Local grower’s first time crop showing strong yield

By Zoe McMaugh

Deniliquin grower Greg Sandford achieved an average of 13 bales per hectare for his first ever cotton crop.

Mr Sandford said early predictions were the crop would yield about 11 bales to the hectare.

He said the largest contributing factor to the higher than expected result was climactic conditions in important growth stages.

‘‘The results are better than we had expected, but we did have a pretty good summer (for growing),’’ he said.

‘‘That sort of result gives us (the family enterprise) the confidence to do cotton again, and a bit of a base level on what we can pay for water.

‘‘I think the only factors that might prevent us from growing cotton again next season are if the price of water is too expensive or if the price of cotton drops.

‘‘At the moment though, the price is going up every day and was $612 (on May 25).

‘‘One of the great things about cotton is that you can lock in a percentage of your crop at the current price for the next three years.’’

Mr Sandford’s entire crop was grown using groundwater, and he said the price of groundwater had been rapidly rising this year.

He is now more than half way through his cotton harvest and said the frosty and dewy mornings were delaying picking. He said it’s one of the factors he will try to improve with his next crop.

‘‘From this first crop we’ve learned a lot about where we can make changes to improve outcomes. We know we can improve on it (13 bales) and we’ve already identified a number of areas.

‘‘We will need better ground preparation and straighter rows, and we may also look into spreading manure as fertiliser.

‘‘We’ll look to reduce our row spaces from 36 inches to 30 inches too, which will allow us to better manage the plants; it will mean they don’t grow as big and will allow us to harvest about two weeks earlier — that two weeks could make a lot of difference.’’

Mr Sandford said a 30-inch row spacing was not viable with this first crop due to the lack of suitable picking machines in the area.

However, with the family having purchased their own machine to pick this year’s crop their options have improved.

Mr Sandford said he chose to grow cotton and corn this year in an effort to promote diversification and vibrancy in the local area.

He had been a ‘traditional grower’ of rice for the past 30 years.

At his property ‘Noorumboon’, he planted 265ha of cotton and 135ha of corn. The corn yielded 13 tonnes per hectare.