Stories: On the Farm
Tony Quigley - Macquarie Valley, NSW, Australia
Farming for the future recognised as key attribute for industry leader
Bayer Cotton Grower of the Year for 2021: Quigley Farms
Fourth-generation cotton farmer Tony Quigley, with his wife Sally and sons Tom, George and Richie run “Quigley Farms” – a diverse and integrated operation including cotton, wheat, canola and chickpeas.
The Quigley family farming operation was recently named The Bayer Cotton Grower of the Year for 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic halted award proceedings.
Their farming success is attributed to maximising water use efficiency and farming for future generations to come – with sustainability and biodiversity at the forefront.
Tony, a pioneer of water efficiency, says the underlying aim of the farming system is to maximise the amount of water retained in the soil, whether it be from rainfall or irrigation, and in turn maximise crop production, growing more crop per drop.
“We are now using about half the water per bale of cotton than when we first started growing cotton,” Tony said.
His irrigation tactics ensure the farm is not in a “boom or bust cycle”.
The Quigleys maximise the amount of water they can store in the soil before they start irrigating crops. They are aiming to reduce the amount of water taken from the river system each year, allowing leftover water for following crops.
While water is a farmer’s most valuable asset, soil and the natural assets of the farm also rank highly.
“We are very respectful of our soil in terms of how crops will respond to various treatments,” Tony said.
“We want to keep our family’s tradition going so it’s important to look after our soils and organic carbon, and do the least amount of damage to increase fertility to produce quality crops.”
Native vegetation and the protection of the natural environment are also pillars of the family’s operation.
“We have retained large areas of native vegetation around our farms, we’ve planted trees, and we have refuge areas where we don’t farm at all,” Tony said.
“We want to be here for the long haul, and that means being environmentally sustainable and economically profitable.”
The Quigleys farm about 600 hectares of cotton annually, a mixture of rainfed and irrigated, and rotate this with wheat, canola and chickpeas.
The Quigley’s started farming cotton in 1984, and Tony’s sons who are fifth generation, are taking on operational duties and taking the farm to the next level as Tony and Sally transition to retirement.
Both Tom and Ritchie are previous Nuffield Scholars, and all three boys have completed tertiary studies involving agriculture.
“The boys are leading the charge and they are taking farming to a higher level than Sal and I were able to,” Tony said.