“Biosecurity is really important for us,” says Monsanto Cotton Grower of the Year, Matt Toscan.
“It is a new cotton area and we are starting off clean, without any weed or disease and the only way to keep them out is through biosecurity.”
On the 4200-hectare holdings at Darlington Point, Mr Toscan with his wife Daisy and parents Tony and Joyce grow 1100ha cotton, along with other crops.
Mr Toscan said the family interest in growing cotton was mostly thanks to the limited domestic market of the other crops they were growing at the time, mainly maize and also seed crops.
“Prices and contract tonnages were dictated by two main buyers, whereas cotton has over a dozen competing for the crop,” he said.
“We had seen a successful crop grown by Tim and Roger Commins at Whitton and also by the Hillston growers in 2010 and encouragement from them all was the catalyst.”
The Toscans picked their first crop of 100ha in 2011, along with many other Darlington Point and Coleambally irrigators.
“Availability of experienced private consultants made us more confident to give it a go,” Mr Toscan recalls. “The Bollgard and Roundup Ready has opened it up for us to grow in sensitive areas. The industry is big enough to attract new technology, whereas other crops aren’t big enough to bother bringing in new traits.”
Mr Toscan further pointed out his family wanted to be in crops with high enough returns to be able to keep up with new technology and equipment, which will encourage the next generation to be involved because they can see the advances in technology.
They are now yielding close to 12 bales per hectare.
“We’re focused on always going on to fallow paddocks or fallowed after wheat,” Mr Toscan said. “We think that gives us a better shot at a top yield.
“It also gives us a disease break, repairs the soil and any compaction damage.”
Mr Toscan said their automated irrigation system allowed a lot of efficiency, with no wastage.
“We can start and stop our irrigation system with two hours notice and that saves you water,” he said.
Improvements in water efficiency have also come with increases in yields with the release of new cotton varieties; while the use of integrated pest management is encouraging beneficial insects and protecting bees.
“Cotton has been yielding a lot higher returns than the crops we were growing previously,” Mr Toscan said.