As per latest update from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Australian cotton production is forecast at 4.7 million bales (480 pounds) in marketing year 2018/19 compared to 4 million bales in 2017/18. The harvested area is revised down significantly to 450,000 hectares from the official estimate of 530,000 hectares. This is due to low rainfall in most growing areas and crop damage caused by herbicide spray drift over an estimated cotton growing area of 35,000 hectares. Industry sources indicated that the spread of weed-control herbicides to non-targeted areas occurred through unpredictable weather conditions. Irrigated cotton accounts for at least 80 percent of total production, while dryland (or rain-fed) cotton depends on timely and sufficient rainfall. In 2018/19, Australias planted cotton area continues to extend into southern NSW, northern Victoria, and northern Queensland, particularly in the Gulf country and the Ord. The Murrumbidgee region of southern NSW emerged as the third largest cotton region in 2017/18 with around 70,000 hectares of cotton planted and more than 240 cotton farms in the region compared to only 50 in 2010. This region has predominantly been a rice growing region, but profitability has convinced many farmers to switch to cotton farming. Overall, there are over 1,000 cotton growers in Australia. Australias cotton gins are located in regional areas where cotton is grown, in order to reduce transport costs.
The gins separate cottonseed and trash from the lint or raw cotton fiber. An Australian cotton bale weighs 227kg (500 pounds) and this is converted to U.S. bales (480 pounds). Cottonseed represents approximately 50 percent of the weight of ginned cotton while cotton fiber represents around 40 percent of the weight of ginned cotton. The movement of cotton from farm to gins is predominantly by road transportation and destined to the three major ports of Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. 2018/19 is only the second season Australian farmers are utilizing the Bollgard 3 cotton variety. More than 95 percent of the 450,000 hectare cotton crop in 2018/19 was planted with Monsantos Bollgard 3 varieties because of its higher yields and resistance to weed and insects. The varietys tolerance to herbicide has also reduced the need for broad spectrum pesticide use while proteins in the cotton plant inhibit damage from heliothis moths, which is normally a major cotton pest. Australia approved the use of the Bollard 3 cotton variety in 2016. Traditionally, cotton has been planted in September and October, but planting with the Bollgard varieties has extended the planting window. For instance, farmers in central Queensland planted cotton as early as August 2017 and in western NSW as late as December 2017. The harvesting period for cotton now extends from January to June 2018. Yields vary across regions, but are expected to rise over time provided that climatic conditions allow this to occur. In central Queensland, growers have averaged between 10 and 15 bales per hectare for irrigated cotton in recent years, but the national average for irrigated cotton is around 10 bales per hectare. Yields on dryland cotton are much lower at 1-3 metric ton (MT) per hectare..