Dryland Cotton Steps to Success Step 1

Complete field work and ground preparation early.

  • This will enable a smooth transition into the planting operation and allow the maximum amount of time to accumulate moisture into the soil profile.

Create a firm, consolidated seed bed.

  • Planting is a critical operation in the cotton farming system and every effort should be made to ensure that the seed is given every opportunity to establish. Visit the FastStartTM  website for more information.

Service all machinery and have it ready to go.

  • This is good farming practice and should be conducted for all crops, including cotton. Some operations within the cotton farming system are timing sensitive and ensuring that machinery breakdowns are reduced will not limit production is important.
  • Boom spray hygiene is critical prior to spraying cotton. Cotton is particularly sensitive to phenoxy herbicides so it's important to follow an effective clean down procedure.
  • Have consultants and contractors (e.g. picking, spraying, farming, etc.) organised for planting.
  • 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.

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.

Establish an even, uniform and healthy plant stand

Budget nutrient requirements on soil and crop tests and on crop requirements and yield potential.

  • Uptake graph throughout the season.
  • Nutrient uptake and removal for different yields.

Apply fertiliser in a way to boost nutrient use efficiency.

  • Your cotton consultant can give you advice on the rate, product, timing and application method.
  • For nitrogen, many within the industry use 60% up front and 40% in-crop, utilising many different application techniques.

Don’t let nutrition be a yield limiting factor.

  • Getting your crop nutrition right is essential for maximising cotton yield and fibre quality. Careful monitoring and management of nutrient levels are vital to prevent inadequate nutrition or over-fertilisation, both of which can impact on profitability.
Choosing appropriate variety

Obtain the relevant CSD Grower Agreement, and Bayer Technology User Agreement (TUA) if growing cotton containing Bayer insect management and/or herbicide tolerance technologies.

  • Cotton planting seed within Australia cannot be purchased without the appropriate agreements being in place as a requirement of the government regulations.
  • These agreements can be obtained from your local cotton seed supplier (CSD Agent/Bayer Technology Service Provider (TSP)) who will have further information on how to order seed.

Select variety based on:

  • Yield in your area and production type.
  • Disease tolerances.
  • Resilience in fibre quality.
  • Technology choice.

There are also sales and marketing offers provided by CSD and Bayer which may be of interest. Visit Cotton Choices® for further information on technology fee options.

Your consultant will be able to assist you in making an educated decision on which variety and 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 combination.

Plan a refuge area for your crop.

  • A refuge is a block or strip of crop without the Bt gene. The purpose of the refuge area is to prevent pests from developing resistance to the technology.
  • 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 and the technology grown i.e. Bollgard II and/or Bollgard 3.
  • Information on the purpose of and the types and requirements for your 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.

Planting and establishment

Plant once and do it right.

  • Ensure the planter is ready to go when required:
    • Check planter maintenance, depth, speed and closing wheel pressure. Visit FastStartTM for more information.
    • Have seed ready to plant on farm
    • Consult the CSD Traffic Light forecasting tool to help achieve the best possible germination.
  • Establish a healthy and uniform plant population:
    • 8-12 plants per linear metre is ideal.

Have a plan for weeds

Start the season with a clean fallow.

Consider any herbicide plant-back restrictions.

Manage weeds using an Integrated Weed Management plan (IWM).

It is important that weeds are managed with an IWM plan to reduce weed seed set and future weed pressures. The Roundup Ready Flex Cotton Weed Resistance Management Plan and Roundup Ready Flex Cotton Weed Management Guide will provide further information.

Consult the Roundup Ready Flex® Cotton Weed Management Guide for clear recommendations for weed control practices in a Roundup Ready Flex cotton crop. The guide includes a range of herbicides which offer different modes of action throughout the season, reducing the risk of glyphosate resistance developing on your farm and saving you time and money in the future.

The Roundup Ready Flex Cotton Weed Resistance Management Plan details strategies that can be implemented to minimise the risk of glyphosate resistance developing in weeds on-farm.

Act on early season weeds when they are small.

Ensure cotton is fully destroyed post harvest to stop it becoming a woody weed.

Additional information is available from Bayer on Volunteer and Ratoon cotton management and you can watch Controlling volunteer and ratoon cotton.

WeedSmart is a highly useful industry resource

For practical on-farm strategies, visit the ‘Big 6’ of the WeedSmart plan. WeedSmart is an industry-led initiative to enhance on-farm practices and promote long term sustainability of herbicide use.
Irrigate to minimise plant stress

Engage your consultant to help formulate a water budget and to assist in scheduling irrigation timing.

  • First irrigation is timed to maximise root expansion and crop growth at first flower.
  • Last irrigation is timed to ensure that the crop is mature and to have the soil profile dry at defoliation.

Do not let irrigation be a limiting factor.

  • Factor in hot seasons.
  • Understand the capacity of your system and how quickly you can irrigate the crop.
Monitor to manage the crop

Utilise your consultant to monitor crop growth and progress, insect pest and disease control (if required).

  • Cotton is a responsive crop to manage. Growers are able to monitor and manipulate the cotton plant to maximise yield and ease of management.
  • Critical aspects which your consultant can assist with are growth rates, plant height management and fruit retention.

Aim to have the crop growth stage at critical CSD Ambassador Network snapshots for critical times.

  • Critical times in the crops development are at establishment and first flower through to cut out.

Utilise plant growth regulators to manage excessive growth.

  • Excessive rank growth is inefficient and can lead to boll rots, increase defoliation costs and reduced penetration of insecticides and fungicides.
Flowering to cut out is a critical time

95% of the crop yield is set during this time.

  • Hosting a happy plant throughout the entire growth cycle is vital but during the flowering period you should aim to:
    • Prolong the flowering period for as long as seasonal constraints allow.
    • Ensure fruit retention and accumulated fruit numbers are tracking to the desired target.

The key to keeping the plant happy through minimisation of:

  • Moisture stress, through well planned irrigation.
  • Nutritional stress.
  • Weeds, insects and disease.

Do not defoliate too early – ensure the crop and fibre is mature.

  • Your consultant can assist with the timing of the defoliation operation (4 NACB or 60% open).
  • Pick on time and without delay.

Do not pick if seed cotton moisture is greater than 12%. This can cause ginning fibre quality issues, which could lead to discount penalties

Get value from post picking operations

Ensure your cotton crop is destroyed post picking.

  • Cotton can regrow into ratoon plants post defoliation/picking and can act as:
    • A weed, which robs moisture and nutrients.
    • A bridge to host insect pests and diseases, leading to carryover and resistance buildup.

For more information on ratoon and volunteer cotton control, download Bayer's Resistance Management Guide: Control of Volunteer and Ratoon Cotton and watch Controlling volunteer and ratoon cotton.

Conduct a pupae busting operation, if required under your Bollgard II® and/or Bollgard® 3 Resistance Management Plan (RMP). For more information visit the Bollgard 3 web page.


10 Point plan for irrigated cotton

686 KB
  • Irrigated
  • Irrigated Cotton
  • Cotton Research

10 Point plan for irrigated cotton

Find out more about the 10 Point Plan for irrigated cotton and set yourself up for success

Irrigated Cotton Guide

8493 KB
  • Irrigated
  • Cotton Contractors
  • Cotton Research

Irrigated Cotton Guide

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