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CRDC Research & Development


CRDC invests in research, development and extension (RD&E) projects for the Australian cotton industry. A partnership between the Australian Government and the cotton industry, CRDC exists to enhance the performance of the cotton industry.

In 2017-18, Australia’s 1,250 cotton growers and the Australian Government will co-invest $22.4 million through CRDC into RD&E.

Two of the greatest success stories for the cotton industry - water use efficiency and pesticide use reduction – are the result of R&D, but the successes do not stop there. Research is currently being conducted across the full scope of cotton production: pathology, biosecurity, insects and weeds, spray application, insecticides, Bt stewardship, energy use, nutrition and water use efficiency. There is work constantly underway to make cotton more productive and profitable for Australian cotton growers, while continuously improving its environmental sustainability. 


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), with the Government matching the funds dollar-for-dollar. 

Over the past 27 years, over $320 million has been invested in cotton R&D 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. 

The importance of cotton RD&E

The Australian cotton industry has always placed great emphasis on the value of its RD&E, and the results speak for themselves. Thanks to cotton RD&E, led by CRDC, Australian cotton growers are now growing more cotton on less land and with less impact on the environment than ever before. 

Australian cotton growers achieve the highest yields in the world – almost three times the world average. In 2012-13, for the first time in history, the average yield of Australian cotton crops exceeded 10 bales per hectare.

The Australian cotton industry is dynamic, progressive and responsible. Compared to 10-15 years ago, Australian cotton growers use 30 percent less land and 40 percent less water to produce one tonne of cotton lint. Thanks to the significant contribution of cotton R&D, Australian cotton growers have reduced their insecticide use by 95 percent over the past 15 years, and increased their water productivity by 40 percent over the past 10 years. 

Today, growers are achieving an increase in productivity of around four percent per annum, thanks to improved Australian-bred cotton varieties and on-farm management practices. It is little wonder that a 2013 survey of cotton growers found that 91 percent consider R&D as driving continuous improvements in the Australian cotton industry!

Investment decisions

The process of deciding where to invest the RD&E funding is a collaborative one, involving all major stakeholders. CRDC works closely with the industry’s peak representative body, Cotton Australia (under the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989) and the Australian Government to identify and evaluate the cotton industry’s requirements for RD&E. Cotton Australia provides ongoing advice to the CRDC on research projects and where research dollars should be invested

CRDC’s research priorities are formalised in the CRDC’s five year Strategic Plan. For the 2013-18 period, these research priorities are grouped under five core themes:

  • Farmers – including successful crop protection, on-farm resource use efficiency, innovations in cotton production.
  • Industry – including stewardship, natural resource management, identifying and responding to threats.
  • Customers – including cotton quality, the recognised value of Australian cotton, ensuring future demand for our cotton.
  • People – including skilling and educating our industry workforce, creating networks and communication.
  • Performance – including measuring and reporting on our industry’s performance, and continuous improvement under best management practices.


In line with the Strategic Plan, the CRDC issues an annual call for research proposals against these identified research priorities, and in determining which proposals are successful, again undertakes a process of consultation with growers, via the Cotton Australia Grower Advisory Panels. The final decision-making authority lies with the CRDC Board, who consider the advice from growers and the CRDC’s team of specialised R&D Managers in making a final funding decision. 

Current investments

In 2017-18, CRDC is investing in approximately 200 R&D projects under the five core themes. The full list is available here: CRDC R&D Investments 2017-18

The CRDC Gearbox: Driving our R&D

CRDC’s five core programs (within the 2013-18 Strategic R&D Plan) – farmers, industry, customers, people and performance – are inherently linked. We like to think of our investments as a gearbox: an integrated and connected system where all parts work together to drive forward.

Our research, development and extension (RD&E) programs (farmers, industry and customers) are the ‘cogs’, driving research and development outcomes and the delivery and adoption of research findings; while the integrating programs (people and performance) are the ‘oil’, supporting the adoption of research, building capacity, fostering collaboration and enabling change. Both are intrinsically important in helping the industry to achieve its strategic outcomes.

Take a closer look at the gearbox.

Click on any part of the image – cogs or oil cans – to learn more about our five core programs. You’ll learn about the key themes under each program and the RD&E work we are investing in to help enhance the performance of the cotton industry. In 2017-18, we're investing $22.4 million in approximately 200 RD&E projects under these programs.

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 leads 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

The Smarter Irrigation for Profit project aims 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. It is a partnership between the major irrigation industries of cotton, dairy, rice and sugar, led by CRDC in conjunction with fellow RDCs Dairy Australia, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and Sugar Research Australia, plus other research partners. 

For more on this project click here, or contact project lead Guy Roth.

Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture

The Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture project aims 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 will design a solution for the use of big data in agriculture. 

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

For more on this project click here, or contact project lead Rohan Rainbow

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.

Cotton Futures Overview

The Australian cotton industry is internationally recognised as innovative, dynamic and hugely successful – due in part to the willingness of the industry to invest in world-class results and rapidly adopt the emerging science, innovations and technology. 

However, the environment in which the industry operates – be it at the farm, industry or international scale – is rapidly changing. Increased volatility in production, prices and climate, combined with rising input costs, shortages of skilled staff, cotton’s declining share of the global fibre market, greater consumer awareness and rapidly emerging technologies all suggest that the future for the industry is going to be increasingly complex and uncertain.

The challenge for the industry is to continue adapting to these changes and remain profitable, sustainable and competitive. 

As a result, a key aspect of CRDC’s research and development focus over the coming years is to invest in areas that ambitiously seek to transform the industry to ensure it is profitable, sustainable and competitive in 20 years time, and beyond. It’s an ambitious goal given that the future is unpredictable, so the challenge for CRDC is how and where to focus these investments. 

CRDC’s three futures themes - profitable futures, sustainable futures and competitive futures - have been included in the CRDC’s 2013-18 R&D Strategic Plan, providing a clear framework through which CRDC can invest in long-term innovations to address its goal. 

Of course, as with all ‘blue sky’ thinking, the sky really is the limit. The scope of research in which CRDC could invest in the future is extremely broad, so to assist the industry narrow this focus, a Futures Forum was held in late 2013 with 80 invited delegates from across the industry to help identify the areas of priority and possibility. 

The Forum’s focus aimed to challenge the assumptions about the way Australian cotton is produced and used; identify new ways in which cotton could be produced and used into the future; and identify the points along the supply chain where CRDC could focus its investment.

Profitable futures delivering innovations in cotton production to build the long-term profitability of cotton farmers.
Sustainable futures finding solutions for the challenges and opportunities that will impact on the future sustainability of cotton in Australia.
Competitive futures transforming the way in which customers demand Australian cotton products, and providing innovations which continue to make Australian cotton competitive. 

A broad range of priority areas were established as a result of the forum (outlined in detail in the Futures Forum Delegate Report), giving CRDC some clear guidance as to where potential investments may now lie.

Following this, in late 2014, CRDC again held a series of forums: bringing together experts from inside and outside the cotton industry to identify priortity areas for CRDC's Cotton Futures investment.

This report, Designing a future for Australian cotton, outlines these priorities: the top 18 blue-sky research concepts which have the potential to add $4 billion per annum to the gross value of Australian cotton production. These include including agri–intelligence systems, autonomous farming, atmospheric water resources, carbon neutral farming, alternative cotton gin trash uses, and dissolving cotton.

In 2015, CRDC commenced four feasibility studies into projects investigating supply chain optimisation, dissolving cotton, utilising cotton as a substrate for carbon fibre, and using cotton for 3D printing.

In addition, cotton futures projects commenced in July 2015 under the Rural R&D for Profit program and CRDC’s future farm collaboration with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). In total, CRDC has budgeted to invest $8.5 million in cotton futures research projects from 2014–15 to 2017–18.