THE introduction of cotton as a dryland summer crop option has helped control Johnson grass on a farm in north west New South Wales.
Grant Lowien, who farms with brother Andrew and mother Karen east of Bellata near Moree, said about two-thirds of the country each year was planted to winter crops including wheat, chickpeas, canola, faba beans and barley.
The summer crop has traditionally been sorghum but weed issues have made it a challenging option in recent years.
“We were growing sorghum and we were getting a lot of Johnson grass,” Mr Lowien said.
“We would just about get it under control and then we would be back to a summer crop. You can’t control Johnson grass in sorghum and it would get away again and you would be fighting it for the next four or five years.”
Cotton provided the opportunity for applications of Roundup Ready herbicide with Plantshield to control a range of weeds.
“Plantshield has definitely got some goodies in it because it knocks down a lot of hard to kill weeds. The main reason we use it is to clean everything up,” Mr Lowien said.
“We have summer rain and the grasses do get away if you don’t get on top of them. We needed the break and cotton seems to work so far.”
He said when they first looked at cotton as an alternative summer crop option they found it an excellent crop to be involved with.
“Getting back into the industry, I’d have to say, ticks all the boxes. A lot of people are more than willing to share information so it pays to take notice of people who have been growing cotton.”
Mr Lowien said while weed control was the key factor in growing cotton, the new resistance management plan for Bollgard 3 was also attractive.
“Once Bollgard 3 came out, we thought that was a great option for us because in this undulating country we were worried about having to pupae-bust,” he said.
“With Bollgard 3 we don’t have to work it, if you defoliate before the 30th of March. We only have to mulch it so we still have all our soil non-disturbed.”
The major considerations with cotton on the property were planting dates and row configurations and both have been looked at in the initial years of the crop.
“We’ve been playing around with different row spacings to see what our best option is for growing it on this shallower country,” Mr Lowien said.
The Lowien’s cotton is predominantly grown on 1.5 metre solid rows and they are trialling single skip 1.5 metre configurations.
“We’ve got a group of fairly young farmers around here so we are all trying to have a go and everyone is growing different configurations. We all talk about it and we try and nut out what the best one is.”
While the advantages in weed control were the main driver towards growing cotton, profitability was also a key factor.
The first crop of cotton was harvested in the autumn of 2017 and produced an average yield of 2.25 bales per hectare in a very dry year.
Mr Lowien said at that yield the crop was profitable and gave them enough confidence to plant again.