MORE than 1000 growers have planted 452,000 hectares of cotton across Australia’s cotton growing regions this season, with more than 95 per cent of the crop sown to Monsanto’s genetically-modified, insect-resistant, Bollgard 3 varieties.
Bollgard 3, which was grown in commercial quantities for the first time last season, is the third version of GM cotton developed by Monsanto and follows on from the successful Ingard (introduced into Australia in 1996) and Bollgard 2 (introduced 2004).
Whereas Bollgard 2 had two, insect-killing Bt proteins, Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab, Bollgard 3 includes a third Bt protein, Vip3A.
The addition of the third protein increases the sustainability of the technology as it becomes increasingly difficult for cotton’s major pest, Helicoverpa, to develop resistance to more than one of the Bt proteins.
In line with the introduction of Bollgard 3, growers have taken advantage of a new extended planting window that has seen cotton planted as late as December 2017 in western New South Wales and picking starting as early as January 2018 in Central Queensland.
Monsanto Australia managing director Tony May said the ongoing popularity of the technology demonstrated that it suited the current needs of the industry.
“This is the second season farmers in Australia have grown Bollgard 3. The world first launch of the product last season put our industry strides ahead the rest of the world,” he said.
Mr May said growers were also taking advantage of Bollgard 3 Roundup Ready Flex cotton which not only provided insect resistance, but allowed growers to control weeds whilst reducing broad spectrum pesticide sprays.
“Bollgard 3 cotton crops have inbuilt tolerance to Roundup Ready herbicides and when growers use targeted sprays in combination with cultivation and chipping they can maintain excellent weed control whilst reducing the risk of glyphosate resistance developing on farm,” he said.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) recently forecast that cotton production in Australia is set to rise by four per cent this season.
Dry conditions resulted in an overall decrease in total hectares compared to last season, but above average rains in October 2017 have seen dryland plantings increase by more than previously expected.
“We saw 81,000 hectares of dryland cotton planted this year reflecting the value farmers place in the technology which allows them to delay the planting decision until after rainfall,” Mr May said.
“When it comes to irrigated cotton, we are seeing strong growth in hectares in the southern valleys of NSW.
“The Murrumbidgee region planted 67,304 hectares of cotton making it the biggest cotton growing region this season.
“In the past 8 years, the number of farms in Murrumbidgee growing cotton has increased from 52 to 244 – a clear demonstration of the strength and diversity of the industry.”
The 2018 Australian Cotton Conference, hosted by Cotton Australia and Australian Cotton Shippers Association, will be held on Queensland’s Gold Coast from 7-9 August, focusing on the theme “Pushing Boundaries”. Conference registrations will open in early March.
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