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Central Queensland cotton growers battling nematodes with wheat and corn

Kathleen Calderwood, Wednesday August 20, 2014 - 12:26 EST
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Theodore cotton grower Greg Austin is planting corn to address a nematode problem in the area, that reared its head following severe flooding in 2010 and 2011. - ABC

Cotton growers at Theodore in Central Queensland are branching out into other crops, to address a nematode problem in the area, brought on by severe flooding three years ago.

Irrigated cotton grower Peter French says he's seen decreased yields in his cotton crops due to the nematodes.

"Dr Linda Smith from DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) and her team have done very comprehensive testing all over the channel irrigation area at Theodore and pretty much every paddock's got some numbers (of nematodes) in them.

"Some are very low and some are very high and there's pretty much everything in between.

"We really noticed it after the floods we had, for some reason it must've exacerbated the problem - Linda tells us that they were obviously here before the floods, but we hadn't really noticed the symptoms."

Mr French has planted wheat over the last two years in the hope it might solve the problem.

"We've put in a couple of wheat crops, the last couple of years just following the cotton crop it's been wet enough to plant a crop of wheat straight in.

"For a couple of reasons - for a green manure crop and also it was theorised that it might be beneficial as far as the nematodes go to knock the numbers down.

"Last year we found that there was certainly a big improvement in the following cotton crop, but we're unsure whether it was actually the wheat or the extra tillage that the ground got because of it.

"But we don't really mind, we got the organic matter in the soil and we got a good benefit out of it."

Cotton grower Greg Austin planted corn earlier this year as a possible solution.

That corn is now coming off, and he's planting more corn for harvest next January.

He's hoping this crop will be quicker than the one he's currently harvesting.

"We're definitely hoping this would've been off six or seven weeks ago but it just seemed to refuse to dry down, very, very slow at this time of the year.

"I'm not sure whether it's variety or it's just a normal thing with the corn.

"We're normally all cotton but we've decided to go into corn just as a rotation and also to break up the cycle of the nematodes."

Mr Austin says they are doing their last preparations before they start planting cotton again, including applying pre-emergent herbicides before they pre-irrigate in a couple of weeks.


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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