Commercial cotton crops for Katherine

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The Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) began trialling commercial cotton crops this year in the Katherine region, with both rainfed and irrigated methods investigated during the process.

The decision to commence the research was made based on increased interest after successful crops in the Ord River Irrigation Area in 2018 and other key drivers including drought in Australia’s eastern states, new genetics, increased industry interest and strong national and international demand.

DPIR’s Director of Plant Industries Mila Bristow said the benefits of rainfed crops were no requirements for an irrigation license and low infrastructure costs, however there was a high risk especially after a year of little rain.

“We understand cotton producers are now waiting for the rain so they can start planting for this season,” she said.

“Our trials have shown that cover crops will be essential in the Top End industry. These can range from sorghums to grass covers, oats and native pastures.

“Cover crops are essential in keeping the soil temperate cooler, encouraging better plant vigour, better root establishment, moisture retention and weed retention.

“The Government is responsive to industry needs for a cross border biosecurity plan that will enable the movement of seed, machinery, and equipment across borders.”

A commercial cotton industry could make a major contribution to the Territory’s economy and DPIR received the backing of the Northern Territory Government to recommence the research in order to evaluate its future economic viability as a major component of a developing NT agricultural industry.

The outcome of the program will be to assist industry to diversify their farming practices by utilising effective and sustainable crop rotation methods.

The NT Government is responsive to industry needs for a cross border biosecurity plan which will enable the movement of seed, machinery and other materials.

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