Cot­ton right choice for Emer­ald

Sea­son best on record

The Western Star - - RURAL WEEKLY - Fiona Sheean [email protected]­ral­

COT­TON is the prin­ci­pal ir­ri­gated crop grown in the cen­tral high­lands of Queens­land thanks largely to a se­cure and reli­able wa­ter sup­ply.

Ir­ri­ga­tors like the Hamp­ton fam­ily at Emer­ald have the abil­ity to grow a range of crops, but they choose cot­ton be­cause of its higher gross mar­gins and re­turns per me­gal­itre of wa­ter.

Luke, who farms with his wife Sally and his fa­ther Mark, plants 200ha of cot­ton a year in ro­ta­tion with chick­peas and mung­beans.

The in­tro­duc­tion of new, im­proved and more flex­i­ble ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied plant­ing va­ri­eties of cot­ton has re­sulted in a bumper crop this year. Prices have been good too, up around $580 a bale.

“It’s the best sea­son we’ve ever had,” Luke said.

“We yielded four bales per acre (9.9 bales/ha).

“The plant­ing win­dow was ear­lier so we could beat a lot of the weather and the bug pres­sure was low.”

Grow­ing con­di­tions were spot on too, with cool weather dur­ing the flow­er­ing phase and hot weather dur­ing pick­ing an ideal sce­nario.


THE Hamp­tons gen­er­ally plant in the mid­dle of August and pick at the start of Jan­uary.

“The new GM crops are work­ing re­ally well,” Luke said.

“The Bol­gard III has helped min­imise our use of sprays – we only needed one spray for the bugs this year.”

Good crop ro­ta­tion has also helped with dis­ease and bug preven­tion and to de­liver ni­tro­gen back into the soil.

Chick­peas and mung­beans are used in ro­ta­tion with cot­ton and gen­er­ally av­er­age one tonne per acre.

They are ex­ported to In­dia and Pak­istan and prices have been good in re­cent years.

The Hamp­tons can choose to sup­ply ei­ther of the two lo­cal cot­ton gins – Queens­land Cot­ton at Emer­ald or Louis Drey­fus Com­pany at Ya­mala, near Emer­ald.

The gins process the seed cot­ton from grow­ers into baled lint ready for spin­ning into yarn.

Most of the ginned cot­ton from the Cen­tral High­lands re­gion is ex­ported from Bris­bane to China with smaller mar­kets in In­done­sia, Viet­nam and Bangladesh.


THE Hamp­tons get their wa­ter sup­ply from the No­goa Macken­zie Wa­ter Sup­ply Scheme, which is fed from the Fair­bairn Dam, near Emer­ald.

They use an av­er­age of eight me­gal­itres per hectare to grow the cot­ton.

“We have been fo­cus­ing on get­ting our ir­ri­ga­tion and fer­tiliser prac­tices right, and stay­ing on top of our wa­ter use by laser lev­el­ling,” Luke said.

“Laser lev­el­ling is crit­i­cal to our ir­ri­ga­tion so we don’t have wa­ter log­ging.

“It’s all those small things done right that com­bine to help us achieve bet­ter re­sults.”

They also use a lo­cal agron­o­mist to help im­prove farm prac­tices where they can. Yields are im­prov­ing ev­ery year as a re­sult.

Luke is a diesel fit­ter by trade and worked in an un­der­ground mine be­fore com­ing back to the fam­ily farm. Though the mines paid bet­ter, he said he en­joys farm­ing more.

“The cot­ton in­dus­try is very pro­gres­sive and I en­joy the pre­ci­sion agri­cul­ture and us­ing the dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy avail­able to make ad­vances in our busi­ness,” he said.

“We’ve re­cently used the dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy for map­ping and yield mon­i­tor­ing and it has al­lowed us to be more pre­cise with fer­tiliser ap­pli­ca­tions too.”


FARM­ING FAM­ILY: Luke Hamp­ton with his daugh­ter Isla and fa­ther Mark in a mung­bean crop, which they ro­tate with cot­ton and chick­peas.


AG AC­TION: A crop duster ap­plies in­sec­ti­cide to the mung­bean crop from the air.


Luke, Isla and Mark Hamp­ton in a mung­bean crop.

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