Dryland Cotton Steps to Success Step 1

Service all machinery and have it ready to go.

Have consultants and contractors (e.g. picking, spraying, farming, etc.) organised well in advance of needing them on the farm.

  • Some operations in the cotton system, such as planting, are time sensitive so you may only get one opportunity in the desired window.
  • A good cotton consultant will assist you with the management of your cotton crop. Their knowledge will assist crop management to ensure the crop is managed without stresses throughout the season.
  • Cotton consultants can help with forecasting crop requirements, variety selection, planting, fertiliser requirements and application, irrigation timing, insect and weeds scouting and control and crop defoliation.
  • Even the most experienced cotton growers utilise the services of cotton consultants. We would not recommend growing cotton without the support of a consultant. A list of cotton consultants can be found at Crop Consultants Australia.
  • Boom spray hygiene is critical prior to spraying cotton. Cotton is particularly sensitive to phenoxy herbicides so it's important to follow effective clean down procedures.

Inform neighbours of your cotton growing plans this season to alert them of the damage that can be caused to cotton crops from Phenoxy herbicide (also known as 2, 4-D and MCPA) drift.

For more information visit myBMP and Cotton Map.

Dryland Cotton Steps to Success Step 2

Plant available water capacity (PAWC) > 180 mm in top 1.5 m of soil.

  • Know how big the bucket of soil moisture is - a critical component to achieving a successful cotton crop.
  • This requirement may change depending on rainfall reliability and the seasonal forecast.
  • This moisture bank can be vital in years when there is below average rainfall.

Know the nutrient status, location and availability within the profile.

  • If fertiliser is required, it will need to be applied prior to planting. There is limited opportunity to apply fertiliser to areas where it will be utilised post establishment of the crop.
  • Many dryland cotton farmers do not apply fertiliser. They utilise the soil’s natural pool and residual fertiliser from previous rotation crops.
  • The large tap root of the cotton plant enables it to explore the soil profile and access fertiliser and nutrients outside the range of other crops.
Dryland Cotton Steps to Success Step 3

Give the dryland cotton crop the best chance of success.

  • “Plant dryland cotton on soil moisture profile, not price.” If the soil moisture profile is not full then the chances of a successful crop are greatly diminished, regardless of the price.

Have adequate soil moisture reserves to allow for 2-3 months without rainfall.

  • In many instances, it will take 60-70 days before yield starts to be generated. A good insurance policy is to have a reserve, which will enable flowering to be reached even if no rain is received.
  • In summer dominant rainfall areas, January and February are the highest rainfall months. Rain falling in these months will boost yield potential significantly. However, it is important that the plant enters this period growing healthily so it can capitalise on summer rain events.
Planting into standing stubble

Cotton is not the most vigorous seedling and early in the crop’s life it is a poor competitor. Planting into standing stubble has advantages for the dryland cotton system through:

  • Better environment for establishment.
  • An extended planting opportunity.
  • Improved efficiency of rainfall capture.
  • Providing a home for beneficial insects.
  • Reduced sandblasting.

Refuge planning is also a critical part of the resistance management plan.

  • A refuge is a block or strip of crop without the Bt gene. The purpose of the refuge area is to assist in preventing pests from developing resistance to the technology.
  • As part of an Australian cotton industry resistance management plan you are required to plant a refuge area, which will vary depending on the amount of cotton and the technology grown ie. Bollgard II® or Bollgard® 3 and the species of the refuge area grown.
  • Information on the purpose of and the types and requirements for your refuge crop can be found by visiting the Bollgard 3 page. You can also calculate your refuge requirements using the Bollgard 3 refuge calculator.

Have a plan for weeds

Dryland cotton supports the application of Roundup Ready® Herbicide with PLANTSHIELD® or Roundup Ready PL Herbicide with PLANTSHIELD Technology to be used to clean up fields with weed issues, especially grass weeds.

Know your summer weed spectrum.

For further information visit the ‘Big 6’ of the WeedSmart plan for practical on-farm strategies. WeedSmart is an industry-led initiative to enhance on-farm practices and promote long term sustainability of herbicide use.

Choosing appropriate variety

Variety choice.

  • Obtain the relevant CSD Grower Agreement and Monsanto Technology User Agreement (TUA):
    • Cotton planting seed within Australia cannot be purchased without both of these agreements in place as this is a government regulatory requirement.
    • These agreements can be obtained from your local cotton seed supplier/Bayer Technology Service Provider (TSP) who can also provide advice on how to order seed.

Select variety based on:

  • Yield in your area and production type.
  • Disease tolerances.
  • Resilience in fibre quality, especially in the toughest of seasons.
  • Technology choice.

There are also sales and marketing offers provided by both CSD and Monsanto, which may be of interest.

  • Your consultant will be able to assist you in making an educated decision on which variety and how Cotton Choices® will suit your specific situation.
  • Cotton Choices® provides grower flexibility by allowing Bollgard® 3, Bollgard II® and Roundup Ready Flex® growers the ability to choose the best payment option for their technology fees to suit the financial and production risks of their farm.

Match seed treatment choice to expected disease and early season insect pressure.

  • Your consultant will be able to assist you in selecting a suitable seed treatment.

Plan a refuge area for your crop

  • As part of the Australian cotton industry resistance management plan, if you are growing cotton containing one of Bayer's insect management technologies, you are required to plant a refuge area which will vary depending on the amount of cotton grown refuge species and the technology choice made. - Information on the purpose of, the types and requirements for the refuge crop can be found by referring the Bollgard 3 Resistance Management Plan (RMP) and the Bollgard II Resistance Management Plan (RMP) in your TUA. You can also calculate your refuge requirements using the Bollgard 3 refuge calculator.

Row configuration.

  • There are many row configurations for planting dryland cotton. These can vary depending on wheel spacing, soil type and PAWC*, rainfall reliability and forecast.
  • It is important to remember that the row configuration must suit your system and that you need to have access to equipment to plant and pick.
  • Research what planting configurations other dryland cotton growers are using and speak with your consultant to decide which configuration best suits your system.
  • Row configuration can be used as a risk management tool, especially in low summer rainfall zones by:
    • Reducing production costs.
    • Enlarging the bucket of stored soil moisture available to each plant (i.e. less plants per given area).
    • Provide the best chance of high fibre quality in tough seasons.


*Plant Available Water Content

Establish an even, uniform and healthy plant stand

Plant once and do it right.

  • Ensure the planter is ready to go when required:

Establish a healthy and uniform plant population.

  • Aim for 6-8 plants/m established.
  • Gaps > 50 cm will impact on yield, which will in turn affect the maturity of the crop. Gaps will be magnified in wider row configurations.

Increase planting rate or consider a variety change if conditions at planting are less than ideal.

Get value from post picking operations

Effectively kill cotton to reduce ratoons and volunteers.

Consider your pupae busting requirements as part of the Bollgard II® and Bollgard® 3 resistance management plan

  • Hear from Matt Norrie 'Mollee', Narrabri and Tom Luff, Territory Business Manager at Bayer as they discuss the value of Bollgard 3’s flexible Resistance Management Plan (RMP) and effective systems for pupae busting: watch here.

Explore options for P&K Fertiliser at depth.

Explore options for renovation of wheel tracks and land forming if required.


8 Golden rules of dryland cotton

682 KB
  • Dryland
  • Dryland Cotton
  • Cotton Research

8 Golden rules of dryland cotton

Find out more about the 8 Golden Rules of dryland cotton and set yourself up for success

Dryland Cotton Guide

3429 KB
  • Dryland
  • Cotton Contractors
  • Cotton Research

Dryland Cotton Guide

This booklet is an introductory guide for those who are new to growing dryland cotton or are interested in discovering more about cotton production.