29 June 2018, 04:20PM

What do you do when confronted with a growing problem of the noxious Johnson Grass?

Rob Germon grew cotton.

His 260 hectare property at Geurie in Central Western NSW was becoming overrun with the weed species and it was playing havoc with his traditional seed corn for Pioneer, commercial corn and sorghum.

He knew the only way to bring the Johnson grass under control was with Round-Up but, unless he found a Round-Up Ready crop, he’d be left with nothing to harvest.

After a lot of research, field day trips and discussions with agricultural specialists – including Delta Ag agronomist Brett Cumberland, Monsanto representatives Paul Brady and Luke Samson and Cotton Seed Distributors agronomist Bob Ford – he settled on cotton.

Although traditionally grown by flood irrigation, cotton growers are discovering real benefits in using overhead irrigation systems. 

Rob already had the centre pivots for his seed varieties, and the undulating layout of the river country meant flood irrigation wasn’t ideal so it was an easy decision to use the existing irrigation system for his new crop.

“The biggest thing is we use a lot less water than we would with flood,” says Rob.

“The figures I hear for flood are quite high in water usage and I believe we are going to need to start looking more at this issue of conserving what we have because we are getting a lot less useable water.

“Some of the highest yielding cotton crops were coming from under overhead watering so it wasn’t a difficult decision for us to make.”

The only real concern Rob had about growing cotton was the tendency for his area to have cooler weather, showers and fog compared to other areas at picking time.

He feared a spate of damp, cool and cloudy days would bleach the colour out of the cotton, costing him a significant drop in sale price. 

To prepare for the urgency of picking season he bought a round bale picker so he could pick the cotton when he wanted, without waiting for contractors, and says that decision paid off.

He was also fortunate that good weather prevailed. 

While there are some people who resist Round-Up Ready crops, Rob believes it has its place in agriculture. In Rob’s case, he says he had no option. It was either that, or grow nothing.

He says he’s thrilled with the results of his first cotton season.

“This year was such a blessing for everyone, we had such great conditions for growing and picking,”

He’s now got the Johnson Grass under control and he produced a very good yield of an average 14 to 15 bales of cotton per hectare.

With cotton prices looking promising for the year ahead, Rob is already planning a full crop for next year.

“My main worry is still the picking time so this year we are going to get more sophisticated and use satellite imaging to control our spraying,” says Rob.

“We found in our hollows where there was more moisture the cotton did grow higher than the other areas.

“We’re going to use satellite imaging when Pixing the next crop to hopefully get improved crop uniformity, which is especially important at the end when it is picking time.”