has played an instrumental role in ensuring the enduring efficiency of 8 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
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reports join a host of other important cotton industry materials on Inside Cotton, including previous editions of the CRDC Spotlight magazine, CRDC corporate publications, papers and presentations from the Australian Cotton Conferences and archived materials from the former cotton CRCs.
Second annual Strategy Forum identifies cotton RD&E priorities CRDC hosted its second annual Strategy Forum in Brisbane in May 2016, bringing together cotton growers on Cotton Australia’s grower advisory panels to help determine the industry’s future research priorities. The Forum is part of CRDC’s procurement process, which was revised in 2015–16 to improve efficiency, streamline the RD&E investment process and provide greater clarity to researchers.
Collaboration: A key to cotton RD&E
GM cotton through stewardship. Australia is now recognised as having the most pre-emptive, rigorous and successful resistance management system for transgenic cotton in the world.
Strong support for CRDC investments among growers For the first time in 2015–16, the Grower Practices Survey sought feedback from growers about their perceptions of CRDC and support for our RD&E investments. The survey found that 99.6 per cent of growers are aware of CRDC, 88 per cent of growers are supportive of CRDC’s research and investments, and 74 per cent of growers have input into CRDC about research.
Final RD&E reports now on-line Over 1100 final reports of RD&E projects invested in by CRDC are now available via the CRDC online library, Inside Cotton. The reports range from 1986 to 2015, including those invested in by CRDC’s predecessor, the Cotton Research Council. The
CRDC works in partnership with other industry bodies and other rural research and development corporations (RDCs) to achieve strategic outcomes for the industry, and to leverage higher returns for our investments. This underpins our investment strategy, with CRDC partnering in over 80 per cent of RD&E projects conducted in the cotton sector. Almost 25 per cent of CRDC investments are in cross-sectoral RD&E.
Commitment to sustainability: Response to the Third Environmental Assessment The Australian cotton industry has a 24-year history of independent environmental assessments, demonstrating our commitment to monitoring and improving our environmental performance. In 2012, the Third Environmental Assessment was conducted and in February 2016, CRDC and Cotton Australia officially responded, outlining the high-level outcomes that have been delivered on behalf of the industry. These outcomes include the Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report and the establishment of 45 key sustainability indicators.
Cotton Futures: Investing in blue-sky, transformational cotton RD&E Cotton Futures provide a clear framework for CRDC to invest in long-term, transformational innovations to ensure the industry remains profitable, sustainable and competitive in the future. In 2015–16, CRDC invested in 11 innovative blue-sky projects under the three Cotton Futures themes.
CRDC Deputy Chair awarded major industry award
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CRDC Deputy Chair and St George cotton grower Cleave Rogan was awarded the prestigious 2015 Incitec Pivot Service to Industry Award at the Cotton Industry Awards presentation in August 2015. Cleave has grown cotton for more than 30 years, and is passionate about RD&E, having served as a director on the CRDC Board since 2011. For more information on all of these achievements and highlights, download your copy of our 2015–16 Annual Report or the Annual Report Grower Summary from www.crdc. com.au/publications. You can also find a full list of our current research projects online at www.crdc.com.au/research-development.
10 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
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Cotton Australia tackling thorny issues of Basin Plan, spray drift OO By Michael Murray – Cotton Australia General Manager
FTER months of anticipation, the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has finally released its draft recommendation on its Northern Basin Review. The recommendation was that the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) be adjusted to require a total of 320 GL of water to be recovered. Other proposed Plan amendments include a decrease in three groundwater area recovery targets, plus some other practical changes to the Basin Plan. On one hand, this is a reduction from the 390 GL target for 2019 that has been in place for some time. On the other hand, this is still an increase on the 278 GL that has been recovered to date and which, it must be pointed out, has already caused significant harm to growers and communities affected by the Plan. It is fair to say the MDBA’s decision falls short, and fails the farmers and 21 communities it affects in northern NSW and southern Queensland. In a report issued in October, the MDBA analysed the social and economic impacts of the water recovery options available. By its own admission in that report, the Authority shows that towns such as Collarenebri and Warren have already suffered significant negative impacts on employment, and full implementation will have many other communities suffer the same. Previous industry estimates have placed job losses of up to 35 per cent in some towns, and confirmation of these impacts from the MDBA merely confirms Cotton Australia’s previously stated position – enough is enough. In the lead-up to the announcement of its draft recommendations, Cotton Australia urged the Authority to ensure that adjustments to the sustainable diversion limits arising from the Northern Basin Review were truly balanced. We also pointed to how much more could be done to improve environmental outcomes without the need to recover more water. Mitigating cold water pollution from dams, fish passage
Michael Murray – Cotton Australia General Manager.
over weirs, re-snagging, managing pests and invasive species such as carp, and land management activities in the riparian zone and in wetlands are all crucial to improving environmental outcomes in the Northern Basin. I am happy that the MDBA’s recommendation included some of these measures. While the MDBA has issued its draft recommendation, the fight is certainly nowhere close to over. Cotton Australia is playing a crucial role in the campaign to
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protect communities and grower water rights, and is one of a dozen farmer and irrigator groups from across Queensland and New South Wales that have been campaigning on this very issue for the past six weeks. This alliance, marshalled under the ‘#MoreThanFlow’ campaign, has written to key politicians and regulators, urging them to demonstrate they care about the social and economic impacts of the MDBP. Now the Authority’s draft recommendation has been handed up, the process has entered a two-month public consultation phase. It is now up to everyone in the industry to do their part and participate in that process. Cotton Australia urges everyone in the communities affected by the Plan to have their voice heard and join the fight – sign up to the #MoreThanFlow campaign at the Australian Farmers website: www.farmers.org.au
Tackling off-target spray drift On top of its crucial efforts on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, Cotton Australia has also been working hard on its annual campaign to prevent off-target spray drift. At least 60,000 hectares of cotton was damaged last season, affecting more than 20 per cent of the nation’s crop. The damage bill faced by cotton growers was estimated to be more than $20 million. In response, Cotton Australia has expanded its strategy and increased resources in order to prevent a recurrence. Cotton Australia’s campaign urges all farmers, no matter what crop they are growing, to be mindful of weather conditions and to check CottonMap to identify nearby cotton farms before applying weed control. Each season, an average of 96 per cent of the planted area is mapped. CottonMap is a joint collaboration between Cotton Australia, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), the Grains RDC and Nufarm. The campaign is multi-faceted, and key components of this year’s effort include radio ads and other media campaigns to raise awareness, distributing point of sale information to chemical resellers, meeting with agronomists, contractors and applicators to drive best practice and briefing federal and state regulators on Group I related spray impacts on cotton. Additionally, Cotton Australia is collaborating with other industries (including the grains and pulses sectors) to prevent spray drift occurrences and raise awareness of best practice.
CHECKLIST… Farmers should use this four-point checklist when preparing to spray, particularly Group I herbicides such as 2,4-D:
1. Know what to do: OO Read and follow label instructions – it is a legal requirement; and, OO Ensure spray applicators are fully trained and accredited.
2. Check the conditions before spraying: OO Monitor conditions before, during and after spraying; and, OO Do not spray when there is a surface temperature inversion – strongest between midnight and sunrise – or when wind speeds are very low.
3. Consider your neighbours: OO Check www.CottonMap.com.au for cotton fields that could be impacted by drift – spray droplets can travel further than 20 km; and, OO Notify your neighbours of your spray plan.
4. Adjust your spray equipment: OO Select nozzles that produce coarse or large droplets and use them in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications; and, OO Minimise boom height when spraying and slow down – high speeds significantly increase potential for drift. On the research front, Cotton Australia’s Grower Advisory Panels have previously supported spray drift projects as part of the CRDC’s investment portfolio. Research supported by the Grower Advisory Panels commenced in mid-2016 to identify and model inversion events to develop an inversion alert tool for growers. All of Cotton Australia’s efforts are aimed at raising awareness of the potential damage Group I herbicides can do to cotton and promoting practices that all farmers can implement to avoid drift. We are hopeful that our efforts will reduce adverse incidents and damage in the 2016–17 cotton season.
Short term, skilled labour available now The LABOUR PLACEMENT division of The-Gate is essentially a service introducing Australian farmers needing short-term skilled labour, to keen and experienced young workers with farming backgrounds. The-Gate offers a pool of skilled international farm workers with picker and other large machinery experience.
So to get the ball rolling on solving your short-term labour needs, go to www.the-gate.com.au and register (for free) on The-Gate’s database or contact Catherine on 0408 717 459
www.the-gate.com.au 14 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
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Silverleaf whitefly: Embracing IPM to reduce resistance risk OO By Jamie Hopkinson1, Lewis Wilson2 and Paul Grundy1
VER the past couple of seasons, silverleaf whitefly (SLW) has become a serious pest problem for many growers in the central and southern production regions. This has most likely occurred as populations of B. tabaci biotype MEAM1 (formerly known as B-biotype) have displaced the native Australian B. tabaci (biotype AUS1). As a result SLW is now well established in these regions. SLW is a much greater risk to cotton crops than the native species because it is better adapted to using cotton as a host and is much more tolerant of many of the insecticides applied to control other pests. Furthermore, the past few cotton seasons have been characterised by warmer seasonal finishes, providing the heat units necessary for more generations of SLW, leading to higher numbers. Contributing to outbreaks of SLW is the use of broadspectrum insecticides to control other pests, such as mirids, as insecticide use reduces beneficial insect numbers. A broad array of generalist beneficial predators, along with parasitoids of SLW nymphs, are very important as they help to slow down the development of SLW populations each season – acting as nature’s braking system. Reducing the abundance of beneficials diminishes this source of SLW mortality, improving SLW survival and leads to faster population growth. This places additional pressure on
the insecticides that we rely on for control, incurring higher management costs, risking the development of resistance and increasing the risk of honeydew contaminated cotton. SLW must be included as part of a well-considered IPM program. There have been many examples of SLW becoming a major pest of cotton when mismanaged. SLW do not directly reduce crop yield, as most pests do. Instead, the damage caused is the by-product of feeding with excreted honeydew contaminating open bolls. During the spinning process, if ‘sticky’ cotton is encountered it fouls machinery causing mills to shut-down for decontamination, incurring significant productivity losses. These losses are so great that spinners will avoid purchasing cotton from regions with a reputation of sticky cotton, even if bales are dramatically discounted. The aim of SLW management should be to minimise the risk of any honeydew contamination on lint. A critical factor to take into account when managing SLW is that control decisions need to be made well before contamination occurs. This is particularly relevant for the slow acting insecticides (eg. IGRs) that can take up to 20 days to take full effect. To manage the risk of honeydew contamination from early boll opening onwards, effective sampling needs to commence well beforehand, through January and February. This sampling should track the development of SLW populations, account for the amount of honeydew being deposited, and consider the potential contribution of beneficial populations on SLW numbers. The existing sampling protocol is based on the 5th node below the plant terminal and is directly linked with the risk of crops incurring honeydew at a level that would create stickiness problems. While spraying earlier to eliminate SLW from the crop would seem to be a logical approach for managing this pest, it risks applying expensive insecticides to populations that may never reach threshold levels, and also increases resistance selection pressure. The high reproductive rate of this pest could enable numbers to rebuild again before season’s end, requiring repeated insecticide intervention. The recommended approach is to use the SLW sampling protocol and linked Threshold Matrix (found in the Cotton Pest Management Guide) to manage SLW populations to prevent them from contaminating cotton once there are open bolls, while minimising the number of insecticide applications. This ensures that insecticides are only used when required, reducing costs and resistance selection. Poor sampling or ineffective use of the Threshold Matrix can contribute to a failure to prevent population development that could pose a lint contamination threat.
Resistance update Adult silverleaf whitefly feeding on a cotton leaf during a lab bioassay.
18 — The Australian Cottongrower
In the 2015–16 season, moderate resistance to pyriproxyfen (Admiral) was found in samples from the Gwydir region. While pyriproxyfen resistance has been detected in SLW collected from horticultural areas such as Bowen in North Queensland for several December 2016–January 2017
LE RUN N BA
NEW MO DEL US TODA
A lightly honeydew contaminated leaf. Successful SLW management aims to minimise the presence of honeydew prior to boll opening.
years, this result is a first for the Australian cotton industry and the centralised location is highly concerning. For other products such as diafenthiuron (Pegasus) and newer products such as cyantraniliprole (Exirel), testing indicates that populations remain susceptible. The industry’s testing program has shown that SLW have resistance to some of the older neonicotinoids eg. clothianidin. For this reason, mid to late season use of clothianidin should be minimised due to its potential to flare SLW (as a result of SLW’s resistance and the disruption caused to beneficials). More recent neonicotinoid products such as dinotefuran are effective on SLW but resistance to the older products serves as a warning against overuse. The detection of resistance to pyriproxyfen should be interpreted for what it is – a clear warning that SLW is rapidly becoming a major pest management threat for the whole cotton industry and that IPM practices for all pests need renewed focus. At this stage the detected resistance is rare and therefore is not the cause of control issues reported by some agronomists last season. It is more likely poor field performance has been related to application timing and depleted beneficial insect numbers at the end of the season, as beneficials are critical to maximise the longer term performance of this product. It is also possible that people have unrealistic expectations of the control potential of insecticides like pyriproxyfen that manipulate the dynamics of entrenched insect populations rather than delivering immediate insect mortality.
Take home messages For pyriproxyfen (Admiral) it is critical that usage is restricted to one well timed and targeted spray application per season. The effectiveness and ‘softness’ against natural enemies of this product makes it an important tool in managing SLW. To reduce the risk of overusing pyriproxyfen and other products targeting SLW, a key focus should be to avoid where possible unnecessary sprays early in the season. Rethink adding an insecticide to a 20 — The Australian Cottongrower
glyphosate spray just because the spray rig is making a routine field pass. Mirids should be only controlled when numbers and crop retention trends really necessitate it. Research has shown that controlling mirids below threshold levels has no effect on yield and may increase the likelihood of needing additional sprays for both mirids and other secondary pests. Spray oils can be a handy addition for early season mirid management, being both less disruptive to beneficials and antagonistic to other sucking pests such as aphids and SLW. Some spray oils are also compatible with glyphosate and therefore could be a valid option for inclusion with a weed control field operation. Oils typically give 40–70 per cent mirid control and therefore may be a good choice if mirid numbers are getting very close to threshold and a field pass with glyphosate is about to be made. Other things to consider include exercising good farm hygiene practices and considering the farming operation as a whole from a pest management perspective. Late in the season as crops mature, SLW will migrate from field to field so be mindful that defoliation decisions have the potential to affect neighbouring blocks. If pyriproxyfen has been used in adjacent fields several weeks apart due to crop maturity differences it’s likely that part of the population will be exposed to the compound twice due to insect movement. This too can greatly exacerbate resistance selection across an area. Important points to consider when managing SLW: OO Timing of application is critical: too early and you may see a resurgence, too late risks contaminated (sticky) cotton; OO Pyriproxyfen (Admiral) is an IGR that is slow acting, requiring 14–20 days to achieve control and its performance is greatly improved if beneficials are present; OO Carefully follow resistance management guidelines when using SLW insecticides; Only a single application of pyriproxyfen should be used per management unit per season; and, OO As SLW are highly mobile, consider size of management units when applying insecticides to minimise the risk of repeat exposure on the same population, as this increases resistance selection pressure. Avoid treating adjacent fields more than 14 days apart as this is likely to overlap populations and generations. Adopting IPM principles throughout the season helps suppress the development of late season pests such as SLW, aphids and mites.
Ten IPM practices to adopt OO Know your enemies and your friends; OO Take a year-round approach; OO Think of the farm and surrounding vegetation as a whole system; OO Have good on-farm hygiene; OO Consider options to escape, avoid or reduce pests; OO Sample crops effectively and regularly; OO Aim to grow a healthy crop; OO Evaluate pest abundance against established thresholds; OO Choose insecticides wisely to conserve beneficials; and, OO Apply good resistance management principles. Queensland DAF. CSIRO.
The CottASSIST SLW threshold tool is available to use at www.cottassist.com.au. The latest SLW factsheet and the Cotton Pest Management Guide for 2016–17 are available to download at www.cottoninfo.com.au
December 2016–January 2017
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A new era dawns for Bollgard 3 refuges OO By Paul Grundy and Yash Chauhan (Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries), and Kristen Knight (Monsanto)
IGEON peas represent about 80 per cent of the refuges cultivated to offset Bollgard cotton in Australia. The peas that are grown have originated from several defunct grain lines (Quest, Hunt and Quantum) for which commercial production ceased over 20 years ago due to an inability to control insecticide resistant Helicoverpa. This loss became the cotton industryâ€™s gain, as pigeon peas were found to produce twice as many Helicoverpa pupae as unsprayed conventional cotton, providing cotton growers with a more efficient refuge option. Unfortunately, the process by which the cotton industry has acquired planting seed for over a decade is now threatening the usefulness of this choice. The mixing of the original varieties and continual recycling of seed from undamaged refuges has resulted in the self-selection of peas that flower later in the season
This pigeon pea is very similar to the founding variety Quest, which was indeterminate and slow to re-flower after sustaining insect damage.
22 â€” The Australian Cottongrower
and increasingly lack synchrony with the boll setting period of Bollgard cotton. As pigeon peas are largely unattractive to Helicoverpa prior to flowering, peas that flower late are unlikely to generate as many moths to outcross with those that may be emerging from Bollgard crops. This reduces refuge efficacy and undermines the central assumption that pigeon peas produce many more moths than unsprayed conventional cotton at the right time. Pigeon pea planting seed quality and availability is also a frequently encountered problem reported by growers each season. As the Bollgard 3 era commences and our dependence on Bt technology is set to continue for the foreseeable future, it is clear that the industry cannot continue to rely on randomly saved pigeon pea seed that increasingly exhibits characteristics that are unsuitable for refuge use.
Sunrise pigeon pea is a very indeterminate variety and flowers heavily. It re-flowers quite readily after sustaining insect damage.
December 2016â€“January 2017
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Sunrise is a prolific refuge for Helicoverpa,
Due to the cessation of pigeon pea grain production, no commercial quantities of pure lines were available in Australia for variety renewal. The only option was to begin afresh with small quantities of seed (20–30 g) of known cultivars stored in Australia’s Genetic Resource Centre (AGRC) at Biloela (Queensland) and Horsham (Victoria). The decision was made by DAF to assess 330 lines from the AGRC collection using the simple question: “What would a variety of pigeon pea most suitable for use as a refuge look like?”
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24 — The Australian Cottongrower
Assessment of Sunrise has been promising so far.
After two seasons of small plot assessments, several lines of pigeon peas originally bred by ICRISAT in India were chosen as promising candidates for refuge use under Australian conditions. In contrast to original varieties such as Quest and Quantum, these lines were indeterminate and produced copious quantities of flowers and pods on large racemes. A foundation quantity of seed was subsequently developed and commercial seed production is now being undertaken by Associated Grains, in Dalby. The new variety will be known as Sunrise, a name chosen to reflect its bountiful flowering and representative of a new beginning for pigeon pea refuges in Australia. Sunrise has exhibited excellent vigour under furrow irrigation on a range of soil types, commences flowering prior to January, and has a strongly indeterminate growth habit that allows for repeat flowering, particularly after sustaining insect attack. Assessments of the attractiveness of Sunrise to Helicoverpa and resultant pupae production compared with existing pigeon pea varieties has been very promising to date with more extensive assessments being made at multiple locations this season in the Darling Downs and St George regions. Limited quantities of seed have also been released this season for planting at a range of locations throughout the industry so that growers will be able to have a first-hand look at this variety in their region at field days planned during January. As part of the Bollgard 3 Resistance Management Plan (RMP) development process, an agreement was reached by the industry and Monsanto to work towards improving the quality of refuges, especially in light of a reduction in the required mandated refuge, which in turn means that refuges must offer better effectiveness and be better managed. To this objective Monsanto are working with Associated Grains to see the commercial release of Sunrise for the industry in 2017. Monsanto are also supporting work in partnership with DAF to collect additional data for the refuge efficacy of Sunrise compared with existing pigeon pea refuges – information that will be critical for future resistance management planning though TIMS. December 2016–January 2017
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Changes in soil salinity, sodicity and nitrate under irrigated cotton OO By Alice Melland1, Andrew Biggs2, Mark Silburn2 and Roger Shaw3
E-SAMPLING of 10–20 year-old cotton study sites run by the late Des McGarry and others has helped to clarify whether salts are likely to accumulate or leach from irrigated cracking clays. Three case studies were used to examine different water quality, irrigation system and soil type scenarios. The case studies showed large losses of nitrate from the rootzone via leaching, decreasing rootzone salinity and low soil surface sodicity. OO In the Condamine alluvia, soil profiles were studied to see if salt had accumulated from irrigation with marginal quality groundwater. OO Gypsic soil in the St George Irrigation Area (SGIA) was studied to see if long-term irrigation with good quality surface water had leached salts. OO Thirdly, in the Border Rivers region, we looked at the potential for overhead irrigation to leach less of the native soil salt than furrow irrigation. Our thanks are extended to the growers involved in this study for their collaboration in research over many years.
Salt, sodium and nitrate gains and losses Salts accumulate when the input of salt exceeds the amount leached by rain and irrigation and removed by crops. In this study, changes in soil chloride over time, and comparisons of irrigated soil with unirrigated soil profiles, were used to indicate whether salt had accumulated or leached. Soil salinity (measured as electrical conductivity, EC) was used to indicate the suitability of the soil for crops of varying salt tolerance.
Nitrate is a negatively charged ion so is not retained well against leaching by most soils (due to their negative charge). Cotton and sorghum extract water, and therefore nutrients, to depths of almost two metres, but leaching of nitrate from the most effective, upper, part of the rootzone represents a loss from the crop system and a financial loss. Salt and nitrate in runoff or leachate can also contribute to environmental problems if discharged to waterbodies.
Case Study 1: Condamine–Macalister Summary: Use of marginal quality groundwater for irrigation had increased soil salinity and restricted crop choice. Over the next two decades of blended or surface-water-only irrigation, much of the salt leached. Nitrate also leached from the upper rootzone but there was little change in sodicity. Around 10 per cent of bores used for irrigation in the Condamine alluvia have salinity levels higher than the cotton threshold and require blending with fresh water. A grey vertosol paddock at Macalister (‘Macalister2’) was subsurface-drip irrigated with marginal quality water for about 10 years from 1993. Chloride accumulated relative to a dryland crop soil during the early years of bore-only irrigation (Figure 1) and the salinity exceeded the threshold tolerance of mung beans (Figure 2). Surface crusting of the soil was also a concern to the grower, Andrew Bartley. Consequently, only good quality surface water was used from the early 2000s onwards. Re-sampling in 2014 indicated that salt had leached over the preceding 18 years. According to the grower, the floods in 2010–11 contributed significantly to this leaching, and helped to
FIGURE 1: Chloride in irrigated soil profiles in 1996 and 2014 compared with a native vegetation soil profile.
Switching to better quality water reduced salt accumulation at the Condamine site.
26 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
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restore soil structure. Salinity is now low throughout the rootzone and in 2012–13 the grower planted mung beans in the paddock for the first time. A nearby furrow-irrigated grey vertosol paddock (‘Macalister1’) has been irrigated for the past 20 years with a blend of marginal quality groundwater and good quality surface water. Prior to that, and similarly to Macalister2, no surface water was available for the first four years of irrigation, leading to chloride accumulation in the upper rootzone (Figure 1). Re-sampling in 2014 indicated that much of the accumulated salt had moved downwards beyond one metre. Both rain and the blended irrigation water would have contributed to this net leaching of salts. But the rootzone salinity was still high and could restrict the yield of saltsensitive crops (Figure 2). Sodicity, measured as the exchangeable sodium percentage, was naturally moderate – high in the subsoil (10–30 per cent) and was also consistently high (12–20 per cent) over time in the topsoil of Macalister1 due to sodium addition from irrigation
FIGURE 2: Upper rootzone salinity (ECse to 0.9 m) of irrigated, dryland crop and native vegetation soil profiles compared with crop salinity thresholds
water. The grower, Scott Seis, no longer applies bore water unless there is plenty of surface water available for blending. A shandy of approximately 1:10 bore:dam water would dilute the sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) to less than four, which is ideal for maintaining surface soil structure after heavy rain in this soil. Upper rootzone nitrate levels varied three-fold between paddocks which highlights the importance of soil testing in different management areas, to avoid applying more N than is needed. In 2014 there were large stores of nitrate (up to 776 kg per hectare of N) in the lower rootzone of the paddocks (Figure 3). Compared with 157 kg/ha of N in 1996, this suggests a net leaching of 34 kg/ha of N per year from the surface soil. Between 42 and 164 kg nitrate-N per hectare per year was lost via deep drainage from these paddocks when measured using in-field lysimeters between 1997 and 1999, but these rates were higher than would be expected under natural drainage. Leached N may take six months to 48 years to reach the groundwater in the Condamine and can be denitrified or taken up by deep roots or bacteria in the soil or groundwater. In 2014, nitrate concentrations were at least 10 times lower than ANZECC irrigation water quality guidelines in three irrigation bores in Macalister.
Management implications OO Salinity, nitrogen and irrigation need to be managed in combination to avoid over-fertilising a water-stressed saline soil, or over-watering a nitrogen-rich soil. For example, nitrate leaching can be minimised by avoiding nitrogen application before irrigation or forecast heavy rainfall on cracked or wet soils. Minimising deep drainage from irrigation is particularly important if the nitrogen is applied via fertigation or is applied before the crop has established. OO Rootzone salinity should be monitored at least every three years and can be minimised by using the best quality irrigation water available. Reducing salt input is a better long term strategy than relying on leaching because leached salts may eventually cause salinity in the wider landscape.
FIGURE 4: Chloride in irrigated soil profiles over time FIGURE 3: Total nitrate-N (kg/ha) in the upper and lower rootzone in three paddocks in 2014
28 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
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Case Study 2: St George Irrigation Area Summary: After four decades of irrigation with good quality water a paddock was leached of chloride but the native gypsum salts in the subsoil did not leach. At a cotton farm south of St George (‘St George South’) on a Brown Vertosol soil, furrow irrigation has been applied for about 40 years. The channel irrigation water is generally of good quality with very low salinity and sodicity. The medium clay soil profile has a band of native gypsum between 0.8–1.4 metres depth. Soil chemistry was measured four times between 2002 and 2007 in a deep drainage project run by the late Des McGarry. We resampled the paddock in September 2015 to identify the degree of salt leaching that had occurred since 2007. The re-sampling showed less chloride salt in the profile,
FIGURE 5: Salinity in irrigated soil profiles over time
especially below 0.8 metres depth, than in 2007 and earlier (Figure 4) with at least three tonnes per hectare of chloride having leached from the one to two metres depth zone. But there was little change over time in the salinity, measured as electrical conductivity (Figure 5). High salinity at 0.8–1.4 metres depth in the profile indicated that most of the native gypsum was still present and had not dissolved and leached over time. Assuming most crop roots in an irrigated system are in the top one metre of soil, the high soil salinity at depth was not likely to have had a major impact on crop yield. The grower, Bill Knights, has seen improvements in yields over time. The soil was non-sodic at the surface and this had also not changed over time. In both 2007 and 2015, pH was high (pH>8) in the topsoil and low (pH<7) below 1.5 metres depth. This trend is quite common in many cotton growing soils in southern inland Queensland. The degree to which the subsoil acidity impacts cotton plant growth and yield is not well understood. Soil nitrate levels were moderate in September 2015, representing the equivalent of 72 kg per hectare of nitrogen to 0.9 metres depth (Figure 6). This was lower than the 223 kg per hectare measured in 2007 with differences affected by crop stage, rainfall and fertiliser history. But nitrate-N stored in the lower rootzone also decreased by about 275 kg per hectare over the past eight years (ie. about 35 kg/ha per year of N). Given the similar patterns of chloride and nitrate levels over time, much of the lost nitrate had probably leached and may eventually reach the shallow groundwater (mostly less than 23 metres depth). The loss may also represent a financial cost, both in terms of the cost of applying the lost N (roughly $400 per hectare) and the cost of any yield lost due to the N not being taken up by a crop.
Management implications Minimising deep drainage will reduce nitrate and salt potentially leaching into the groundwater.
Case Study 3: Border Rivers–Boggabilla
FIGURE 6: Total nitrate-N (kg/ha) in the upper and lower rootzone in 2007 and 2014
30 — The Australian Cottongrower
Summary: Surface irrigation leached more salt than overhead spray irrigation as expected but leaching still occurred from the overhead irrigated soil. Good quality irrigation water has leached over 80 per cent of the high native salt from the Black Vertosol over time. At a cotton farm near Boggabilla (‘Boggabilla1’), furrow and lateral move (LM) overhead spray irrigation has been applied on adjacent Black Vertosol paddocks for several years. The applied water is generally of good quality with very low salinity and sodicity. We re-sampled the paddocks in August 2014 to identify whether using LM irrigation had reduced salt leaching compared with the furrow irrigation. In all samplings, the soil surface had low salinity and was non-sodic. But the clay soil profile has naturally high salinity and sodicity at depth, as revealed by the native vegetation soil chloride profile (Figure 7). Re-sampling of the irrigated paddocks showed that over 80 per cent of the native chloride had leached from the soil over time under both surface and overhead irrigation systems. About four times more chloride had leached from the upper rootzone (0–0.9 m) of the furrow paddock than from the LM paddock between 2009–10 and 2014. Over time, drainage and salts that leach may increase the risk of the naturally saline groundwater discharging to wetlands and rivers. Nitrate-N was high (464 kg per hectare) throughout the upper December 2016–January 2017
rootzone of the LM paddock in 2014 and a nitrate bulge was evident in the lower rootzone, indicating applied N has leached down through the profile (Figure 8). This bulge was equivalent to about 265 kg per hectare of nitrate-N representing potential losses of about $400 per hectare in applied N plus any loss in yield from N not taken up by the crop.
Management implications OO Continuing to use fresh irrigation water will help maintain the low soil salinity. OO Minimising deep drainage will reduce the risk of groundwater levels rising and discharging to waterways. OO Nitrate leaching can be minimised by soil testing before applying nitrogen, and by avoiding nitrogen application before irrigation or forecast heavy rainfall on cracked or wet soils.
Summary Re-sampling irrigated paddocks over long periods of time provides valuable evidence for trends of increasing or decreasing rootzone salinity on commercial farms using a range of water sources and irrigation methods. The potential for off-farm salinity developing over time due to salts being leached reinforces the importance of minimising deep drainage and using high quality irrigation water where possible. University of Southern Queensland. Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines. 3 Private Consultant. 1 2
The research was funded by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and conducted by the University of Southern Queensland and the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
FIGURE 7: Chloride in irrigated soil profiles in over time compared with a native vegetation soil profile
The overhead system leached less salt than the flood system at Boggabilla.
At Dinner Plain the pace is easy going... FIGURE 8: Total nitrate-N (kg/ha) in the upper and lower rootzone in 2014
Dinner Plain is the place where the family can be together by the fireside or miles apart exploring the cross-country trail network. Where you stroll the treelined streets simply for the sights or to meet friends for a restaurant dinner or drinks at the bar. The village itself helps set the community atmosphere, natural building materials and earthy tones blur the line between man made and alpine environment. Over 200 lodges and chalets with all the conveniences of a modern resort.
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December 2016â€“January 2017
The Australian Cottongrower â€” 31
Spotting cool cotton critters at night OO By Ruth Redfern – CRDC
AMILIES in the Border Rivers region recently enjoyed a family wildlife discovery and spotlight evening at ‘Taraba’ near Toobeah, hosted by Cotton Rivercare Champion, Mark Palfreyman. Cotton RiverCare program manager and CottonInfo technical specialist for natural resources, Stacey Vogel, said some 30 local people attended the event, held on Friday, October 21. “The evening gave attendees an opportunity to get up close to animals they normally wouldn’t see – like microbats, the paleheaded snake and the Macquarie turtle,” Stacey said. Ecologist Phil Spark had spent the days leading up to the wildlife discovery evening on ‘Taraba’ undertaking a fauna survey, funded by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation. “The spotlight evening provided a great opportunity for us to share with our neighbours some of the cool critters that Phil caught here over the past four days,” Mark said. “Phil kindly stayed on at the farm to lead the event – showing families the animals that can be found in our local area, and providing information about their habitats to keep them healthy. “The evening was very interactive, with children especially enjoying the wildlife spotlighting walk. No log was left unturned! “Over the coming weeks we will be posting photos and information about some of the animals spotted during the fauna survey via social media. “Go to www.cottoninfo.com.au/cotton-rivercare to find us online!” The wildlife discovery evening – part of CottonInfo’s Cotton RiverCare project – was a partnership between CottonInfo and the Queensland Murray Darling Committee.
Elsie Palfreyman – daughter of Cotton RiverCare Champion, Mark Palfreyman – holds a shingleback lizard, found as part of the fauna survey conducted on ‘Taraba’. (PHOTO: Ruth Redfern)
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Locals Ian Archer and Alex Webster enjoy the wildlife discovery and spotlight evening, hosted by Cotton RiverCare Champion, Mark Palfreyman. (PHOTO: Ruth Redfern)
December 2016–January 2017
Indigo launches water efficiency product for cotton
NDIGO, a company based in Boston, has launched its first commercial product – Indigo Cotton – which helps improve the plant’s water use efficiency. The company utilises fungal endophytes within plant tissue to help optimise crop health and improve productivity. To date, Indigo has tested these microbes on more than a dozen different crops across three continents in four growing seasons. According to Indigo reports, the company’s cotton trials have consistently shown 10 per cent or greater yield increases under targeted stress conditions, including water scarcity. The Indigo Cotton product has been planted on more than 50,000 acres in five US states this year. The product was born in the lab of Texas A&M entomologist Dr Greg Sword. In an Australian twist to the story, Greg’s work on fungal endophytes in cotton originated in Australia while he was on the faculty at the University of Sydney. And the product will soon be available in Australia (see box story). Greg was kind enough to answer a few questions on the development of Dr Greg Sword. Indigo Cotton. Q: Can you give some details of your initial trial results which led you to seek a commercial partner? A: I first published a paper in 2013 (Ek-Ramos et al. 2013) about the fungal endophyte collection that I had made from cultivated cotton grown in Texas, the biggest cotton producing state in the country. At the end of that paper, I mentioned that the next step in the research was to start looking at some of the effects that these endophytes might have in conferring stress
Indigo co-founder, CEO David Perry and chief Technical Officer Geoffrey von Maltzahn.
December 2016–January 2017
resistance to the plants – because at the time their roles in cotton and other plants had been more or less completely ignored. When I was contacted in 2013 about the fungal endophyte collection by Geoff von Maltzahn from Flagship Enterprises (the precursor to what is now Indigo Ag), my lab had already done some work showing that some of the endophytes could confer resistance to cotton against insects and nematodes. Most importantly, I had already conducted two years of field trials on my own, something which was relatively rare in fungal endophyte research, and clearly shown that increases in yields were possible in plants treated with fungal endophytes. The result was a licensing and research agreement between Texas A&M University AgriLife Research and what is now Indigo Ag giving them exclusive rights to commercialisation and allowing us to conduct collaborative research on the various endophyte strains. Q: And a bit of background on the Sydney University connection? A: I was first introduced to fungal endophytes by Peter McGee from Sydney University. He was responsible for some of the seminal work showing that fungal endophytes collected from plants including cotton could be involved in conferring resistance to insects. At the time, I was also a faculty member there in the School of Biological Sciences. Peter was looking for an entomologist to collaborate with, and we co-advised a PhD student on a fungal endophyte project. One of the papers from that work (Gurulingappa et al, 2010) has gone on to be a pretty important early paper demonstrating the potential for fungal endophytes to colonise and confer insect resistance in a variety of crops (wheat, corn, tomato, cotton, bean and melon). Peter McGee is now retired, but I have been giving him regular updates about how the fungal endophyte work that he originally introduced me to has grown. Q: How do the endophytes work? That is, what is the process by which the endophyte increases cotton yield? Does it improve the water extractive ability of the roots or does it change the physiology of the plant so that it uses less water? A: This is the great unknown right now. A mountain of evidence is accumulating showing that the manipulation The Australian Cottongrower — 33
Round bales of the first Indigo-treated cotton to be picked. Full results should be available early in the new year.
of fungal endophytes in plants can have positive effects on plant growth, stress resistance and yields. Yet, precisely how, mechanistically, this occurs is still under investigation by my lab and may others. There are many hypotheses, and they are not at all mutually exclusive, meaning that several mechanisms could be operating at once. In some cases it may be that specific chemicals produced by the fungi are important, but in other cases it may also be that the fungi alter how the plants uses its own defense mechanisms to protect against stress such as water loss. Another possibility could be that the presence of the target fungus affects the ability of other microbes to colonise the plant, and it is these other microbes that actually causing the effects we observe. Independent of Indigo Ag, my lab is currently actively engaged in federally-funded research looking at how the presence of fungal endophytes in cotton alters plant hormone signaling and gene expression in the plant in response to drought stress as well as insect attack. Q: Where did you find the endophytes? Are they naturally occurring in cotton (and other) plants? A: All plants sampled to date have been shown to harbor endophytes. In fact, is not incorrect to view a plant as a scaffold housing an incredibly diverse array of microorganisms. The fungal endophytes I cultured from cotton were naturally occurring. When we inoculate them back to the plant, all we are doing is trying to bias the plant to being colonised by the microbes we want to have in there, but they all originally came from the plant in the first place. We have also clearly shown that a single strain of fungal endophyte is capable of colonising many different species of unrelated plant, so they are not species specific. But the effects that the endophytes may have are not necessarily the same across all plants. They may be beneficial in one crop, but have no discernible effects in other plants. Q: Why cotton? Does it work as well in other plants? A: The specific choice of cotton was more or less an accident of history. In 2011, I began my appointment as the Charles R. Parencia Endowed Chair in Cotton Entomology at Texas A&M, so cotton was the logical choice to go exploring for endophytes! If I’d been appointed as an endowed chair in avocado entomology, maybe we’d be talking about avocados right now! Jokes aside, cotton is, of course, an important global commodity, and the general principle of manipulating fungal endophytes to increase plant health and resistance to stress is applicable across all crops. 34 — The Australian Cottongrower
Q: Without giving away any secrets, is this a once-only, or the first in line of useful products? A: I can’t speak to what Indigo has in the pipeline, but it is safe to say, and we have already published data indicating, that there are multiple different endophyte strains that are capable conferring different types of beneficial effects to plants. Q: The press release says no changes to planting rate, fertiliser or pesticide use. But wouldn’t a more vigorous plant require extra inputs? A: In principle you are probably correct, but another way to look at it is that given the same level of inputs and/or costs by a grower (which can be constrained by many things including the availability of water or $$$), those plants that have been treated with a given endophyte will perform better than untreated plants. A positive effect on yields without increasing input costs to a grower should be a net gain.
Investor interest Indigo is obviously very excited about the product, and so are investors. As Indigo rolled out its cotton product, the company also announced that it had closed a $100 million Series C investment – the largest private equity financing in the agriculture technology sector. These funds will be used to expand ongoing research and development efforts, extend Indigo’s team, and to scale commercial operations in preparation for the launch of the company’s second product offering – Indigo Wheat – which is being planted this year. According to Indigo spokesperson, Natacha Gassenbach, the company has now tested their beneficial microbes on more than 12 different crops on three different continents over five growing seasons, and the results are consistently showing 10 per cent and higher yield benefits on crops grown in targeted stress conditions. “For farmers, the yield productivity will help improve grower profitability while increasing capacity to feed a growing population amid increasingly challenging weather conditions,” says Natacha. “For consumers, we can begin to make vital changes in how our food is grown; like being more efficient with water, and reducing the reliance on nitrogen fertiliser and pesticides over time. “In the cotton trials this year, we are encouraged by visible differences in root and stem development and overall plant health in treated versus untreated acres. We have just begun to collect preliminary data from the fields in Southeastern US and plan to collect initial data from Texas by the end of November. The full results should be available by early/mid January.” December 2016–January 2017
The company is experimenting with different models that allow them to share risk and reward with growers. This is now a familiar theme for growers in the new world of biochem products. Indigo is applied as a microbial seed coating, just like any fungicide or insecticide. When the seed germinates, the microbes colonise the plant, and multiply. By leveraging each microbe’s unique performance attributes, the presence and diversity of these beneficial microbes yield more abundant, healthier crops that are more resistant to stresses like insufficient water, low nitrogen, high temperature and salty soils. Indigo is expected to have application in both dryland and irrigated situations because it is claimed to allow the plants to use the water available to them more efficiently. The company is planning an ambitious rollout of the product. “We’re already harvesting Indigo Cotton in the US,” says Natacha, “and are in the midst of planting Indigo Wheat, which will be harvested starting (northern) summer 2017. We are planning to launch in several additional crops and multiple geographies within the next few years.” And when are we likely to see Indigo in Australia, or is it already here? “Australia is one of the key priority markets for Indigo and we
plan to conduct field trials in 2017 pending regulatory approval. We are also looking into promising collaborations to expand our innovation reach. For example, we have announced a partnership with Flinders University (see box story).”
Checking the development of Indigo-treated cotton.
INDIGO COMES TO AUSTRALIA South Australian research that improves wheat, pasture and other crop yields has sown the seeds for global distribution deals and a timely partnership with US agricultural technology company Indigo Ag Inc. The research, led by Flinders University with State Government and industry partners, could reap rewards for food production around the world. The global licensing agreement between Flinders and Indigo revolves around a series of specially selected plant microbes (endophytes) that can promote more robust plant growth for major grain and pasture staples – without the cost of additional chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Thousands of endophyte strains, which occur naturally within healthy crop plants, had to be tested to arrive upon the ‘winning formula’ – first in lab trials and then in the field. “With a significant gap between current food production and the anticipated needs of the growing world population, there is a real urgency to bring new innovation to agriculture,” says David Perry, CEO and Director of Indigo. “Partnerships and collaborations like the one with Flinders are essential in developing microbiome products that can serve growers, consumers and the environment,” he says. Under the terms of the agreement, Indigo and Flinders will partner in further development of the elite SA strains, with the goal to bring to market products that are designed to complement a plant’s natural processes to improve resilience across each phase of plant development while boosting crop yields. The elite SA strains have been extensively studied in legumes and have the potential to be beneficial to other crops. The research was conducted by Flinders University and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) – the research division of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) – with funding from Flinders and the Grains Research and Development Corporation. December 2016–January 2017
The research commenced more than a decade ago when Professor Chris Franco, using his background in antibiotic development in the pharmaceutical industry, experimented with taking ‘beneficial microbes’ or microbiotics from human health into the plant world. “The partnership with Indigo is very exciting for our plant microbe discoveries as it can support both IP development and large-scale trials in the field both in South Australia and overseas,” Professor Franco says. “Our early studies confirmed the potential of the discoveries, with field trials with microbes treated as vital seed inoculants for lucerne production showing very promising results.” In other small-scale trials, the local researchers also found certain microbes interacted with other microbes to dramatically improve nitrogen fixation in pastures and legumes, with increased yields of up to 50 per cent seen in lucerne pasture and soybeans. SARDI scientist Ross Ballard says the new micobes, when added to routine inoculation, improved nodulation and overall plant growth. The SA team also discovered other microbes for wheat and barley that can lift harvests by up to 10 per cent and some of them control common diseases that regularly reduce yields. The microbes can be incorporated at seeding time, including as coating on the seeds with the intent to promote faster and healthier growth. “It’s always very difficult to take new research into the field, so we’re very happy to have some big backers on board to explore the potential of our discoveries,” Professor Franco said. “Finally we have got a real opportunity to get this sustainable technology onto the world stage,” he says, acknowledging the contribution of Flinders and SARDI researchers Mr Ballard, Dr Steve Barnett, Sophia Zhao and former PhD student Hoang Xuyen Le. The Australian Cottongrower — 35
It’s hard to believe Christmas is just around the corner with the last couple of months slipping by in a flurry of preplanting, planting and harvest activities keeping growers in the paddock and out of trouble! The unseasonably cool temperatures have been quite fittingly replaced by the first heat wave commencing on the first day of summer. Winter crop yields have been fantastic, aside from those crops inundated with flood water, particularly around the Macquarie Valley. The 2016–17 cotton crop is now fully planted and we are looking at somewhere around a 4.2 million bale crop. Cotton prices have also improved significantly thanks to volatility in both the futures and currency markets. We’ve also seen a significant improvement in cottonseed prices in recent weeks. It’s fair to say it’s been an excellent start to the season and hopefully it continues this way in the coming months. In the US picking continues to build pace with the crop nearing 80 per cent completed as at the end of November. Picking remains around 7 per cent behind the five-year average and this is mostly due to a slower than normal pick in Texas. While Hurricane Matthew certainly negatively impacted the crop in Georgia during early October, generally
speaking yields have been good. Accordingly the USDA has increased the US production estimate to 16.16 million bales and many industry experts believe there is room for further upside in this number. There remains a long way to go with ginning estimated at less than 50 per cent completed. Quality of the Pima crop appears to be excellent. The China Cotton Association has reported that picking has been virtually completed. The USDA has projected the 2016–17 crop at 21 million bales. Chinese Ending Stocks are estimated at 48.10 million bales and as per normal there is a lot of discussion around government policy decisions for the year ahead. Officially imports will be restricted to 894,000 tonnes in 2017. However a tight supply of high grade cotton may see the government come under pressure to release additional import quota. From the entire team at Queensland Cotton Olam we wish you a Happy Christmas and prosperous year ahead. We look forward to continue providing you updates about the global cotton industry in 2017.
The World Cotton Market OO By Alice Robinson, Cotton Outlook
INCE we last wrote for The Australian Cottongrower, international cotton prices have moved within their previous trading range, but ended the period at the upper end of that range. The Cotlook A Index has fluctuated within a range of several cents, starting close to its low point of 76.55 US cents per lb on October 10, and advancing above 81.00 cents late in the period, influence by a strong rally in New York. The direction of futures has continued to be influenced by speculative activity, which has also contributed to heavy turnover in the No. 2 contract. Volume in New York was the third highest ever recorded on November 11, as fund positions were rolled into March ahead of the December contract’s first notice day on November 23. In the physical market, the pattern of mill purchasing has remained concentrated on cotton for delivery nearby during most of the period, though higher prices have stifled the conclusion of business in recent weeks. Mill buyers still in need of cover have remained generally cautious and import demand has been selective. Merchants appear reluctant to cut basis levels, mindful that spinners’ hand-to-mouth buying policy left most of them with significant requirements to meet for shipment after the turn of the year.
For some time, the return of more aggressive Indian offers had been perceived as the greatest threat to merchants’ basis levels, and the possible catalyst for a more general downturn in world values. Confidence in the production outlook had grown as the harvest has expanded, amid expectations that a recovery of yields (depressed last season by adverse weather and pest attacks) would more than offset a reduction in planted area. By early November the anticipated harvest-time selling pressure had duly materialised and new crop interior prices had fallen to a point at which Indian cotton’s international competitiveness – lacking during most of the 2015–16 season – was restored. But bearish expectations were confounded when the government took the wholly unanticipated step of withdrawing from circulation high value currency notes, in a process that came to be known as ‘demonetisation’ whose principal aim was to crack down on tax avoidance. The measure had a major impact on all sectors of the economy, including the cotton market. Just as seed cotton arrivals were reaching a peak, ginners suddenly lacked the liquidity with which to buy from farmers, customarily a cash transaction. In consequence, deliveries slowed sharply, ginners’ lint output was reduced commensurately, and local prices reversed course, as traders rushed to cover their own sales commitments. At the time of writing, the movement of the crop has partially regained momentum, and local replacement costs have weakened once again, but it remains to be seen whether their low point for the season has already passed.
US exports Export commitments of US cotton have continued to outpace last season by a significant margin, to the extent that the crop it is now well sold nearby. By the end of the reporting period, cumulative commitments remained some 2.2 million running bales ahead of those at the same point in 2015. But the pace of export marketing seems unlikely to absorb all the increased exportable surplus from this season’s larger crop. USDA’s November production forecast raised estimated output to 16.16 million bales (480 lbs), principally to reflect improved yield expectations in Texas, against the 12.89 million bales produced from the previous campaign. The upshot is an anticipated rise in stocks during the season of 700,000 bales, to 4.5 million. That figure could be trimmed if the momentum of export marketing is sustained during the later months of the season, but US cotton will by then be vying for mill business with the substantial quantities of Australian new crop that are already in the hands of the trade. Merchants exploited the opportunity provided by New York’s latest rally to add to those long positions. Further purchases have included Australian, and traders have also made purchases from the African Franc Zone and India, despite the unexpected turn of events described above. Intermittent demand has been evident in China, where certain mills have still to make use of current quota entitlements, which must be utilised before the end of the calendar year. But the 38 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
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marketing Apparent changes in world stocks
volume of cotton available to be shipped in time to meet arrival deadlines has become extremely tight. Chinese futures markets have continued to trade in a fairly volatile fashion and sentiment on the local market has been persistently bullish, in converse to the international market. Despite pleas from the textile industry for the relaxation or abolition of import quotas, Beijing seems unlikely depart from its current policy – to restrict import quotas in 2017 to the 894,000 tonnes mandated by the World Trade Organisation – while the country’s huge stockpile (estimated in the region of 8.5 million tonnes) is reduced. Details have been announced of the next series of state reserves auction sales, which contributed to the considerable shrinking of China’s state reserve stock in 2015–16.
Auctions will be held from March 6 to the end of August, with daily volumes offered typically at around 30,000 tonnes. On the global supply and demand front, various changes have been made to Cotlook’s estimates since our last contribution, with the result that supply and demand fundamentals have assumed a more bearish configuration. Higher production estimates for Brazil, various African producers and, as discussed above, India, have raised our global forecast for the 2016–17 season by roughly 200,000 tonnes, to 22.46 million tonnes. The outlook for world consumption, meanwhile, has remained uninspiring, and our estimate of global mill use has been adjusted downward by a similar margin, to 24.04 million tonnes. Global cotton consumption remains well over two million tonnes below its level some 10 years ago, and the prospects for recovery continue to be impacted by intense inter-fibre competition, to which China’s expansion of polyester manufacturing capacity has contributed significantly. The rate of consumption growth between the two seasons has fallen to 1.36 per cent. The resulting changes to world stock levels imply an addition outside China of 583,000 tonnes, significantly higher than the 189,000 put forward in our last contribution. Within China, the carryover is forecast to fall by an impressive 2,160,000 tonnes. But since the country is still working through its huge stocks, that reduction, while representing a further welcome step towards reducing the China’s supply to more manageable proportions, is unlikely to provide immediate support to the wider international market. Outside China, the weak pattern of consumption, combined with an increased expectation of output, therefore offers little in the way of bullish news for the time being.
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December 2016–January 2017
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HeadWaters Program (funded from the Australian Government’s Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries funded season-long benchmarking of 138 CPLM irrigation systems by WaterBiz in the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin (QMDB). Sixtyeight per cent were growing cotton (see Figure 1).
feature… WATER MATTERS with Valmont
Benchmarking cotton under centre pivots and lateral moves
FIGURE 1: Proportion of crops grown under benchmarked CPLMs for the five seasons
OO By Graham Harris, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
IVE seasons of benchmarking data relating to centre pivot and lateral move (CPLM) irrigation systems is now available and shows the year-to-year variability in water productivity, the importance of on-going benchmarking of your operation, and the significant improvement in water productivity in the cotton industry. From 2010–11 to 2014–15 the Queensland Healthy
Cotton under a centre pivot.
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December 2016–January 2017
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Irrigation feature… FIGURE 2: Number of benchmarked CPLMs growing cotton and their location
in bales per ML of total available water (applied irrigation, effective rainfall and soil moisture used) Tables 1 and 2 summarise the average IWUI and GPWUI for cotton grown under the CPLMs benchmarked across the five seasons of this study.
TABLE 1: Average IWUI (bales/ML applied irrigation) under CPLMs in the QMDB District 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 St George 2.95 3.16 2.05 1.27 2.28 Goondiwindi 2.95 3.94 1.88 0.98 2.47 Dalby 9.32 4.93 4.10 1.25 4.20 Texas 3.26 0.95
TABLE 2: Average GPWUI (bales/ML total available water) under CPLMs in the QMDB District 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 St George 1.28 1.29 1.21 0.97 2.06 Goondiwindi 1.22 1.44 1.05 1.02 1.95 Dalby 1.12 1.56 1.21 0.97 3.05 Texas 1.44 0.70
Figure 2 summarises the number of benchmarked CPLM systems growing cotton and their location in each season. The benchmarking process examined both system performance (irrigation uniformity and system capacity), and seasonal water use. Water use was determined with a water balance approach using: OO Soil moisture measurement; OO Continuous pressure loggers (PIMS units); and, OO Estimates of effective rainfall. There were seasonal fluctuations in cotton yields, generally in response to seasonal conditions. This can be seen in Figures 3 and 4. For several years now the cotton industry has standardised the benchmark indices used to measure the water productivity of their industry. The key indices are: OO Irrigation Water Use Index (IWUI) – the production in bales per ML of applied irrigation water; and, OO Gross Production Water Use Index (GPWUI) – the production
FIGURE 3: Average cotton yields under CPLMs in the QMDB
The data in these tables demonstrate several important points: OO In locations with better rainfall, less irrigation water is required and a higher IWUI is achieved (see Table 1 data for Dalby compared to drier conditions at St George and Goondiwindi). OO In seasons with better rainfall, less irrigation water is required and a higher IWUI is achieved (see Table 1 data for 2010–11 compared with 2013–14). OO The GPWUI is a better indicator of water productivity – its value is more stable across seasons (see Table 2). But the drier the season, the lower the GPWUI in response to the increased irrigation demand (see the 2013–14 data in Table 2 compared with other years). During the past three seasons, benchmarking of several surface irrigated cotton crops was also completed. EnergyCalc, produced by the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture, was used to benchmark the energy use on a field basis for crops grown. Table 3 summarises the energy use associated with cotton production for the irrigation systems benchmarked in these seasons.
TABLE 3: Average energy use (GJ/bale) and energy cost ($/bale) for benchmarked irrigation systems System Centre pivot Lateral Move Siphon
2012–13 GJ/b $/b 0.47 $16.83 0.48 $15.73 0.36 $11.66
2013–14 GJ/b $/b 1.4 $40.53 1.13 $34.80 0.32 $9.47
2014–15 GJ/b $/b 0.44 $11.99 0.23 $10.56 0.35 $10.77
Not surprisingly there was greater energy use and energy cost per bale during the dry 2013–14 season, when more irrigation water had to be applied. Pressurised systems such as CPLMs generally have a greater energy use and cost compared to surface irrigated systems. This is to be expected where the greatest proportion of energy costs is related to irrigation applications. But there may also be energy savings with these systems with less tillage use compared with traditional surface irrigated systems. 44 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
FIGURE 4: Average irrigation water applied (mm) under CPLMs in the QMDB
Irrigation feature… bale/ML was considered indicative of good management. The improvement is due to increasing crop yields resulting from varietal improvement and the better agronomic practices now used by the industry.
It is interesting to note that in 2014–15 the energy use and cost for the surface system was very similar to that for the overhead systems. The results of benchmarking irrigation-system performance demonstrate the: OO Year-to-year variability in these water productivity indices; OO Importance of on-going benchmarking of your operation; and, OO Care needed in comparing these indices between localities and farming systems. It also demonstrates the significant improvement in water productivity in the cotton industry, where once the IWUI of one
December 2016–January 2017
Surface irrigated systems had generally lower energy cost.
The Australian Cottongrower — 45
FIGURE 1: Seasonal crop water use for different row configurations and irrigation systems as determined by IrriSAT
IrriSAT update OO By Janelle Montgomery
RRISAT is a weather based irrigation water management and benchmarking technology that uses remote sensing to provide site specific crop water management information across large scales at relatively low cost. The IrriSAT technology uses two sources of information: OO A local weather station for reliable estimates of reference evapotranspiration (ETo); and, OO Satellite imagery to determine crop coefficients (Kc) that are site specific for individual irrigation fields which are then combined with ETo to calculate crop water use (ETc). IrriSAT provides daily crop water use, along with a seven day forecast. Developed initially in the CRC for Irrigation Futures, IrriSAT was first trialed in the Australian cotton industry in 2009–10. This was a small trial in the Gwydir Valley working with Nick Gillingham (Sundown Pastoral Co) and Rob Holmes (HMAg), who provided necessary feedback to adjust the technology to better suit cotton consultants who were working with multiple farms and potentially a large number of fields. Interest in IrriSAT rapidly expanded and in 2010–11, 10 consultants from across northern NSW were involved in the trial covering around 20,000 hectares. Then in 2011–12, the IrriSAT technology covered over 75,000 hectares. These initial trials were essential to gauge interest in using the technology as well as adapting the technology to suit the requirements of cotton consultants. The consultants all agreed that IrriSAT has enormous potential. Although it would not replace soil probes, they thought the
Bev Orchard (NSW DPI), John Hornbuckle (CSIRO), Rob Hoogers and Iain Hume (NSW DPI) and Marisa Collins (CSIRO) are collaborating on the IrriSAT project.
46 — The Australian Cottongrower
technology has the potential to add value to irrigation scheduling decision making and provide a useful tool for benchmarking crop productivity. Rob Holmes said that the greatest use he had for using IrriSAT is the ETc information which can be used to benchmark his client’s cotton crops. “When I’m calculating the crop water use index I need a reliable estimate of ETc. The IrriSAT technology has provided me with this. It’s quick and easily obtained for my end of season benchmarks. Benchmarking crop water use allows me to look back over the season with my clients and compare crop productivity in terms of water use between fields and farms. We can discuss what might be occurring in field such as compaction and what areas are performing well – and try to improve over time” Figure 1 shows 2010–11 cotton yield (bales/ha) and seasonal water use calculated using the IrriSAT technology for individual fields. They vary in row configuration, irrigation system and irrigation deficit management strategies which can clearly be seen to affect yield and water use efficiency performance. The other area where the IrriSAT technology offers benefits is looking at spatial variability across a field or multiple paddocks over a region, providing a basis for examining potential drivers of variation. The technology provides spatial data down to a 30x30 metre basis yet can cover entire irrigation regions. Janelle Montgomery (NSW DPI) and John Hornbuckle (CSIRO) lead the current IrriSAT project. There have been significant advances in technology since 2011–12, including a massive increase in data availability and the ability for end users to harness the IrriSAT technology. This project will move the technology to a point where consultants have the ability to use the information sources themselves in their own applications. IrriSAT is not a stand-alone product, but rather a technique that people can apply and complement other irrigation scheduling tools. December 2016–January 2017
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Take care of those on-farm storages
OO By Amanda Waterman, NSW DPI
Efficient management of irrigation water can increase yields and boost profits
Rob Holmes (HMAg) found a reliable measure of crop water use using IrriSAT allowed him to examine crop productivity between fields and farms.
This season will concentrate on the benchmarking aspects of IrriSAT and some intense field trials will be run to examine the drivers of in-field variability. Further development of an appropriate platform to deliver the IrriSAT output will also take place. ET/IrriSAT workshops will be delivered over the next six months to improve consultant and irrigator skills in weather based scheduling methods, including the IrriSAT technology. The classes will provide a detailed explanation of how to download satellite imagery and apply the IrriSAT technology to produce crop productivity and seasonal crop water use maps. For further information please contact Janelle Montgomery email: Janelle.email@example.com
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48 — The Australian Cottongrower
N-FARM storages are the greatest source of water loss for many irrigated farms in northern NSW. Optimising management is critical to maximise water use efficiency. Losses through evaporation and seepage can be significant. Vigilant growers who measure and monitor and maintain their evaporation and seepage losses from on-farm storages can potentially gain significant improvements in water use efficiency. Water use efficiency need not involve expensive upgrades or extensive farm redevelopment. Simple changes to management practices and using new technology can often improve water use efficiency. Recent rainfall has devastated some winter crops in parts of northern NSW, and NSW DPI reports it has been the third wettest winter on record. Local heavy rain on storages that had been dry for a long time encouraged the growth of deep-rooted weeds and grasses, causing cracks and openings in the soil. This growth, coupled with widespread rain and pumping opportunities for irrigators to suddenly fill their storages, meant that cracks quickly filled with water, and led to holes through the storage bank. These unusual seasonal conditions, combined with a lack of weed and vegetation management, meant that some irrigators found it difficult to hold water in their on-farm storages, experiencing considerable water loss and storage failure.
TABLE 1: A rough guide to storage seepage rates Seepage rate Above 3–4 mm If you store water fairly regularly, it may be per day cost effective to undertake remediation works, provided the seepage is occurring in a confined area and the potential remedies provide effective seepage reduction. If this is not possible, at least having a precise measure of your seepage rate will be invaluable for water budgeting Above 6 mm Numerous seepage remedies are likely to be per day cost effective, provided you can identify where the seepage is occurring and the applicable remedies are able to provide effective reduction in your circumstances. Above 8 mm You really need to take action. Most remedies per day will be cost effective. You will still need to be able to identify where the seepage is occurring and have conditions under which the mitigation solution will be effective. At these seepage rates it is probably advisable to use the storage as little as possible. (Source: Waterpak 2012)
December 2016–January 2017
Maintenance is essential to prevent storage failure. (Source: M Grabham)
Jim Purcell, Managing Director/Principal Engineer of Aquatech Consulting, suggests that discovering storage leaks before they become large means an excavator can be used to repair the bank and save most of the stored water. Potentially, this could prevent the need for expensive repairs, costing many thousands of dollars. Considerable water loss equates to a significant economic loss, especially if there are no more pumping opportunities or increases in allocation to take water. For example, if an irrigator’s storage fails and they lose 500 ML of water, the irrigator could theoretically lose $200–300 per ML of profit, or up to $150,000. Storage seepage loss is an issue that many irrigators need to manage. Factors including soil types, storage design (shape and depth), location and, of course, unseasonal rain events influence these situations. Jim said that irrigators whose storages fail need to realise that cutting corners when constructing the storage will often lead to expensive repairs in the longer term. The lesson to learn when constructing storages is not to cut on costs, compact well and roll the central core of the storage. Constructing a storage using these methods ensures that vegetation finds it difficult to penetrate the soil, and that it is less likely for any air voids to occur in the soil structure for water seepage. Even when storages are operating at maximum efficiency, and evaporation and seepage loss is minimal, irrigators should still carry out regular maintenance including: OO Regularly maintaining storage walls, including visual inspection for cracks, leaks and seepage. Schedule dates in their diaries to drive around the crest and base of the storage. OO Maintain the crest, as it can decrease in height by approximately 25 mm per year due to erosion, but grading is also a contributing factor. Crest surveys every five years will determine the current shape and structure of the crest,
and grader work will correct minor damage and level uneven surfaces as they appear. Diminishing crest levels reduce freeboard availability, resulting in decreased storage capacity. Banks that are constructed with dispersive soils are prone to erosion and regular cultivation will break down the early stages of tunnelling. Use harrows to ensure a smooth finish. OO Regularly measuring and monitoring storage losses will ensure early identification of problems that might need fixing. Soil imaging techniques (EM survey) are a cost-effective way of looking at the entire storage area. A seepage–evaporation meter can quantify seepage rates in order to identify if they are acceptable. A rough guide to seepage rates is provided in Table 1. OO No type of vegetation should be growing on storage banks, as their root system will disrupt soil compaction and provide a path for water seepage. Heavy vegetation cover also makes it difficult to detect holes, cracks, and erosion.
If irrigators maintain storages as new throughout their life, the risk of deterioration, and storage failure, is greatly minimised. Through the Sustaining the Basin: Irrigated Farm Modernisation program (STBIFM), irrigators can assess their whole farm for water losses by completing an Irrigated Farm Water Use Efficiency Assessment (IFWUEA). The IFWUEA helps irrigators locate and quantify on-farm irrigation water losses (including storage seepage). Locating and quantifying the losses helps irrigators make business decisions around irrigation infrastructure. That information can then be used to consider options to improve their on-farm efficiency. Irrigators within the STBIFM program area (NSW Border Rivers, Gwydir, Namoi/Peel, Macquarie/Cudgegong and Barwon/Darling) can apply for up to $2000 towards the cost of preparing an IFWUEA. The STBIFM program is funded by the Australian Government’s ‘Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure’ Program, as part of the implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in NSW. For more information about the STBIFM program, please visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/info/sustainingthebasin or contact your local project officer.
Efficient storage owned by James Barlow – funded by STBIFM. (Source: Peter Verwey)
December 2016–January 2017
The Australian Cottongrower — 49
Managing cotton pests with Sero X and petroleum spray oils OO By Dr Robert Mensah and Alison Young, NSW DPI
OOD vegetation covering following good winter rains has enhanced populations of pest and beneficial insects. As the surrounding vegetation dries out there is likely to be an influx of beneficials and pests onto attractive summer crops. Recently, there have been reports of cotton seedlings that have been infested with green mirids and possibly aphids and thrips moving from weeds, shrubs and other crops. Growers and consultants may be concerned about the densities of these insect pests on their seedling cotton plants and be tempted to control them with non-selective chemistry, which would have a negative impact on beneficials. The decision to control these pests should include consideration of the potential disruption to beneficial insects starting to establish as a result of the pest (such as aphid) infestations. With this in mind, the use of harder broad spectrum synthetic insecticide such as organophosphates, pyrethroids or full label rate of Fipronil after seed treatments may not be a good option. The use of Sero X or petroleum spray oils (Canopy or Biopest), can be highly effective in controlling and suppressing sucking pest populations on cotton crops, particularly early in the season when good coverage can be more easily achieved.
Managing aphids and mirids with Sero X or PSOs Petroleum spray oils (PSOs) can be used as either stand-alone products or as adjuvants with synthetic insecticides to control sucking pests such as aphids and mirids. They can also be used to suppress thrips. Sero X can also be used as a stand-alone or in mixtures with other products. For mirids, apply a low rate of Sero X or PSO for the suppression of fewer than 0.5 mirids per metre. Apply high rates if populations reach a threshold of 1.0 mirids/metre (warm areas) or 0.50 mirids per metre (cool areas), based on visual sampling. Alternatively, apply two successive low rate sprays not more than 7–10 days apart, in a volume of at least 80 litres per hectare from the ground.
FIGURE 1: Sero X efficacy against green mirids (creontiades dilutus), Norwood, NSW (2015–16)
PSOs alone are most effective if aphid numbers are not too high (about 60 per cent of plants infested) and plants are smaller so that good coverage is possible. When aphids first appear on the crop use a low rate of PSO. Note, that the Sero X label has no aphid control on it as yet.
Other options Mix PSOs or Sero X in every spray product (insecticides, growth regulators, foliar fertilisers etc.) applied to cotton crops. By doing this, cotton growers can maintain PSO or Sero X residues on the cotton leaves, which helps to suppress the build-up of mirids and other secondary pests such as aphids, whiteflies, mites, apple dimpling bugs, stink bugs, jassids etc. This use pattern can reduce the use of synthetic insecticides to control minor pests.
Mode of action of PSOs against insects such as aphids and mirids The mode-of-action of PSOs against aphids and mirids is direct suffocation with most of the mortality occurring within the first 10–60 minutes after spraying. The oil can also penetrate the fatty tissues of the insects when they come into direct contact with the oil resulting in the death of the insect. This suggests that the oils have a physical (contact) mode of action. Those insects that do not have direct contact with PSO, but that encounter oil treated areas through subsequent movement can also die from the toxic oil residues. Generally, oils have multiple targets as opposed to synthetic insecticides. Oils can penetrate through the insect cuticle or body to form physical barriers to gaseous exchange or dissolve internal lipids and eventually enter the internal cellular structures causing death of the insect.
Effect of PSOs on airborne volatiles Plants release airborne volatiles which may assist insects to detect and select the plant for oviposition or colonisation. Experiments have shown that airborne volatiles released by cotton plants treated with PSO were far less than water treated plants. By masking the release of plant volatiles, the PSO tricks the insects into believing that the plant is not a good host plant, resulting in low pest infestations. The oil sprays make the cotton plants unattractive to aphids and other pests such as Helicoverpa, silverleaf whiteflies, green vegetable bugs and green mirids.
Managing Helicoverpa spp. with SeroX or PSOs Modes of action PSOs can kill Helicoverpa spp. eggs and neonate larvae by smothering them, particularly early in the season when plants are smaller and effective spray coverage (up to run-off) can 50 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
be achieved. Research trials show that white eggs are more susceptible to oil than brown eggs. In addition to direct toxicity to the eggs and larvae, PSOs can also deter Helicoverpa spp. adult egg lays by suppressing cotton plant volatiles or odours so the pest does not recognise the plant as a good host. Helicoverpa larvae present at the time of PSO application can also suffer from direct feeding toxicity.
Sero X or PSOs alone Sero X or PSOs can be used alone to control Helicoverpa spp. provided issues of coverage and pest pressure are considered. PSOs are generally slower acting than synthetic insecticides and provide only 30–50 per cent control of the population. So, when used alone, it is critical to ensure good coverage and to apply them at a lower Helicoverpa threshold of 1.0–1.5 larvae per metre. PSOs alone are most effective early season.
Sero X or PSOs as an adjuvant for biological and synthetic insecticides In the mid to late season when cotton plants are larger, achieving good coverage can be difficult, especially if application is by ground rig. This may result in inadequate efficacy if PSOs are used alone. Instead, during this period PSOs are better used as adjuvants to enhance the efficacy of biological and synthetic insecticides. Sero X used alone at two litres per hectare can control pests mid-late season if good coverage can be achieved. But if good coverage is difficult to achieve during this period, Sero X can also be used as an adjuvant to achieve synergistic improvement in the efficacy of the mixture. For PSOs, research has shown that the addition of two litres per hectare of PSO to half or three quarter rates of insecticide can achieve Helicoverpa spp. control equivalent to the full rate of insecticide without the oil. Reducing the rate of insecticide also has less negative effect on beneficial populations as well as reducing costs. Growers should note that the half or three quarter rates of the insecticides should be calculated from the maximum label rate. Addition of one litre per hectare of PSO to full label rates
of synthetic insecticides also provides better control than the insecticides alone.
Using Sero X or PSOs with beneficials One of the benefits of Sero X or PSOs is that they have little negative effect on most beneficial groups, especially adult beneficials. But they will reduce numbers of some beneficials in the larval stage, such as ladybeetle larvae. The decision to control Helicoverpa spp. should be based on a combination of pest numbers (thresholds), fruit retention and abundance of beneficials (as indicated by the beneficial insects to pest ratio). Table 1 outlines a strategy to incorporate the effect of beneficials into the pest management decision process. The table refers to the beneficial to pest ratio, which takes into account the effect of predators and egg parasites on Helicoverpa spp. Beneficials to Pest ratio is calculated as: Number of beneficial insects per metre (helicoverpa eggs*) + VS&S *Eggs that will survive to hatch. In regions where egg parasitism is active do not include parasitised eggs.
Conclusions Sero X and PSOs offer new and valuable tools that can be used to help control pests in IPM systems. Growers should be aware that all oils are not the same and therefore should only use products registered or under permit with APVMA. Special thanks to all my technical staff, growers and consultants that collaborated in the PSO and Sero X trials particularly Mr Peter Glennie and Sons, Norwood, Iain Macpherson and the Macintyre Independent Agronomists P/L, John Barber, St George etc. Thanks to Innovate Ag for their ongoing commitment to the development of bio-pesticides. Sero X is a registered product developed by Dr Robert Mensah and commercialised by Innovate Ag Pty Ltd. The Cotton Research and Development Corporation provided funding for the project. Disclaimer: Important Use of Pesticides Pesticides must only be used for the purpose for which they are registered and must not be used in any other situation or in any manner contrary to the directions on the label. The correct choice of chemical, selection of rate, and method of application is the responsibility of the user. Check that permits for use are current.
TABLE 1: Making a decision based on the predator or beneficial insects to pest ratio to control Helicoverpa spp. larvae. Predator/Beneficials to Pest ratio Helicoverpa/mirid situation Beneficial to Pest ratio is greater Pest management in your crop is going well. than 0.5 Less than 2 helicoverpa larvae/m or 0.45 mirids/m (visual) Beneficial to Pest ratio between Predominantly eggs. Larvae threshold not 0.4–0.5 exceeded Helicoverpa neonate (VS+S) larvae less than 1.5/m or Mirids is 0.50/metre Beneficial to Pest ratio is between Predominantly neonate and close to threshold 0.4–0.5 (1.5–2.0 larvae /m) and crop smal. Adequate coverage can be achieved; mirids at 1 mirid/ metre (warm); or 0.50/metre (cool) Beneficials to Pest ratio is between Predominantly neonate and close to threshold 0.4–0.5 (1.5- 2.0 larvae /m) and crop larger, reducing coverage; mirids at 1 mirid/metre (warm regions); or 0.50/metre (cool) Beneficials to Pest ratio is 0.4 or less 2 larvae /metre reached; Mirid 1 mirid/metre indicating beneficial insect numbers (warm); 0.5 mirid/metre (cool regions) are low December 2016–January 2017
Action None – beneficials should effectively control
Apply food sprays to attract beneficials. Apply Sero X or PSO to deter Helicoverpa, sucking pests egg lay and directly kill neonates Apply 2L/ha Sero X as stand-alone or 2–5 L/ ha PSO as a stand-alone or PSO with biological insecticides or reduced rate soft option insecticide Apply 2 L/ha Sero X or PSO with reduced rates of recommended selective insecticides
1L/ha PSO to full rate selective insecticide or Apply 1–1.5 L/ha Sero X with reduced rates of recommended selective insecticides The Australian Cottongrower — 51
ASK AN EXPERT –
WHAT ARE THE HERBICIDE OPTIONS FOR THE SUMMER FALLOW? OO With Mark Congreve, Senior Consultant, ICAN
HE weakest link in weed control programs in most northern region farming systems is the summer fallow. With no competition from crops, uncontrolled weeds can use the abundant water and nutrients to produce lots of seed, putting additional pressure on future weed control programs. For the past three decades glyphosate, and its tank mix partners, has provided effective summer weed control Mark Congreve. and allowed the implementation of conservation farming techniques, but with glyphosate resistance affecting more and more paddocks, summer fallow management needs to change. Mark Congreve, senior consultant with ICAN, says that growers are implementing new strategies, not simply to replace glyphosate but to extend its use in their farming system. “Glyphosate has been, and continues to be, the most useful knockdown herbicide available to growers in the summer fallow,” he says. “While still effective in many situations, resistance to this herbicide is becoming increasingly evident and other options need to be built into the summer fallow program.” Mark identifies two main signs that growers need to look for to detect if their weed populations are becoming more resistant to herbicides: OO The first is to take note of ‘survivor’ weeds – individual weeds that appear unaffected after a spray event that has killed the surrounding weed plants. OO The second sign is ‘rate creep’. This is where a herbicide is still effective but only when higher and higher rates are applied. Growers should not ignore either of these signs, which could indicate changes in the herbicide resistance status of the weed population. Mark suggests growers should seek agronomic advice and test weeds for their susceptibility to a range of herbicides. “While waiting for the test results, immediately look for alternative fallow management strategies to those that may have worked in the past but are increasingly less effective,” he says.
What should I do as a first step, even if there are no definite signs of glyphosate resistance? Short answer: Do something different. Double-knock, whenever possible. Implement the 2 + 2 + 0 strategy.
Longer answer: Herbicide resistance is considered an inevitable part of long-term herbicide use but if weed numbers are kept low and all survivors are removed, then resistant weeds can generally be managed. The 2 + 2 + 0 strategy adopted in the cotton industry to support Round-up Ready technology involves using two nonglyphosate tactics in the crop, two non-glyphosate tactics in the fallow and ensuring there are zero survivors. Wherever possible use the double-knock combination of two herbicides or a herbicide followed with a non-herbicide tactic (eg cultivation), particularly while glyphosate resistance levels are still relatively low.
Are there any other knock-down options for grass weed control in the fallow? Short answer: Consider using Shogun, a recently registered knock-down herbicide for use in fallow situations. Longer answer: Shogun (propaquizafop) is a Group A ‘fop’ herbicide. Fops are particularly effective on small grass weeds, but resistance is likely to develop faster than has occurred with glyphosate. When using Group A herbicides in the fallow it is essential to double-knock to remove any survivors and enable longer term use of this herbicide option. This strategy is useful for controlling glyphosate-resistant weeds such as barnyard grass, liverseed grass and feathertop Rhodes grass. It provides an alternative mode of action to glyphosate and can increase the diversity of chemical control options used across the farming system.
What knockdown options exist for glyphosate resistant broadleaf weeds such as fleabane or sowthistle? Short answer: There are a number of Group G and I herbicides registered for these problem weeds. Check product labels for details and timing. Longer answer: Group I herbicides containing either 2,4-D, fluroxypyr (Starane), clopyralid (Lontrel), or picloram (Tordon) can be effective on one or both of these weeds. If weeds are larger, a double knock will be required for high level control. Clopyralid and picloram based products also give residual control of fleabane. Group G herbicides containing flumioxazin (Valor) or saflufenacil (Sharpen) are also effective on one or both species. As they are contact herbicides they perform better when applied to very small weeds, ideally when used in a tank mix with either glyphosate or paraquat.
HOW TO ASK A WEEDSMART QUESTION
Feathertop Rhodes grass is challenging the glyphosate-reliant summer fallow management program on many grain farms.
52 — The Australian Cottongrower
Ask your questions about managing herbicide resistant crop plants that establish in non-crop areas on the WeedSmart Innovations Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ pages/WeedSmart-Innovations/354441941389122, Twitter @WeedSmartAU or the WeedSmart website http://www. weedsmart.org.au/category/ask-a-weedsmart-expert/ ‘Weedsmart’ is an industry-led initiative that aims to enhance on-farm practices and promote the long term, sustainable use of herbicides in Australian agriculture. December 2016–January 2017
For resistant grass weeds in fallow. Shogun速 offers robust control of Feathertop Rhodes Grass, Barnyard Grass, Liverseed Grass, Johnson Grass, Volunteer Cereals and other key grasses where glyphosate resistance is suspected or where an alternative option to glyphosate is required in fallow. To find out more about Shogun速 use your QR scanner here
Simply. Grow. Together. FOR TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE: 1800 327 669
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With a short residual activity when compared with other Group A herbicides Shogun速 allows a reduced interval between application and planting of sensitive crops such as winter cereals and sorghum.
SoilWaterApp – tracking soil water OO By David Freebairn, University of Southern Queensland
ROPS rely on a steady water supply but because of Australia’s unreliable rainfall, most crops are highly dependent on water stored in the soil to tide them over dry patches. An extreme example of dependence on soil water is central Queensland’s winter crops, where on average, 65 per cent of their water supply comes from water in the soil at planting. Growers know that planting on minimal soil water is a dangerous activity in CQ. Regardless of whether we are storing water over a fallow or designing an irrigation strategy, soil water plays a big part in cropping decisions. SoilWaterApp (SWApp) is an iOS App designed to give dryland and irrigation decision makers a ready estimate of soil water during fallows and crops as well as provide an estimate of forward looking soil moisture based on long term weather records. Farmers and advisors currently estimate soil water using a range of approaches: from a kick of the heel; a push probe; soil cores; to soil water sensors and weather stations. This new App estimates soil water using readily available data and the computing power in mobile devices. Funded by GRDC, SWApp provides a reliable estimate of soil water at the paddock level. It is easy and quick to use and is available wherever and whenever decisions are made. It does not need to be in 3G range to operate, although basic data needs to be accessed before going into the all familiar mobile phone blackspots. SWApp estimates available water during fallows and crops, for dryland and irrigated paddocks. The irrigation section allows users to explore a range of irrigation approaches, from flood to drip, and provides a forward look at water needs using historic rainfall data. SWApp uses weather data from any one of the Bureau of Meteorology’s 4700 sites and can be customised using your own rainfall records. A ‘wireless’ BlueTooth rain gauge has been developed and under testing which interfaces directly with the App. Soil types and crops are selectable for each paddock. SWApp is available at the App Store (soilwaterapp) or www. soilwaterapp.net.au for more details.
David Freebairn using SWApp.
54 — The Australian Cottongrower
Using the App The first thing SWApp asks is a property and paddock name, then you select one of the five nearest available climate stations and choose a soil that best describes your paddock. You are then presented with your first estimate of soil water. To customise for your conditions, you can adjust the start date and soil water (maybe an estimate based on soil cracks, a value from a push probe or a soil water sensor) and soil cover and add a crop. A crop can be added in hindsight or looking forward. At this stage you can add local rainfall if you think your rainfall is sufficiently different from the nearest BoM gauge. SWApp allows you to be forward looking by providing an average value and measure of variability based on long term records. Results are shown as text and graphics. Percentage PAWC and mm available water take centre stage with the water balance and soil profile on either side. The graphic at the bottom of the screen shows the pattern of water accumulation, soil and crop cover. Figure 1 show example applications of SWApp: OO Current fallow shows the water accumulation in a cracking clay at Garah this winter fallow, with a good start, a dry autumn then a wet winter with fallow efficiency of 31 per cent and a full profile. Notice some runoff and deep drainage are estimated. The blue plumes give an indication of past variability (60 and 90 per cent of years in each plume). OO Analysis of the current crop shows that a wheat crop at Breeza with good starting soil water went through the season and came out with a full profile (and no doubt a boggy harvest!). OO The prospects for a future crop planted on a near full profile at Garah indicate that the good start in soil water will be getting low heading toward flowering in late January, but there are many years (at least 40 per cent where water supply is just enough. OO Future irrigation at Hillston indicates an average 752 mm (7.5 ML/ha) effective irrigation for a cotton crop irrigated at 80 mm deficit and fill-point of field capacity. Many options can be quickly explored within the App. It should be noted that little data was available for testing the water balance but this will improve with use and feedback. In all cases, SWApp provides an informed estimate, but only that, and interaction of the App with real world conditions and research studies can only improve our confidence in soil water estimations. SWApp’s ability to quickly provide an estimate of soil water for any paddock, fallow or crop, is far cheaper and quicker, and in some ways as reliable as more arduous soil sampling. Uncertainties still remain when using soil cores to estimate soil water – such as, what lower limit and density to use, and how many cores to get a good average? Sensors and weather stations have similar challenges with inserting access tubes without disturbing water flows and sampling a small volume of soil. We have some way to go yet before we can be fully confident in this style of estimating soil water, but the computing power we now carry around combined with the ability to access databases from many sources puts this December 2016–January 2017
new technology in the hands of decision makers, when and where they need it most – in the paddock.
SoilwaterApp was developed for the Grains Research and Development Corporation project “New tools to measure and monitor soil water” (USQ 00014) by the University of Southern Queensland.
Not only, but also
The project team includes: Prof. Steve Raine, David Freebairn, Brett Robinson, Erik Schmidt, Jochen Eberhard and Victor Skowronski from USQ and David McClymont from DHM Environmental Software Engineering. The App’s development has benefited from the significant contributions of grain growers and research scientists across Australia who contributed data for model testing. Valuable feedback from “beta testers” over the past 18 months has been invaluable.
SWApp has a number of other features that are not immediately obvious: OO Reports can be emailed by selecting at the top right of the screen, proving an efficient method to share and record paddock estimates. For more information contact David Freebairn Ph: 040 887 6904 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org OO Context sensitive help is available throughout the App at the bottom left of most screens FIGURE 1: Four scenario applications of SWApp – looking at a current fallow, a OO Data and analyses on recent crop, the prospects for a crop to be planted, and an irrigated crop one device (iPhone) are available to other devices sharing the same email address and eventually groups will be able to share ‘paddocks’. OO Rainfall data entered in SWApp is securely stored in the Cloud and available to other programs and can be printed out as a calendar. This data is available by logging on to www. soilwaterapp.net. au with the same password used to register. OO If the wireless Bluetooth rain gauge passes all the tests, this device will add utility to SWApp, ensuring local rainfall data is used to improve soil water estimations for your paddocks. OO Capabilities within the irrigation section of SWApp support some strategic analysis of irrigation options as well as providing estimates of water leakages from the system (runoff and drainage). OO A number of options are available in the Settings section on the home page, including changing some of the graphics and some advanced features. December 2016–January 2017
The Australian Cottongrower — 55
CLASSIC TRACTOR TALES
On the scrapheap – nearly! OO By Ian M. Johnston – PART 2 Previously, I described how Saint Peter considered me unworthy of entering his land of bliss, despite the fact that my heart reckoned the timing was right! But some re-plumbing by my cardiac guy got me going again and it looks like I shall be inflicting my presence on society for many years yet! Sorry about that. But you know what they say? If your days are likely about to end, your life’s experiences flash through your mind, in the manner of a fast forward DVD. Well I was treated to some of the more bizarre episodes I encountered during my decades of research into the history of farm tractors, some of which I recounted in part one of this epistle. Here are some more of my trials and tribulations for your contemplation. As it happens, they each involve snow!
Montenegro 1988 Having spent several halcyon days exploring the antiquities of the medieval city of Dubrovnik, Margery and I then continued quietly motoring south along the spectacular Adriatic Highway. Our destination was the IMT tractor factory at the coastal city of Bar, close to the Albanian border. Upon approaching Lake Kotor we had two choices. Put the car on the ferry for the crossing between the two headlands, through which the Adriatic Sea inlet flows and ebbs. Or circumnavigate this breathtakingly beautiful vast waterway, an involvement of several hours driving along meandering lakeside roads. We opted for the latter. Even before our departure from Australia, we knew of the recent devastating earthquake which had created havoc in Montenegro. Around the shores of Lake Kotor, we passed through villages strewn with the skeletons of collapsed stone
NO! This is not a Ferguson 35. It is Yugoslavian IMT 533, manufactured at Bar between 1961 and 1988, in southern Montenegro. It is powered by a Peugeot 40 h.p. diesel engine. (IMJ archives)
56 — The Australian Cottongrower
cottages, grim evidence of the destruction which had occurred only weeks before. We eventually arrived at the township of Kotor to be told that, owing to repairs being carried out, there were no vacancies at the hotel. It was now approaching dusk and again we had two choices. We could either push-on around the lake and hope to find a hotel on the coast, or take what appeared on the map to be a shorter alternative, drive up the Mount Lovćen road to a town named Cetinje. Again we opted for the latter. In fading daylight, we pointed the nose of the rental Zastawa up the mountain road. It was narrow, twisting and horrendously steep. Every few minutes, yet another hairpin bend had to be negotiated with extreme caution. There were no guard rails and the ever diminishing view of the lake fell vertically to our left. But there was no need for alarm. I had dropped the little Zastawa back into second gear and it was coping adequately. So all was fine, until we entered a particularly sharp hairpin and observed to our horror that, as a result of the earthquake, half the road had collapsed and obviously plunged down into the lake! This realisation came as we had passed the point of no return into the bend! Wow! I gently eased the vehicle onwards and brought it to a halt, then walked back to inspect the situation. As the realisation hit me of how close we had been to toppling into the abyss, there was a crashing sound as a hunk of road, the size of a grand piano, suddenly broke away and vanished from sight! Strewth! It was now only twilight and we had no option but to push on. Abruptly the twinkling lights of Kotor, now several thousand feet below, disappeared as if someone had switched them all off. But in fact they had been blanked out from our vision by a thrashing rain storm which suddenly hit the car like a tornado! The darkness now engulfed us totally. The headlights of the Zastawa struggled to probe the road ahead. Things couldn’t get any worse, could they? Well they did! The Lovćen mountain road climbs to 5500 feet. As we
Lake Kotor. Note Lovćen Mountain is on the top right of the image.
December 2016–January 2017
warm embrace of a fine traditional inn. Shaken but now relieved, our nerves were eased following an encounter with a couple of brandy and sodas and a large serving of Yugoslavian goulash with roast potatoes and Montenegro dumplings. I made a resolution that in future I shall leave winter mountaineering to these Nepalese Sherpa guys and those yodelling chaps with colourful braces, one sees in Switzerland.
Pomeroy, Iowa 1997
A Zastawa police car, the same model as the author drove in Montenegro.
continued the ascent, now in first gear, the rain storm morphed into a raging snow blizzard! The combination of front wheel drive and no snow chains does not generate confidence in these circumstances, I can assure you. Had I stopped the forward motion, there is no way the tyres could have obtained sufficient grip on the treacherous black ice, now covered by a blanket of snow, to resume the climb. And the fuel gauge was rapidly approaching zero! There was no alternative. We had to push on. What seemed like a lifetime later, we crested the top of the range and descended down the Eastern slopes into the relative tranquillity of a valley. There never was a more welcoming sight for us than the lights of Cetinje. Soon we were luxuriating in the
The dangerous road up Lovćen Mountain.
December 2016–January 2017
In winter, the broad prairies of Iowa adopt a bleak drabness brightened only by the emergence of a homestead and its adjacent mandatory red barn. Thus it was, as we headed west across the Iowa grain belt, from our visit to the John Deere Corporate Headquarters at Moline, Illinois. Following an overnight stop at Fort Dodge, our destination was a farm a few miles from the whistlestop town of Pomeroy, where we had arranged to inspect a rare tractor with the unlikely name of Friday. The Friday was credited as being the planet’s fastest production tractor. Unfortunately, I was unable to experience the thrill of personally propelling this low flying missile across the countryside, as upon our arrival at the farm, the sullen sky opened up and preceded to dollop huge quantities of snow across the landscape. Within a couple of hours it lay a foot deep, including upon our rental Thunderbird! But snow or no snow, we simply had to keep moving. We were due at Lincoln, Nebraska the following day, to keep an appointment with the Senior Engineer of The University of Nebraska Tractor Test Facility. After being treated to a close inspection of the Friday, secure from the snow in its brick shed, we braved the weather in order to sweep away the mountain of snow, which by now enveloped our car. Once inside and the engine fired up, I gingerly pointed its long nose in the direction of the ramp, by which vehicles exited the farm yard enclosure, out onto the main road. The landscape was totally white – and I mean totally! The ground met the sky, with no lines of demarcation. The snow flakes continued their blanket descent from aloft reducing visibility to a miserly few metres. I inched the Thunderbird towards the ramp, which was now completely obscured. And that is my excuse for missing the ramp and instead plunging Mr Hertz’ Thunderbird headfirst into a deep ditch! How many people have seen a Thunderbird standing on its nose? The Friday was trundled reluctantly from its place of repose
The Ford Thunderbird, as driven by the author.
The Australian Cottongrower — 57
and attached to the Thunderbird by a robust rope. Following several unsuccessful attempts, during which the tractor failed to obtain sufficient traction in the soft snow, the Friday eventually dragged the car from its undignified position. A close scrutiny revealed no damage, thanks to the cushioning effect of the soft snow. Indeed the only damage was to my not inconsiderable ego! There is no doubt about it – being a writer of tractor stuff, certainly is a hazardous occupation!
The Scottish Highlands 2004 That morning we had disembarked from the St. Olaf, the vehicle ferry which plied between the Orkney Islands and the Scottish mainland. Our few days out on the islands included an inspection of the planet’s most northerly tractor collection. But now we were swiftly heading south, through the still wintering Highlands, heading for The Scottish Agricultural Museum at Ingliston, near Edinburgh. The rental Rover powered its way effortlessly through the glens, skirting Invergordon, Inverness and eventually onto the A939 leading to Ballater, Balmoral and Braemar. We paused for fuel at Braemar and importantly, to seek a local weather forecast. We were becoming uneasy about the road ahead through the notorious Glenshee, which bisects the Cairngorm Mountains. We had been noticing the winter snow remained undisturbed on the higher ground and indeed also in the shadows of the lower glens. Disconcertingly, the further south and the higher we drove, the more abundant was the snow. I was well acquainted with the many tales of unsuspecting travellers who had frozen to death in this wild part of Scotland. Old wives tales? Perhaps. Perhaps not! I knew there was a snow gate just south of Braemar, which would be closed to traffic if there was indeed the likelihood of dangerous weather. So we pushed on. It was now around 5 p.m. and already the darkness had descended, hastened by the low snow laden sullen clouds. We were halted by a uniformed ranger at the snow gate, which had been closed, effectively blocking the road into the glen. He wandered over to the car. “Had ye bin a meenit earlier you could have got through” he said apologetically. “But I jist received wurd that further on it’s snowin’ pretty heavy, and with the ice ye ken, it’s becomin’ pretty tricky, so it is” he added shaking his head. I inquired if other vehicles had recently been permitted to pass.
“Oh aye” he responded. “There are twa cars jist aheed. I suppose if yur in a hurry Ah could let ye gang through. But definitely yail be the last until at least the morn,” he stated resolutely. With that and a warning to take it slow, he opened the gates and waved us through. I drove sensibly, mindful of the conditions. Flurries of snow were accompanied by the darkness, through which the headlights endeavoured to probe. I reduced the speed of the Rover as I peered ahead into the night. Visibility rapidly worsened as the snow increased in intensity. Then it happened! Suddenly, a series of spectral phantom images flashed across the road, immediately in front of the Rover bonnet. With a reflex action, my foot slammed on the brakes. Two things ensued. First – the Rover broadsided before sideslipping into the roadside ditch. Second – the phantom images resolved into being a convoy of Red Deer gracefully leaping across the road. My heart sank as the seriousness of the situation penetrated my quivering grey cells. It was immediately obvious that, even with routine debogging tactics such as reducing tyre pressures, etc, there was no way, without a tow, the vehicle could ever be encouraged to clamber out of the frozen ditch. Road closed, snowing heavily, darkness and the temperature plummeting. Gosh, what a nightmare! And what about the old wives tales? An hour passed, during which time Margery and I wrapped ourselves in layers of clothes and huddled together in the back seat. We’d be okay – wouldn’t we? A while later, there were some muffled sounds followed by a banging on the roof. A whiskered face almost hidden by a Balaclava, peered in through the frost encrusted window. A Department of Forestry Land Rover was already being attached by a rope to our vehicle. Thank God!!!! Two hours later we were sitting beside a blazing fire, in a Blairgowrie hotel, consuming a very much appreciated nerve calming pint of Tennent’s Lager, complimented by a steaming haggis with mashed totties and champed neeps, followed by a wee dram of Drambuie! All was well again!
Conclusion Researching material for my tractor books and magazine articles, is fun – usually! Oh, and I really enjoy snow – usually!
IAN’S MYSTERY TRACTOR QUIZ Question: Can you identify this tractor? Clue: It is an export model. Degree of difficulty: Challenging! Answer: See page 66.
The snow gates, blocking the entrance to Glen Shee.
58 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
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Workshops for wise summer spraying decisions
UFARM is helping advisers, applicators, growers and retailers to make better summer fallow spraying decisions this season, using a series of half day workshops throughout November to focus attention on maintaining spray efficacy and minimising spray drift. The message was timely given widespread herbicide drift incidents from summer fallow herbicides last year. Bill Gordon, spray application consultant for Nufarm, led the SprayWise workshops with support from Nufarm’s R&D field team and representatives from Croplands and Crop Care. They also utilised resources from industry organisations including CDRC, GRDC and Cotton Info. The workshops provided a comprehensive overview of sprayer set-up, product choices, weather conditions and other resources available to help reduce spray drift, as part of Nufarm’s commitment to industry-leading product stewardship. “We want to make sure people are using products responsibly and maintain that constant awareness because we know there is always pressure to just get out and get the job done,” Bill said. He said better spraying decisions were incredibly important to the whole community. “What may be a quick decision to spray now because it’s convenient for you, might impact on the whole industry in the longer term,” he said. According to Bill, the areas of greatest impact when making good spraying decisions were knowing when to spray and how to spray. He said the impact of the weather conditions was significant and encouraged growers to use the SprayWise Decisions website to plan suitable times to spray based on forecast conditions. All those who attended Nufarm’s SprayWise workshops received 4396Starkle_90x186 2016-09-15T11:46:44+10:00 a free 12 month subscription to the SprayWise Decisions website.
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Bill said it was wise to avoid summer fallow spraying at night. “During the day, the air movement is generally turbulent and that brings the spray droplets back down to the ground, but at night when the ground is cooler, the air movement is more likely
Bill Gordon demonstrates the difference that changing a spray nozzle can make at the SprayWise workshop in Gunnedah. The workshops were held in Emerald, Dalby, Goondiwindi, Bellata, Gunnedah, Warren and Griffith.
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60 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
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Fine spray quality nozzles on the left create a mist that spreads while coarse and ultra coarse nozzles on the right push the spray down towards the ground.
to be parallel to the ground and that can carry the droplets long distances,” he explained. He said using SprayWise Decisions would also help growers avoid spraying during a low-level temperature inversion – the worst conditions for spray drift. “Although inversions are incredibly difficult to pick, forecasting is improving with continued research by GRDC,” he said. “If there’s more than a 10 to 12 degree drop between the daytime maximum and the night minimum temperature, a lowlevel inversion is likely and growers should avoid spraying.”
Nufarm’s Bill Gordon describes the differences between day time and night time air movements at the Dalby SprayWise workshop.
62 — The Australian Cottongrower
The workshops also focused on correct spray equipment set-up, such as selecting appropriate nozzles for summer fallow spraying. “The key issues are to ensure that the herbicide is applied with a coarse spray quality or greater and to use the correct boom height,” he said. Croplands provided spraying demonstrations with its Rogator and WeedIT spraying systems. Product choice, adjuvant use and spray hygiene were also discussed at the workshops. Frank Taylor, research and development officer for Nufarm, said switching herbicides was unlikely to solve spray drift issues for growers. “Changing the herbicide might reduce the symptoms, but it’s not going to fix the problem,” he said. “It might not even reduce the symptoms, when you consider the rate needed to achieve good weed control with an alternative product. “Minimising spray drift is really all about responsible application and that’s spraying during the right application conditions and with the correct boom spray set-up and nozzle choice.” Frank said the cotton crop was forecast to be significant this year, with 320,000 hectares of irrigated cotton and 150,000 to 200,000 hectares of dryland cotton expected. He reminded growers to use CottonMap to identify cotton crops in the area. “There’s a lot of cotton out there already this year, so let’s work together to protect those crops from spray drift with better summer fallow decisions.” Bill reminded growers that Group I herbicides such as 2,4-D tended to show symptoms at quite low rates, and while damage did not always lead to yield losses, the problem was highly visible. “Whether it’s a cotton crop, a pasture or a grapevine next door, it’s important to keep your spray on your farm,” Bill said. December 2016–January 2017
Germinating ideas Compiled by the CSD Extension and Development Team
ELCOME to this edition of Germinating Ideas. In this edition we will discuss the setting of objectives for this season’s crop. Over the past couple of years of working with CSD trial cooperators and CSD Ambassadors, a number of common goals have been developed that lead to better management practices that maximise yield and farm sustainability. The main goal, high yield, is made up of many factors such as: OO Boll number and boll weight; OO Good irrigation management; OO The right nutrition management; OO Good IPM and IWM; OO Plant growth and infield monitoring; and, OO Reduced plant stress season long. The common themes behind the high yields last season were the high boll numbers and large boll weights. Across the Ambassador program spanning 58 Ambassadors, the average boll number was 168 bolls per metre with an average weight of 2.4 grams per boll which far exceeds previous high yield parameters. So 15 and 16 bales per hectare was quite prevalent last year across all growing regions.
OO A warm November got the crop out of the ground and putting on nodes very quickly with little seedling disease. OO December and January were warm months without too many heat shock days which was perfect for flowering. (Except western zones which had a hot summer). OO February and March were hot months with good radiation that created increased photosynthesis, increased plant metabolism and increased carbohydrate and cellulose. OO April was a relatively dry month up until the last week in April.
How did growers maximise their full yield potential? 1. Field selection was important Due to reduced plantings most growers picked their best fields to grow the crop. Below is an example using Irrisat imagery in late January of a field that was uniform and high yielding compared to a field that had issues with Verticillium wilt.
FIGURE 1: 2015–16 Ambassador yields v boll number
Developing the crop to maximise yield potential is the most important step in the life of the cotton plant. It is rare that everything goes the way you plan it, but if everything is done as well as possible, without stressing the plant, the crop has the best chance to maximise its full potential. Last season was one of best climatical years for cotton on record and if management was well timed, the benefits were evident at the end of the season. Some features of the 2015–16 season were: OO Warm conditions at planting with seedlings appearing within five to seven days. Limited cold shocks. December 2016–January 2017
A field impacted by Verticillium wilt.
2. Timing of planting Most growers planted dry, not too deep (2.5 cm) with a rising plane of temperature following planting. Crops jumped out of the ground in the warm conditions and very little seedling disease was seen. In the 58 Ambassador fields, plant establishment was excellent at 76 per cent and averaged 10.9 plants per metre.
3. First irrigation First irrigation was brought forward due to the drying back of The Australian Cottongrower — 63
beds and warm weather early on. Most Ambassadors put their first irrigation on 45–50 days after planting.
4. First flower Most growers got to first flower between 8–10 NAWF and relatively early. First flower occurred at 58 days after planting compared to the 65 days long term average. Further, on average the accumulated day degrees (DD) was 875 compared to the standard 777, which showed just how warm it was in the first two months following planting.
5. Flowering Most crops flowered for 47 days, compared to 44 the previous year. Due to the good conditions, the crop got to flowering quicker and developed the bolls quicker.
6. Irrigation timing Irrigation timing was good but the crop did use considerable moisture with little rain through flowering. In the Ambassador crops, there were 8.4 irrigations applied on average and there was 241 mm of rain on average for the season. This obviously varied greatly between regions.
7. Growth Management Most growers required little growth management with good fruit retentions holding the plant in check. One cut-out spray was applied between January 20 and 31 in most cases. On average there was 1200 ml/ha of Pix (Mepiquat Chloride) applied to the Ambassador crops.
8. Timely Defoliation Defoliation was earlier than normal due to rapid plant metabolism and photosynthesis through February and March. Most growers applied two defoliants but the later crops required three, especially if they got late rainfall on them.
9. Picking Picking was generally earlier than normal, but due to the big yields some growers had a slight delay before they picked.
This season – the state of play We know every season is different and certainly the start of this season has been not been ideal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t set the crop up to maximise the yield. Following the principles outlined last season is still possible. Most crops, even with one of the coldest Octobers on record, have become established and are starting to grow strongly with warm November temperatures. The crops in general are behind on Day Degrees and are slightly behind on node development. So where from here? It is critical this season to be on time every time in terms of management. Below are some of the critical management events that will take place in the next couple of months so that we can take advantage of a drawn out or ‘Indian’ summer if it occurs again.
Fertiliser Much of this crop has been planted with low to moderate amounts of fertiliser. It is important to set about correcting this. As we lead towards first irrigation, side dressing is a good option before first or between 1st and 2nd irrigation if possible. Further, application of water-run N can help the crop and can be applied in every irrigation if needed. Close monitoring of petiole and leaf blade N levels will help with an understanding of the crop’s N needs. In some cases there has been a tie-up of some of the macro and micro nutrients due to the wet winter waterlogging we have had, particularly in NSW. A common problem after wet winters is zinc deficiency, which is being seen in some crops, but can be corrected with foliars over a two to three weeks period. Potassium may also be required during boll fill. Growers should be thinking ahead when it comes to what will be required next month and for the rest of the crop when it comes to nutrition.
FIGURE 2: Crop water and nutrient use
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While the crop might be behind in terms of its growth and may not be using lots of moisture, the soil and beds may be drying out considerably with temperatures predicted to soar in early December. Close monitoring of fields is important and may require earlier than predicted watering to maintain and increase growth rates. Last year was the perfect example in which growers had to irrigate early, due mainly to the warm weather experienced in October and November. The other thing to note is that while it was cool and still quite wet in October, beds can dry back very quickly. To maximise yield December 2016–January 2017
we must optimise the use of our irrigation so that the amount of lint produced per mm is high.
FIGURE 3: High yields from efficient water use
Growth management Although the crop has started slowly in many cases, it will rapidly grow if conditions get hot. With fertiliser and water being applied, careful monitoring of node progression and eventual NAWF is important. It is critical to not put the crop under any stress, but also very important not to have a plant that is too vegetative and growing rank. This can delay fruit development and create a canopy that is reproductively inefficient due to shading and energy being supplied into main stem growth and leaves, not flowers and bolls. Leading into flowering, Table 1 as an indication of growth control requirements could help with management.
TABLE 2: Key parameters of high and low yielding crops Parameter
High yielding crops
Lower yielding crops
First position fruit retention
23 or less
NAWF at first flower
hands, timeliness of management and sticking to guidelines that set the crop up to achieve the highest possible yield still holds true. The keys are to do everything on time every time without creating plant stress. Although this sounds easy, we know it isn’t, but that doesn’t stop us trying. From CSD’s E&D team, we wish everyone a very merry Xmas and a happy New Year. For further information in relation to any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact your local CSD Extension and Development Agronomist or visit the CSD website. General guide only, not comprehensive or specific technical advice. Circumstances vary from farm to farm. To the fullest extent permitted by law, CSD expressly disclaims all liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information, statement or opinion in this presentation or from any errors or omissions in this document.
TABLE 1: Growth parameters at first flower that indicate likely Pix response Parameter Height Growth rate Node growth rate Max. Internode distance
Pix indicated >70 cm >2.5 cm per day <3 days per node >7.5 cm
Vegetative nodes Bottom five retention Top five retention NAWF @ first flower Weather Water relations
>7 <60% <80% >8.5 Cloudy/Rain Excessive
Fruit retention While this year’s crop is slightly behind in growth, which could influence maturity, it is important to maintain high fruit retention, as the crop may not have time to compensate for fruit loss later in the season. The higher the boll numbers, the higher the potential yield. Growers should be aiming to maximise their yields by aiming for more than 150 bolls per metre. Table 2 from the CSD high yield booklet, gives the key parameters for high and lower yielding crops.
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Summary While every season is different – as we have seen from last season’s start compared to this season – we know the basic principles are still the same. While the weather is out of our December 2016–January 2017
www.agrichem.com.au The Australian Cottongrower — 65
news & new products
Growers look to improve water efficiency after drought
OTTON growers forced to look elsewhere for an income after years of stubborn drought and zero water restrictions have been given a new thread of hope by the recent rains. Central Western cotton grower Tom Quigley says having Burrendong Dam back at full capacity has created an atmosphere of positivity among growers but, he says, the real benefits won’t be felt until next summer. “Our family has about 50 per cent of its irrigable area in this year even though water allocations stand at 100 per cent,” says Tom. “The winter was just too wet to do any further ground preparations in order to plant more cotton, but it will carry water on to next summer where there will be substantial planting in the valley.” Tom understands the Macquarie Valley will plant around 25,000 hectares of cotton this season, with potentially more than double that next season. He says the dry times were often the catalyst for farmers to investigate ways to improve their efficiency. For Tom, who farms with his parents Tony and Sally, as well as brothers George and Richie, it meant trying to find a way they could spread their water allocations further, and over a longer time frame, while still producing a good yield. He was granted a cotton-industry sponsored Nuffield Scholarship that saw him spend four months travelling the world to research how overhead irrigation could be made to work for growing cotton. His research found cotton growing was possible using sprinkler irrigation, but it meant a significant change in the methods compared to the traditional furrow irrigation system. “The fantastic yields associated with drier, warmer summers means efficiency has merit,” said Tom. “Growers have looked for ways to be more efficient because
those that had water to grow cotton were making very good margins on their small amounts of water.”
the option of irrigating opportunity crops Sprinkler irrigation also gave Quigley Farms the option of irrigating opportunity crops, such as chickpeas, that gave them a much better return per megalitre of water than they could make with cotton. Irrigation expert, Craig Chandler from TEAM Irrigation, a Valley master dealership in the region, believes the rains came just in time for some growers. He says some despondent growers who a few months ago were looking elsewhere for work were now madly harvesting their winter crops so they can get their summer crops in on time. “The short term pain is hopefully behind us now,” says Craig. “It will give them a cash flow again and hopefully things will be right for the next couple of years.” He says some have made the decision to invest in an overhead irrigation system for the first time because they want to have the flexibility of where and when to put the water on next time a dry spell settles in. “There is plenty of water in the storages and this is the time to start thinking ahead for any new major capital purchases they will need to get the most out of the strong seasons that lie ahead of them.” He says it is important for growers to keep up maintenance, even in times of drought. “Some of these irrigators haven’t operated for two or three seasons now and things can deteriorate when they’re just sitting there not being looked at,” he says. “They should be well underway with all the maintenance jobs by now, such as making sure there are no leaks in their pumps, spraying around the pump sites and getting their machines serviced.”
ANSWER TO IAN’S MYSTERY TRACTOR QUIZ It is a 1945 Case SEX (S- Export model). Restored by IMJ.
The Quigley Family – Father Tony, sons George, Richie and Tom.
66 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
news & new products
Roundup over the top ‘performance liquid’
HE water soluble granular herbicide, Roundup Ready Herbicide with Plantshield has been used and trusted in Australia for 18 years. In high performance Australian cotton crops, it has never been more important to ensure growers target 100 per cent weed control while being guaranteed a high level of crop safety. Sinochem is now offering cotton growers a convenient new over the top ‘performance liquid’ option with the same high quality that growers have come to expect from the Roundup brand. Roundup Ready PL Herbicide with Plantshield has just launched in Australia for weed control in Roundup Ready Flex cotton this season. Roundup Ready PL Herbicide with Plantshield has a proven track record as an over the top product in cotton and corn in the United States where it is sold under the Roundup WeatherMAX brand. Along with the confidence this product gives cotton growers through superior weed control and guaranteed crop safety, Roundup Ready PL Herbicide with Plantshield also gives cotton growers additional peace of mind by allowing them to retain the crop safety warranty offered under the Monsanto Cotton Technology User Agreement. The liquid formulation gives flexibility for ground sprayer and aerial application offering convenient bulk packaging options, such as 1000 Litre shuttles in returnable drums, which reduces packaging costs and improves the cost efficiency of herbicide use for growers. To test weed efficacy and crop safety of Roundup Ready PL Herbicide, replicated trials were conducted by Eurofins Agrisearch in cotton fields across Queensland in November 2014. Weed control matched performance of the granule Roundup Ready Herbicide and over the course of the trial there was no observed phytotoxicity or reduction in crop vigour as demonstrated by no significant effect on the number of bolls, mean boll weight or raw cotton yield. Darren Thomas, Marketing Manager for Sinochem said, “Growers and consultants can have confidence that Roundup Ready PL Herbicide with Plantshield performs just as well as the granular Roundup Ready Herbicide with Plantshield with regard to both crop safety and weed control.” Darren added, “Control of weeds in the cotton crop is vital in ensuring maximum yield and the new Roundup Ready PL Herbicide is one of the safest and most efficient methods of achieving this with the added convenience of a liquid formulation. When you are targeting 12–14 bale per hectare cotton yields it is worth having the peace of mind that you are using the best product for the job with the backup of the Roundup Brand. Don’t accept anything less.” December 2016–January 2017
3D GPS landforming
ANDFORMING is all about improving farm profitability through improved water management. If a field can be drained then it can be predictably managed. Using GPS technology and the latest design software, Garson and Company can find the most workable solution for dryland farmers as well as irrigation farmers. GPS Landforming technology is an improvement upon existing laser operations, as GPS works on a single machine control file rather than ‘tiles’ of multiple plans allowing the field to be worked from end to end as a single unit. A big benefit is that GPS allows the operator to follow curved topography with curved design surfaces. This has the added benefit of minimising the earthworks required for a satisfactory result, therefore minimising the cost to the farmer. Garson and Company uses Trimble GPS and the latest design software to complete survey and design of dry and irrigated agricultural land. Using 400+hp tractors and 4.5metre (14 ft) buckets, they offer the most workable solutions for drainage and irrigation to your specifications. A consultation will consider the existing topography, any current problems, the outcomes you wish to achieve, and your budget. With over 20 years’ experience in the field, with both laser and GPS equipment, Garson and Company offers personalised and high-quality results. The solutions can be different depending on the outcome desired by the farmer. For example, Garson and Company was asked to design a field in central Queensland for drainage where half the field was overhead irrigated using a centre pivot and the other half was dryland. The waterlogged area of the field totalled 35 hectares. The field was economically landformed, giving the farmer better control and more profit. Another field at St George was using too much irrigation water. Garson and Company improved the design which allowed the field to be irrigated evenly and within the required time frame. Garson and Company also improved the head ditch design, allowing more water to be delivered to the field and reducing the length of the irrigation cycle. Garson has 400 hp tractors and 4.5 metre buckets running Trimble GPS and Field Level II to control the bucket. This enables the three dimensional field design to be loaded into the GPS unit and the field to be worked as a single unit instead of multiple plans that would occur with a laser design. Neil Garson has over 20 years’ experience in the industry and will be happy to talk to you about a project that you may be interested in developing.
Call Neil on 0427 769 086 to discuss your next project.
The Australian Cottongrower — 67
As per usual in the region, timely rainfall is going to be the crucial factor in whether crops will be able to reach their full potential as well as whether additional areas of dryland cotton are planted. Sharna Holman November 25, 2016
St George and Dirranbandi
The Central Queensland cotton crop and season is progressing quickly with some of the crops in the region planted over four months ago – but with growers still able to plant until December 31, many are expecting a long season. Currently around 16,000 hectares has been planted in the Central Highlands region, with estimates of between 19,000 hectares to 23,000 hectares depending on adequate rainfall later in the year for dryland crops. In the Dawson and Callide valleys, over 3000 hectares has been planted since August. The wide planting window of Bollgard 3 and the price of cotton have led to cotton now being considered as a dryland crop rotation choice by many new growers in the Central Queensland region. Growers in the Central Highlands and Dawson Callide valley regions have finished harvesting winter crops with many now preparing ground to plant cotton during December. In the Central Highlands region earlier sown (August) crops are at mid-flowering (18–21 nodes) while crops that were planted in the middle of September are about to flower. With little in-crop rainfall since planting, many dryland growers in areas north of Emerald are looking for rain with their Augustsown crops being close to cut-out. Growers in the Dawson and Callide region are in a similar position to those in the Central Highlands with crops planted in August progressing quickly while planting is expected to finish in the coming weeks. Some growers had elected to utilise their excess water from the previous season for watering up and irrigations for their early sown cotton crops while rainfall in the Dawson and Callide catchment a few months ago, has meant Theodore growers have access to water and should finish the season off quite nicely. Insect activity has been variable across the Central Queensland region though damage from both mirids and Helicoverpa has been common and resulted in some plants tipping out and the shedding of squares. Mirid populations have required spraying in both the Central Highlands and the Dawson–Callide. Mites are beginning to be sighted, but not at a concerning level. Silverleaf whitefly, thrips and jassids have been present in some cotton crops in the Dawson– Callide, but beneficials at this stage seem to be keeping numbers in check. Helicoverpa egg lays have been constant although there is very little in the way of survival in Bollgard 3 crops. Crop damage has diminished in recent weeks with plants compensating and growing rapidly under the hotter conditions.
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the dams are reasonably full, the cotton is growing and the bale price just hit $530! What more could you ask for? So far we have had a great start to the season with the majority of growers who had country fertilised being able to plant into moisture and having a full profile below the crop. Those fields that had been fertilised before the July rain were generally planted in the first two weeks of October and are now squaring and at 10 nodes. In contrast there are some growers who, with the increase in the bale price, have decided to plant cotton into chickpea fields which have only just been harvested in the past 10 days. Due to the wet winter, soil tilth has generally been quite good and as such there have been very few replants within the lower Balonne. Unfortunately the cooler weather has resulted in quite a bit of black root rot and rhizoctonia on the back to back fields which we haven’t experienced for quite a few years. This has resulted in the thinning of plant stands but the seed quality appears to have been of a very high standard this year with strong plant stands being established across most fields. Certainly the large percentage that was planted into rain moisture rather than being watered up has helped achieve this great result, considering the cool weather in mid-October. The early crops are progressing well, though insect pressure in the form of mirids, thrips, jassids and high egg lays has been high and continual. Mirids have been averaging between 1.5–4 mirids per metre and so a number of crops are averaging above 80 per cent tipping out. Now that these early fields are squaring, most of them have already received their first insecticide for the season. Regent appears to be the most favoured product with some Transform also going out. As with most valleys, we have had quite a mild spring with temperatures rarely heading above 35°C. But this is all about to change with summer beginning on Thursday and temperatures for the weekend forecast to hit 43°C. At this stage, although the day degrees are currently below our long term average, I would expect the early October crops to be flowering by mid-December if not a few days earlier. Generally the mood amongst growers and certainly the local communities is very upbeat and positive. With one of the wettest winters on record the area from a farming and grazing perspective has had a real boost. Although the rain did cause
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68 — The Australian Cottongrower
December 2016–January 2017
a lot of angst with regards to the chickpeas and winter crop, through some flooding of fields and numerous applications for disease, the yields have been much better than could have been hoped for or expected. While a lot of growers and agronomists were hoping to get a minimum of 1.5 tonnes per hectare of chickpeas, most crops have tended to yield around 2.5 tonnes per hectare and certainly quite a few at 3 tonnes per hectare. Wheat and barley, although not worth much, have seen massive yields for dryland crops with averages between 3–5 tonnes per hectare and even one field of dryland wheat on great soil averaging 5.8 tonnes per hectare. These yields, combined with a dry harvest, have put a spring in most people’s step and it is certainly a great way to lead into Christmas. May you and your families have a safe and very Merry Christmas and hopefully a great New Year. Dallas King November 27, 2016
Darling Downs With some half reasonable rainfall prior to planting, we thought the season was looking good in September. But it has been anything but plain sailing. Many growers planted early, chasing the moisture, but the past month and a half have reminded us why we should not go too early on the Downs. October brought its usual cold snap but this year it was more severe and lasted about 10 days, not the normal two to three. Soil temperatures did not fall below 15°C but the nights were very cold, the days warm, and there were reports of frosts in some areas. This cold snap has really put the brakes on the cotton, which despite recent heat, is struggling to catch up and ranging from 4–12 nodes. The warmer weather has brought hot days and a lot of wind to suck out any moisture. The area of replant is about normal, this year predominantly due to seedling disease – black root rot, rhizoctonia, pythium, Fusarium, and so on. The one thing not slowed by the cold are the insects. Abundant populations of mirids have seen many growers apply two sprays already. Just about any bug you like to name is out and about – apple dimpling bug, thrips, heliothis, green veggie bug, and so on. Also some long fallow disorder is kicking in and some rotational issues have been seen in some parts following chickpeas. The first irrigation is underway and some widespread rain would be very welcome. Last night saw Dalby pick up a nice fall from a storm that dropped about 100 mm and 105 km per hour winds. It was only very narrow so good falls dropped off pretty quickly within 5–15 km of the town. So far this morning there have been no reports of hail over the cotton, that started further north towards Bell. Mary O’Brien November 28, 2016
Border Rivers Through the month of September the Macintyre received good general rain across the entire district with the additional benefit of significant rain events in the catchment to take Pindari December 2016–January 2017
District Reports… to 99 per cent full. Irrigators along the entire length of the valley have taken advantage of high flows in the river system as well as runoff from fallows to fill on-farm storages. Having full storages and a positive outlook for a couple of years is a refreshing change for many in the valley. Planting started in the last week of September in the Mungindi district and has progressed across the valley ever since. There is some late cotton proposed to be planted once chickpea and cereal harvest is complete to utilise on-farm water. Encouragingly, cotton has been established on rain moisture and establishment has been excellent with minimal replant recorded to date. Temperatures experienced during the spring will rank among the coolest. Cotton seedlings emerged and then development slowed due to the large number of cold shocks. Some storms rolled through the Boggabilla area that contained hail and also caused sand blasting which has retarded some fields, with some areas required replanting due to the hail. Black root rot has been quite noticeable this season particularly on heavier soils, while other seedling diseases have been present but have not negatively impacted plant stands as much as expected. Soil insect numbers have been high this season. There has been an influx of thrips and the sucking pest complex really moved into cotton crops once the winter crop began to hay off. There has been higher levels of plant damage this season with the worst cases seeing squaring cotton being heavily tipped out. Overall, despite the earlier cool conditions, the crop has held on, although not growing very fast. A flushing irrigation in some cases and warmer temperatures has seen the cotton start to take off during the latter half of November. There is around 35,000 hectares in the Macintyre and an additional 15,000 hectares in the Mungindi district. The dryland cotton area spread between the two districts will be approximately 30,000 hectares which is a significant increase on previous years. Chris Teague December 1, 2016
Mungindi An unusually very wet winter has seen all the rivers run and most growers have picked up enough water to grow full cotton acres. To pick up this much water in winter is very rare for us therefore a lot of our irrigation country was planted to winter crops (chickpeas and wheat). The fallow cotton country is planted and up. It was a very cool September and October so cotton planting was delayed in most cases till mid October. We were expecting a lot of cotton seedling disease with such a cool start but at this stage the crops are progressing well with only low levels of disease detected. The fact that there is not much back to back cotton planted is probably helping. This cool start to the season has also meant winter crops are very late to mature so harvest has been set back three to four weeks. A lot of this country will go back to late planted cotton if The Australian Cottongrower — 69
District Reports… we can get the crops harvested in time. Traditionally we would not plant past mid November as yield losses were considered too high, but with full on farm storages and the prospect of huge evaporation losses most growers will push the late plant to the end of November and possibly out to mid December. Our area of irrigated cotton has gone from an expected 15 per cent plant to a potential 100 per cent if we can logistically get it all in. Growers and their workers will be stretched to the limit with late harvest and so much late cotton still to go in, but what a great problem to have. Mick Brosnan November 28, 2016
Gwydir Valley What a difference a couple of months makes and how the outlook and prospects can rapidly change for cotton production in the Gwydir Valley. I finished the previous report with the comment that Copeton Dam needed significant inflows to encourage planting and through the month of September our prayers were answered with good general rain across the entire district but also significant rain events in the catchment to take Copeton from 22 to 58 per cent full. Irrigators were also able to take advantage of high flows in the river system to fill on farm storages. So we entered cotton planting this year with a very positive water availability position and the establishment of the crop on rain moisture. An aspect which growers have not had for several years. Planting started in the last week of September, and has been continuing through to mid November and there is some cotton still to be planted into harvested cereals and chickpeas, taking advantage of on-farm water. The majority of cotton has been established on rain moisture, and despite the cool conditions establishment has been very good with strong plant stands recorded and little replanting required. This was fortunate, because the temperatures experienced during the spring will rank among the coolest witnessed in the Gwydir Valley. Once the soil temperature started to rise it stayed up and would act a buffer from the elements experienced above ground. Cotton seedlings emerged and then stalled in development due to the large number of cold shocks. It wasn’t until the second week of November that the cotton seemed to progress and to amass a bit of leaf area. Black root rot has been quite noticeable this season, while other seedling diseases have been present but did not negatively impact plant stands as much as expected. Soil insects have been high this season, and there has been a influx of thrips and sucking pests which really moved into cotton crops once the winter crop began to hay off. There have been higher levels of plant damage this season with the severest cases seeing squaring cotton being heavily tipped out. There is between 35,000 and 40,000 hectares of irrigated cotton planted in the Gwydir Valley. There has also been 70 — The Australian Cottongrower
significant interest and planting of dryland cotton this season with many new and returning growers taking advantage of the price differential between cotton and sorghum but also in recognition of the simplification of growing new varieties of cotton. It is estimated that there may be 50,000 hectares of dryland cotton planted across the Valley, with the final audited number to be confirmed. Harvest is in full swing at present with winter cereals performing extremely well with very impressive yields of up to five to six tonnes per hectare across the valley. Understandably, protein has been low with the high yields. Chickpeas have been a little slower to come in but many crops did not enjoy the rainfall through September. James Quinn November 28, 2016
Namoi Valley Planting in the Namoi was delayed by very cool and wet conditions. It has been the coolest and wettest planting season for many years, including a record cold September. For this reason, the bulk of the crop was planted after mid-October. But the weather has now turned on the heat. We are currently experiencing a spell of very hot dry weather – perfect for completing winter crop harvest. With Keepit almost full and several high flow events water supply has not limited cotton planting. There is enough water in the system for a couple of full plant years. About 54,000 hectares of irrigated cotton has been established in the lower Namoi (including Walgett). The irrigated area in the upper Namoi is about 17,000 hectares. Dryland plantings are about 25,000 hectares in the lower Namoi and 30,000 hectares in the upper Namoi. About 5000 hectares of planned dryland cotton in the far upper Namoi didn’t make it into the ground due to the wet October conditions. In a complete contrast to the past few years, most crops in the Namoi were planted with rain moisture. Although quite a few fields were flushed in mid-November following a spell of hot windy weather. There has been some replanting. Wireworms and seedling disease caused some stand loss but a few very cold nights in midOctober following planting triggered most of the replanting. Thrips numbers have been quite low so far but mirids have been in very high numbers, particularly in fields close to chickpeas. Black root rot is present but crops are now rapidly growing away from the disease. Heliothis haven’t found the cotton yet but numbers have been very high in chickpeas and even wheat. At the time of writing, growers are completing the first over the top Roundup application. Side dressing operations will commence shortly. Some growers don’t have much nitrogen on board yet – a result of the wet winter. It will be a busy few weeks heading into Christmas as growers manage fertiliser applications and first irrigation. Winter crop harvest has been delayed by the cool finish but harvest is now in full swing. Wheats yields are excellent. Some fields have averaged over six tonnes per hectare. Chickpea yields are variable. The best dryland chickpea crops have been double cropped after cotton. All we want for Christmas is some 35°C sunny days. But we should be careful what we wish for! Robert Eveleigh November 26, 2016 December 2016–January 2017
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District Reports… Macquarie Valley The late harvest of winter crops is continuing while growers monitor their summer crops and deal with a range of issues being seen as a result of a relatively wet and cold spring. Cotton planting was approximately three weeks late this season and required quite a lot of ground preparation immediately prior to planting. With the dramatic turnaround in water availability this year there will be around 28,000 hectares of cotton planted across the valley, up from 11,000 hectares last season. There has been a higher than average replant rate this year due to a number of contributing factors. Regular rain led to crusting on soils that are prone to this and soil temperatures fluctuated significantly throughout the planting window with 16 cold shock days between mid October and mid November. This has also exacerbated seedling diseases such as black root rot and rhizoctonia. Problem weeds such as fleabane and windmill grass have been prevalent due to the wet spring and wireworms, thrips and Rutherglen bugs have also been reported across the valley since planting. There was a significant area of cotton planted on rain moisture, but these fields are likely to require an early in-crop first irrigation. Dryland cotton plantings are much higher than average and these crops are generally looking good. Burrendong Dam is currently holding 114.5 per cent with controlled releases of between 2500–3200 megalitres per day being managed. With many on-farm storages across the valley full from spring rains, the demand on dam water is expected to be lower than usual until the new year. Grant Buckley and Ryan Pratten November 29, 2016
Southern NSW With the wet winter causing ground preparation problems and cold weather through late September and early October, growers in the south experienced some big challenges to get this season’s crop in the ground. During August and September, southern NSW experienced wetter than average conditions. This meant that growers were faced with the difficult problem of getting ground prep done ahead of planting. In some instances back to back fields became the only option to plant on – even fields that had land prep done back in February were too soft to carry tractors and machinery. There were situations where growers had to wait until the seed bed dried back enough to plant shallow and then water up the crop. Planting into moisture became a problem as the fields couldn’t carry machinery or beds/rows lost their shape and seed was falling onto the surface, so bed shaping had to be redone. Throughout October, temperatures were fluctuating all over the place. Some overnight temperatures rose to over 27°C, but then fell to below 5°C the next day. There was even the odd frost on some crops that had emerged. 72 — The Australian Cottongrower
The majority of the planting in the south this year occurred towards the end of October and early November. Some of the early planted crops in late September took around 25 days to emerge. The majority of the September crops had to be replanted in mid November, and some of the others high amounts of disease. Germination this year has been quite strong, even under the adverse planting conditions. With the full profiles of moisture, some growers have still had to water up or give the crop an early flush. There was a big switch to short season varieties given the late plant, but some growers still went with full season varieties, and so yield expectations for the south have now been lowered by around 30 per cent from last year. Insect pressure has been low, with no signs of any thrip damage to date. Wireworms still pose a problem for the crops in the south. With the slow emergence, some of the products chosen had no residual activity by the time emergence occurred. Army worms have been spotted in some crops, with border spraying already occurring. This year there has still been new growers come into the cotton game. We will see our first dryland crop being grown around Horsham in Victoria. The interest in Victoria is still quite strong. If the late winter/early spring had been a little drier this year, we would have seen quite an increase from Victorian growers moving into cotton production. At this stage the area planted in the south has not been finalised, as some growers are still planting, while other are re-planting. Some crops are still to emerge, while others are dying back from seedling disease. There are some crops that are moving along quite well (now 4 true leaves). This year we don’t expect first flowers by Christmas and may be lucky to have the crops flowering by New Year. Currently we are travelling well behind last year for day degrees (half) and approximately 2/3rds of the average. Jorian Millyard November 28, 2016
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