Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Row configuration as a tool for managing rain-fed cotton systems: review and simulation analysis

M. P. Bange A B F , P. S. Carberry A C , J. Marshall A D and S. P. Milroy A E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Australian Cotton Cooperative Research Centre, Narrabri, NSW 2390, Australia.

B CSIRO Plant Industry, Locked Bag 59, Narrabri, NSW 2390, Australia.

C CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit, PO Box 102, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

D Cotton Seed Distributors, PO Box 756, Dalby, Qld 4405, Australia.

E CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 45(1) 65-77
Submitted: 22 November 2003  Accepted: 14 March 2004   Published: 21 February 2005


Rain-fed cotton production can be a significant proportion (average 17%) of the Australian Cotton Industry. One of the management techniques that rain-fed cotton growers have is to modify row configuration. Configurations that have entire rows missing from the sowing configuration are often referred to as ‘skip row’. Skip configurations are used to: increase the amount of soil water available for the crop, which can influence the potential lint yield; reduce the level of variability or risk associated with production; enhance fibre quality; and reduce input costs. Choosing the correct row configuration for a particular environment involves many, often complex, considerations. This paper presents an examination of how rain-fed cotton production in Australia is influenced by row configuration with different management and environmental factors. Data collated from field experiments and the cotton crop simulation model OZCOT, were used to explore the impact of agronomic decisions on potential lint yield and fibre quality and consequent economic benefit. Some key findings were: (i) soil water available at sowing did not increase the advantage of skip row relative to solid configurations; (ii) reduced row spacing (75 cm) did not alter lint yield significantly in skip row crops; (iii) skip row, rain-fed crops show reasonable plasticity in terms of optimum plant spacing within the row (simular to irrigated cotton); (iv) sowing time of rain-fed crops would appear to differ between solid and skip row arrangements; (v) skip row configurations markedly reduce the risk of price discounts due to short fibre or low micronaire and this should be carefully considered in the choice of row configuration; and (vi) skip configurations can also provide some savings in variable costs. In situations where rain-fed cotton sown in solid row configurations is subject to water stress that may affect lint yield or fibre quality, skip row configurations would be a preferential alternative to reduce risk of financial loss.

Additional keywords: management, model, OZCOT.


Thanks to Bruce Pyke, Brian Hearn and Phil Goyne for access to original field data used in this study. The Cotton Research and Development Corporation provided partial financial support for crop simulation activities.


Bange MP, Carberry PS (1998) Application of soil monitoring, benchmarking and crop simulation in commercial dryland cotton management. In ‘Proceedings of the 2nd world cotton conference’. (Ed. FM Gilliam) pp. 360–367. (P. Petridis: Athens, Greece)

Boyce Chartered Accountants (2002) Australian cotton comparative analysis 2002 crop. Report for the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Narrabri, NSW.

Buxton DR, Briggs RE, Patterson LL, Watkins SD (1977) Canopy characteristics of narrow-row cotton as influenced by plant density. Agronomy Journal 69, 929–933.

Carberry PS, Bange MP (1998) Using systems models in farm management. In ‘9th Australian cotton conference’. pp. 309–313. (Australian Cotton Growers Research Association: Broadbeach, Qld)

Carberry PS, Hammer GL, Meinke H, Bange MP (2000) The potential value of seasonal climate forecasting in managing cropping systems. In ‘Applications of seasonal climate forecasting in agricultural and natural ecosystems — the Australian experience’. (Eds GL Hammer, N Nicholls, C Mitchell) pp. 167–181. (Kluwer Academic: Dordrecht, The Netherlands)

Carberry PS, Hochman Z, McCown RL, Dalgliesh NP, Foale MA , et al. (2002) The FARMSCAPE approach to decision support: farmers’, advisers’, researchers’ monitoring, simulation, communication, and performance evaluation. Agricultural Systems 74, 141–177.
CrossRef |

Clewett JF, Clarkson NM, George DA, Ooi SH, Owens DT, Partridge IJ, Simpson GB (2003) Rainman Streamflow version 4.3: a comprehensive climate and streamflow analysis package on CD to assess seasonal forecasts and manage climate risk. QI03040, Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.

Constable GA (1977) Narrow row cotton in the Namoi Valley. 2. Plant population and row spacing. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 17, 143–147.
CrossRef |

Constable GA, Eveleigh R, Kay A, Marshall J (1997) ‘Replanting guide.’ (Cotton Seed Distributors: Wee Waa, NSW)

Cotton Research and Development Corporation (1997) ‘Australian dryland cotton production guide’. 2nd edn. (Cotton Research and Development Corporation: Narrabri, NSW)

Dalgliesh N, Foale M (1998) ‘Soil matters — monitoring soil water and nutrients in dryland farming.’ (Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit: Toowoomba, Qld)

Dowling D (2002) 2001–02 cotton season. In ‘The Australian cottongrower cotton yearbook 2002’. (Ed. D Dowling) pp. 4–5. (The Australian Cottongrower: Toowoomba, Qld)

Gibb D (1995) ‘Cotton production during drought.’ (Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Cotton Production: Narrabri, NSW)

Goyne P (2000) Improved understanding of cotton water use for better management in water limited environments. Final Report for Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Narrabri, NSW.

Hake SJ, Kerby TA, Hake KD (1996) Planting stand and establishment. In ‘Cotton production manual’. (Eds SJ Hake, TA Kerby, KD Hake) pp. 21–28. (University of California: Oakland CA, USA)

Hammer GL, Carberry PS, Stone R (2000) Comparing the value of seasonal forecasting systems in managing cropping systems. In ‘Applications of seasonal climate forecasting in agricultural and natural ecosystems — the Australian experience’. (Eds GL Hammer, N Nicholls, C Mitchell) pp. 183–195. (Kluwer Academic: Dordrecht, The Netherlands)

Hammer GL, Hansen JW, Phillips JG, Mjelde JW, Hill H, Love A, Potgieter A (2001) Advances in application of climate prediction in agriculture. Agricultural Systems 70, 515–553.
CrossRef |

Hawkins BS, Peacock HA (1968) Effect of skip-row culture on agronomic and fiber properties of upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) varieties. Agronomy Journal 60, 189–191.

Hearn AB (1979) Water relationships in cotton. Outlook on Agriculture 4, 159–166.

Hearn AB (1985) Agronomic factors affecting micronaire. The Australian Cottongrower 6, 16–17.

Hearn AB (1990) Prospects for rain-fed cotton. In ‘5th Australian cotton conference’. pp. 135–144. (Australian Cotton Growers Research Association: Broadbeach, Qld)

Hearn AB (1994) OZCOT: A simulation model for cotton crop management. Agricultural Systems 44, 257–299.
CrossRef |

Hearn AB (1995) High prices and low rainfall: a recipe for frustration or an opportunity for a calculated risk? The Australian Cottongrower 16, 20–28.

Heitholt JJ (1994) Canopy characteristics associated with deficient and excessive cotton plant population densities. Crop Science 34, 1291–1297.

Heitholt JJ, Meredith WR, Williford JR (1996) Comparison of cotton genotypes varying in canopy characteristics in 76-cm vs. 102-cm rows. Crop Science 36, 955–960.

Heitholt JJ, Pettigrew WT, Meredith WR (1992) Light interception and lint yield of narrow-row cotton. Crop Science 32, 728–733.

Hons FM, McMichael BL (1986) Planting pattern effects on yield, water use and root growth of cotton. Field Crops Research 13, 147–158.
CrossRef |

Jeffrey SJ, Carter JO, Moodie KB, Beswick AR (2001) Using spatial interpolation to construct a comprehensive archive of Australian climate data. Environmental Modelling & Software 16, 309–330.
CrossRef |

Kerby TA, Cassman KG, Keeley M (1990) Genotypes and plant densities for narrow-row cotton systems. 1. Height, nodes, earliness, and location of yield. Crop Science 30, 644–649.

Lee JA (1984) Cotton as a world crop. In ‘Cotton’. (Eds RJ Kohel, CF Lewis) pp. 6–26. (American Society of Agronomy: Madison, WI, USA)

Marshall J, Pyke B, Castor P (1994a) Row configurations in raingrown cotton. The Australian Cottongrower 15, 59–61.

Marshall J, Pyke B, Castor P (1994b) Managing risk with row configuration and plant density in raingrown cotton. In ‘7th Australian cotton conference’. pp. 221–228. (Australian Cotton Growers Research Association: Broadbeach, Qld)

McCown RL, Carberry PS, Foale MA, Hochman Z, Coutts JA, Dalgliesh NP (1998) The FARMSCAPE approach to farming systems research. In ‘9th Australian agronomy conference’. pp. 633–636. (The Australian Society of Agronomy: Wagga Wagga, NSW)

Milroy SP, Bange MP, Hearn AB (2004) Row configuration in rainfed cotton systems: modification of the OZCOT simulation model. Agricultural Systems 82, 1–16.
CrossRef |

Oosterhuis DM, Jernstedt J (1999) Morphology and anatomy of the cotton plant. In ‘Cotton origin, history, technology, and production’. (Eds CW Smith, JT Cothren) pp. 175–206. (John Wiley and Sons: New York, USA)

Pyke B (1991) Choosing a row spacing configuration for dryland cotton. The Australian Cottongrower 12, 62–64.

Richards QD, Bange MP, Roberts GN (2001) Assessing the risk of cotton ‘earliness’ management strategies with crop simulation. In ‘10th Australian agronomy conference’. Available online at: (verified 18 January 2005).

Scott F (2002) Dryland cotton budgets. In ‘Australian dryland cotton production guide’. 3rd edn. pp. 20–31. (Cotton Research and Development Corporation: Narrabri, NSW)

Stone RC, Hammer GL, Marcussen T (1996) Prediction of global rainfall probabilities using phases of the southern oscillation index. Nature 384, 52–55.
CrossRef |

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (16)

View Altmetrics