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CRDC talks sustainable water use and cotton RD&E with Senators (22 Feb 2019)

CRDC's Acting Executive Director, Dr Ian Taylor, met with Senators in Canberra today for Senate Estimates.

Dr Taylor was supported by CRDC Director Greg Kauter and General Manager, Business and Finance, Graeme Tolson.

Dr Taylor acknowledged the very difficult summer that growers and cotton communities have faced, and the lack of rainfall that has significant impacts on agricultural production including cotton - with plantings this season approximately half of last year's plantings, and the total planting approximately 60 per cent of the average cotton crop.   

The below is an extract from Dr Taylor's opening statement to the Senators:

"As you know, CRDC is a statutory authority based in Narrabri NSW. We typically invest around $24 million per year in research and development on behalf of the Australian Government and cotton growers. Two of our key goals under our strategic plan are to increase the productivity and profitability of Australian cotton farms and improve cotton farming sustainability," Dr Taylor said.

"As a result, investing in RD&E to improve cotton’s water use efficiency is a key program of our work.

"Around 10 per cent of our total investments are aimed at improving water use efficiency - with additional investments addressing natural resource management and climate change.

"In the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, our RD&E found that the cotton industry improved its water use efficiency by 40 per cent. We’ve continued to benchmark this since 2010, and later this year we are set to publish the latest peer-reviewed water use efficiency findings which will show that water use efficiency in cotton has increased by a further 20 per cent in this decade.  

"The Australian cotton industry is committed to both sustainability and continuous improvement. We were the first Australian agricultural industry to publish a sustainability report – to assess and benchmark our environmental, social and economic sustainability. This report was published in 2014 and this year, CRDC and Cotton Australia will publish the second in the series, along with a list of targets that we as an industry aim to achieve.

"We also have an industry wide best management practice program, with 76 per cent of cotton growers currently participating. This details 12 key areas of best management cotton production, including water use efficiency.

"In terms of other water use efficiency investments: we have led the smarter irrigation project – funded through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ Rural RD&E for Profit program - which has aimed to improve the water use efficiency and production of cotton, dairy, rice and sugar growers. 3000 irrigators have been involved in this project through field days and workshops. It has found that participating growers could achieve a 10-20 percent improvement in water productivity through adoption of new and existing precision irrigation technologies.

"We also invest with various partners, including CSIRO and the University of Melbourne, into research to investigate the use of polymers to minimise water losses through evaporation. With CSIRO, we established a Climate Change Facility to study the effects of elevated CO2 and warmer temperatures on cotton – the first facility of its kind in the world.

"Through our futures program as part of our strategic plan we are also scoping the potential use of alternative water sources such as atmospheric water generation systems to supplement water for irrigation, as well as potentially provide potable water supplies for rural communities," Dr Taylor said.

Pictured outside Parliament House: CRDC's Graeme Tolson, Ian Taylor and Greg Kauter.