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2021-22 FastStart Cotton Establishment Awards

Favourable planting conditions made the 2020-21 FastStart™ Cotton Establishment Awards more competitive than ever, with the winners now named.

Cotton Seed Distributors (CSD) and Syngenta, partners in the FastStart™ program, coordinate the awards as a means of celebrating excellence in crop establishment. Each season a grower in both the dryland and irrigated category are awarded for the best overall establishment of their cotton crop.

The winners of this year’s dryland category are Will and Ben Coulton of ‘Mullala’ in Boggabilla, NSW. Will and Ben achieved a Planter Uniformity Index (PUI) of 0.271 and 95.9% establishment rate.

In the irrigated category the winner is Terry Ryan of ‘Milla-Lee’ located at Bowenville, Queensland. Judges were impressed with his 0.034 PUI and 95.8% establishment rate.

CSD Extension and Market Development Lead Peter White thanked everyone who went to the effort of submitting an entry in this year’s awards, noting the overall high standard of those entrants. Peter went on to congratulate the winners on their outstanding results.

“Achieving even establishment of a cotton crop requires attention to detail, which is where our winners this year shine,” he said.

“Not only have they given themselves the best chances of maximising their yields, they’ve won one of Australia’s most prestigious crop competitions.”

The competition doesn’t assess outright yield, instead emphasising establishment and the foundations for an efficient crop utilising tools such as the FastStart™ Cotton Soil Temperature Network, helping to manage early season yield limiting impacts. Planter uniformity and evenness of the emerging crop are key criteria that strongly align with FastStart™ principles. Growers are encouraged to adjust their row configuration and seeding rates for optimum seedling performance as a foundation for optimum efficiency and eventually yield.

“We have been growing cotton since 1988 and this is the first time we have entered into this competition since it’s been running. I feel a bit shocked, but excited and privileged to have won,” Terry Ryan said.

“I found the online tools invaluable in assisting us in the establishment phase including the FastStart™ Cotton Soil Temperature Network and the Cotton Field Weather Network.”

Will Coulton said Mother Nature always played a big hand in establishment success but has found the FastStart™ tools extremely useful, particularly when optimising the planting window.

“We are very appreciative of winning this award and grateful that the FastStart™ program provides a means of rewarding growers who take the time to target the optimum planting window. The increased yield potential we all aim for by getting the cotton off to a good start is the main objective, but it is nice to be acknowledged as we often don’t take the time to look back and reflect on the start we had.”

The awards were launched in 2018 and have featured a winning dryland and irrigated cotton grower each year since. The awards support growers in their continuous efforts to improve the production methods. Past winners have participated in a study tour of agricultural enterprises within the Ord River irrigation system. Organisers are hopeful the trip will go ahead this year after a COVID-19 hiatus.

“There are many growers out there doing a great job of optimising their seedling establishment through the utilisation of Syngenta Seedcare™ technology that is applied to CSD seed, and the agronomic knowledge brought to light through extensive FastStart™ research projects,” said Syngenta Seedcare™ Technical Services Lead, Sean Roberts.

“The Awards are a great way of doing this, as well as sharing what best practice looks like with other growers.”

FastStart™ Cotton research and development is funded through the proceeds of each bag of seed sold through CSD, which comes with the added protection of Syngenta Seedcare™ treatments.

The winners of this year’s dryland category, Will and Ben Coulton of ‘Mullala’ in Boggabilla, NSW.