Cot­ton grow­ers up for na­tional recog­ni­tion

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - Front Page - Cassandra Glover Cassandra.Glover@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

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.

PHOTO: BROOKE DUN­CAN

GROW­ING STRONG: Chin­chilla cot­ton grow­ers Greg and Maryann Bender have been nom­i­nated for an award at this year’s Aus­tralian Cot­ton Con­fer­ence.

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