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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 2016-17, Australia’s 1,250 cotton growers and the Australian Government will co-invest $20.4 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 25 years, $280 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 2016-17, CRDC is investing in approximately 200 R&D projects under the five core themes. The full list is available here: CRDC R&D Investments 2016-17

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 2016-17, we're investing $20.4 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 programme 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 programme:

  • 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, 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.