Years of tradition and acquired knowledge might ordinarily be considered mandatory to establish cotton crops worthy of winning one of Australia’s most exciting crop competitions. The two winners of the 2020 – 21 FastStart Cotton Establishment Awards pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone, drawing on the latest tools, techniques and advice with outstanding results.
“Given that this was my first-time growing cotton, I’m really excited to win the Award,” said dryland category winner Mitchell Brimblecombe.
The family farm, ‘Moira’ in Forest Hill, QLD, had not produced a single cotton plant in 21 years, prior to this season. Despite the long hiatus, Mitchell said he had plenty of knowledge at his fingertips through FastStart, which resulted in a (Planter Uniformity Index) PUI of 0.05 and 81.8% establishment. “The FastStart cotton program gave us the tools and advice we needed to give our crop the best chance of success,” Mitchell said.
The competition doesn’t assess outright yield, instead emphasising establishment and the foundations for an efficient crop, managing early yield limiting impacts. Planter uniformity and evenness of the emerging crop are key criteria that strongly align with FastStart principles. Growers are encouraged to adjust their row configuration and seeding rates for optimum seedling performance as a foundation for optimum efficiency and eventually yield.
The awards are conducted by CSD and Syngenta Australia as an extension of their research and development program, FastStart Cotton, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. The awards were launched in 2018 and have featured a winning dryland and irrigated cotton grower each year since. The irrigated category winner for 2020 – 21 also hails from Queensland, within the Brisbane Valley.
“It’s taking a while to sink in that we actually won this, considering we are small compared to the average cotton producer. I still can’t believe it,” Mark Cowley of Toogoolawah said.
While Mark said there was some “luck and patience” involved, he credited CSD Extension and Development Agronomist Chris Barry, and the agronomy team at CGS – including John Ash – for their outstanding knowledge and support.