Cotton growers up for national recognition
CHINCHILLA cotton growers Greg and Maryann Bender run a unique operation on their property, Burradoo Plains.
The Benders won Darling Downs Cotton Grower of the Year in 2017 which led them to be nominated for Australian Cotton Grower of the Year in 2018.
They will compete against the best growers in the country for the coveted award which will be announced in August at the Australian Cotton Conference.
The Benders grow about 300ha of cotton, with about 260ha irrigated and the rest dryland.
Mr Bender said one of the qualities that attracted the cotton judges to their property was the complexity of their irrigation system.
“It involves lifting the water nearly 30m and moving it about 10km. We have access to the treated coal seam gas water,” he said.
“The water gets placed in the river and that’s sort of the delivery system.
“One option was to build a pipeline but most of the farmers had no infrastructure for it, so they decided it was easier to put it in the river. I’d say about 90 per cent of the farmers are along the river.”
The Benders are currently in the process of picking.
“We’re probably 50 per cent complete. It probably takes about two weeks to pick it all. We’re got about another week’s picking to go,” Mr Bender said.
“We try to grow 2500 bales a year.
“This year has been reasonably good. We’ve had an average summer rainfall.
“Compared to last year that’s really helped. We haven’t had the heat. Last year when we did have rain it was too late to do any good.”
Mr Bender compared the differences between irrigated and dryland cotton.
“It’s more about the consistent yields,” he said.
“With the irrigated stuff you can control most of the variables apart from the extreme heat.
“As opposed to the dryland stuff where you’re sort of open to the variables of the weather.”
Mr Bender has been growing cotton since 1992.
“I’ve been on property my whole farming career,” he said.
“Before cotton it was wheat, barley and chickpeas during winter and sorghum and mung beans during summer.
“We started growing cotton because of the lack of profitability of growing grain at the time.
“It was the profitable gross margins.
“The market for cotton is very strong at the moment. It’s probably at a recent three to four year high.
“All the stars have aligned at the moment.”
Mr Bender said they were honoured to be recognised as the Darling Downs Cotton Grower of the Year and to be nominated for the Australian Cotton Growers Awards.
“It’s recognition from your peers of your operation,” he said.
GROWING STRONG: Chinchilla cotton growers Greg and Maryann Bender have been nominated for an award at this year’s Australian Cotton Conference.