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CRDC Board visits Emerald research trial site (25 June 2014)

A CRDC Board meeting in Emerald last week provided the perfect opportunity for CRDC’s Board Directors to get on-farm to view a field trial site first hand.

The trial, which looks to grow cotton under biodegradable plastic film to take better advantage of the region’s climate, has produced some promising results in its first year.

With funding from the CRDC, researchers from the QLD Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, CSIRO, and a local consulting firm are collaborating on a project working to develop tools and tactics for managing cotton production in what can be a highly variable climate.

An analysis of CQ’s long term weather records highlighted that spring and early summer has a very favourable temperature, rainfall and radiation profile for cotton photosynthesis with greatly reduced variability – but that, to date, this window of opportunity is largely untapped.

As such, the research aims to test tactics that could enable crops to make better use of the spring conditions for boll production by bringing forward sowing to August and flowering to October. However, with temperatures in August being two to three degrees too cool for reliable establishment, the researchers are warming things up through the use of plastic film.

The researchers believe that with Emerald’s warm days but cool nights, a plastic film may sufficiently solarise the soil during the day and retain enough heat during the night to reduce the incidence of cool temperature related establishment issues. The key would be to slot the film in such a way that seedlings could emerge easily and the heat still be retained.

The first trials were carried out during the 2013-14 cotton season with encouraging results and trials will be carried out for several seasons to build a profile of likely crop responses under various weather conditions. The picture built over time will determine whether this tactic is likely to be agronomically viable for commercial use.

The success of early planting with biodegradable plastic film will depend on a number of factors, in particular yield benefits and the final cost of film and its installation.

CRDC Chair Dr Mary Corbett and the CRDC Board Directors were joined on the tour by Cotton Australia Chairman Lyndon Mulligan, CRDC Executive Director Bruce Finney and General Manager of R&D Ian Taylor. The tour was hosted by local researchers, growers and CRDC, CottonInfo and Cotton Australia staff.

Read more about the research underway in Emerald in the Winter edition of Spotlight, available to download here.