April rain means ginning off to slow start

Emma Alsop, May 2, 2024

Modules head into Namoi Cotton’s Hillston gin in southern NSW. Photo: Namoi Cotton

GINNING of the 2024 cotton crop is off to a sluggish start after rain swept through parts of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales early last month, hampering both crop growth and the commencement of picking.

Rain has also taken a toll on cotton quality, with issues reported in Border Rivers, St George and Namoi valleys.

Goondiwindi-based ProClass classer Jon Hurford said rain “pushed everything right back”.

“We would expect to be well and truly into the full swing of things by now, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Mr Hurford said.

Most of the cotton seen so far by ProClass has come from the Namoi Valley, followed by the St George region.

Mr Hurford said he had only seen “bits and pieces” outside of those regions, as well as 1000 bales from Central Queensland which was ginner around Easter.

He expects the Border Rivers to be the “worst affected by the rain in terms of quality and pushing the processing back”, and some early crops in northern NSW have also been impacted.

“It’s quite clear that the weather has had an effect on early quality.”

Mr Hurford said southern valleys and the Macquarie will most likely be a bright spot for quality this season.

Ginning ramps up

Most gins slated to open this season will start up this month.

For Namoi Cotton, Merah North and Mungindi kicked off the ginning season, with the company’s most southern operation at Hillston set to open in the first half of this month.

On the Darling Downs, Queensland Cotton’s Cecil Plains and Dalby operations are due to start ginning in coming days.

QC’s Emerald and Moura operations are also eyeing an early May start.

Like last season, QC’s Warren facility and Namoi’s North Bourke gin will not operate.

Southern NSW

Cotton growers in the southern valleys have reported a perfect end to the season with dry and warm weather conditions.

Cotton Australia regional manager southern NSW Tom Mannes said picking commenced about two weeks ago.

“It has been a really good dry, warm finish and at the moment we have average to above average yields coming off,” Mr Mannes said.

“We don’t anticipate any quality issues this year due to the dry finish.”

All three gins in the Murrumbidgee Valley have started up as of this week, and early indications are for yields of 12-14 bales per hectare, up from last year’s rain-affected average of around 6b/ha.

Northern NSW

Most gins in northern NSW valleys are operating 24 hours processing the cotton picked between rain events.

Namoi Cotton’s Namoi Valley account manager Jacob Booby said rain in the Border Rivers has held up some picking schedules further south.

“Everything has been pretty good; there was some early rain from the border north which has slowed things down a bit,” Mr Booby said.

“They normally start north and work their way south, so a bit of a delay in the north puts them behind.”

He said most of the cotton coming in now was planted in late September.

He said cotton picked before the April rain was “really high quality”.

“We are seeing a few colour downgrades on some of the earlier open cotton, but stuff that was picked before the rain has been really high quality as we’d expect.”

Mr Booby said growers will be hoping for dry weather in coming weeks to finish picking.

“We have another rain event coming this weekend…and it depends how it turns out.

“We have had a dry finish to the crop and farmers were working hard irrigating keep up with the weather and now we are wanting dry weather.”

South-west Qld

Following a record year, growers in St George, Dirranbandi and south into Mungindi are now anticipating a drop in yield and quality.

CottonInfo regional extension officer Andrew McKay said growers had to contend with less-than-ideal weather conditions during key crop stages.

“We had a cold spell in mid-October that upset the planting process quite a bit, with some crops having to be replanted,” Mr KcKay said.

He said this was followed by continuous rainfall through to Christmas then hot conditions and spells of cloud cover.

“Depending on what stage the crops were at, it has had a big toll on the crops that were trying to set fruit.”

Mr McKay said growers would most likely see yields at about 10-11b/ha, which would be a drop of up to 4b/ha on last season.

“The problem for St George is that last year was spectacular, so the benchmark has moved.

“It was a record year for us, and a lot of people averaged 15 bales per hectare and that was phenomenally good.”

He said some March-picked cotton has come into the gins, but most of the picking is occurring now.

“It has been a bit slow to mature…and I’ll put that down to variable conditions in terms of cloud cover coming through.”

Darling Downs, Qld

Rain through much of the Darling Downs in March and April has limited picking opportunities for most growers.

QC’s Dalby site received first bales from April 18, but is yet to begin ginning.

Cotton Australia regional manager Darling Downs Howard Coggan said the season is only starting to ramp up now.

“There’s starting to be some pickers on the ground now…depending on how much rain people had,” Mr Coggan said.

“There is a bit of worry in relation to this weekend and a change coming through, but we will wait and see.”

Cotton Seed Distributors extension and development agronomist Larissa Holland said some growers in districts like Chinchilla have been picking for a month.

She said for many in eastern regions, this week is the first time they have been able to check paddocks in ten days.

Ms Holland said there were some concerns about quality and appearance, but “it doesn’t look too bad”.

“We have got a lot of time still yet to pick and…if they give it enough time, it can come out of those issues.”

She said dryland crops were faring better than predicted, with some having “the potential to go really well” especially in regions like Bongeen.

Cotton Australia predicts the national crop to reach at least 4.5 million bales.

This would be an above average crop, but well below last season’s 5.6Mb total.


Grain Central: Get our free news straight to your inbox – Click here


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Grain Central's news headlines emailed to you -