Toogoolawah farmer’s plan to build cotton crop production
A THIRD-GENERATION farmer is hoping to grow up to 200 hectares of cotton in what is generally classified as cattle country.
Mark Cowley knows a thing or two about harvesting cotton - it is the growing phase he's relatively new at.
He's in the final stages of growing his first cotton crop at the Cowley's Toogoolawah property, with harvest expected to begin in the next few weeks.
Cotton is an unfamiliar sight in the Brisbane Valley, with Mark the only farmer to attempt the crop in the past 60 years.
The decision to plant a crop that is traditionally grown on the Darling Downs and in the Central Highlands was financial.
"It's contracted money basically," Mark said.
"The sticking point with cotton is we know now a rough price of what cotton is next year."
This year, cotton is averaging around $550 a bale, and Australia's cotton production is 50 per cent less than normal.
"I've gone into this a bit blind … everything is a learning experience," Mark said.
"I've picked heaps and heaps of it contracting, but it's my first time growing it from the start."
With the help of Cotton Grower Services at Dalby, Mark, a third-generation farmer, is producing three trial plots across 14 hectares, which were sowed in mid-November on to a paddock that was previously used to grow long-fallow mungbeans.
Mark said the plan was to increase production next year and to try to "fix" any learning curves discovered from this season's crop.
"The plan is to try and get 100-200 hectares of cotton planted," he said.
Despite an ongoing drought, Mark has only pumped 4ML/ha on to the crop.
However, there was plenty of pre-watering to prepare the soil for seeding.
"More people could grow cotton in the area," he said.
"We've had a bit of resistance from some people, just the standard three - chemicals, water and that cotton's no good for anything."
Cotton production is a different prospect to the Cowley family's normal farming practices, which include free-range pigs and the odd vegetables and hay.
Mark's grandfather grew cotton in the 1940s-1950s, before the family moved into dairying and pigs.
In 2003, when the economic effects of deregulation started, the Cowleys stopped dairying.