Easter is a time for reflection and celebration but for cotton grower Scott Quigley the time was also ripe for the start of the seasonal crop harvest.
Picking started at Fairview under clear blue skies and warm conditions on Good Friday.
The recently defoliated field was a sea of bright white as picker operator Jake George put the newly acquired John Deere 7760 six-row round baler through its paces.
Mr Quigley said the three-quarters of a million dollar machine meant the harvest this year was now a two-man operation compared to a 12-man job last season.
The perfect conditions made the pick an easy challenge for the round baler over the weekend but Mr Quigley has a contingency plan if wet weather renders the fields too boggy for the comparatively heavy machine.
“The 7760 is at a disadvantage if the ground becomes a bit wet so I decided to hang onto our two conventional pickers, two module builders and boll buggies, which can get back onto the fields a lot quicker after rain,” Mr Quigley said.
The airconditioned cab on the round baler includes all the new “whiz bang” technology with a computer screen showing the operator such things as the amount of picked cotton in the basket and a separate screen showing the newly formed bale being wrapped before being ejected behind the machine.
Sensors also warn of any blockages and the picker practically steers itself.
A tractor with a three-point linkage purpose-built bale lifter removes the bales from the field onto the head ditch or tail drain for later pick up and loading onto flat top or step-deck trailers with the bales then trucked into the cotton gin.
“Five round bales is equivalent to a 36 foot module and the round baler can turn out 24 bales from one roll of wrap,” Mr Quigley said.
Mr Quigley planted 1258 acres of cotton from October 8 last year on “back to back country” and had a good result from the defoliant 12 days prior to harvest, with the field “picking clean”.
He predicted the crop should produce over four bales of cotton to the acre.
“We planted 74 Bollgard Roundup Ready cotton. We could have done with some hotter temperatures but there was plenty of water, with the rain saving a couple of waterings,” he said.
“There were two weeks in January when it was cold and there was cloud cover; the crop dropped some fruit but overall it is not too bad.”
Mr George is a plant mechanic by trade so is also on the job to sort out any immediate mechanical problems, with local John Deere dealer Chesterfield Australia also on call for any additional spare parts or service back up.
The team will also contract on other properties throughout the harvest season.