North Queensland farm tour highlights growing interest in cotton production

North Queensland may become Australia’s latest cotton farming hot spot if the level of enthusiasm shown during a recent farm tour is any indication.

Farmers who have been trialling cotton in the area are reporting good results and planning to expand their crops next season.

Farm tour organisers originally expected about 20 farmers to show interest, but when 200 responded they knew they needed more buses for the event on March 25th.

The day included stops at four farms, from Kaban to Innot Hot Springs, then the Mount Garnett region. Redbend Farming’s Nick Reynolds was keen to tell all just how successful his 100-hectare trial crop has been.

“Everybody I have talked to, I have told them we are really excited by it,” he said.

“It looks to be a really exciting crop to grow, the prices are great; the high prices subsidise the extra freight at this stage of the game.”

David Statham from Moree invested in the region in 2019 and his first year’s crop achieved up to six bales per hectare over 1,200 hectares.

He said he learned a lot and is not surprised by the interest in cotton from farmers.

“You are talking about one of the biggest areas in Australia that has the most potential,” he said.

“It’s got beautiful soil, it’s got sunlight, and it’s got rain - put all those together and its fairly attractive.”

David said Mother Nature is looking after him, and it is all about utilising rain in a productive manner.

“The rainfall we are getting at St Ronan’s south of Mt Garnett is about 30 inches, 32 inches – it occurs during the growing season of cotton between December and March, so it fits the crop perfectly,” he said.

Nick Reynolds agreed the climate is perfect for cotton, so he has decided to increase his crop to 500 hectares next season and is happy he will use no extra water to produce good returns.

“If we were not growing cotton here, we would have grown maize or peanuts or something – we would have used the water. [Cotton is] not a big, nasty, thirsty crop,” Nick said.

Some say growing 50,000 – 60,000 bales of cotton a year will be necessary to establish a gin in the region, and that may be some way off; but there is already talk of a joint venture, and the federal government will be invited to support that for the economic prosperity of the region.

Words by Darrin Davies