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CRDC Research & Development


CRDC delivers outcomes in cotton research, development and extension (RD&E) for the Australian cotton industry.

Our investments are governed by our five-year Strategic RD&E Plan 2018-23

This plan provides an ambitious roadmap for CRDC’s investments, helping to set the direction for the Australian cotton industry – one of innovation, increased commercialisation and digital transformation.

Through this plan, our aim is to contribute to creating $2 billion in additional gross value of cotton production for the benefit of Australian cotton growers and the wider community.

To help achieve this, Australian cotton growers and the Commonwealth Government will co-invest $20.2 million through CRDC into cotton RD&E during 2019-20, across approximately 300 projects and in collaboration with around 100 research partners.

Setting the RD&E priorities

CRDC works with the Australian cotton industry to determine the sector’s key RD&E priorities; with Government to determine its overarching rural RD&E priorities; and with both the industry and Government to determine the Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy.

In turn, these priorities help to shape CRDC’s strategic RD&E priorities, which are formalised under the Strategic RD&E Plan.


CRDC is funded through an R&D levy, which all growers pay (the levy equates to $2.25 for each 227 kilogram bale of cotton; or $4.06 per tonne of exported seed cotton), with the Government matching the funds dollar-for-dollar. 

Over the past 29 years, over $340 million has been invested in cotton RD&E by growers and the Government – and it has been estimated that the return on investment for growers is $7 in benefits for every $1 invested. 

Current investments

CRDC invests in approximately 300 RD&E projects per annum under the five Strategic Plan goals.

The 2018-19 investments are listed here: CRDC RD&E Investments. The 2019-20 investments list will be published in July 2019.

Strategic RD&E Plan goals

CRDC has documented five strategic outcomes that it seeks to achieve under the 2018-23 Strategic RD&E Plan, which in turn are the key focus areas for RD&E investment over the plan's five years:

For more information on each of the goals and their associated key focus areas click the links above, or view the 2018-23 Strategic RD&E Plan. For more information on the current research projects underway, download the list of CRDC RD&E Investments

Goal 1: Increase productivity and profitability on cotton farms

Why do we need to increase productivity and profitability on Australian cotton farms? 

A successful Australian cotton industry plays an important role in ensuring Australia’s future economic prosperity – and the sustainability of rural communities.

Cotton growing will continue to evolve. Whether change is driven by productivity constraints or environmental, economic or regulatory factors, the long-term profitability of cotton farming will rely on finding innovations and strategies that allow the cotton-farming system to adapt.

New technologies and the industry’s capacity to innovate will help drive increased productivity and profitability of Australian cotton farms which is essential for Australia to remain competitive in the global market place. Only by working together will we be able to safeguard our industry’s leading position, long-term competitiveness and resilience.

Lifting productivity and profitability by $1.5 billion across the board will reduce the gap between Australian cotton’s top producers and the production average – and build a stronger and more sustainable industry.

Key focus areas and activities:

1. Optimised farming systems.

Delivered by:

  • Investigating and communicating the application of beneficial new on-farm technologies and scientific approaches
  • Investing in real time monitoring, building adoption capacity and developing benchmarks, decision tools and practices to support on-farm resource efficiency decisions
  • Testing and providing information on the social, environmental and economic viability of new farming systems
  • Investigating the drivers behind farming system volatility and potential mitigations

2. Transformative technologies

Delivered by:

  • Investigating and facilitating the development (by third parties) and adaption of beneficial new technologies and systems for cotton farms
  • Working with partners to develop strategies to support digital applications and develop frameworks for digital agricultural tools in Australia

3. Protection from biotic threats and environmental stresses

Delivered by:

  • Investigating and monitoring the economic, environmental and social impacts of biotic threats and environmental stresses
  • Investigating and delivering new and improved tools, systems and strategies for the surveillance, prevention and sustainable and responsible management of biotic threats and environmental stresses
  • Working collaboratively with growers and consultants to deliver industryled biosecurity preparedness activities and address identified knowledge gaps


Goal 2: Improve cotton farming sustainability and value chain competitiveness

Why do we need to improve cotton farming sustainability and value chain competitiveness?

It is essential that cotton farming sustainability and value chain competitiveness be improved, with CRDC collaboratively driving the agenda and research for sustainable production to boost competitive advantage for the Australian cotton industry.

Improved value chain competitiveness can be achieved by increasing the value of cotton, such as through developing higher-value uses and improving cotton product performance. An increased value for cotton will capitalise on farm production yields and maximise profits.

Understanding, improving and reporting on cotton’s environmental and social footprint, and integrating systems to allow traceability throughout the value chain, will better fulfil market requirements and increase our market strength.

Improving value chain competitiveness and sustainability aims to derive $0.5 billion in greater value for growers. It will also help achieve Australian cotton’s ambition to be the highest yielding, finest, cleanest and most responsibly produced cotton in the world.

Key focus areas and activities:

1. Sustainability of cotton farming

Delivered by:

  • Undertaking research on how to improve the most significant components of cotton’s environmental footprint, including water and nitrogen management, native vegetation and soil carbon
  • Understanding and informing the methodologies and metrics used to assess the footprint of raw materials and their value chains

2. Creating higher-value uses for cotton

Delivered by:

  • Identifying opportunities for improving cotton product performance, and high-value uses for cotton
  • Investigating market requirements and opportunities throughout the value chain, and communicating those to industry

3. Measurement and reporting throughout the value chain

Delivered by:

  • Facilitating and participating in global sustainability forums
  • Providing information to the value chain


Goal 3: Build adaptive capacity of the cotton industry

Why do we need to build the adaptive capacity of the Australian cotton industry?

The Australian cotton industry is in an era of significant change with rapid advances in technology transforming the way we farm and undertake research. The environment in which we operate also poses challenges, with climate variability and natural capital constraints testing the resilience of our farming systems.

It is essential that we maximise the opportunities afforded by the agricultural technology revolution and minimise the disruptions posed by climate variability and natural capital constraints. To do this, the Australian cotton industry needs to enhance our scientific research capability, acquire new talent and facilitate the local and global exchange of ideas required to strengthen our adaptive capacity. This will ensure we are prepared and ready to respond to the changing environment.

Building adaptive capacity will enable the industry to achieve its future vision and allow Australian cotton to innovate and find solutions to existing and new problems – and bring those innovations to the marketplace more rapidly.

It will also allow our industry to take a leading role in investing in cotton research and innovation internationally.

Key focus areas and activities:

1. Science and innovation capability, and new knowledge

Delivered by:

  • Facilitating and participating in global initiatives, supporting researchers to use new technologies and uses for data, and creating and facilitating opportunities for national and international RD&E exchange
  • Investigating regional community demographics and available service providers and supporting opportunities for greater diversity in the cotton industry
  • Working collaboratively with cross-sectorial partners to support regional innovation

2. Futures thinking

Delivered by:

  • Assessing and monitoring grower resilience and on-farm natural capital, and supporting and communicating initiatives to address knowledge gaps
  • Investigating existing and future markets for Australian cotton and communicating this to the industry


Enabling Strategy 1: Strengthening partnerships and adoption

Why do we need to strengthen partnerships and adoption?

CRDC, as an investment organisation, relies on high-quality partnerships with research providers to deliver findings and innovations that address new and existing challenges for the benefit of the industry in the long term.

For the Australian cotton industry to benefit from research investments, the outcomes need to be rapidly extended and adopted, and as applicable, commercialised.

CRDC is a partner in the industry’s joint venture extension program, CottonInfo, in conjunction with Cotton Seed Distributors and Cotton Australia, delivering research findings and best practice information to growers.

To implement this Strategic Plan, it is paramount that we continue to collaborate and further strengthen relationships with our partners across the cotton industry.

Working together and developing partnerships will ensure the adoption pathway for research outcomes is effective and meets the needs of cotton growers.

Key focus areas and activities:

1. Partnerships and collaboration

Delivered by:

  • Investing in research that meets the needs of growers and consultants and working with partners to tailor and disseminate research outcomes
  • Working collaboratively with CottonInfo to demonstrate, build and communicate practical applications for R&D outcomes
  • Working collaboratively for mutual benefit

2. Best practice (myBMP)

Delivered by:

  • Working closely with partners to ensure R&D outcomes are included in myBMP practice modules

2. Innovation and commercialisation

Delivered by:

  • Working with research partners from development to proof of concept and commercialisation (where a strong business case exists)


Enabling Strategy 2: Driving RD&E impact

Why do we need to drive RD&E impact?

CRDC’s RD&E investments are designed to enhance the environmental, social and economic benefits to cotton growers, the cotton industry, regional communities and the Australian public.

As an RDC, CRDC has an obligation to ensure that all the investments we make deliver impact for our stakeholders. To achieve this, it is essential CRDC understands the RD&E priorities of our stakeholders and has the foundations in place to effectively deliver those needs through our RD&E investments.

We must also measure, evaluate and communicate the impact and effectiveness of our RD&E in an open and transparent way to our stakeholders.

By driving and communicating the impacts of our RD&E investments, CRDC will create value for our stakeholders, grow the industry and maintain confidence in RD&E.

Key focus areas and activities:

1. Impact and effectiveness

Delivered by:

  • Engaging with stakeholders and partners annually to identify and prioritise the challenges and opportunities facing the Australian cotton industry
  • Assessing and monitoring the effectiveness of RD&E investments and the extent to which stakeholder priorities are addressed
  • Assessing the impact and return on investment from RD&E projects
  • Effectively communicating the outcomes and impacts of RD&E investments to stakeholders


Rural R&D for Profit

The Australian Government's Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit program aims to boost funding to the rural research and development corporations (RDCs, of which CRDC is one) for nationally coordinated, strategic research that delivers real outcomes for Australian farmers.

CRDC has led three projects under the Rural R&D for Profit program:

  • Smarter Irrigation for Profit;
  • Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture; and
  • More Profit from Nitrogen: enhancing the nutrient use efficiency of intensive cropping and pasture systems. 

Smarter Irrigation for Profit

Phase one of the Smarter Irrigation for Profit project aimed to improve the profit of 3,000 cotton, dairy, rice and sugar irrigators, with the support of 16 R&D partners and 19 farmer irrigation technology learning sites. The project commenced in July 2015 and concluded in late 2018. It was a partnership between the major irrigation industries of cotton, dairy, rice and sugar, led by CRDC in conjunction with fellow RDCs Dairy Australia, Sugar Research Australia and AgriFutures Australia, plus other research partners. 

Phase two of the Smarter Irrigation for Profit project commenced in 2019, in conjunction with Dairy Australia, Sugar Research Australia, AgriFutures and the Grains Research and Development Corporation. It aims to address the challenges of reduced water availability by improving the water productivity of Australian cropping and pasture irrigators, through developing new precision irrigation technologies, improving existing technologies and facilitating faster uptake through producer led demonstration sites. 

For more on these projects, click here

Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture

The Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture project aimed to capitalise on the big data opportunities for Australian agriculture and to transition a range of agricultural industries from precision to decision agriculture. The project aimed to design a solution for the use of big data in agriculture. 

The project commenced in July 2016 and concluded in late 2018. It was a partnership between all 15 RDCs, led by CRDC, and involving other research partners.

For more on this project click here

Growing a Digital Future

CRDC has been collaborating with our fellow RDCs and research partners to implement the recommendations of the Accelerating Precision to Decision Agriculture project.

For more information on this project, click here.

More Profit from Nitrogen

The More Profit from Nitrogen project aims to improve the efficient use of nitrogen in the irrigated cotton, dairy, cherry, mango and sugar industries. It aims to improve the nitrogen productivity of 600 irrigated cotton growers, the profit of 500 dairy farmers, the yield of sugar growers, and the yield, fruit quality, storage and packout for 400 Australian cherry and 650 mango growers. It will also help these industries mitigate the extent and impact of off-farm nutrients on water quality.

The project commenced in July 2016. It is led by CRDC, in partnership with fellow RDCs, Dairy Australia, Sugar Research Australia, and Horticulture Innovation Australia, and other research partners.

For more on this project click here, or contact project lead Marguerite White.


National Landcare Program: Smart Farming Partnerships 

Under the National Landcare Program’s Smart Farming Partnerships initiative, CRDC secured a $1.3 million grant to bring Cotton Landcare Tech-Innovations 2021 onto Australian cotton farms to enhance natural resources and biodiversity.

This ambitious project is being delivered over three years from 2019-2021. The project builds on international best practice to implement and develop cutting-edge technologies, such as drone mapping and aerial seeding, acoustic monitoring and big data, to help Australian cotton better report on and improve on-farm biodiversity

For more on this project, click here