Cotton research and development corporation Annual Report 2016-2017

Investing in RD&E for the world-leading
Australian cotton industry

As part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, should you require access to view the Cotton Research and Development Corporations Annual Report 2016-17 in a different file format other than what is provided please contact CRDC on phone 02 67924088 or crdc@crdc.com.au and we will endeavour to meet your requirements.


© Cotton Research and Development Corporation 2017

ISSN: 1039 – 3544
ABN: 71 054 238 316

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC). Enquiries concerning reproduction and publishing rights should be addressed to the CRDC Executive Director.

Executive Director
Cotton Research and Development Corporation.
2 Lloyd Street (PO Box 282)
Narrabri NSW 2390
Australia

Phone: 02 6792 4088
Fax: 02 6792 4400
Email:
crdc@crdc.com.au
Website: www.crdc.com.au

If you are interested in learning more about CRDC and its investments visit the CRDC website www.crdc.com.au or subscribe to our quarterly magazine, Spotlight.

All photos and images in this report were sourced principally from CRDC, project researchers or research institutions.

Front cover photo: CRDC-supported Young Farming Champion Jess Lehmann, renowned cotton industry researcher Dr Robert Mensah, and cotton grower Vic Melbourne on farm at Narrabri, NSW.

Photo: Shanna K Whan.

Published: November 2017

 


 

CRDC Annual Report 2016-17

Investing in RD&E for the world leading Australian cotton industry

 


Introduction

About CRDC

The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) has been delivering outcomes in cotton research, development and extension (RD&E) on behalf of Australia’s cotton growers and the Australian Government for 26 years.

Established in October 1990 and operating under the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989 (PIRD Act), CRDC exists to enhance the performance of the Australian cotton industry through investment in, and delivery of, cotton RD&E. CRDC is based in Narrabri, NSW: the heart of one of Australia’s major cotton-growing regions and home to the Australian Cotton Research Institute.

Cotton is a major contributor to the economic, environmental and social fabric of rural Australia. Predominately grown in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD), with expansion into Victoria (VIC) and commercial trials in the Northern Territory (NT), cotton is a major employer and contributor to the local, state and national economy. The industry’s national exports generate an average of $1.9 billion in annual revenue.

CRDC’s role is to invest in RD&E on behalf of cotton growers and the government, with the outcomes boosting the productivity and profitability of our industry. RD&E, and its resulting innovations, are a key driving force behind the cotton industry’s continued success.

In 2016-17, CRDC invested $24.1 million into 350 RD&E projects in collaboration with 122 research partners and growers who conducted on-farm trials, across five key program areas: farmers, industry, customers, people and performance.

The findings from these research projects continue to be extended through a range of methods, including the industry’s joint extension program CottonInfo. The adoption of best management practices is also encouraged via the industry program myBMP. CRDC is a founding partner of both programs.

These investments achieved real impact for cotton growers, the industry and the wider community during 2016-17 – as detailed within this report.

Vision: A globally competitive and responsible cotton industry.

Mission: To invest in RD&E for the world-leading Australian cotton industry.

Purpose: Enhancing the performance of the Australian cotton industry and community through investing in research and development, and its application.

About the Australian Cotton Industry

The Australian cotton industry is an Australian agricultural success story. A culture of innovation within the industry, supported by and embracing RD&E, has been a major contributor to this success.

Australian cotton is the highest yielding, finest, cleanest and greenest cotton in the world. On a global scale, Australia is not a large cotton producer: accounting for only around three per cent of the global crop. Yet Australia is one of the largest exporters of cotton, with nearly 100 per cent of the national crop exported. Cotton is Australia’s fifth most valuable agricultural export commodity, generating an average of $1.9 billion in export revenue annually.

Cotton is a major contributor to rural Australia. It is currently the major agricultural crop grown in many rural regions of NSW and QLD, with some cotton also grown in VIC and commercial trials in the NT. The industry generates significant wealth and provides an economic foundation to these regions and their communities, employing some 10,000 people.

New cotton varieties, new farming technologies, favourable weather and market conditions, and support from RD&E have facilitated recent growth in the cotton industry, with greater uptake in dryland cotton, an expansion in southern cotton-growing regions, and an extended season for northern growers.

RD&E plays a critical role in this. The impact of some RD&E for the Australian cotton industry is easy to see and measure: Australia’s world-leading cotton yields and quality, efficiency gains in water use and reductions in pesticide use, for example. Yet arguably, cotton production would not have been possible for the last 20 years if it wasn’t for RD&E and the industry’s commitment to improving its practices for controlling insects, and managing diseases such as Fusarium wilt.

Cotton is, and long has been, an industry that recognises changing societal expectations and responds accordingly. The introduction of the industry’s best management practice program myBMP, the uptake of biotechnology to help reduce pesticide use, and the implementation of the industry’s environmental assessment and resulting commitment to ongoing sustainability reporting, are all examples of the cotton industry recognising the need for change, and working with the RD&E system to enact it.

With the culture of innovation, and a commitment to continuous improvement in on-farm practices, Australian cotton growers have become world-leaders in resource efficiency, working to optimise resources while reducing their environmental footprint.

Letter of Transmittal

2 Lloyd Street (PO Box 282)
NARRABRI NSW 2390
Tel: 02 6792 4088
Fax: 02 6792 4400

13 October 2017

The Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister

It is with great pleasure that I submit the Corporation’s Annual Report for 2016-17, prepared in accordance with the provisions of section 28 of the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989, section 46 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (PGPA) Act 2013, and the Funding Agreement 2015-2019.

The activities of the Corporation are reported against the objectives, strategies, outputs and outcomes of the CRDC Strategic Research and Development Plan 2013-18, and are consistent with CRDC’s 2016-17 Annual Operational Plan and Portfolio Budget Statement.

Under section 46 of the PGPA Act, CRDC Directors are responsible for the preparation and content of the Annual Report being made in accordance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014. The report of operations was approved by a resolution of the Directors on 26 September 2017.

Yours sincerely

Richard Haire
Chair
Cotton Research and Development Corporation


Contents

Introduction................................................................................................................................. 4

About CRDC......................................................................................................................... 4

About the Australian Cotton Industry................................................................................... 5

Letter of Transmittal..................................................................................................................... 6

Section 1: Executive Summary.................................................................................................... 9

Report from the Chair and Executive Director....................................................................... 9

Progress against CRDC Strategic R&D Plan 2013–18.............................................................. 11

Year in Review: CRDC RD&E Achievements......................................................................... 13

Year in Review: Organisational Highlights............................................................................ 17

2016-17 Investment and Impact......................................................................................... 21

Section 2: CRDC Business............................................................................................................. 23

CRDC Role.......................................................................................................................... 23

CRDC Operations............................................................................................................... 25

Setting the Research Priorities............................................................................................ 30

Cooperation and Collaboration........................................................................................... 34

Section 3: Corporate Operations.................................................................................................. 37

Business Financials............................................................................................................. 37

Our Investments in RD&E................................................................................................... 42

Investments against Government Priorities........................................................................ 44

Section 4: RD&E Portfolio............................................................................................................ 46

Program 1: Farmers............................................................................................................ 46

Program 2: Industry........................................................................................................... 63

Program 3: Customers........................................................................................................ 75

Program 4: People............................................................................................................. 84

Program 5: Performance.................................................................................................... 99

Section 5: CRDC People and Governance................................................................................... 105

CRDC Board...................................................................................................................... 105

CRDC Employees.............................................................................................................. 117

Governance and Accountability........................................................................................ 120

Selection Committee Report............................................................................................ 130

Section 6: Financials.................................................................................................................. 133

Independent Auditor's Report.......................................................................................... 134

Statement by the Accountable Authority, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer.... 137

Section 7: Appendices............................................................................................................... 138

Appendix 1: Annual Performance Statement.................................................................... 138

Appendix 2: Australian Government Priorities................................................................... 166

Appendix 3: Environmental Performance.......................................................................... 174

Appendix 4: RD&E Portfolio.............................................................................................. 175

Appendix 5: Glossary and Acronyms................................................................................. 213

Appendix 6: Annual Reporting Requirements.................................................................... 222

Appendix 7: Index............................................................................................................ 225

 


Section 1: Executive Summary

Report from the Chair and Executive Director

CRDC strategically invests in RD&E in five core priority areas – farmers, industry, customers, people, and performance – to help deliver productivity and profitability gains to growers and the wider cotton industry. Our overall aim is to enhance the industry through innovation: to drive forward our profitability, competitiveness and sustainability.

CRDC continued to deliver real impact for cotton growers through our RD&E investments in 2016-17.

Our early season planting research with the QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) in QLD’s Central Highlands – which aimed to help cotton growers in this region overcome climate challenges by changing their cotton season – was put to the commercial test this year, with great success. As a result, it is anticipated that some 80 per cent of growers in the Central Highlands region will utilise the early-planting research outcomes to plant in August for the 2017-18 season. An impact analysis, commissioned by QDAF, found that the benefit-cost ratio of the project is approximately 17.1 to 1 – that is, a $17.10 benefit to Central QLD growers for every $1 invested by growers and the Government through CRDC into this RD&E.

Another impact assessment conducted during 2016-17 – into two of CRDC’s core investment areas, the efficient use of water and optimising crop nutrition RD&E – found that these investments have delivered major economic benefits to cotton growers.

CRDC’s investment of $4.9 million of grower and Australian Government funds into six water-use efficiency projects from 2010 to 2015 provided a return benefit of $40.62 million to cotton growers. That’s a benefit-cost ratio of 8.29 to 1, or $8.29 in benefit for every $1 invested. Similarly, CRDC’s investment of $11.32 million into nine nutrition research projects from 2008 to 2016 returned a benefit of $61.15 million to growers – a benefit-cost ratio of 5.4 to 1, or $5.40 in benefit for every $1 invested.

In addition, one CRDC-supported innovation was commercialised in 2016-17 – Sero X – a cutting-edge biopesticide for growers that has been registered for use by Innovate Ag. The commercialisation of this product follows a 10-year study by Dr Robert Mensah of NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), with support from the former Cotton CRC and CRDC, and significant further investment, research and product development by Innovate Ag.

These technologies and projects are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to CRDC’s investments. In 2016-17, we invested $24.1 million into cotton RD&E across 350 projects – 350 projects designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness, productivity and profitability of cotton growers and the Australian cotton industry.

This cannot be achieved by CRDC action alone. In 2016-17, we collaborated with 122 research partners to deliver these RD&E projects. These partners in turn have worked with hundreds of growers in on-farm trials. Over 300 growers – some 35 per cent of the industry – have hosted an on-farm trial, contributing an average of 19 hours and $5500 towards its success.

CRDC has also worked closely with growers, Cotton Australia, the Australian Government, and other collaborative partners within the industry to identify research priorities, to shape projects and ultimately, to invest in ground-breaking RD&E for our world-leading Australian cotton industry. We thank all who have contributed to this process.

2016-17 marked the penultimate year for CRDC under the current CRDC Strategic R&D Plan 2013-18. In 2018, a new plan will come into effect, guiding our investments for five years to 2023.

Consultation with key stakeholders on critical elements of this plan began in 2016-17, and will continue in 2017-18, to help inform the plan’s development.

With one year remaining under the current plan, CRDC is progressing well towards the targets set for the organisation and the industry. This progress is outlined within this report, along with details on all of our investments in the 2016-17 year, and the resulting innovations and impacts.

On behalf of our fellow Directors, we invite you to read the CRDC Annual Report for 2016-17.

Richard Haire
CRDC Chair

Bruce Finney
CRDC Executive Director

Progress against CRDC Strategic R&D Plan 2013–18

CRDC’s RD&E investments are governed by the Strategic R&D Plan 2013-18, which outlines five key investment programs – farmers, industry, customers, people and performance. Each year, CRDC completes an analysis of performance against the Strategic Plan measures.

2016-17 marked CRDC’s fourth year of operation under the Strategic Plan. The table below shows CRDC achievements and progress against the Strategic Plan programs as of 30 June 2017. Progress is measured through the CRDC monitoring and evaluation framework. Each of the measures of success outlined in the Strategic Plan have corresponding metrics, against which performance is measured through annual quantitative and qualitative surveys.

The red, amber and green traffic light system is used in CRDC’s monitoring and evaluation to track overall performance against the CRDC Strategic Plan.

Farmers: Cotton is profitable and consistently farmers' crop of choice

Strategic Plan Measures

Result

Comments

Farmers increase productivity by 3 per cent per hectare per year

The specific measure has been achieved.

Estimated achievement of 3.1 per cent average growth in yield per hectare per annum since 2013. CSIRO attributes these yield increases to management and the interaction of management and genetics (52 per cent); and genetic improvements (48 per cent). CRDC invests predominately in the areas of management and the interaction of management and genetics. Data from CRDC’s monitoring and evaluation program has demonstrated a resulting increase in crop yield, resourceuse efficiencies, and profitability. CRDC continued to invest in this area in 2016-17, with a focus on driving productivity growth through RD&E in resource efficiencies and innovative solutions.

Industry: The Australian cotton industry is the global leader in sustainable agriculture

Strategic Plan Measures

Result

Comments

Industry can report against recognised sustainability indicators

The specific measure has been achieved.

The Australian cotton industry was the first agricultural industry in Australia to develop and document its performance against specific environmental, economic and social sustainability indicators. Developed in response to the industry’s Third Environmental Assessment, the 2014 Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report developed and benchmarked 45 key sustainability indicators for the Australian cotton industry. Other agricultural industries have since followed cotton’s lead, demonstrating an increased sustainability focus and encouraging collaboration. The cotton industry is committed to ongoing sustainability reporting, and CRDC continued to invest in this area in 2016-17, with a focus on enhancing the industry’s sustainability performance reporting ability.

Customers: The Australian cotton industry captures the full value of its products

Strategic Plan Measures

Result

Comments

Double the premium for Australian cotton

On target to deliver against the measure.

The Australian cotton industry receives a premium for its product – at times double the premium paid for cotton from other countries – however, competition with man-made fibres continues to exert downward pressure on the global market value for cotton. As a result, CRDC’s RD&E investments in 2016-17 have supported quality assurance practices to successfully sustain premiums, while investigating novel uses for cotton and disruptions to the supply chain to make cotton more competitive with man-made fibres.

People: Capable and connected people driving the cotton industry

Strategic Plan Measures

Result

Comments

A skilled, educated and progressive workforce

The specific measure has been achieved.

CRDC and Cotton Australia collaborated to deliver the industry’s first Workforce Development Strategy in 2015-16, and in 2016-17, the strategy resulted in $14.7 million in vocational training funding from the NSW Government being made available through Cotton Australia for NSW cotton and grains industries. In addition, in support of the strategy in 2016-17, CRDC continued to fund 10 leadership and development programs, run two scholarship programs for emerging researchers, run the Grassroots Grants program to encourage local innovation, and support the Australian Cotton Conference and the Association of Australian Cotton Scientists Research Conference as a foundation sponsor. Educational attainment in cotton is commensurate with regional Australia, with 28 per cent of the population possessing post-school qualifications, up from 24 per cent in 2006.

Performance: Measured performance of the Australian cotton industry and its RD&E drives continuous improvement

Strategic Plan Measures

Result

Comments

Measured performance of the Australian cotton industry and its RD&E drives continuous improvement

The specific measure has been achieved.

CRDC’s monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework enables ongoing performance reporting. In 2016-17, CRDC continued to measure its performance and that of the industry through M&E, including a survey of growers, a survey of consultants, an economic analysis of the industry’s performance, a longitudinal study of investments, and impact assessments of specific project clusters. One such assessment, of CRDC’s investment in early-planting research in Central QLD, found a benefit-cost ratio of approximately 17.1 to 1: hence $17.10 in benefit to Central QLD growers for every $1 invested by growers and the Government through CRDC into this RD&E. In addition, CRDC’s RD&E underpins the industry’s best management practices program, myBMP, with industry participation in the program now at 70 per cent.

Year in Review: CRDC RD&E Achievements

CRDC RD&E: delivering real impact for cotton growers

An impact assessment of CRDC’s investment in the efficient use of water and optimising crop nutrition RD&E, conducted in 2016-17, has found that these investments deliver major economic benefits to growers. The assessment found that CRDC’s investment of $4.90 million on behalf of cotton growers and the Australian Government into six water-use efficiency projects from 2010-15 returned a benefit of $40.62 million to cotton growers, a benefit-cost ratio of 8.29 to 1. In addition, CRDC’s investment of $11.32 million of grower and Government funds into nine nutrition research projects from 2008-16 returned a benefit of $61.15 million to growers, or 5.4 to 1. The assessment is part of a series of qualitative and quantitative impact assessments of CRDC’s RD&E investments into important project clusters.

CRDC’s early- planting research makes major impact in Central Queensland

CRDC-supported research examining how to help Queensland’s Central Highlands cotton growers overcome climate challenges was put into practice commercially in 2016-17, with great success. The project, which started in the 2013-14 season, identified that a key tactic may be to plant considerably earlier than the traditional planting window in an effort to pull the boll-filling period forward into spring and early summer when weather conditions are at their most reliable. With the wider planting window afforded by Bollgard 3®, for the first time in 2016-17, growers were able to put the research to the test and plant commercial areas during August. As a result of the promising results from these commercial trials, it is anticipated that some 80 per cent of growers in the Central Highlands region will use the early-planting research outcomes to plant in August for the 2017-18 season. An impact analysis, commissioned by QDAF, found that the total investment into the project was $1.18 million, and the value of total economic benefits back to growers and the industry was $20.24 million – a benefit-cost ratio of approximately 17.1 to 1.

CRDC drives research outcomes across three major collaborative projects

CRDC is leading three major projects under the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit programme: Smarter irrigation for profit, More profit from nitrogen, and Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture. Together, these projects and their 29 sub-projects are making major gains across the research fields of irrigation, nutrition, and big data. The Smarter irrigation for profit project is delivering thousands of dollars in savings to cross-sectoral growers per year through measuring performance and improving the efficiency of irrigation systems; More profit from nitrogen is improving nitrogen-use efficiency, which will ultimately increase growers’ profitability; and Accelerating precision agriculture is removing barriers for growers, enabling them to capitalise on the full benefit of digital agriculture. Importantly, the Accelerating precision agriculture project is also delivering the first fully cross-sectoral collaborative research project, with all 15 rural research and development corporations (RDCs) partnering in the program.

World’s best science the basis of the Bollgard 3® Resistance Management Plan

The Australian cotton industry moved into the Bollgard 3® era in 2016-17, with the approval of the Bollgard 3® Resistance Management Plan (RMP) by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority – a result of many years of collaborative research between CRDC, Cotton Australia and Monsanto. Industry contribution and consultation is a key part of the regulatory process in Australia for developing RMPs for products containing biotechnology. CRDC and industry play a critical role in providing and reviewing local and international research to assess resistance risks and mitigation strategies.

CRDC-supported innovation commercialised in 2016-17

CRDC-supported innovation was commercialised in 2016-17: Sero X, a cutting-edge biopesticide. This world-first product was registered for use by Innovate Ag, and comes after a 10-year study lead by Dr Robert Mensah of NSW DPI, with support from the former Cotton CRC and CRDC. Significant further investment, research and product development was then undertaken by Innovate Ag. Sero X was developed for the control of Helicoverpa spp. and sucking pests (mirids, aphids, whitefly and small nymphs of green vegetable bugs) in conventional and Bt cotton crops. A feature of this product is that it employs three modes of action, so there is a low risk of insects building resistance to it.

Helping dryland growers maximise opportunities

A CRDC-supported project is helping identify and deliver benefits for dryland growers from Bollgard 3® and the new RMP. The project, which commenced in 2016-17, specifically targets the challenges and opportunities for dryland cotton production systems, to help growers maximise their opportunities. This is an exploratory RD&E project, developed in specific response to priorities identified by dryland cotton growers.

Research ramping up in the South

A newly created research role in southern NSW, supported by CRDC, aims to address issues faced by southern growers, particularly around germination and emergence. The role, based with NSW DPI at the Yanco Agricultural Institute, has been filled by grower-turned-researcher Steve Buster. Since starting in February 2017, Steve has been meeting with growers and consultants and has developed a number of potential experiments around sowing dates, temperatures, bed/hill formations and field geometry to meet the needs of both current and emerging cotton growers in the areas around Hillston, Condobolin, Griffith, Coleambally and Berrigan.

A long-term rotation trial to research a variety of issues, including disease, yield, trash management and the efficient use of water, both in a commercial setting and at the Yanco research station, is planned.

Helping growers to manage pest pressure while achieving high yields

Seasonal conditions in the lead up to and during the 2016-17 season resulted in high pest pressure for cotton growers. This pressure, combined with industry concerns regarding increasing insect resistance, saw CRDC, CottonInfo and key CRDC-supported industry researchers join forces to deliver an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) workshop series. It took key IPM RD&E to 130 growers and consultants across five valleys. The workshops delivered two key messages to attendees: IPM plays an essential role in helping to avoid insecticide resistance, and high-yielding cotton can be achieved using IPM. The workshop series is being reinforced by an IPM short course during 2017-18, the planning for which commenced in 2016-17.

Improving cotton’s disease management capacity

CRDC’s annual disease surveys project was completely reviewed in 2016-17 to improve impact and outcomes for growers. The core aim of the surveys remains the same – to ascertain the type and level of diseases present in cotton fields across NSW and QLD, as well as detect exotic diseases. A major change is that separate surveys previously undertaken by NSW DPI and QDAF pathology have now been combined within one project – ensuring greater collaboration and more strategic use of the resulting data. The new project also uses geospatial digital agricultural analysis to make better use of the data collected for identifying and testing best practice and providing links between soil characteristics, yield and disease. In addition, it engages CottonInfo regional extension officers in the pathology surveys to broaden monitoring capability and ensure the pathologists are aware of, and can quickly engage with, emerging issues.

Keeping cotton farms ahead of weed evolution

Minimising the impact of herbicide-resistant weeds remains a major focus for CRDC and cotton growers. In 2016-17, a CRDC-supported project has delivered a practical tool for growers, helping them to implement the recommended Herbicide Resistance Management Strategy (HRMS). This tool – the BarnYard Grass Understanding and Management (BYGUM) model – is delivered in partnership with CottonInfo, and is available to download from the CottonInfo website. In addition, a series of 16 workshops and masterclasses have delivered information about the impact of increasing levels of glyphosate resistance, and the strategies to delay or manage its onset, to 327 growers and consultants this year.

Predicting spray drift hazards through a hazard forecast system

A new three-year collaborative cotton and grains project, supported by CRDC and GRDC, is developing a spray hazard forecast system to minimise the damage caused by chemical spray drift. The project is a direct result of the extensive damage to cotton from phenoxy herbicides during the 2015-16 season. The project recognises that it is difficult for both growers and regulators to know when an inversion is present or is likely to form, and hence it is also difficult to know when the restriction of chemical use should apply. As such, the project is particularly focused on understanding surface temperature inversions in cotton/grain landscapes, including a more detailed understanding of when they are present. Ultimately, the project aims to provide notification of a surface temperature inversion that might result in a long-distance drift, out to 36 hours ahead, as well as real-time updates for operators of spray application machinery.

Establishing the shelf life of round modules

A CRDC-supported research project has found that round module storage has a small but detectable influence on the yellowness and elongation of cotton fibre. The project, which investigated the effect of the plastic polyethylene film used to wrap round cotton modules on moisture, heat retention and cotton fibre quality, concluded in 2016-17. The project delivered important information to growers on best practice storage for round modules, finding that the industry guidelines for traditional modules in regard to moisture content at picking, and module storage conditions, were also applicable to round modules.

Improving our ability to report cotton’s sustainability performance

The cotton industry is committed to ongoing sustainability reporting, and CRDC continued to invest in this area in 2016-17, with a CRDC-supported project to enhance the industry’s sustainability performance reporting ability. The project is developing a sustainability repository that can be used by the industry for different sustainability reporting needs, as well as visualisation tools that can be used to communicate the results to stakeholders, helping the industry to demonstrate its global leadership in the area of sustainability reporting.

Encouraging future leaders

CRDC invested in four leadership programs during 2016-17, designed to build a network of informed and experienced leaders. Two emerging industry leaders, Matt Bradd and Meagan Laidlaw, participated in the Australian Rural Leadership Program during 2016-17; two cotton growers, Matthew McVeigh and Tom Quigley, completed their Nuffield Scholarships, while a third, Daniel Kahl, commenced his with support from CRDC and Cotton Australia; two industry representatives, Zara Lowien and Tim Napier, participated in the Peter Cullen Trust program; and CSIRO postdoctoral fellow, Dr Priscilla Johnston, was awarded the Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture.

New partnership with Young Farming Champions education initiative

In 2016-17, CRDC formed a new partnership with Art4Agriculture for the Young Farming Champions program, which aims to identify youth ambassadors and future influencers working within cotton. The Young Farming Champions promote positive images and perceptions of farming, and engage in activities within schools, including the Archibull Prize. Through this partnership, CRDC is supporting two cotton Young Farming Champions, cotton researcher Jess Lehmann and agricultural science student Nellie Evans.

Investing in grower-led grassroots research

CRDC’s Grassroots Grants program encourages Cotton Grower Associations to apply for funding to support capacity-building projects in their region. Up to $10,000 in funding is available for CGAs to help fund a project aimed at increasing the engagement of growers in the industry, solving specific regional issues and improving their skills, knowledge base and networks. Since the Grassroots Grants program commenced in 2011, CRDC has invested over $466,000 into 52 projects across the cotton-growing valleys, including eight projects in 2016-17.

Turning ideas into actions through start-up science

CRDC partnered with start-up science company Pollenizer to run two start-up science workshops, Rural.XO microhacks, in 2016-17, designed to encourage entrepreneurism in the cotton industry. Under the program, cotton industry innovators were invited to participate in the workshops in Sydney in collaboration with CRDC’s fellow RDC, Fisheries RDC. CRDC sponsored 20 cotton industry participants, from growers to researchers, to attend, with the best ideas emerging from the workshops having the opportunity to be incubated into start-up businesses through the follow-up program, the Cotton-X bridging program, which commenced in June 2017.

Year in Review: Organisational Highlights

Strong support for, and involvement in, CRDC RD&E by cotton growers

The 2015-16 Cotton Growing Practices Survey, published in July 2016, sought feedback from growers about their perceptions of CRDC and support for our RD&E investments. The survey found that 99.6 per cent of growers are aware of CRDC, 88 per cent of growers are supportive of CRDC’s research and investments, and 74 per cent of growers have input into CRDC about research. The 2016 Cotton Growing Practices Survey, published in May 2017, sought feedback from growers on their involvement in cotton industry research trials. It found that 35 per cent of growers had hosted a research trial on their farm in the previous season, with growers contributing an average of 19 hours and $5500 towards their on-farm trials. The 2017 survey, which commenced in June 2017 and will report in 2017-18, marks 20 years since the first surveys of Australian cotton growers’ management practices and attitudes were undertaken by CRDC.

Stakeholder survey shows partner satisfaction

In addition to the annual grower survey, CRDC also commissioned a stakeholder survey in 2016-17, to gauge the strength of the partnership with key stakeholders, including government, industry and research bodies. The survey results showed a strong level of satisfaction, with 82 per cent of key stakeholders indicating overall satisfaction; 82 per cent indicating satisfaction with CRDC’s engagement; and 87 per cent indicating CRDC is an organisation they can trust. CRDC will be repeating the survey with key stakeholders on an ongoing basis, to ensure continuous monitoring of, and improvement in, relationships with partners.

New Chair to lead CRDC’s innovation in cotton RD&E

Richard Haire was appointed Chair of CRDC in August 2016, following the conclusion of Dr Mary Corbett’s tenure in the role. Mr Haire has held many leadership positions within the cotton industry, including Managing Director and regional head of Olam International, and Chief Executive of Queensland Cotton Corporation Pty Ltd. Mr Haire had previously served as a Director on the CRDC Board from 2011 to 2014.

CRDC Directors visit growers in the Namoi, Central Highlands and Macquarie Valleys

Over the course of the 2016-17 year, the CRDC Board visited three cotton-growing valleys, with meetings held in Narrabri, Theodore and Warren. The Board meetings also incorporated on-farm tours to meet with local growers, view the implementation of CRDC-supported research, and discuss research priorities in response to local needs. The on-farm tours and in-valley meetings ensure that CRDC remains aware of, and responsive to, the RD&E needs of the cotton industry.

Third annual Research Priority Forum identifies cotton RD&E priorities

CRDC hosted its third annual Research Priority Forum in Brisbane in May 2017, bringing together cotton growers and industry supply chain members on Cotton Australia’s research advisory panels to help determine the industry’s future research priorities. The Forum is part of CRDC’s procurement process, which was revised in 2015-16 to improve efficiency, streamline the RD&E investment process and provide greater clarity to researchers.

Development of CRDC’s next five-year Strategic Plan begins

CRDC’s current Strategic R&D Plan will conclude in June 2018, and as such, work has commenced during 2016-17 on the development of the new five-year Strategic Plan, which will guide CRDC’s investments from 2018 to 2023. The Strategic Plan is CRDC’s key planning document; it sets the direction for the organisation’s operation and investments in cotton RD&E over the five years, enabling the industry to achieve its long-term vision, and Government to achieve its strategic RD&E priorities. As such, the plan is developed in close consultation with key stakeholders, including cotton growers, Cotton Australia, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, and his Department.

Collaboration: a key to cotton RD&E

CRDC works in partnership with other industry bodies and other rural research and development corporations (RDCs) to achieve strategic outcomes for the industry, and to leverage higher returns for our investments. This underpins our investment strategy, with CRDC partnering in over 80 per cent of RD&E projects conducted in the cotton sector. As of 2016-17, 40 per cent of CRDC investments are in cross-sectoral RD&E, up from 25 per cent in 2015-16. The collaboration extends from national to cotton industry-specific and local initiatives – from national cross-sectorial partnerships on water and soils; to the industry-specific extension joint venture, CottonInfo; and at the local level, partnerships with Cotton Grower Associations on CRDC Grassroots Grants.

International research collaboration

Australia is well recognised as a global leader in cotton RD&E and, in addition to building strong partnerships and collaborations with Australian research partners, CRDC also builds mutually beneficial relationships abroad. In 2016-17, CRDC hosted a visit by Cotton Incorporated, the US cotton research, development and marketing organisation, to further discussions regarding RD&E collaboration. There are currently four joint CRDC and Cotton Incorporated projects underway. In addition, CRDC representatives attended the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) Social Environmental and Economic Performance of Cotton (SEEP) Conference; the Better Cotton Initiative Conference; and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition Annual General Meeting.

CRDC RD&E showcased at industry events

CRDC-supported RD&E projects were showcased at the major industry event, the 18th Australian Cotton Conference, in August 2016. In all, 52 per cent of speakers on the conference agenda were supported by CRDC, with 75 per cent of presentations about research featuring CRDC-supported researchers. CRDC is continuing its support for other major industry events, the grower-focused Cotton Collective, and the researcher-focused Association of Australian Cotton Scientists’ Australian Cotton Research Conference, in 2017-18, the planning for which began in 2016-17.

Cotton Futures: investing in blue-sky, transformational cotton RD&E

Cotton Futures provides a clear framework for CRDC to invest in long-term, transformational innovations to ensure the industry remains profitable, sustainable and competitive in the future. In 2016-17, CRDC invested in 25 innovative blue-sky projects under the three Cotton Futures themes: Profitable futures (Farmers program); Sustainable futures (Industry program); and Competitive futures (Customers program). These projects include new or ongoing research into precision to decision agriculture, agri-intelligence, industry resilience, developing chemicals from cotton biomass, and creating nanofibrous coatings for cotton fabrics.

CottonInfo: continuation of program to connect growers with CRDC-led R&D

2016-17 marked four years of the industry’s joint extension program, CottonInfo, supported by CRDC, Cotton Australia and CSD Ltd. It also marked the formal announcement of the continuation of the program to 2021, which took place at the Australian Cotton Conference in August 2016. Studies conducted in 2016-17 have shown that 90 per cent of growers and 98 per cent of consultants are aware of CottonInfo; 86 per cent of growers and 87 per cent of consultants source information from CottonInfo; and 86 per cent of growers and 100 per cent of consultants believe CottonInfo has helped to improve practices. Three new CottonInfo Technical Specialists were appointed in 2016-17, in the areas of irrigation, nutrition, and weed management.

Deputy Prime Minister launches People in Agriculture site with CRDC

People in Agriculture is a new resource for both employers and employees working in agriculture. CRDC is among one of six agricultural bodies that partnered to invest in the development of the People in Agriculture website. The site was launched in December 2016 by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, and CRDC Chair Richard Haire, along with representatives of the other partners: GRDC, APL, Dairy Australia, MLA, and Food and Agribusiness Solutions. The website will serve as an important repository for human resource management information.

Cotton’s first Workforce Development Strategy underpins training funds for cotton growers

CRDC and Cotton Australia collaborated to deliver the industry’s first Workforce Development Strategy in 2015-16, and in 2016-17, the strategy resulted in $14.7 million in vocational training funding from the NSW Government being made available through Cotton Australia for NSW cotton and grains industries. The funding will enable cotton and grains industry on-farm staff and industry personnel to undertake full and part qualifications over three years, as part of the AgSkilled program. The Workforce Development Strategy aims to ensure that the Australian cotton industry is able to attract, retain and develop people to drive the industry’s competitiveness.

CRDC-supported scientist talks NRM with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister

In December 2016, CRDC-supported scientist and cotton industry researcher Dr Rhiannon Smith discussed her CRDC project with the Australian Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, and Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, during a visit to the University of New England (UNE). Dr Smith is a research fellow and lecturer in the School of Environmental and Rural Science at UNE, and discussed her focus – biodiversity, landscapes and ecosystem stewardship – with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Turnbull, Mr Joyce and Dr Smith discussed research done under Dr Smith’s CRDC-supported project into carbon sequestration by river red gums, including the technology she uses to measure the health of trees, how much water trees use each day, and how that translates into production.

CRDC supports young cotton leaders at GrowAg

CRDC supported three people to attend the GrowAg Summit – grower Aaron Kiely, consultant Reinder Prins, and CRDC-supporter researcher Nicole McDonald – a gathering of a hundred of the brightest young people working in Australian agriculture, hosted by CRDC’s fellow RDC, RIRDC. The forum was focused on new technologies, new ideas, smart business, leadership and innovation. It highlighted that a potential major disruptor for the cotton industry was big data, with the CRDC-supported Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture project featuring at the event.

2016-17 Investment and Impact

The Australian cotton industry in 2016-17:

·         500,000 hectares – planted into irrigated and dryland cotton, the largest crop in five years.

·         4.2 million bales – produced by the Australian cotton industry

·         $2.48 billion – gross value of cotton production

·         $3159 per hectare profit – the indicative average profit achieved by the top 20 per cent of cotton growers.

 

CRDC’s investment in 2016-17:

·         $24.1 million – CRDC’s investment in cotton RD&E on behalf of cotton growers and the Australian Government

·         350 – RD&E projects

·         122 – research partners

·         5 – key program areas: farmers, industry, customers, people and performance

 

CRDC’s impact in 2016-17:

·         3.1 per cent average growth in yield per hectare – the estimated increase in productivity each year since 2013. CRDC’s goal is 3 per cent per hectare per annum.

·         17.1:1 – the benefit-cost ratio of CRDC’s early-planting research in the QLD Central Highlands: $17.10 in benefit to growers for every $1 invested by growers and the Government through CRDC into this RD&E.

·         8.29:1 – the benefit-cost ratio of CRDC’s investment in water-use efficiency RD&E: $8.29 in benefit to growers for every $1 invested by growers and the Government through CRDC into this RD&E.

·         5.4:1 – the benefit-cost ratio of CRDC’s investment in nutrition RD&E: $5.40 in benefit to growers for every $1 invested by growers and the Government through CRDC into this RD&E.

·         99.6 per cent – the number of cotton growers who are aware of CRDC. 88 per cent of growers are supportive of our RD&E investments, and 74 per cent have had input into our RD&E.

·         35 per cent – the number of growers who hosted a research trial on their farm in 2015-16. These growers contributed an average of 19 hours and $5500 towards these trials.

·         40 per cent – the percentage of CRDC research that is in cross-sectoral RD&E.

·         3 major collaborative projects – driven by CRDC under the Rural R&D for Profit programme: Smarter irrigation for profit, More profit from nitrogen, and Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture. Accelerating precision agriculture is the first fully cross-sectoral collaborative research project, involving all 15 RDCs.

·         1 CRDC-supported innovation commercialised: Sero X.

·         2 research projects – to specifically address needs of dryland growers and those in southern NSW.

·         A research collaboration with GRDC to specifically address the issue of spray drift by better understanding – and reporting – surface temperature inversions.

·         New partnerships with start-up companies Pollenizer and X.Lab to encourage cotton industry disruptors and entrepreneurs.

·         BYGUM – the BarnYard Grass Understanding and Management (BYGUM) model: a new tool for growers to help minimise the impact of herbicide-resistant weeds.

·         100 per cent – of those who provided feedback at the CRDC, CottonInfo and ICAN regional weed management workshops said the information learned would help with decisions in the field.

·         93 per cent – of participants in the 2016 Smarter Irrigation Technology Tour said they would do something differently on their farm as a result of the tour.

·         75 per cent – of participants in the 2016 CRDC-CottonInfo IPM workshop series reported higher levels of confidence about growing high-yielding crops using IPM after the workshop. 80 per cent recorded higher levels of confidence in their ability to conserve beneficial insects.

·         $14.7 million – the amount of vocational training funds allocated by the NSW Government to the NSW cotton and grains industries through Cotton Australia, underpinned by the industry’s first Workforce Development Strategy developed by CRDC and Cotton Australia.

·         52 per cent – of presenters at the 18th Cotton Conference in 2016 represented CRDC’s investments in RD&E. 

·         86 per cent of growers and 100 per cent of consultants – believe CottonInfo has helped to improve practices.

·         70 per cent of growers – estimated to now be participating in myBMP.

 

Section 2: CRDC Business

CRDC Role

CRDC's role is to invest in and manage a portfolio of RD&E projects on behalf of cotton growers and the Australian Government. These investments are designed to enhance the environmental, social and economic contribution of cotton, for the benefit of cotton growers, the wider cotton industry, regional communities and the Australian public.

CRDC is co-funded through an industry levy and matching Commonwealth contributions. In 2016­17, CRDC invested $24.1 million in RD&E into 350 projects on behalf of Australia's cotton growers and the Government.

CRDC's corporate outcome is the adoption of innovation that leads to increased productivity, competitiveness and environmental sustainability through investment in research and development that benefits the Australian cotton industry and the wider community.

CRDC has four key stakeholders: the Australian Government, through the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources; the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources; the cotton industry's representative organisation, Cotton Australia; and cotton growers, including Cotton Grower Associations.

CRDC recognises that collaboration is essential to the delivery of RD&E outcomes. As such, CRDC partners with researchers, research organisations and growers to deliver RD&E projects, and most importantly, outcomes.

In 2016-17, CRDC partnered with 122 research partners, including the following:

·                Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

·                Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD)

·                Department of Primary Industries (NSW)

·                Other state government departments

·                CSIRO

·                Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs)

·                Cotton Grower Associations

·                Cotton Innovation Network

·                Cotton Seed Distributors Ltd

·                Crop Consultants Australia

·                Australian Association of Cotton Scientists

·                Australian Farm Institute

·                Australian Rural Leadership Foundation

·                Other Rural Research and Development Corporations

·                Universities

·                Agribusinesses

·                Supply chain and trade partners

·                International partners, including Cotton Incorporated

·                Specialised consultants.

Cotton growers across all valleys directly contribute to RD&E through conducting on-farm trials: a critical component of the RD&E process. In addition to their financial contribution through direct on-farm costs and opportunity costs, growers also provide their time, knowledge and expertise to research trials.

CRDC Operations

Investing in cotton RD&E

CRDC's investment in cotton RD&E is guided by a five-year Strategic Plan: the CRDC Strategic R&D Plan 2013-2018. This plan is designed to help the industry achieve its long-term vision, and to meet the industry and Australian Government's rural research and development (R&D) priorities.

The plan has a strong focus on improving the industry's profitability, sustainability and competitiveness. It recognises the critical importance of knowledge sharing and strong relationships between cotton growers, the wider industry and its customers.

Core programs

CRDC has established five strategic outcomes to be achieved under the 2013-18 Strategic R&D Plan that informed the key focus areas for R&D investment in 2016-17:

·                Farmers: Cotton is profitable and consistently farmers' crop of choice.

·                Industry: The Australian cotton industry is the global leader in sustainable agriculture.

·                Customers: The Australian cotton industry captures the full value of its products.

·                People: Capable and connected people driving the cotton industry.

·                Performance: Measured performance of the Australian cotton industry and its RD&E drives continuous improvement.

The Strategic Plan investment priorities

VISION: A globally competitive and responsible cotton industry

MISSION: To invest in RD&E for the world-leading Australian cotton industry

OUTCOMES:

Farmers

Industry

Customers

People

Performance

Cotton is profitable and consistently farmers' crop of choice

The Australian cotton industry is the global leader in sustainable agriculture

The Australian cotton industry captures the full values of its products

Capable and connected people driving the cotton industry

Measured performance of the Australian cotton industry and its RD&E drives continuous improvement

STRATEGIES:

Successful Crop Protection

Respected Stewardship

Assured Cotton

Workforce Capacity

Best Practice

Cotton crops protected from pest, weed and disease threats

Industry protects its production technologies and its biosecurity

The integrity and qualities of Australian cotton set global benchmarks for customers

A skilled, educated and progressive industry workforce

World's best practice underpins the performance of the cotton industry

 

Productive Resource Efficiencies

Responsible Landscape Management

Differentiated Products

Networks

Monitoring and Evaluation

Inputs for cotton production are optimised

Industry leads in managing natural assets

Customers recognise the differentiated value of Australian cotton products

An industry connected by dynamic networks

Industry and RD&E performance is captured

 

Profitable Futures

Sustainable Futures

Competitive Futures

Communication

Reviews

Innovation in cotton production

An industry achieving its vision

The demand for Australian cotton product is positively transformed

Stakeholder information needs are met

Continuous improvement in industry and RD&E performance

By focusing on these five strategic priorities, CRDC will achieve its outcome of adoption of innovation that leads to increased productivity, competitiveness and environmental sustainability through investment in research and development that benefits the Australian cotton industry and the wider community.

Cotton Futures

The plan includes three futures themes: Profitable futures (farmers program), Sustainable futures (industry program), and Competitive futures (customers program). These themes provide a clear framework through which CRDC can invest in long-term innovations to address the industry's goal to remain profitable, sustainable and competitive in 20 years' time and beyond.

The futures themes ambitiously seek to transform the industry through blue-sky research. Following extensive engagement with the cotton industry, the wider supply chain and the industry's customers to identify priority areas for blue-sky R&D investment, CRDC published the Designing a Future for Australian Cotton report in late 2014.

This report prioritised the top 18 transformational research concepts, five of which were then further explored through feasibility studies within the Competitive futures program area: investigating supply chain optimisation, dissolving cotton, using cotton as a substrate for carbon fibre, using cotton for 3D printing, and developing renewable chemicals from cotton biomass.

In 2016-17, CRDC invested in 25 innovative blue-sky projects under the three Cotton Futures themes, 20 of which commenced during this year. The majority of these projects are delivered in collaboration with other Rural R&D Corporations (RDCs) as part of the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme, such as the CRDC-led Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture project.

Overall, CRDC has budgeted to invest $8.5 million in Cotton Futures research projects in 2013-18 across the three program areas. For more on the Cotton Futures investments, see Section 4: RD&E Portfolio.

Our investment process

The process of deciding where to invest CRDC's annual RD&E funding is a collaborative one, involving all major stakeholders. Each year, CRDC works closely with Cotton Australia 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, guided by the priorities established in the 2013-18 Strategic Plan.

In line with this plan, CRDC holds an annual research priority forum, bringing together the Cotton Australia research advisory panels to identify the gaps in the existing research portfolio and opportunities for new research. CRDC also holds a series of discipline forums with research partners, to identify any emerging research priorities.

From here, CRDC issues a targeted annual call for research proposals against these identified priorities. In determining which proposals are successful, CRDC again undertakes a process of consultation with growers, via the Cotton Australia panels. The final decision-making authority lies with the CRDC Board.

Successful proposals become contracted projects with CRDC, and are delivered by our research partners. Critically, CRDC's success in delivering RD&E outcomes to growers and the industry is contingent upon strong relationships with our research partners, who deliver projects on our behalf.

Communicating research outcomes and achieving practice change

CRDC is actively involved in the dissemination of R&D results, working through a range of mechanisms to promote research outcomes - principally supported by the industry's joint extension program, CottonInfo.

CottonInfo aims to ensure the effective communication of, and support for, the adoption of research results through engagement and collaboration. CRDC established the CottonInfo joint venture with partners Cotton Australia and Cotton Seed Distributors (CSD) Ltd in 2012.

The CottonInfo team aims to improve industry practice, improve R&D communication, and improve industry responsiveness. The team consists of regional extension officers (on-ground support, based in the cotton-growing valleys), technical specialists (specialists in specific research areas who provide a conduit to the wider cotton research community) and experts in the industry's best management practice program, myBMP (who can assist growers to sign up for, and participate in, myBMP, providing a critical link between research extension and best practice).

Within this venture, CRDC is responsible for resourcing program management, communication and technical specialists, whose role is to translate research findings and outcomes into best practice for industry uptake.

During 2016-17, CottonInfo engaged with growers, consultants and the wider industry at 145 events, with 2300 cotton industry personnel in attendance: 1200 growers and farm workers; 400 consultants; 300 agribusiness personnel; and 400 representing the wider industry, including supply chain, government, and natural resource management bodies. To date, CRDC-supported studies have found that 90 per cent of growers and 98 per cent of consultants are aware of CottonInfo; and that 86 per cent of growers and 100 per cent of consultants believe CottonInfo has helped to improve practices.

Measuring performance and ensuring efficiency

One of CRDC's formal principles of operation is to strive to maximise the return on investment for all industry and public funds invested through CRDC into RD&E. A variety of monitoring and evaluation projects are funded under CRDC's performance program, designed to ensure the impact of investment in RD&E can be captured and demonstrated.

One such evaluation - a CRDC analysis of a study by the Cotton Innovation Network - showed the CRDC accounted for 32 per cent of total cotton RD&E investments in Australia and was involved in over 80 per cent of all cotton RD&E. Overall, public and private RD&E investment in the cotton sector is in the order of $60 million annually - supporting an industry that generates an average of $1.9 billion per annum in export revenue and contributes to broader economic, environmental and social benefits.

As this evaluation shows, in order to achieve industry efficiency, CRDC works in collaboration with other cotton industry bodies and other RDCs to achieve strategic outcomes for the industry and to leverage higher returns for our investments. For more, see the Cooperation and Collaboration section of this report.

CRDC is also committed to continuous improvement in the efficiency of its operations. CRDC has invested in improved systems and infrastructure to ensure improvement in the organisation's productivity.

Developing the new CRDC Strategic R&D Plan

CRDC's 2013-18 Strategic R&D Plan will conclude in June 2018, and as such, work commenced during 2016-17 on the development of the new five-year Strategic Plan, which will guide CRDC's investments from 2018 to 2023. The Strategic Plan is CRDC's key planning document, setting the direction for the organisation's operation and investments in cotton RD&E over the five years, enabling the industry to achieve its long-term vision, and the Australian Government to achieve its strategic RD&E priorities. As such, the plan is developed in close consultation with key stakeholders, including cotton growers, Cotton Australia, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Setting the Research Priorities

CRDC works with the Australian cotton industry to determine the sector's key RD&E priorities; with the Australian Government to determine its overarching agricultural 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 2013-18 Strategic R&D Plan.

Industry accountability

CRDC is accountable to the cotton industry through its representative organisation, Cotton Australia. As the industry peak body, Cotton Australia is responsible for providing advice on industry research priorities.

CRDC engages with Cotton Australia in a formal process of consultation in the development and implementation of the Strategic R&D Plan, including R&D investments. This engagement ensures industry research priorities are regularly reviewed; emerging issues are actively considered; and facilitates the uptake of research in the form of best practices and the overall performance of the Australian industry.

Overarching cotton industry priorities for R&D:

·                Invest in the skills, strengths and occupational health and safety of the human resources in the cotton industry and its communities.

·                Improve the sustainability of the cotton industry and its catchments.

·                Improve the profitability of the cotton industry.

·                Create and support a strong, focused and committed research program.

In addition, at CRDC's May 2017 research priority forum, the Cotton Australia research advisory panels identified key areas of focus for future RD&E investment, including:

·                Tactics for management of priority weeds.

·                Management of cotton under stress from heat and humidity.

·                Improving IPM to manage silverleaf whitefly and mealybugs.

·                Understanding soil constraints.

·                A collaborative approach to spray drift and herbicide-resistance management, and understanding the social science behind adoption of best practice spray application.

·                Alternatives to pupae busting.

·                Alternative management strategies for healthy water systems and feasibility of managed aquifer recharge.

·                Decision support systems for irrigation.

·                Understanding the impact of weather, harvest and storage on cotton colour.

·                Understanding consumer perceptions of Australian cotton quality.

·                Developing international collaborations on differentiated products.

·                Building industry capacity: building Cotton Grower Association capacity, and understanding the impact of visa system changes.

Government accountability

CRDC is accountable to the Australian Government through the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Government communicates its expectations of CRDC through Ministerial direction, enunciation of policy, administration of the PIRD Act, and priorities (Science and Research Priorities and Rural RD&E Priorities). CRDC responds to government expectations through regular communication; compliance with the Funding Agreement, policy and legislated requirements; and the development of Strategic R&D Plans, Annual Operational Plans and Annual Reports.

Australian Government research priorities

The PIRD Act makes provision for funding and administration of primary industry research and development with a view to:

·                increasing the economic, environmental and social benefits to members of primary industries and to the community in general by improving the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of the products of primary industries;

·                achieving the sustainable use and sustainable management of natural resources;

·                making more effective use of the resources and skills of the community in general and the scientific community in particular;

·                supporting the development of scientific and technical capacity;

·                developing the adoptive capacity of primary producers; and

·                improving accountability for expenditure on research and development activities in relation to primary industries.

The Australian Government Science and Research Priorities and Rural RD&E Priorities are:

The Science and Research Priorities

Rural RD&E Priorities

Food

Soil and water

Transport

Cybersecurity

Energy

Resources

Advanced manufacturing

Environmental change

Health

Advanced technology

Biosecurity

Soil, water and managing natural resources

Adoption of R&D

National Primary Industries RD&E Framework and the Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy

The Australian, state and territory governments, rural R&D corporations, CSIRO, and universities have jointly developed the National Primary Industries Research, Development and Extension Framework to encourage greater collaboration and promote continuous improvement in the investment of RD&E resources nationally.

National research, development and extension strategies have been or are being developed for the following primary industry and cross-industry sectors:

·                cotton, beef, dairy, fisheries and aquaculture, forests, grains, horticulture, pork, poultry, sheep meat, sugar, wine, wool, and new and emerging industries;

·                animal biosecurity, animal welfare, biofuels and bioenergy, climate change and variability, food and nutrition, soils, plant biosecurity, and water use in agriculture.

CRDC, research organisations, industry and government are committed to the implementation of the Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy and its five research priorities:

·                Better plant varieties;

·                Improved farming systems;

·                People, business and community;

·                Product and market development;

·                Development and delivery.

CRDC provides the secretariat for the Cotton Innovation Network, which is responsible for implementing the Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy. CRDC is also committed to supporting the implementation of the cross-sectoral strategies, including climate change, soils, plant biosecurity, and water use.

Vision 2029: the industry's vision for a sustainable future

In addition to the above, the industry has also developed its own 20-year vision for the future that encompasses industry priorities around improved industry performance, collaboration and capacity. Developed in 2009, this Vision uses a 20-year timeframe to ensure a long-term focus.

Vision 2029: Australian cotton, carefully grown, naturally world's best

By 2029, the Australian cotton industry will be:

·                Differentiated - world-leading supplier of an elite-quality cotton that is highly sought in premium market segments.

·                Responsible - producer and supplier of the most environmentally and socially responsible cotton on the globe.

·                Tough - resilient and equipped for future challenges.

·                Successful - exciting new levels of performance that transform productivity and profitability of every sector of the industry.

·                Respected - an industry recognised and valued by the wider community for its contribution to fibre and food needs of the world.

·                Capable - an industry that retains, attracts and develops highly capable people.

The Vision 2029 elements were central to the development of the CRDC Strategic R&D Plan 2013-18, and continue to play a key role in guiding CRDC's investments each year, to ensure CRDC is contributing to their achievement.

Cooperation and Collaboration

Cooperation and collaboration are fundamental to CRDC's operations. CRDC works in partnership with other industry bodies and other rural research and development corporations (RDCs) to achieve strategic outcomes for the industry, and to leverage higher returns for our investments.

This collaborative approach underpins CRDC's investment strategy. CRDC partners in over 80 per cent of RD&E projects conducted in the cotton sector, and 40 per cent of CRDC investments are in cross-sectoral RD&E.

CRDC's cooperation extends from national to cotton industry-specific and local initiatives -from participating in national cross-sectorial collaborations on water and soils; to the industry-specific extension joint venture, CottonInfo; and at the local level, partnerships with Cotton Grower Associations on CRDC Grassroots Grants.

Cotton Australia

Cotton Australia and its members provide advice to CRDC on research strategy and investments from the perspective of cotton growers. This is achieved through research advisory panels aligned with CRDC's programs.

Research partners

All CRDC projects are delivered in partnership with key research partners. In 2016-17, CRDC partnered with 122 research partners to deliver RD&E projects and outcomes to cotton growers and the wider industry. The full list of partners can be found in Appendix 4 of this report: the RD&E portfolio.

Growers

In addition to the Cotton Australia research advisory panels, cotton growers also contribute to RD&E through participation in other industry committees, such as the Cotton Australia Transgenic and Insect Management Strategy (TIMS) Committee and Technical Panels. It was estimated in 2015-16 that the grower members of TIMS collectively contributed approximately $32,600 in time to this committee.

Growers are also actively involved in RD&E by conducting on-farm trials - a critical component of the RD&E process. This involves a financial contribution through direct on-farm trial costs and opportunity costs, and the provision of growers' time, knowledge and expertise. The 2016 CRDC Grower Practices Survey, published in May 2017, sought feedback from growers on their involvement in cotton industry research trials. It found that 35 per cent of growers had hosted a research trial on their farm in the previous season, with growers contributing an average of 19 hours and $5500 towards their on-farm trials.

Cotton industry programs: CottonInfo and myBMP

CottonInfo, the cotton industry's joint extension program, is a collaboration between joint venture partners CRDC, Cotton Australia and CSD Ltd. CottonInfo is the conduit between researchers and growers, communicating research results and encouraging their adoption.

Similarly, myBMP, the industry's best management practices program, is a collaboration between CRDC and Cotton Australia. This program links RD&E outcomes to best management practice, and provides self-assessment mechanisms, practical tools and resources to help growers grow cotton using best practice. It is an integral part of the CottonInfo program.

Rural Research and Development Corporations

CRDC is one of 15 Rural RDCs that come together under the banner of the Council of Rural RDCs (CRRDC) to coordinate efforts, collaborate and co-invest in projects and achieve consistency in communication. The focus is on improving efficiencies, maximising the impact of research outcomes and avoiding duplication in research.

The scale of this collaboration extends from large national research programs to small local projects and administration, to bring a national focus in dealing with climate variability, soil health, irrigation, plant biosecurity, crop protection, farm safety and human capacity. CRDC continues to work with the CRRDC to investigate administrative efficiency gains within the RDCs and the rural R&D system as a whole.

CRDC also partners with fellow RDCs on grants under the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme.

Australian Government grants

CRDC works in partnership with the Australian Government and fellow RDCs on a number of grants projects.

Ongoing projects during 2016-17

CRDC managed five ongoing projects in 2016­17 under the Government's grant programs, contributing a combined $13.4 million into RD&E funding across the life of the projects, for the benefit of the Australian cotton industry, the community and other industries.

These projects, all administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, are as follows:

·                Carbon farming in the Australian cotton industry (funded 2013-17, with $1.3 million from the Carbon Farming Futures Extension and Outreach program).

·                Determining optimum nitrogen strategies for abatement of emissions for different irrigated cotton systems (funded 2013-17, with $770,000 from the Carbon Farming Futures Action on the Ground program).

·                Smarter irrigation for profit (funded 2015-18, with up to $4 million from the Rural R&D for Profit Programme - round one). Involves fellow RDCs Dairy Australia, RIRDC and Sugar Research Australia (SRA), and other research partners.

·                More profit from nitrogen: enhancing the nutrient-use efficiency of intensive cropping and pasture systems (funded 2016-20, with $5.9 million from the Rural R&D for Profit programme -round two). Involves fellow RDCs Dairy Australia, SRA, and Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) and other research partners.

·                Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture (funded 2016-18, with $1.4 million from the Rural R&D for Profit programme - round two). Involves all 14 of CRDC's fellow RDCs and other research partners.

CRDC is also involved in four other ongoing projects under rounds one and two of the Rural R&D for Profit programme, led by other RDCs and administered by the Department:

·                Stimulating private sector extension in Australian agriculture to increase returns from R&D (led by Dairy Australia; $1.6 million from the Rural R&D for Profit programme - round one).

·                Improved use of seasonal forecasting to increase farmer profitability (led by RIRDC; $1.8 million from the Rural R&D for Profit programme - round one).

·                A profitable future for Australian agriculture: Biorefineries for higher value animal feeds, chemicals, and fuels (led by SRA; $3 million from the Rural R&D for Profit programme - round one).

·                Digital technologies for more dynamic management of disease, stress and yield (led by AGWA; $3 million from the Rural R&D for Profit programme - round two).

New projects commencing 2017-18

In 2017-18, new projects commencing under round three of the Rural R&D for Profit programme were announced, along with a project under the Established Pest Animals and Weeds Measure of the Australian Government's Agricultural Competiveness White Paper.

These projects, all administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, with CRDC as a project partner, are as follows:

·                Forewarned is forearmed: managing the impacts of extreme climate events (led by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited in partnership with CRDC through the Managing Climate Variability program; $6.2 million in funding from the Rural R&D for Profit programme - round three)

·                Improving plant pest management through cross-industry deployment of smart sensor, diagnostics and forecasting (led by Horticulture Innovation Australia in partnership with CRDC; $6.8 million in funding from the Rural R&D for Profit programme - round three).

·                Increasing farmgate profits, the role of natural capital accounts (led by Forest and Wood Products Australia in partnership with CRDC; $900,000 in funding from the Rural R&D for Profit programme -round three).

·                Biological control and taxonomic advancement for management in the Noogoora burr complex (led by NSW DPI in partnership with CRDC; $559,700 from the Control Tools and Technologies for Established Pest Animals and Weeds programme).

Section 3: Corporate Operations

Business Financials

CRDC's investment in RD&E is funded through an industry levy and matching Commonwealth contributions. In 2016-17, CRDC invested $24.1 million in cotton RD&E throughout the industry supply chain. In 2017-18, CRDC estimates cotton RD&E expenditure will be $22.4 million.

Cotton production for the 2016-17 year is estimated to be 4.2 million bales of ginned cotton - up from the 2.8 million bales achieved in 2015-16. As a result of seasonal conditions and a larger proportion of dryland production, the yield for 2016-17 is expected to average 7.6 bales per hectare - down from the 10.2 bales per hectare average achieved in 2015-16.

Forward estimates by industry and ABARES are for an increase in cotton production in 2017-18 to 4.8 million bales.

An above-average cotton production year and an outlook for industry growth have provided CRDC the opportunity to increase R&D expenditure, after a period of drought had necessitated the use of financial reserves to sustain cotton industry RD&E.

To achieve the strategic priorities of the 2013-18 R&D Plan, CRDC has budgeting for $100 million of expenditure over the five years of the Strategic Plan.

Revenue

Cotton levy revenue is collected at the point of ginning, that is, when cotton has been picked and delivered to cotton gins. Cotton farmers pay a levy of $2.25 for each 227-kilogram bale of cotton. A new levy was introduced on 1 April 2017 for seed cotton exports of $4.06 per tonne of exported seed cotton. Australian ginning and export of seed cotton occurs from March to September of each calendar year. Therefore, cotton levy revenue in any financial year is drawn from two consecutive cotton crops.

The Australian Government provides a contribution of up to 50 per cent of the cumulative total eligible expenditure on RD&E. The maximum contribution is generally capped at 0.5 per cent of a three-year rolling average of gross value of production for the cotton industry.

The setting and collection of the industry levy is enabled by the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999 and the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991 respectively. The Australian Government matching contributions in 2016-17 were capped at the value of levies collected, as it was lower than the 0.5 per cent of the three-year average gross value of production.

Revenue (actuals)

2016-17 ($m)

Industry levies

6.131

Australian Government

6.129

Royalties

0.585

Interest

1.078

Research Grants

6.719

Other

0.958

TOTAL

21.600

As the following graph demonstrates, in the five years from 2012-13 to 2016-17, the proportion of grant revenue generated by partnerships with the Australian Government, RDCs and commercial enterprises has increased from five per cent of total revenue to 31 per cent of total revenue. The Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme grants, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, contributed a total of $3.6 million in revenue to CRDC in 2016-17, and have also attracted additional grant revenue of $1.6 million in 2016-17 from program partners.

Change in CRDC revenue mix over five years: 2012-13 (inner circle) to 2016-17 (outer circle).

Total revenue for 2016-17 of $21.600 million was $8.427 million (64 per cent) above budget of $13.173 million. Total 2016-17 revenue comprised of:

·                Industry levy revenue of $6.131 million, which includes $3.287 million (54 per cent) from the 2015-16 crop and $2.842 million (51 per cent) from the 2016-17 estimated crop.

·                Australian Government matching contribution of $6.129 million was capped at the value of levies collected.

·                $0.585 million in royalties from the sale of CRDC-funded CSIRO seed varieties.

·                Interest revenue of $1.078 million was 54 per cent above budget, due to the higher level of cash reserves under CRDC management generated by above-budget revenues in the current and prior years.

·                External grants of $6.719 million included Rural R&D for Profit, Carbon Farming Initiative, Action on the Ground, Filling the Research Gap and co-investments from project partners.

·                Other revenue of $0.958 million, which includes project refunds.

Expenditure and investment

Actual expenditure for 2016-17 was $24.089 million, an increase of $3.688 million over the budgeted expenditure of $20.401 million.

Actual ($m)

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

Cotton Crop Size (millions of bales)

4.49

3.90

2.31

2.77

4.27*

Total Revenue

30.915

27.479

20.073

18.935

21.600

Industry levies

11.801

10.997

7.298

6.054

6.131

Australian Government

11.523

11.239

7.295

6.053

6.129

Royalties

3.971

1.830

1.707

0.745

0.585

Interest

1.726

1.779

1.596

1.282

1.078

Research Grants

1.356

1.243

0.925

4.127

6.719

Other**

0.538

0.411

1.252

0.674

0.958

Expenditure total

19.301

21.293

22.826

20.555

24.089

Cotton RD&E activities

15.632

18.203

19.244

17.052

20.318

Total equity position

38.931

44.488

41.645

40.025

37.536

* ABARES estimate, Agricultural Commodities June 2017.

** Includes project refunds.

Cost Allocation Policy

CRDC has a Cost Allocation Policy for allocating direct and indirect costs to activities across its program. Expenditure in 2016-17 was allocated to the following activities:

Cost allocation activity

2016-17

Direct R&D Expenditure (project costs)

$16,611,829

Indirect R&D Expenditure (administration costs)

$3,771,507

Grant-funded expenditure (R&D not eligible for Commonwealth Matching)

$3,706,135

Total Expenditure

$24,089,471

Portfolio Budget Statement

The CRDC Portfolio Budget Statement released in May 2017 provided an estimate of CRDC's outcomes, outputs, performance and financial position for 2017-18 to 2020-21. The statement was consistent with the CRDC Strategic R&D Plan 2013-18 and the Annual Operational Plan 2017-18.

Outcomes and outputs 2016-17

CRDC has one Australian Government outcome: Adoption of innovation that leads to increased productivity, competitiveness and environmental sustainability through investment in research and development that benefits the Australian cotton industry and the wider community.

Outcome

2016-17

TOTAL Budgeted Revenue

$13,173,000

TOTAL Actual Revenue

$21,599,803

TOTAL Budgeted Cost of Outputs

$20,401,000

TOTAL Actual Cost of Outputs*

$24,089,471

* Total cost is shown rather than total price because CRDC is primarily funded through industry levies rather than on the basis of the price of its outputs. Each research project and its funding contributes to the outcome. Total research expenditure for the outcome is calculated, with the remaining expenditure attributed to the outcome on a pro rata basis.

The variation between the budgeted and the actual revenue of $8.427 million is a result of new unbudgeted grants, the 2016-17 crop being above budget, increased interest received and increased project refunds. The larger crop has provided additional levies, Commonwealth contributions and royalties of $1.436 million. Research grants have increased by $5.961 million.

Forecast revenue

Future revenue from levies, Commonwealth-matching contributions and royalties are directly impacted by cotton production. Water availability and commodity prices are significant factors in forthcoming cropping decisions. ABARES June 2017 Agricultural Commodities report estimated the average storage level of public irrigation dams serving the Australian cotton-growing region was 66 per cent of capacity as at 25 May 2017, up from 28 per cent at the same time in 2016. Seasonal inflows into the main cotton irrigation dams can be expected before November 2017.

CRDC has budgeted for a $3.908 million operating surplus for 2017-18. This reflects revenue of $26.428 million and expenditure of $22.520 million. Industry levy revenue and Commonwealth contributions will continue to be drawn from two crop seasons, 2016­17 and 2017-18.

The size of industry levies and Commonwealth contributions is heavily reliant upon crop production, which was budgeted to be 5.5 million bales for 2017-18. CRDC expects that the Australian Government matching contributions will be based on matching industry levy revenue in 2017-18.

Forecast expenditure

Budgeted expenditure for 2017-18 is $22.520 million, a decrease of $1.569 million below the 2016­17 actual expenditure. The forecast expenditure for the next two years for RD&E is budgeted at $25.115 million in 2018-19 and $19.702 million in 2019-20.

Forecast deficits

CRDC is a statutory body enabled by the PIRD Act with the rights of a body corporate and has the right to retain surplus funds. However, as a corporate Commonwealth entity, CRDC must seek approval from the Minister of Finance for a deficit in any year. CRDC has sought and received approval for deficits of $4.118 million in 2017-18.

Our Investments in RD&E

CRDC used the Strategic R&D Plan 2013-18 to guide its program investments in 2016-17. The plan was developed with extensive industry, government and stakeholder consultation and was evaluated in the preparation of the Annual Operational Plan 2016-17.

CRDC's investments addressed the Australian Government priorities (the Science and Research Priorities and the Rural RD&E Priorities), the cotton industry priorities and the collective Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy.

As established in the Strategic R&D Plan, the CRDC actively seeks to achieve a balanced RD&E portfolio that considers the distribution of investment across:

·                The RD&E strategies

·                The type of research, including basic, applied, blue-sky, development and delivery

·                In-project risks

·                Researcher experience and capacity

·                Research providers

·                Timeframe to outcomes

·                The likely return on investment for projects and programs

·                R&D management.

The portfolio includes RD&E that seeks to 'protect and defend' the production base from pest threats; increase productivity while ensuring resource-use efficiency; enhance product value through the supply chain; build a capable industry; and create an element of research discovery.

CRDC invests in applied RD&E that improves productivity, biosecurity, and natural resource management, and manages climate variability concurrently given the interrelationships between the issues.

Projects by CRDC program area:

CRDC program

Farmers

Industry

Customers

People

Performance

TOTAL

Number of projects

141

49

21

124

15

350

Program expenditure ($m)*

13.3

3.2

1.7

1.4

0.7

20.3

Program percentage (of expenditure)

65%

16%

8%

7%

4%

100%

* Excludes budgeted employee and supplier expenditure, contingency provisions for research and corporate research activities that support R&D planning and adoption. Some percentages have been rounded up or down.

Total number of CRDC projects

CRDC projects

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

Active projects

50

61

118

150

155

New projects funded

153

142

162

141

205

Projects completed

142

85

130

136

193

Continuing projects

61

118

150

155

167

Further detail on CRDC's projects can be found in Section 4: RD&E Portfolio, and in Appendix 4: RD&E Portfolio.

Investments against Government Priorities

CRDC's investments in RD&E support the achievement of the Australian Government's Science and Research Priorities and Rural RD&E Priorities.

CRDC investment by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities (SRP)

CRDC investment ($'000)

Food

$11,652

Soil and Water

$6,146

Transport

Cybersecurity

Energy

Resources

$828

Advanced Manufacturing

$381

Environmental Change

$1,259

Health

$52

TOTAL

$20,318

Some figures have been rounded up or down.

CRDC investment by Rural RD&E Priorities

Rural RD&E Priorities

CRDC investment ($'000)

Advanced technology

$6,004

Biosecurity

$5,005

Soil, water and managing natural resources

$6,318

Adoption of R&D

$2,991

TOTAL

$20,318

Further detail on how CRDC's RD&E investments align with these priorities can be found in Appendix 2: Australian Government priorities.

Section 4: RD&E Portfolio

Program 1: Farmers

Program: Farmers

Outcome: Cotton is profitable and consistently farmers' crop of choice.

Measure: Farmers increase productivity by three per cent per hectare per year.

Theme

1.1 Successful Crop Protection

1.2 Productive Resource Efficiencies

1.3 Profitable Futures

Strategy Outcomes

Cotton crops protected from pest, weed and disease threats.

Inputs for cotton production are optimised.

Innovations in cotton production.

Will be achieved by

1.1.1 Monitoring and investigating the ecological behaviours and responses of cotton pest, weeds and diseases.

1.1.2 Testing practices that deliver improved management of insect pests, weeds and diseases.

1.1.3 Improving capacity, knowledge and adoption of techniques to successfully protect the cotton crop.

1.2.1 Delivering benchmarks of on-farm resource-use efficiencies.

1.2.2 Developing and proving decision systems and practices that deliver optimal resource efficiencies on cotton farms.

1.2.3 Developing new systems and tools to support farm decision-making processes.

1.2.4 Improving capacity, knowledge and adoption of techniques to optimise resource uses.

1.3.1 Investigating the application of new technologies and different scientific approaches which have the potential to deliver significant improvements and economic returns to the cotton farming system.

Measures of success

Farmers are able to improve their crop management practices based on sound science.

·                85 per cent of farmers adopting improved practices that reduce the reliance on pesticide inputs.

·                50 per cent of farmers adopting improved practices that reduce the incidence of insect pests, weeds and diseases affecting cotton on their farm.

·                World-class science foundations for managing ecological adaptations in cotton insect pests, weeds and diseases.

Farmers are able to increase their productivity:

·                per hectare of land.

·                per unit of nitrogen fertiliser.

·                per ML water.

·                per unit of CO2 equivalent emitted.

Farmers are profitable:

·                Improving gross margins for Australian cotton production systems.

·                On-farm innovations and partnerships established to drive profitability.

Key program investments

This section provides a snapshot of some of CRDC's investments during 2016-17 in this program area. The full list of CRDC's investments for this period can be found at Appendix 4: the RD&E portfolio. Reports from all completed projects can be found at CRDC's online library, Inside Cotton (www.insidecotton.com).

Successful Crop Protection:

Monitoring and investigating the ecological behaviours and responses of cotton pest, weeds and diseases; Testing practices that deliver improved management of insect pests, weeds and diseases; Improving capacity, knowledge and adoption of techniques to successfully protect the cotton crop.

Significant advancements have been made in protecting cotton from insect pests, weeds and diseases, but new threats and challenges continue to emerge. The RD&E focus is on developing strategies and practices that support farmers in addressing these challenges.

CRDC's 2016-17 investment in this area included the following projects:

·                Commercial development and evaluation of a machine vision-based weed spot sprayer, with NCEA;

·                Digital technologies for dynamic management of disease, stress and yield, with AGWA;

·                Enhancing IPM in cotton systems, with CSIRO;

·                Management options enhancing beneficial microbial functions in cotton soils, with CSIRO;

·                Regional weed management workshops for growers and advisors, with ICAN;

·                Staying ahead of weed evolution in changing cotton systems, with UQ; and

·                Viruses, vectors and endosymbionts: Exploring interactions for control, with UQ.

The Commercial development and evaluation of a machine vision-based weed spot sprayer project will deliver improved spot spraying for growers of cotton and other broadacre crops through the ability to map and differentiate different weed species. The project has made strong progress in developing image analysis techniques and algorithms to discriminate volunteer cotton in fallow fields and in crop. The project links to similar research in sugar and horticulture, and has commenced steps towards commercialising the approach to enable growers to access this technology. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The Digital technologies for dynamic management of disease, stress and yield project is a cross-sectoral project under the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. It commenced in 2016-17 and is led by AGWA, with CRDC and Horticulture Innovation Australia as project partners. The project aims to integrate systems capable of simultaneous measurement and data provision to assist cross-sectoral holistic decision making for the management of yield, disease and stress in cotton, grapes and horticulture.

One of the cotton-specific projects under this collaborative project focuses on the development of a specific genetic tool to determine strain and pre-plant soil populations of the pathogen Verticillium dahliae. The tool is designed to become a management tool for growers, helping them to assess the effect of their management strategies on verticillium inoculum levels, and assess the risk of disease in field prior to planting. The project is due for completion in 2018-19.

The Enhancing IPM in cotton systems project recognises that cotton faces ongoing challenges from a range of insect and mite pests (particularly mirids, green vegetable bug and silverleaf whitefly), and that their management requires ongoing effort in the assessment of control options for integrated pest management (IPM). Over the past year, in response to industry issues, this project has continued to provide significant IPM capacity with an increased focus on silverleaf whitefly, increasing industry understanding on the impact of beneficials. Research is also underway to better understand any link between cotton colour, honeydew from whitefly, and weathering.

This project also ensures the industry information to support IPM decisions remains current and accurate. During the last 12 months, the project has reported on seven insecticidal compounds, impact on beneficials, and established thrip trials that include new products coming to market, ensuring the industry is equipped with independent data to inform IPM decisions. The lead researcher on this project was an important contributor to the CottonInfo IPM workshop series, headlining the workshops with other IPM researchers. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The Management options enhancing beneficial microbial functions in cotton soils investigated how management practices in current Australian cotton farming systems, such as reduced tillage, crop rotation, residue retention, organic manure application and reduced insecticide use, can change the levels of key soil microbial functions. The soil microbial functions need to be optimised to help sustain cotton production, improve nutrient-use efficiency, reduce soil-borne diseases and maintain environmental health.

As such, this project used existing field experiments, complemented with laboratory experiments, to improve the understanding of management impacts on key beneficial microbial communities. Soil analysis from the two long-term cropping systems experiments at ACRI found that cropping history, fertiliser and stubble management have a significant influence on the microbial activity of microbial groups involved in nitrogen and carbon cycling processes. The project also found that legumes in rotation have a significant positive effect on microbial catabolic diversity and activity and nitrogen mineralisation potential, and that lower diversity and abundance of total fungi were associated with higher disease incidence in cotton systems. The project concluded in 2016-17 and the final report is available at CRDC's online library, Inside Cotton.

The Regional weed management workshops for growers and advisors project aims to build industry capacity to manage weeds through the delivery of a series of training workshops and masterclasses for growers and advisors during 2016-17 and 2017-18. The workshops focus on the impact of increasing levels of glyphosate resistance to farming systems, and the strategies to delay or manage its onset. A total of 327 growers and consultants attended 16 workshops and masterclasses during 2016-17, with 100 per cent of those who provided feedback on the events indicating the information learned would help with decisions in the field. The project is due to conclude in 2017-18, following completion of another seven workshops.

The Staying ahead of weed evolution in changing cotton systems project aims to minimise the adverse impacts of glyphosate-resistant weeds, or potential impacts of multiple-resistant weeds, on the cotton industry. It aims to do this through understanding the drivers for resistance and evaluating new tactics for weed control. The project looks at herbicide resistance from a molecular perspective, conducting ecology studies of key weed species (awnless barnyard grass, Feathertop Rhodes, windmill grass, fleabane and sowthistle) and testing herbicide and non-herbicide tactics that support weed management best practice.

The project has been integral in developing the industry's recommended strategy of 2+2+0: two non-glyphosate tactics targeting both grasses and broadleaf weeds during the cotton crop, plus two non-glyphosate tactics in summer fallow/ rotations targeting both grasses and broadleaf weeds, plus zero survivors setting seed. It has also developed the BarnYard Grass Understanding and Management (BYGUM) model that underpins the strategy. BYGUM has been publically released this year via CottonInfo as a tool that provides new ways to look at the economics of summer weed control in Australian cotton/grains systems.

Growers and consultants can now compare tactics to evaluate profitability of control strategies in Australian cotton cropping.

The project is now developing a multi-species, multi-herbicide resistance model that will enable the industry to understand how much diversity is required to maintain a sustainable weed management system. The project is due to conclude in 2018-19.

The Viruses, vectors and endosymbionts: Exploring interactions for control project seeks to contribute to our fundamental understanding of vector, virus and endosymbiont interactions, to enhance the industry's preparedness for the potential incursion and establishment of cotton leaf curl disease (CLCuD) in Australia. CLCuD is a viral infection of cotton and other susceptible host plants that is transmitted by silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci). Genomic data has been generated to investigate the endosymbiont and whitefly diversity present in Australia, which will be used to support improved diagnostics for exotic whitefly. Research conducted under this project has confirmed that CLCuD is a significant threat to the Australian cotton industry, with Australian varieties confirmed as susceptible to the virus. The project is due to conclude in 2017-18.

Case study: IPM workshop series keeps IPM on the agenda

CottonInfo and CRDC held an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) workshop series in November-December 2016, taking the IPM message out to 130 growers and consultants across five cotton-growing valleys.

Experienced industry researchers Dr Lewis Wilson, Dr Mike Bange, Dr Robert Mensah, Dr Paul Grundy, Dr Jamie Hopkinson and Dr Sandra McDougall were among those who presented at the workshops held at Warren, Griffith, Cecil Plains, Boggabilla and Boggabri.

The workshops had two clear messages for growers and consultants: IPM plays an essential role in helping to avoid insecticide resistance, and IPM helps you achieve high-yielding cotton.

As a result of the workshops, 75 per cent of participants reported high levels of confidence about growing high-yielding crops using IPM. As well, 80 per cent recorded high confidence in their ability to conserve beneficial insects.

According to CRDC's R&D Manager Susan Maas - who also presented at the workshops along with CottonInfo IPM technical specialist Sandra Williams - while Bollgard 3® offers additional resilience against cotton's primary foe, Helicoverpa spp., there are growing risks of widespread insecticide resistance forming in many other pest species if the principles of IPM are ignored.

'Researchers have recently detected rising levels of insecticide resistance in silverleaf whitefly to a cornerstone product. Resistance in mites and aphids is already present, and sucking pests such as mirids could be next,' said Susan.

CSIRO's Dr Wilson said the cotton industry must continue to strive for a strong IPM system to support Bollgard 3®.

'If we drift into increased use of sprays in the belief that this is keeping retention high and pushing up yield, then we risk the future that has happened in the United States' Mississippi Delta,' Lewis said.

'Growers there are now spraying more in Bt cotton than they were in conventional cotton. This is due to resistance to insecticides in Lygus, emerging Bt resistance in Helicoverpa and increasing secondary pest problems (like mites) as a result of increased spraying. We don't want to end up there, so we need to realise that while Bollgard 3® is a great platform for IPM, it also benefits from the support of a strong IPM system.'

In Australia, CRDC's annual insecticide monitoring programs have detected increasing resistance to key products by silverleaf whitefly and mites. Both are species that flare easily and require careful IPM to manage effectively.

Insecticide resistance monitoring is an essential component of the cotton industry's Insect Resistance Management Strategy (IRMS), with results of the program used to ensure the IRMS remains effective and relevant to the country's dynamic insect populations. The IRMS is available within the annual CRDC and CottonInfo Cotton Pest Management Guide.

For more, download the Cotton Pest Management Guide at www.cottoninfo.com.au/publications/ cotton-pest-management-guide.

Dr Lewis Wilson discusses IPM in field with growers and consultants at the Boggabilla IPM workshop.

 

Case study: A new look at the economics of weed control

The cotton industry has a new decision support tool for the management of glyphosate-resistant barnyard grass. BYGUM (BarnYard Grass Understanding and Management) gives growers and consultants new ways to look at the economics of summer weed control in Australian cotton/grains systems.

Developed by David Thornby from Innokas Intellectual Services with support from CRDC, this weed management scenario testing tool combines biological, agronomic and economic factors to examine the economics of farm managers' current summer grass management strategies, and compare them to new tactics - which could be what your neighbours are doing, what your agronomist recommends, or new ideas from elsewhere.

'BYGUM can let you test changes in crop prices, rotations, weed management costs, herbicide availability or efficacy, and more,' David says.

It is free to download, use, and share. It needs only a copy of Microsoft Excel, preferably on a Windows computer (BYGUM does run on many Mac systems but won't run on an iPad or Android device at present). BYGUM is designed to be simple to use but with powerful possibilities for planning and learning about summer weed management.

BYGUM is based on RIM (Ryegrass Integrated Management), a long-established tool for testing ryegrass management strategies in winter-cropping systems in western and southern Australia. RIM was developed by Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative in conjunction with the University of Western Australia, with support from GRDC.

'BYGUM takes the well-tested framework of RIM and extends it to northern subtropical Australian farming systems, where summer and winter crops are both used, and fallows are an important part of the system,' David says.

'Running a simulation in BYGUM is a two-step process: first, set up the parameters of the system; second, design a rotation and specify your summer grass management practices. BYGUM's five-year rotation results update with every change so there is no need to 'run' the model or collect output files.

'At any time, BYGUM can give a comparison between the current setup and one other scenario, which means users can always see how the current strategy compares to their benchmark.'

'BYGUM isn't designed to tell you exactly how much you'll make every year.'

'What it does do is allow comparisons of the likely bottom line, for your given set of inputs, between different possible weed management and cropping scenarios,' David said.

BYGUM allows growers to save several scenarios and to compare two at a time, side by side. With it you can compare crop yields with weed competition factored in; gross margins; weed seedbank densities and adult plant numbers; and the effects of different rotations and weed management strategies.

BYGUM is free to growers and consultants and is available on the CottonInfo website at www.cottoninfo.com.au/barnyard-grass-understanding-and-management-bygum

Case study: Breaking the Verticillium cycle

Verticillium wilt is caused by the soil-borne fungal pathogen Verticillium dahliae. Recent research has found three strains in Australian cotton: two non-defoliating (VCGs 2A and 4B) and a defoliating strain (VCG 1A). It is unclear why only now the disease is causing such significant damage.

CRDC is involved in several Verticillium research projects. The QDAF pathology group headed by Dr Linda Smith is working in collaboration with CSIRO and NSW DPI to improve the approach to the industry disease survey to deliver improved understanding of management of cotton disease and disease-suppressive farming systems. This is taking place as part of the Digital technologies for dynamic management of disease, stress and yield project, a cross-sectoral project under the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

In addition, NSW DPI researchers are testing potential innovative solutions to cotton diseases to identify the best time and approach to introducing potential control products such as fungicides. Grower trials are also underway across six sites in northwest NSW, in conjunction with CottonInfo.

The partnership approach between growers and cotton pathologists is making a breakthrough in the management of Verticillium wilt for the benefit of the entire industry. In a trial at Narrabri, a cotton field with extremely high inoculum levels of the non-defoliating strain of VCG2A has shown a dramatic reduction.

Peter, Janet, Tony and Kylie Dampney approached (former) CSD pathologist Dr Stephen Allen and NSW DPI's Dr Karen Kirkby for help in 2011, after severe patches of V. dahliae heavily impacted cotton yields. The pathologists suggested trialling sorghum and durum wheat rotations, and began assessing and monitoring inoculum levels in one of the worst affected fields to assess the trial's impact.

'Before the trial started we were seeing yield reductions of 20 to 30 per cent,' Tony said. 'To see that the inoculum levels are now zero is fantastic and we look like planting cotton next season, for the first time in five years. We learned a lot from being involved with the researchers, and if not for this trial, we would be battling an even bigger problem.'

Up until this trial, V. dahliae was almost impossible to eradicate once introduced to a field or farm, with growers reporting estimated yield losses of 10-62 per cent. Karen Kirkby said it was a leap of faith for the Dampneys to be part of these long-term experimental management strategies to drive down soil inoculum levels, as the approach has not been quantified in cotton in Australia.

CRDC is also funding the development of a fee-for-service V. dahliae molecular diagnostic and quantification tool. This is being undertaken as part of the Digital technologies for dynamic management of disease, stress and yield program, a project under the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme.

'Based on what we have seen at the Dampney's farm, this tool has the potential to significantly help researchers and growers assess the effect of management strategies on inoculum levels as well as assess the risk of disease in fields prior to planting. When this tool is released, growers and agronomists will be able to send in soil samples to be tested, much like they do for nutrient analysis,' Tony said.

For more, see the Autumn 2017 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

Narrabri grower Tony Dampney, with NSW DPI pathologist, Dr Karen Kirkby.

Productive Resource Efficiencies:

Developing and proving decision systems and practices that deliver optimal resource efficiencies on cotton farms; Developing new systems and tools to support farm decision-making processes; Improving capacity, knowledge and adoption of techniques to optimise resource uses.

Ensuring growers can achieve optimal resource efficiencies of input resources is a key focus for the cotton industry's R&D. CRDC's investment focuses on developing, identifying, testing and extending decision systems and practices to help growers improve their efficiencies.

CRDC's 2016-17 investment in this area included the following key projects:

·                More profit from nitrogen: enhancing the nutrient-use efficiency of intensive cropping and pasture systems, with various industry and research partners, including Dairy Australia, Sugar Research Australia (SRA), Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA), NSW DPI, NCEA, QUT, University of Melbourne, QDAF, UTAS, QLD Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation (QDSITI), and the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources (NTDPIR);

·                Opportunities for dryland cotton with Bollgard 3 ®, with QDAF;

·                Smarter irrigation for profit, with various research partners, including National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA), RIRDC, SRA, Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association (GVIA), University of Tasmania (UTAS), CSIRO, NSW DPI, Dairy Australia, Roth Rural and Regional, and the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR); and

·                Strengthening the Central Highlands cotton production system, with QDAF.

The More profit from nitrogen: enhancing the nutrient-use efficiency of intensive cropping and pasture systems project is a cross-sectoral project under the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. It commenced in 2016-17 and is led by CRDC in conjunction with fellow RDCs, Dairy Australia, Sugar Research Australia, and Horticulture Innovation Australia, and other research partners.

The project brings together Australia's four major intensive users of nitrogenous fertilisers: cotton, dairy, sugar and horticulture. For each of these industries, nitrogen (N) is a significant input cost to producers and a substantial contributor to environmental footprints. Collectively, the program aims to increase farm profitability and reduce environmental impact by increasing nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE), resulting in a reduction of the amount of N required in producing each unit of product.

To achieve improved NUE, the program is striving to deliver three major outcomes: provide greater knowledge and understanding of the interplay of soil, weather, climatic and farm management factors to optimise N formulation, rate and timing across industries, farming regions and irrigated/ non-irrigated situations; provide greater knowledge and understanding of the contribution (quantifying rate and timing) of mineralisation to a crop or pasture's nitrogen budget; and provide greater knowledge and understanding of how enhanced efficiency fertiliser formulations can better match a crop or pasture's specific N requirements.

The project comprises a series of 10 sub-projects, including two cotton-specific projects: Enhancing nitrogen-use efficiency and improving phosphorus nutrition in cotton (NSW DPI) and Optimising nitrogen and water interactions in cotton (USQ). The first aims to increase understanding of the intricate relationship between soil and fertiliser N and phosphorus supply, fertiliser placement, fertiliser timing, and irrigation strategy to achieve greater NUE and improved phosphorus soil nutrition. The second aims to build cotton growers' confidence to adopt strategic N fertiliser application rates by better understanding how to optimise N supplied to cotton crops from organic matter in soil. The overarching More profit from nitrogen project is d ue for completion in 2019-20.

The Opportunities for dryland cotton with Bollgard 3® project focuses on dryland cotton systems, with particular emphasis on deriving benefits and opportunities from Bollgard 3® and the new Resistance Management Plan (RMP). The project, which commenced in 2016-17, uses an investigative systems R&D approach to examine challenges and opportunities for dryland cotton production systems. The project examines tactics that may ameliorate abiotic/biotic factors affecting seedling establishment, considers how the new RMP changes cotton production tactics and overall systems productivity with grains sequences, and develops and tests the reliability of crop destruction tactics that minimise cultivation. The project is due for completion in 2020-21.

The Smarter irrigation for profit project is another cross-sectoral project under the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme, administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. It is led by CRDC in conjunction with fellow RDCs, Dairy Australia, RIRDC, Sugar Research Australia and other research partners.

The project is a large-scale, ambitious project designed to achieve a 10-20 per cent improvement in water productivity, efficiency and farmer profitability across the cotton, dairy, rice and sugar industries, while also improving cross-sector industry research collaborations. It is designed to increase on-farm profitability by integrating new irrigation scheduling and delivery technologies into good irrigation practice.

The project commenced in 2015-16 and comprises a series of 11 sub-projects, including cotton-specific projects around irrigation automation, grower-led irrigation systems comparisons, and maximising on-farm irrigation profitability.

Three such sub-projects, the 2016 Irrigation automation tour, the IREC cross-sector northern tour, and the Dairy and cotton tour, all ran during 2016­17, building upon the strong success of the 2015 Irrigation automation tour.

The tours, hosted with support from CRDC, took groups of growers, irrigators and consultants to different regions and sectors to see irrigation technologies in action. The overarching Smarter irrigation for profit is due for completion in 2017-18.

The Strengthening the Central Highlands cotton production system project aimed to better understand and seek solutions to problems affecting cotton productivity in the Central Highlands region. It sought to examine the relationship between the local climate and plant development to determine where and if agronomic management practices can be changed to reduce production risks, decrease the incidence of lint quality discounts and, where possible, disadvantage diseases such as boll rots.

The researchers identified that a key tactic may be to plant considerably earlier than the traditional window in an effort to bring forward the boll-filling period into spring and early summer when weather conditions are at their most reliable in the Central Highlands. Through the course of the project's trials, the researchers demonstrated that August sowing is quite reliable due to the relatively warm days and good solar radiation. Planting with degradable film to increase ground temperature was initially investigated but found to be unnecessary for soil temperatures.

The early-sowing trials were replicated commercially for the first time in the 2016-17 season, with great success, and is expected to be widely adopted for the 2017-18 season. The project concluded in 2016-17. An impact analysis, commissioned by QDAF, found that the total investment into the project was $1.18 million, and the value of total economic benefits back to growers and the industry was $20.24 million - a benefit-cost ratio of approximately 17.1 to 1.

Case study: Focus on improving dryland systems

In the new era of Bollgard 3®, CRDC is supporting a five-year dryland systems project, headed by long-term industry researcher Dr Paul Grundy. The project focuses on dryland cotton systems with particular emphasis on deriving benefits and opportunities from Bollgard 3® and the new Resistance Management Plan (RMP).

'With a changed RMP, Bollgard 3® offers new opportunities and challenges for dryland cotton production and the broader farming system,' Paul said.

'Greater sowing window flexibility and reduced end-of-season tillage requirements should enable increased dryland systems' productivity and expansion.'

Conducted by dedicated researchers, this project provides an opportunity to discover and measure the implications of changes to farming operations and systems over five years.

'The immediate focus for many will be on the more immediate gains in soil-plant available water content (PAWC) and the benefits of this for a following grains crop. But the implications of this change are less clear for crop destruction, weed management and farm hygiene, or the opportunity to incorporate P and K fertilisers that might be important for the next cotton crop in three to five years in the future.

Researchers Dr Paul Grundy and Kaara Klepper of QDAF are working with dryland growers on a new five-year CRDC project.

'Similarly there will be trade-offs between managing cotton crops for earlier maturity to realise key pupae-busting dates (in terms of yield or quality) against the relative productivity gains that may or may not arise following grain crop sequences.'

Systems studies conducted during this project will aim to develop data to provide growers with answers to these types of questions.

'CRDC has funded this project in an effort to leverage the opportunities offered by Bollgard 3® for dryland cotton growers. The project proposes an integrated approach to developing a package of measures that aim to increase the potential and success of dryland cotton production and the associated farming system off the back of Bollgard 3®,' said CRDC's General Manager R&D Investment Ian Taylor.

'A more successful, reliable and expanded dryland cotton sector would serve to increase land area productivity, the more efficient utilisation of crop inputs and soil moisture, and thus would underpin profitability.

'The RD&E approach proposed by this project aims to equip growers with the tools and knowledge to more successfully farm dryland cotton and contribute to the CRDC's strategic objective of increasing farm resource-use efficiency,' Ian said.

For more, see the Spring 2016 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

 

Case study: Irrigators go south for inspiration

A group of 29 cotton growers, irrigators and consultants from Northern NSW, the Darling Downs and Kununurra in WA visited irrigated farms in Southern NSW and Northern Victoria in December 2016 to see innovations that maximise efficiencies in water use, energy and labour.

The three-day tour, hosted by CottonInfo and NSW DPI's Sustaining the Basin: Irrigation Farm Modernisation (STBIFM) program, under the Smarter irrigation for profit project visited irrigation farms in the Goulburn-Murray, Coleambally and Murrumbidgee irrigation areas, covering dairy, rice, and cotton production.

'The tour provided irrigators with an opportunity to look at different systems, design and structures to see what might work on their properties,' said CottonInfo's (then) water-use efficiency technical specialist (now CottonInfo regional extension officer) Janelle Montgomery, who organised and led the tour.

'The tour gave irrigators the opportunity to hear first-hand from farmers who have fully automated surface irrigation systems and have confidence in the technology,' Janelle said. 'This is important for our growers, as the cotton industry is still in its infancy in terms of automation adoption.'

The tour visited 10 farms where growers and consultants met the farmers and industry experts who have already adopted some level of automation in their surface irrigation system. Participants gained important insights into the decision-making processes when investing in these technologies and how risk is managed.

The main benefits of irrigation automation are labour savings, removing the 24-hour monitoring of conventional siphon systems, and minimising tail-water losses. Automating surface irrigation systems can improve efficiencies in labour and water use. The precise control of flows and water levels throughout a farm can also improve production and reduce costs of production, thus improving profitability.

Participant evaluation of the tour showed 93 per cent would make changes on their farms as a result of what they've learned. This includes trialling different surface irrigation designs, adopting remote monitoring, changing scheduling practices, being better informed and knowing what questions to ask when talking with irrigation designers. A similar tour in 2015 also resulted in a number of cotton growers implementing change on their farms.

Dalby cotton irrigator Ian Hayllor currently uses traditional siphons, which he finds labour-intensive. He was on the tour to learn how he could improve water-use efficiency. After visiting Noel Baxter's cotton and maize farm at Berrigan, which has a pipe-through-the-bank system, including a distribution pontoon, Ian is interested in trialling a similar system.

'The reason I like this system is it is so simple, cheap to install and easy to automate,' Ian said. 'To trial on our farm, we would grade our rotorbuck areas out, install a pontoon and put in a pipe through the bank. I can't believe such a simple system works so well.'

For more, see the Autumn 2017 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

Attendees at the Irrigation Automation Tour.

 

CRDC's early-planting research changes the Central QLD cotton game

CRDC-supported research examining how to help Queensland's Central Highlands cotton growers overcome climate challenges has been put into practice commercially this season, with great success.

The project started in the 2013-14 season with trials led by Dr Paul Grundy and Dr Stephen Yeates, who identified that a key tactic may be to plant considerably earlier (August) than the traditional mid-September to October window in an effort to pull the boll-filling period forward into spring and early summer when weather conditions are most reliable.

With the wider planting window afforded by Bollgard 3® this season, growers for the first time have been able to put this research to the test and plant commercial areas during August.

There were 18,000 hectares of irrigated cotton and 1000 hectares of dryland planted in Central Queensland (CQ) this season. Approximately 4500 hectares were sown during August, and the crops responded well.

'The key objective in the trials was to complete boll filling before mid-summer monsoonal influences take hold, with either bursts of cloudy wet weather or humid heat waves that generally occur after Christmas,' Paul said.

Research technical officer Gail Spargo, grower Carlo Stangherlin, and consultant Jamie Iker in early-planted cotton in the Central Highlands, picked in January 2017.

'There is still a risk of wet picking but compared to the status quo of September-October planting, early sowing mostly avoids bad weather exposure during boll filling, and halves wet picking risks.'

The research demonstrated that August sowing is quite reliable due to Emerald's relatively warm days and good solar radiation, which heats the ground and provides an adequate buffer against cool nights. Planting with degradable film to increase ground temperature was initially investigated but found to be unnecessary, as soil temperatures over four years of the trial without film typically remain above 14oC, even during bursts of cold weather when nightly minimums drop to near 0oC.

The project has worked closely with growers on improving understanding of the climate risks for cotton in CQ, and how this fits with the new farming systems opportunities that the broader window provides.

'While it does not alleviate all the potential climate risks, August sowing has resulted in very respectable yields with very few additional input costs (beyond planting more seed and using the full complement of seed dressings), and in most years will produce excellent cotton while also avoiding boll rots and rain-related lint downgrades,' Paul said.

'We are really pleased with the reports we are getting back from growers and agronomists who have chosen to plant early. We can't do this research without the support of growers, so I'd like to thank Carlo Stangherlin and Neek Morowitz for hosting our trials, and agronomist Jamie Iker for looking after the day-to-day consulting for us.'

For more, see the Autumn 2017 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

Profitable futures:

Investigating the application of new technologies and different scientific approaches which have the potential to deliver significant improvements and economic returns to the cotton farming system.

Cotton growing will continue to evolve. Whether change is driven by productivity constraints, environmental, economic or regulatory factors, the long-term profitability of farmers relies on finding innovation and strategies that allow the cotton farming system to adapt. This theme looks to initiate RD&E efforts to deliver these innovations and build the longer-term profitability of cotton production.

In 2016-17, CRDC's support for this important research area included the following key projects:

·                Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture, with various research partners, including all 15 RDCs, CSIRO, Australian Farm Institute, Data to Decisions CRC, UNE, Griffith University, and University of the Sunshine Coast; and

·                Agri-intelligence in cotton production systems -stage I, with QUT.

The Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture project is the third cross-sectoral project under the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme that is led by CRDC. The project is administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and is the first fully cross-sectoral project, conducted in conjunction with all 15 RDCs and other research partners. The project, which commenced in 2016-17, 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 identify cases where the use of digital agricultural applications and use of data is likely to have the following effects: high-impact profitability and productivity benefits; involve a detailed analysis of the current and future economic benefits of digital agriculture in Australia, examining the projected use and benefits to farm business decision making, risk management and profitability; and evaluate the options, merits and risks of business models to take advantage of digital technologies in the Australian agricultural sector. Importantly, the project will establish international best practice in data use to develop frameworks, policies and guidelines for Australian farmers that will remove current barriers and capitalise on the full impact of digital technology.

The project comprises a series of eight sub-projects. One such project, Analysis of the economic benefit and strategies for delivery of decision agriculture (Australian Farm Institute), has conducted a study of big data use in the USA, and found that there is potential for decision agriculture to significantly cut farm costs and improve outcomes to meet consumer demands and regulatory requirements. The study found that decision agriculture in the USA is using analytical platforms, accessing aggregated data from different machines and digital technologies and from multiple farms, helping farmers get a faster, cheaper or better result across such considerations as variety selection, chemical application and negotiating prices for farm inputs. Some platforms reported input cost savings of up to 50 per cent for farmers. The overarching Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The Agri-intelligence in cotton production systems - stage I project seeks to take the first major steps in the development of agri-intelligence for cotton production systems. Agri-intelligence refers to the seamless integration of agricultural knowledge, knowledge across the value chain, systems science and digital technologies to help farming enterprises to make best use of agronomic, environmental and economic data to improve management practices - leading to more efficient, profitable and sustainable operations.

The project will develop an understanding of the decision space and the case for agri-intelligence, and develop insight into the value of information from the value chain in relation to on-farm decision making. The research is organised into two stages: the first, the on-farm decision space and the case for agri-intelligence; the second, recommendations for the development of deployable on-farm agri-intelligence solutions. The project commenced in 2016-17, and stage I is due for completion in 2017-18.

Program 2: Industry

Program: Industry

Outcome: The Australian cotton industry is the global leader in sustainable agriculture.

Measure: Industry can report against recognised sustainability indicators.

Theme

2.1 Respected Stewardship

2.2 Responsible Landscape Management

2.3 Sustainable Futures

Strategy Outcomes

Industry protects its production technologies and its biosecurity.

Industry leads in managing natural assets.

An industry achieving its vision.

Will be achieved by

2.1.1 Monitoring for andinvestigating changesin pest and weedsusceptibility tobiotechnologies andcrop-protection productsused by the cottonindustry.

2.1.2 Exploring tactics andstrategies that lowerthe risks of pesticidesto the environment and resistance evolution in populations of key insect pests and weeds.

2.1.3 Developing andsupporting the industry's capacity to effectively steward key technologies and products.

2.1.4 Supporting the industry's preparedness and ability to deal with biosecurity threats.

2.2.1 Defining the values anddrivers relating to themanagement of naturallandscapes and systemsin cotton-growingregions.

2.2.2 Recording anddemonstratingimproved environmentalperformance of thecotton industry.

2.2.3 Identifying and proving integrated management strategies which deliver environmental andproductivity gains.

2.2.4 Researching theconnectivity between cotton farms and natural systems in the landscape.

2.2.5 Supporting initiatives and partnerships to improve the knowledge and capacity to manage natural landscapes and systems in cotton regions.

2.3.1 Scoping andinvestigating criticalthreats and opportunitieswhich may influence thelong-term sustainabilityof the Australian cottonindustry.

2.3.2 Supporting innovativeapproaches to solvetraditional industryissues and drive futuresustainability.

Measures of success

Industry is able to maintain its access to, and the effectiveness of, biotechnologies and crop protection products.

·                100 per cent of cotton farmers are aware of the underlying risks of trait and agricultural chemical resistance.

·                100 per cent of insecticide use decisions are consistent with the Insecticide Resistance Management Strategy (IRMS).

·                The cotton industry has the necessary science to provide informed input into the development of resistance management plans for biotech traits.

·                The cotton industry demonstrates pesticide management practices that lower the risks posed to the environment and the evolution of resistance in target insect pest and weed populations.

Industry is capable of managing its biosecurity responsibilities.

·                The cotton industry is able to meets its biosecurity obligations.

·                The cotton industry is prepared to effectively respond to biosecurity incursions.

Industry participation in the collective management of natural landscapes.

·                Regional delivery partnerships for every major cotton-growing region.

Industry recognised for its leadership in environmental performance.

·                Recognition by national and global initiatives for biodiversity management.

·                1000 km of riparian lands managed under best practice.

·                One million hectares of floodplain vegetation managed under best practice.

Industry contributes to the improvement of landscape systems knowledge and science.

·                A comprehensive database documenting the extent and condition of the natural assets the industry utilises and manages.

·                Two national science-based collaborations for the industry to inform surface and groundwater management.

Industry is capable of leading and adapting to change.

·                Innovations and partnerships established to drive cotton industry sustainability.

Key program investments

This section provides a snapshot of some of CRDC's investments during 2016-17 in this program area. The full list of CRDC's investments for this period can be found at Appendix 4: the RD&E portfolio. Reports from all completed projects can be found at CRDC's online library, Inside Cotton (www.insidecotton.com).

Respected stewardship:

Monitoring for and investigating changes in pest and weed susceptibility to biotechnologies and crop-protection products used by the cotton industry; Exploring tactics and strategies that lower the risks of pesticides to the environment and resistance evolution in populations of key insect pests and weeds; Supporting the industry's preparedness and ability to deal with biosecurity threats.

Stewardship refers to supporting the responsible use of crop protection products and protecting their long-term effectiveness in the Australian cotton industry. Ensuring that key insect pests and weeds do not become resistant to biotechnology or crop-protection products is of critical importance to the industry. Biosecurity preparedness is also included in the stewardship program, with research and extension aimed to ensure industry is well positioned to deal with biosecurity threats.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its support of this important research area through key projects, including:

·                Monitoring silverleaf whitefly (SL W) insecticide resistance, with QDAF;

·                Development of a spray drift hazard prediction system, with MicroMeteorology Research and Educational Services (MRES); and

·                Crop protection development specialist (CottonInfo Technical Specialist and myBMP module lead), with QDAF.

The Monitoring silverleaf whitefly (SLW) insecticide resistance project continues to support the Australian cotton industry by seasonally testing silverleaf whitefly, Bemisia tabaci MEAM1, for insecticide resistance to registered chemistry. This data is fundamental to making informed insecticide resistance management decisions.

Following the 2015-16 season, the project reported the first detection of pyriproxyfen resistance in silverleaf whitefly sampled from a cotton region. During the 2016­17 cotton season, the project team made collections of silverleaf whitefly from 15 regional sites, covering the majority of the cotton production valleys in NSW and QLD. As a result, the project identified early indications of resistance to pyriproxyfen - a concerning trend, as pyriproxyfen is a cornerstone product for managing silverleaf whitefly populations in Australia, and has a low impact on beneficial insects. As a result, the project provided recommendations to industry, resulting in significant changes to the 2016-17 Insecticide Resistance Management Strategy (IRMS) and the threshold matrix, and an extensive engagement campaign to the industry. The project is ongoing in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The Development of a spray drift hazard prediction system project is a collaborative project with GRDC to improve understanding of surface temperature inversions in cotton/grain landscapes, including a more detailed understanding of when safe-spray conditions exist. Ultimately, it aims to provide notification of a surface temperature inversion that might result in a long­distance drift, out to 36 hours ahead, as well as real-time updates for operators of spray application machinery. The project commenced in 2016-17, and the first stage, involving the installation of six research-grade Profiling Automatic Weather Station (PAWS) in the Lower Namoi, Gwydir, McIntyre/Border Rivers and Darling Downs regions, is complete. Analysis of the data is now underway. The project is due for completion in 2018-19.

The Crop protection development specialist (CottonInfo Technical Specialist and myBMP module lead) project provides crop protection and biosecurity extension leadership to the cotton industry. In particular, the specialist seeks to increase the control of volunteer and ratoon cotton through improved levels of farm hygiene; raise awareness of the biosecurity risks facing cotton growers and the wider industry; and improve on-farm biosecurity practices. The specialist leads the extension program in this area, providing linkages between industry and the RD&E sector for biosecurity and crop protection issues; quantifying the costs involved in control methods, as well as the actual and potential costs incurred if control measures are not implemented; and working with researchers to develop better control tactics.

Case study: Developing a hazard forecast service to minimise spray drift damage

A new three-year project to develop a spray hazard forecast service - to minimise the damage caused by chemical drift - kicked off in September 2016, co-funded by CRDC and GRDC.

Melbourne-based research team, MicroMeteorology Research and Education Services, has been commissioned to install a wireless sensor network across the Northern NSW and Southern QLD cotton-growing areas.

This project is a direct result of the extensive damage to cotton from phenoxy herbicide in late 2015. In early 2016, CRDC's Dr Ian Taylor convened a meeting with the cotton and grains industry, including GRDC, where the need to collaborate on reducing drift damage was highlighted. The need for action was then affirmed at the CRDC R&D Priority Forum in May 2016, and the temperature inversion project was introduced.

A temperature inversion research tower on cotton farm 'Waiwera' north of Wee Waa, NSW.

This project recognises that it is difficult for growers and regulators to know when an inversion is present or is likely to form - so it is also difficult to know when the restriction of chemical use should apply.

As a result, this project is particularly focused on understanding surface temperature inversions in cotton/grain landscapes, including more detailed understanding of when they are present. Ultimately, it aims to provide notification of a surface temperature inversion that might result in a long-distance drift, out to 36 hours ahead, as well as real-time updates for operators of spray application machinery.

The first stage of the project involves the installation of six inversion monitoring towers on cotton farms, to start the collection and analysis of data. The high-quality equipment very accurately monitors small and rapid variations (every second) in wind and temperature up to 10 metres to determine the potential for drifting pesticides to be held at high concentrations near the surface. Ultimately, the information will be converted to parameters for timely advice and warning of hazardous spray conditions.

Additionally, two CRDC Grassroots Grants - one in the Macquarie and one in the Namoi - are helping growers to build their local weather and spray condition information through the installation of local weather stations. CRDC is also funding a PhD scholar, Angelica Suarez-Cadavid, on a project to quantify and map the impact of herbicide spray drift on cotton. As part of this project, Angelica has been investigating how multispectral data from satellite imagery can be analysed to assess and monitor drift damage.

For more, see the Autumn 2017 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

Responsible landscape management:

Defining the values and drivers relating to the management of natural landscapes and systems in cotton-growing regions; Identifying and proving integrated management strategies which deliver environmental and productivity gains; Researching the connectivity between cotton farms and natural systems in the landscape; Supporting initiatives and partnerships to improve the knowledge and capacity to manage natural landscapes and systems in cotton regions.

The Australian cotton industry recognises the need for sustainable and responsible landscape management, and over the past decade has made significant gains in improving its environmental management. Industry research has shown the mutual benefits that can be gained from managing natural assets for both production and environmental outcomes.

In 2016-17, CRDC's investment in this area included the following key projects:

·                Baselining lower Namoi groundwater and evaluating Pilliga coal seam gas developments, with UNSW;

·                Improving the ability of the Australian cotton industry to report its sustainability performance, with QUT;

·                Managing riparian corridors on cotton farms for multiple benefits, with UNE;

·                Managing natural landscapes on Australian cotton farms to increase the provision of ecosystem services, with Griffith University; and

·                National Cotton NRM Technical Specialist, with Stacey Vogel Consulting.

The Baselining lower Namoi groundwater and evaluating Pilliga coal seam gas developments project compares geochemical versus water balance model estimates of artesian discharge into an alluvial aquifer. The study is located west of Narrabri where the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) discharges into the Lower Namoi alluvium. The geochemistry results suggest a continuum of mixing in the alluvial aquifer between the GAB and surface recharge, and indicate that the alluvial groundwater is a mixture of groundwaters with residence times of less than 70 and approximately 900,000 years old. In some locations, an artesian contribution of up to 70 per cent is evident from the geochemical analyses, contrasting historical water balance modelling estimates of 22 per cent. The study demonstrates why multi-tracer geochemical analyses should be used as a critical component of water budget assessments for water policy and planning. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The Improving the ability of the Australian cotton industry to report its sustainability performance project aims to enhance the industry's sustainability reporting. As demonstrated through the Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report, released in 2014, the cotton industry is committed to improving its sustainability through tracking and reporting performance and seeking external stakeholder feedback. This project aims to enhance this: improving the industry's ability to report on its sustainability performance.

The project, which commenced in 2016-17, is developing a sustainability repository that can be used by the industry for different sustainability reporting needs, as well as visualisation tools that can be used to communicate the results to stakeholders. This will enable the cotton industry to show leadership and demonstrate global leadership in sustainable agriculture, ultimately to provide a competitive advantage for Australian cotton producers. Researchers have commenced a value-chain market analysis to better understand sustainability issues concerning relevant stakeholders, and to date, they have identified 313 sustainability initiatives along the Australian cotton value chain. This highlights the current complexity and difficulty for Australian cotton producers to demonstrate sustainability credentials. Through analysis, the project aims to better enable the industry to provide the relevant evidence to demonstrate that Australian cotton is sustainably produced. The project is due for completion in 2019-20.

The Managing riparian corridors on cotton farms for multiple benefits project has been developed to address the decline in health of river red gums, and the associated decline in provision of ecosystem services. Cotton growers in the Namoi, Gwydir, Macquarie, Darling Downs and Border Rivers regions have voiced concerns about the health of red gum trees and are seeking direction on how this decline can be reversed. This project aims to determine management actions that growers can take to increase riparian ecosystem health and reverse the current tree health decline.

The project involves experiments to demonstrate the impacts of different actions on tree health and riparian ecosystems, and to determine practical ecological restoration activities that can be undertaken to improve the health of river red gum trees and riparian areas generally. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The Managing natural landscapes on Australian cotton farms to increase the provision of ecosystem services project will provide a comprehensive assessment of values and management strategies relevant to natural landscapes on Australian cotton farms to protect, restore and enhance the delivery of ecosystem services. Forty per cent of Australian cotton farms have native vegetation areas (both grazed and ungrazed). The research will inform decision-making at farm and regional scales to maximise the benefits of management actions and minimise the risk of perverse outcomes to both natural and farming systems. The results will also improve the capacity of the cotton industry to record and demonstrate their environmental performance.

The project will address two major questions: what natural and human factors drive the provision of ecosystem services by natural landscapes on Australian cotton farms? And, what management strategies best promote the maintenance, restoration and enhancement of ecosystem services provided by natural landscapes of Australian cotton farms? The project will develop a range of decision tools and build capacity to support the improved management of natural ecosystems on Australian cotton farms at multiple scales. The project commenced in 2016-17 and will conclude in 2018-19.

The National Cotton NRM Technical Specialist sits with the industry's extension team, CottonInfo, and provides the technical natural resource management (NRM) skills and knowledge required to assist industry to meet CRDC's NRM goals.

The specialist's role under this project includes supporting and demonstrating the cotton industry's best practice management of riparian lands and floodplain vegetation; implementing an innovative approach using social networks to increase the engagement of cotton growers in NRM; and leading the continuous improvement of the industry's best practice recommendations for NRM. The technical specialist is using innovative and diverse methods to reach the target audience, such as creating engaging events like kayak trips on local rivers to help raise awareness of the importance of riverine management.

Case study: Talking trees with the Prime Minister

In December 2016, scientist and cotton industry researcher Dr Rhiannon Smith had the opportunity to discuss her CRDC project with the Australian Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP.

'It was pretty exciting and a little intimidating having so many cameras focused on me!' Rhiannon said, after the pair visited the University of New England in Armidale, where Rhiannon is now a research fellow and lecturer in the School of Environmental and Rural Science. Her area of focus is biodiversity, landscapes and ecosystem stewardship.

'We were talking about research I've done as part of my CRDC-supported project, the technology I'm using to measure the health of trees, how much water a tree might use on a daily basis, and how that translates into production (in terms of carbon sequestration and wood production).'

CRDC-supported researcher, Dr Rhiannon Smith, discusses her research with the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, at UNE in December 2016.

Last year was a big year for visiting dignitaries at UNE, with visits by the NSW Governor David Hurley and his wife Linda, the Parliamentary Inquiry into Innovation in Agriculture, the Agricultural Industries Advisory Committee (including Parliamentary Secretaries and Advisors), and finally the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, all of whom Rhiannon spoke to about her CRDC-funded research.

One particular visit resulted in an interesting request to put her scientific skills to the test.

'I was invited to Government House in Sydney by the Governor and Mrs Hurley to install sap flow meters on historic Moreton Bay fig trees to measure their water use, and to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources' farm near Canberra to age some large river red gums,' Rhiannon said.

Rhiannon's recent research has been investigating carbon sequestration by river red gums in the Namoi Catchment. She has recently published a paper in a high-ranking international journal on growth rates and carbon sequestration by these trees during 2008-2012 when growth rates were high due to high rainfall conditions and prolonged flood events across semi-arid Australia.

'My research is showing that carbon sequestration by river red gums trees in riparian zones may offset annual emissions from cotton production, and therefore allow cotton farmers to run a carbon-neutral enterprise.

'This fact will be of particular interest to the growing number of carbon-conscious consumers who are looking to minimise their carbon footprint,' Rhiannon said.

For more, see the Autumn 2017 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

Case study: River and riparian zone research in focus

It was all down river at Warren in February 2017 to learn about the value of riparian areas on cotton farms and what research is telling us about their value to growers. CottonInfo and Central West Local Land Services, in partnership with the Australian Government, ran a riparian management field day at Warren in the Macquarie Valley in NSW.

CottonInfo Natural Resource Management technical specialist Stacey Vogel hosted the event to extend the latest CRDC riparian vegetation research, increase participants' awareness of its value and share the latest BMP guidelines. In all, 45 people representing 10 cotton farms joined in.

'The seats in the kayaks were snapped up by the cotton growers and their families,' CottonInfo Macquarie regional extension officer Amanda Thomas said. 'Given the grower participation and the great feedback, we would like to run another day in the Narromine or Trangie end of the valley.

'The river provided the perfect backdrop for Stacey to share CRDC research, including really interesting information about which tree species can be beneficial for river bank stability such as river red gums, and how these trees, which can live for up to 1000 years, store large amounts of carbon.'

Ecologist Phil Sparks in action at the riparian management field day.

This research, undertaken by Dr Rhiannon Smith, who joined the day, has outlined ecosystem services provided by river red gums such as carbon storage and sequestration. Vertosols under river red gums have a higher total organic carbon percentage and provide a sustained input of carbon, through litter, for soil biology, providing better aggregate stability and erosion control. Rhiannon found river red gum sites stored significantly more carbon than other types of native vegetation, which is on average 200 t C/ha, and as high as 400 t C/ha.

CSIRO's Nancy Schellhorn's research found that on-farm native vegetation fills a critical temporal gap to support the life-cycle of many beneficials that provide pest control services.

'We also discussed Andrew Biggs' (QLD Department of Natural Resources) CRDC-funded research and the role river red gums and myalls play in mitigating excess recharge,' Stacey said.

'Leaf litter from native vegetation has an important role in suppressing weed establishment in riparian areas and assists germination of woody riparian vegetation, as found by Dr Sam Capon and Dr Stephen Balcombe's research.'

Cameron Downing from Central West Local Land Services provided commentary during the kayaking, while ecologist Phil Spark (who camped out for two nights prior to collect an array of local wildlife) introduced eight species of microbats as well as many frog, lizard, fish, weeds and native plant species.

'The adults and children heard about their importance, their habitat and how useful they are on cotton farms,' Stacey said.

For more, see the Winter 2017 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

Sustainable futures:

Scoping and investigating critical threats and opportunities that may influence the long-term sustainability of the Australian cotton industry; Supporting innovative approaches to solve traditional industry issues and drive future sustainability.

Agricultural production, including cotton production, is becoming an increasingly complex business. Major uncertainties about global economics and international markets, shifting national policies and social values, demographic changes, competition for key resources, rapid technological change and the impact of an increasingly variable climate dominated by extreme events mean agricultural industries must continually adapt to changing circumstances.

In 2016-17, CRDC invested in the following key project to help scope and investigate critical threats and opportunities:

·                Resilience assessment of the Australian cotton industry at multiple scales, with Bel Tempo.

The Resilience assessment of the Australian cotton industry at multiple scales project concluded in 2016-17, with the launch of the assessment at the Australian Cotton Conference in August 2016. CRDC commissioned the resilience assessment to better understand how to help the cotton industry best adapt to change, and to identify critical threats and opportunities in order to strategically target investment and resources at three levels - farm, region, and whole of industry.

The assessment found that there are five key drivers of change acting across the Australian cotton industry: demand, policy, climate change, climate variability, and cotton price. Potential shocks, which are a sudden spike in one of these drivers, relate to climate change and variability, biosecurity, policy, price and social licence. The report identifies that industry leaders and growers need to be aware of the impact of those drivers, and of the changing nature, frequency or severity of shocks to better prepare and respond to them. The report recommends that national R&D, regional water availability and infrastructure, farm profitability, and farm-water availability thresholds should be the highest priority for interventions from a resilience perspective. The full resilience assessment is available to download from the CRDC website: www.crdc.com.au/publications.

Case study: Building resilience in the Australian cotton industry

Agricultural production, including cotton, is an increasingly complex business requiring continuous adaptation to changing circumstances. Resilience thinking is an approach designed to understand a complex and changing operating environment and maintain capacity to manage future challenges. It is now being widely adopted globally to help communities, industries and governments alike deal with uncertain futures.

The cotton industry is the first agricultural industry in Australia to apply this thinking, with the CRDC-commissioned Resilience assessment of the Australian cotton industry at multiple scales report, launched at the Australian Cotton Conference.

Resilience thinking takes into consideration that a cotton production system is made up of many interacting elements with links and connections between them. A change in one element affects many others and, if not managed, can lead to unintended consequences.

'Resilience thinking tries to understand the relationships between the elements of a system and how they interact so it can be managed better,' said project leader Dr Francesca Andreoni.

Cotton grower Juanita Hamparsum, speaking at the launch of the resilience assessment at the Australian Cotton Conference in August 2016.

'Resilience planning looks at the whole system and identifies the critical drivers of change and the potential shocks as a way of determining when it might reach a threshold beyond which a current production system is no longer possible.

'At the farm scale, the project has shown that the key drivers of change are price, climate variability and policy. They all affect the critical assets on farms, resulting in thresholds associated with water quality and quantity, soil health, profitability and proximity to native vegetation habitat.

'This understanding led to the development of a number of potential strategies that growers can implement to maintain their production systems, which are fully outlined in the report. The best way for growers to identify strategies for their farm is to conduct a resilience assessment by watching the short video that was also produced for the project,' said Francesca.

Breeza cotton grower Juanita Hamparsum believes understanding how the entire farming system works (people, financial and natural capital) allows a greater focus on the areas that will have the biggest impact on farm productivity, sustainability and profitability when challenges arise.

'We had four challenging years on our farm, with flooding, extensive 2,4-D drift, drought, severe sand blasting and hail. Using resilience thinking and mapping the relationships between all the elements of our operation, we got rid of the "noise" and focused on the actions we needed to take so we could keep our operation going and bounce back faster,' said Juanita.

'Resilience planning helps you know how things interact and work together and proactively plan for the actions you need to take to keep things humming along,' Juanita said.

For more, download the full resilience report, or watch the short video at /www.crdc.com.au/publications/ resilience-assessment-australian-cotton-industry.

Program 3: Customers

Program: Customers

Outcome: The Australian cotton industry captures the full value of its products.

Measure: Double the premium for Australian cotton.

Theme

3.1 Assured Cotton

3.2 Differential Products

3.3 Competitive Futures

Strategy Outcomes

The integrity and qualities of Australian cotton set global benchmarks for customers.

Customers recognise the differentiated value of Australian cotton products.

The demand for Australian cotton products is positively transformed.

Will be achieved by

3.1.1 Improving Australian fibre quality testing standards and procedures and the capacity to measure and manage contamination.

3.1.2 Supporting the development and implementation of post-farmgate BMPs.

3.1.3 Developing and implementing a standardised reporting system for Australian cotton product quality and traceability.

3.1.4 Benchmarking Australian cotton against key international programs for product stewardship and sustainability.

3.2.1 Identifying opportunities for improvements in fibre quality and cotton products.

3.2.2 Demonstrating the value of different fibre classes and defining fibre quality parameters that secure a premium market.

3.2.3 Developing customer-based partnerships for the development of higher value and novel products, which differentiate Australian cotton.

3.3.1 Investigating existing and future markets for Australian cotton and communicating these findings to the Australian cotton industry.

3.3.2 Facilitating the development of new technologies and systems to improve the competitiveness of Australian cotton.

Measures of success

Customers have confidence in the integrity of Australian cotton:

·                Australia has the best ranking for non-contamination in the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) survey.

·                Customers recognise and use Australia's BMP standards as their guarantee of quality assurance.

·                Australia uses standardised reporting systems for product quality and traceability for farmers, industry and customers.

·                Australia can respond to customer needs for reporting sustainability indicators.

Customers value the qualities of Australian cotton:

·                New fibre classification systems established.

·                Partnerships established to demonstrate the potential for differentiating Australian cotton.

Customers continue to demand Australian cotton products:

·                Provide the Australian cotton industry with knowledge of fabric innovations and future market opportunities.

·                Development of alternative and high-value cotton products.

Key program investments

This section provides a snapshot of some of CRDC's investments during 2016-17 in this program area. The full list of CRDC's investments for this period can be found at Appendix 4: the RD&E portfolio. Reports from all completed projects can be found at CRDC's online library, Inside Cotton (www.insidecotton.com).

Assured cotton:

Improving Australian fibre quality testing standards and procedures and the capacity to measure and manage contamination; Benchmarking Australian cotton against key international programs for product stewardship and sustainability.

CRDC's investment in this area aims to ensure that Australia maintains its global reputation for high-quality cotton, so as to help the industry capture the full value of its products. Programs that help to maintain and improve Australian cotton's fibre quality, and demonstrate the sustainability, transparency and traceability of the Australian cotton industry, are part of this investment program.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its support of assured cotton through key projects, including:

·                Determining the shelf life of round modules and impact on cotton quality, with CSIRO;

·                Enhancing and testing the Cotton Carbon Management Tool, with UQ; and

·                Raising the quality of Australian cotton through post-harvest initiatives, with CSIRO.

The Determining the shelf life of round modules and impact on cotton quality project aimed to address fibre quality issues in round modules that could be caused by the storage duration and conditions prior to ginning. There was a concern that the plastic wrap on round modules could create favourable conditions for microbial degradation of the cotton (as a result of solar radiation, the impermeable wrapper, and when the moisture content of the cotton is too high), which weakens the fibre and causes fibre quality deterioration, resulting in price discounts for growers.

As a result, this project aimed to establish the threshold of conditions that can cause damage, and propose potential solutions and risk-management guidelines for eliminating and reducing fibre damage during round module storage. The research found that round module storage has a small but detectable influence on the yellowness and elongation of the cotton fibre. It also found that the industry guidelines for traditional modules in regard to moisture content at picking and module storage conditions were applicable to round modules - such as the recommendation to harvest and store seed cotton at moisture levels below 12 per cent. The project concluded in 2016-17 and the final report is available at CRDC's online library, Inside Cotton.

The Enhancing and testing the Cotton Carbon Management Tool project is the final stage in the development of the Cotton Carbon Management Tool (CCMT), a crop carbon footprint calculator for cotton growers. Crop greenhouse gas emissions and the need for carbon-friendly farming practices remain focus areas in agriculture in Australia. Cotton farmers globally are also coming under increased pressure to substantiate the sustainability credentials of their farming methods. As such, the tool is designed to be accessed through myBMP to allow greenhouse gas emission calculations as part of the certification process. This project involves the incorporation of a nitrogen optimisation module; a financial model; and a wheat/grains crop emissions calculator and natural vegetation calculator to enable whole-of-farm carbon assessments and scenario planning. The tool is currently being internally tested and, pending final lab results to update soil mineralisation algorithms, will be released in 2017-18, when this project will conclude.

The Raising the quality of Australian cotton through post-harvest initiatives project had the broad objective of providing solutions to two ongoing quality issues that affect Australia's reputation as a premium fibre producer: excessive nep generation in harvesting and ginning, and understanding the potential impact of contamination by the yellow module plastic used by the JD7760 harvester in the spinning mill. The project also sought to extend relevant technical information, through the CottonInfo extension program, to growers and service providers.

The project found that the cotton picker spindle set up and adjustment can have a significant impact on colour grade, length, elongation, micronaire and trash; and that plastic that enters the gin has a real possibility of contaminating export bales, resulting in claims. As such, it is best to prevent damage during harvesting and transporting. The project concluded in 2016-17. A subsequent project with the researcher, Managing cotton quality to maintain Australia's premium status, commences in 2017-18 with research in these areas continuing.

Case study: Establishing the shelf life of round modules

The use of round module builder pickers has grown very quickly in Australia and with it, uncertainty over the shelf life of the modules in the gin yard.

The advent of round bales required industry to revisit harvesting and module storage guidelines, which were developed for use with conventional modules. This brought CRDC to support research by Dr Menghe (Malcolm) Miao of CSIRO into the effect of plastic polyethylene film on module moisture and heat retention and cotton fibre quality.

The research found that, on the whole, round module storage has a small but detectable influence on the yellowness and elongation of the cotton fibre and that the industry guidelines for traditional modules in regard to moisture content at picking and module storage conditions were applicable to round modules.

'Growers have expressed concerns about the consequences of the situation where modules may be kept in the sun and through wet weather conditions for extended periods prior to ginning,' Malcolm said.

'Cotton quality attributes (length uniformity, strength, elongation, and colour) displayed statistically significant changes between modules ginned at the beginning of the storage period and at the end of the storage period (some up to 10 months), however not all these changes could be assigned to the effect of storage time.

'Two consistent trends emerged from these monitored ginning trials, which were increases in yellowness, and decreases in elongation with module storage time.

'Interestingly, the increased yellowness (+b) lead to a positive impact on colour grade as Australian cottons are "super-white", while the reduction in elongation may be caused by UV exposure of the cotton at the top and ends of the round module. This hypothesis needs be confirmed by further investigation.'

Another aspect of the research included analysis of a large industrial database that contained the picking and ginning dates and HVI test results of 222,793 bales of cotton from the 2015 season, and 222,337 bales from the 2016 season. The cottons were grown in five regions including Moree, Warren, Narrabri, Trangie and Hay, and processed by six gins.

Trends between cotton quality indicators and module storage time were identified from each of the two seasons. However, the trends identified from 2015 were not repeated in the 2016 season.

'This inconsistency is attributable to the complex nature of weather conditions, cotton growth and ginning, any of which can have a more significant effect on cotton quality than module storage time,' Malcolm said.

For more, see the Winter 2017 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight, or download the final report at CRDC's online library, Inside Cotton www.insidecotton.com.

Differentiated products:

Identifying opportunities for improvements in fibre quality and cotton products; Demonstrating the value of different fibre classes and defining fibre quality parameters that secure a premium market; Developing customer-based partnerships for the development of higher value and novel products, which differentiate Australian cotton.

Australian cotton growers are competing in a complex global market, with challenges coming from both within the global cotton industry (with Australian growers competing against subsidised overseas growers) and the wider global textile industry (where cotton's market share is diminishing against the ever-growing man-made fibre industry).

As a result, investments in this area look to fully exploit current advantages of Australian cotton, open up other opportunities for Australian cotton to be differentiated on the world market, and help cotton better compete with man-made fibres.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its support of the differentiated products theme through key projects, including:

·                An eco-friendly treatment to improve look and handle of cotton fabric, with Deakin University;

·                Breathable cotton for compression athletic wear, with Deakin University; and

·                High-value bio-extractives and bioethanol from cotton gin trash, with NSW DPI.

An eco-friendly treatment to improve look and handle of cotton fabric project builds upon earlier CRDC-supported research that found an amino acid that has the potential to replace caustic soda in the mercerisation of cotton (a process that improves lustre, strength and higher affinity for dyes). Caustic soda requires strict control in handling, disposal and recovery, making it costly and restricting its uptake. The amino acid, meanwhile, is safe and widely available. As such, in this project, the amino acid treatment will be applied and tested to maximise the lustre, strength and dye affinity effects, as well as the efficiency of the process.

The new technology will provide a competitive knowledge advantage to the Australian cotton sector on fabric innovations, particularly future market opportunities for high-value cotton products based on green technology. The project is due for completion in 2018-19.

The Breathable cotton for compression athletic wear project aims to develop a fabric suitable for compression garments from Australian Long Staple cotton to compete with synthetic compression athletic wear, and to demonstrate the advantage of this fabric over existing synthetic products. The project will lead to the potential development of athletic apparel with improved wearer comfort, heat and moisture transfer properties and enhanced breathability compared to the current synthetic compression athletic garments. This project aims to open up a new opportunity to develop an innovative manufacturing technology and new market for Australian cotton, which could be used in other applications outside of active wear, such as medical textiles. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The High-value bio-extractives and bioethanol from cotton gin trash project is designed to advance the research and development of converting cotton gin trash into valuable bioproducts. A current pilot study by NSW DPI has identified cotton gin trash as a novel resource for producing low-cost sugars and subsequent conversion to ethanol. However, the full spectrum and value of associated compounds that can be extracted is unknown. This project aims to fill this knowledge gap by comparing the technical and financial merits of the processes, products and market options for cotton gin trash, helping Australian cotton industry to make commercial decisions and set future research directions. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

Case study: Unlocking the hidden value of gin trash

Agriculturally based industries, including cotton production, can generate several million tonnes of waste each year, which typically represents a burden to the industry through expensive waste management. There is, however, potential to convert this trash into treasure.

Cotton gin trash is one such promising renewable biomass feedstock that could support regional biorefineries producing a range of value-added bio-based products such as fuels, chemicals, feeds, fibre and energy.

In a CRDC-funded project, NSW DPI scientists in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of phytochemists and pharmacologists from Southern Cross University and Western Sydney University are aiming to develop scalable, innovative and integrated processes to fractionate, refine and convert gin trash into multiple novel biochemicals and biofuels.

'Gin trash is an ideal low-cost feedstock because unlike other biomass, it is concentrated at processing sites,' says NSW DPI's Dr Shane McIntosh.

'The study has been designed to evaluate and develop processing methods to exploit the high levels of carbohydrates found in gin trash specifically for the production of bioethanol.

'Moreover, the cotton plant is known to contain many important chemical compounds, some of which are highly valued, particularly in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, pesticides and fragrances industries.

'The project will explore the full spectrum and potential product application of compounds that can be extracted.

'By developing a consolidated processing configuration, combining a number of different processes into one or maybe a few sequential steps that simplifies the overall processing, significant reductions in production costs can be realised,' Shane said.

CRDC is also investigating the techno-economic feasibility of establishing biorefineries, and the business model options, as a key component of A profitable future for Australian agriculture: biorefineries for higher-value animal feeds, chemicals, and fuels project. This is a major collaborative project under the Australian Government's Rural R&D for Profit programme.

For more, see the Winter 2017 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

Competitive futures:

Investigating existing and future markets for Australian cotton and communicating these findings to the Australian cotton industry; Facilitating the development of new technologies and systems to improve the competitiveness of Australian cotton.

Continued innovation is necessary to maintain the competitiveness of Australian cotton in traditional markets, and to open up new market opportunities. Investments in this area, under the CRDC Cotton Futures banner, are designed to transform the way in which consumers demand Australian cotton products in order to continue to ensure cotton's competitiveness.

In 2016-17, CRDC's support for the Competitive futures theme took place through key projects, including:

·                Developing renewable fine chemicals from cotton biomass, with QUT; and

·                Exploring nanofibrous coating on cotton fabric with versatile protection and dynamic comfort, with RMIT.

The Developing renewable fine chemicals from cotton biomass project investigates the production of fine chemicals that can be created from biomass, including cotton lint, mote and cotton gin trash. The project utilises existing, proven technology to convert cotton gin trash to fine chemicals, and is developing a new, economically viable process to produce the required building blocks for these fine chemicals. The process will use relatively simple reagents and investigate the potential to reduce the number of reaction steps, which will reduce the overall cost.

The project is part of the larger collaborative project, A profitable future for Australian agriculture: biorefineries for higher-value animal feed, chemicals and fuel, which involves CRDC and is funded by the Australian Government as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme. The project is due for completion in 2018-19.

The Exploring nanofibrous coating on cotton fabric with versatile protection and dynamic comfort project aims to develop a versatile coating for cotton fabric for use in protective clothing, by adopting nanotechnology and surface engineering technology. Fabric coating is a common means of producing protective clothing, however the fluorine-based polymers traditionally used on cotton fabric have or are being banned due their environmental concerns. Nanotechnology offers an 'eco-friendly' approach to provide functional coatings for cotton fabric that protect against different liquids and oil and chemicals.

The potential is that nanotechnology can enhance coating durability through their large surface area-to-volume ratio and high surface energy, providing for better adhesion between the coating and the fabric, while maintaining the original excellent comfort characteristics of cotton such as breathability and feel. The project commenced this year and is due for completion in 2019-20.

Case study: Cotton goes three-dimensional with a 3D printer at Conference

CRDC's Cotton Futures program was on the agenda at the 18th Cotton Conference in August 2016, with researchers from the CRDC-supported Cotton rapid customisation feasibility study project, QUT's Dr Jared Donovan and Dr Rafael Gomez, presenting their findings.

The study, which concluded in 2015-16, explored the feasibility of using cotton-derived materials for rapid customisation. Rapid customisation is a way of creating physical products from digital design files through computer-controlled manufacturing. The best known is 3D printing.

QUT's Dr Jared Donovan and Dr Rafael Gomez being interviewed in front of the 3D printer at the CRDC and CottonInfo stand at Cotton Conference.

The project sought to discover whether materials derived from cotton could be used for 3D printing, and if so, what the best combination of 3D printing and cotton-derived materials would be. It found that there are many different ways that cotton-derived materials could be used, and sought to answer the question: why would cotton make a compelling choice over other materials?

To address this, the researchers developed 'design visions' of products that could employ cotton-derived feedstocks in new and novel ways, and where there would be a clear advantage and market opportunity for cotton - like the on-site fabrication of cotton-based filtration products, or on-demand manufacturing of cotton bespoke furniture.

This project formed a vital first step in exploring rapid customisation - a fast-growing industry -as an area of potential for the Australian cotton industry. It recognised that if we can find new and novel ways of using cotton then we can expand the market for cotton products, and allow for innovations in supply-chain and business models.

To demonstrate 3D printing technology, CRDC and CottonInfo's stand at the Conference hosted a 3D printer from QUT, where delegates could watch cotton bolls being printed.

For more, see the Spring 2016 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine: www.crdc.com.au/spotlight.

Program 4: People

Program: People

Outcome: Capable and connected people driving the cotton industry.

Theme

4.1 Workforce Capacity

4.2 Networks

4.3 Communication

Strategy Outcomes

A skilled, educated and progressive industry workforce.

An industry connected by dynamic networks.

Stakeholder information needs are met.

Will be achieved by

4.1.1 Investigating effective strategies for attracting, developing and retaining people in the cotton industry.

4.1.2 Supporting initiatives which lead to the continuous improvement of human resource management, including on-farm Workplace Health and Safety.

4.1.3 Understanding opportunities for greater Aboriginal participation in cotton and partnering with organisations to support the development of a culturally aware cotton workforce.

4.1.4 Supporting educational opportunities which increase the skills and knowledge of current workforces and will meet the needs of future workforces.

4.1.5 Creating opportunities for, and supporting the development of, leadership skills.

4.2.1 Establishing and empowering creative forums and initiatives which build relationships.

4.2.2 Supporting and participating in collaborative cross- sectoral RD&E initiatives.

4.2.3 Creating and facilitating opportunities for national and international RD&E exchange.

4.2.4 Facilitating engagement with stakeholders for prioritising and capturing advice on RD&E issues.

4.2.5 Honing research expertise and the application of science from core research disciplines.

4.3.1 Providing information for demand-driven communication strategies and performance reporting.

4.3.2 Applying innovative communication methods.

Measures of success

Opportunities for learning are demanded by industry:

·                A 10-fold increase in school visits to promote careers in cotton by 2018.

·                A student gap year internship program.

·                50 Horizon students by 2018.

·                30 completed summer scholarships by 2018.

·                300 students having completed the UNE Cotton Course by 2018.

Opportunities for workforce development are demanded by industry.

·                60 ginners trained.

·                25 industry representatives having completed the Field to Fabric Course.

·                50 cotton farmers awarded a new Diploma in Human Resources by 2018.

·                A 10 per cent reduction in cotton farm-related injuries by 2018.

·                On-farm skill development.

·                Participation in leadership programs.

People and industry are connected through effective networks:

·                10 conferences and forums are coordinated which promote industry, cross-sectoral and community knowledge sharing.

·                CRDC is an active member of key industry and government initiatives.

·                Primary Industry Standing Committee (PISC) cotton and cross-sectoral RD&E strategies.

·                50 travel scholarships are supported.

·                The cotton industry has effective collaborative structures for prioritizing RD&E.

People have ready access to industry information:

·                Communication systems for all CRDC stakeholders are meeting their communication needs.

·                The information and services derived from CRDC investments are in demand and the technologies are adopted.

Key program investments

This section provides a snapshot of some of CRDC's investments during 2016-17 in this program area. The full list of CRDC's investments for this period can be found at Appendix 4: the RD&E portfolio. Reports from all completed projects can be found at CRDC's online library, Inside Cotton (www.insidecotton.com).

Workforce capacity:

Investigating effective strategies for attracting, developing and retaining people in the cotton industry.

People are the cotton industry's most important resource, and ensuring the industry continues to have a network of capable and connected people is a key priority. CRDC's investments in this area aim to provide critical supporting information for the industry, helping to inform the industry's wider workforce development strategy.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its investment into workforce development through a number of key projects:

·                PhD: Career motivational factors of cotton growers (attraction and retention), with USQ;

·                PhD: Investigating cotton farm workers' experiences of job satisfaction using social cognitive career theory, with USQ; and

·                PhD: Skills profile and labour supply structure on cotton farms, with UNE.

The Career motivational factors of cotton growers (attraction and retention) PhD project looked at the psychological drivers and characteristics that impact on cotton grower motivation and work/life satisfaction. This project investigated such factors as risk tolerance, optimism and entrepreneurship in cotton growers, and how the motivations of growers impacted on their attraction and retention strategies. Through self-assessment and a national survey, the research found growers to be agreeable, conscientious and open to experience. Insights from the project showed that growers' decision-making is influenced by factors such as 'framing' (how an event or situation is presented), 'choice overload' (finding the balance when presented with many options), and 'defaults' (automatic decision-making). Increased understanding of these factors will improve grower decision-making, and the support options offered by the industry. The project concluded in 2016-17.

The Investigating cotton farm workers' experiences of job satisfaction using social cognitive career theory PhD project aimed to identify the key personal motivational factors that attract and retain farm employees of the cotton industry. The project found that up to 70 per cent of variation in farm workers' job satisfaction is explained by a combination of factors, including proactive personality, perceived organisational support, task self-efficacy, conservation values congruence, and work engagement. It also found that farm workers' confidence in their ability to do their job leads to productive behaviour if they understand and personally identify with the values and outcomes that drive best practice farming. Furthermore, productive behaviour and dedication to achieving on-farm goals was boosted by the farm workers' perceptions of support and that their efforts were recognised by their employer. The evidence identifies aspects of human resource management that may be targeted to make production gains for cotton growers. The project concluded in 2016-17.

The Skills profile and labour supply structure on cotton farms project is investigating the workforce needs of cotton farms and comparing them with supply sources and structures to assess the effectiveness of employee-retention practices. The project is developing an inventory of current and future labour needs, to identify the gaps and to outline the strategies to address these needs for the industry. The project has found that a coordinated approach is required to match the knowledge, skills and abilities needed in the agricultural sector to the diverse training programs available, along with an oversight program to estimate the emerging skills and knowledge needs in agriculture as a whole. With these resources in place, training suppliers could then develop appropriate learning experiences to deliver the required skills and knowledge. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

Workforce capacity:

Supporting initiatives which lead to the continuous improvement of human resource management, including on-farm Workplace Health and Safety.

Health and safety continues to be a major concern for cotton growers and cotton industry employers. The goal for the industry is to reduce cotton farm-related injuries by 10 per cent by 2018. CRDC contributes to the achievement of this industry goal by investing in on-farm safety, and monitoring and evaluation projects.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its investment into workplace health and safety through two key projects:

·                People in Agriculture website, with Dairy Australia; and

·                Primary Industries Health and Safety, a joint partnership with RIRDC.

The People in Agriculture website project aimed to develop an online resource for the agricultural sector, to help employers and employees with human resource management needs. The website, which was inspired by the People in Dairy website, offers compliance support for employers, promoting agriculture as a career choice and providing a platform for employment information sharing. It provides an overarching agriculture perspective as well as sector-specific content, with resources for employers, and guides for employees via one centralised hub. The project concluded in 2016-17, with the launch of the site by the Deputy Prime Minister in December 2016.

Case study: Deputy Prime Minister launches People in Agriculture site with CRDC

People in Agriculture is a new resource for employers and employees working in agriculture.

CRDC is among one of six agricultural bodies that has led the development of the People in Agriculture website that was launched in December 2016 by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, and CRDC Chair Richard Haire, along with representatives of the other bodies: GRDC, APL, Dairy Australia, MLA, and Food and Agribusiness Solutions.

The website offers compliance support for employers, promoting agriculture as a career choice and providing a platform for employment information sharing. It provides an overarching agriculture perspective as well as sector-specific content, with resources for employers, and guides for employees via one centralised hub.

It breaks down questions commonly asked by Australia's farmers and food producers around employment law and staff management, and provides access to information on employment opportunities, entitlements and career management in agriculture.

In cotton, it is designed to complement the resources available in the HR and WHS modules of myBMP, with links to the new site from myBMP.

For more information on People in Agriculture, visit www.peopleinag.com.au.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, launches People in Agriculture with CRDC Chair Richard Haire, Cotton Australia's training coordinator Rebecca Fing, and CRDC's GM R&D, Dr Ian Taylor.

The ongoing Primary Industries Health and Safety project aims to improve the health and safety of farm workers and their families. A jointly funded project involving six of the Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs), it undertakes RD&E activities to improve the physical and mental health of farmers and the safety of the farm work environment. The project targets its health and safety information at business owners, managers and employees involved with farming, including cotton growers, as well as health professionals and researchers in rural health and safety. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

Workforce capacity:

Supporting educational opportunities which increase the skills and knowledge of current workforces and will meet the needs of future workforces.

The cotton industry recognises the need for passionate, skilled and innovative people to shape its future in a rapidly changing and growing world. To ensure the industry is able to attract talented young people, CRDC continues to invest in a number of initiatives focused on developing students at the school, undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its investment into educational opportunities for current and future workforces through a number of key projects:

·                Aboriginal Employment Strategy student scholarships, with the Aboriginal Employment Strategy;

·                Cotton Production Course, with UNE;

·                Cotton Young Farming Champions, with Art for Agriculture;

·                CRDC Summer and Honours Scholarships program, funded by CRDC;

·                CRDC PhD Scholarship program, funded by CRDC;

·                Developing education capacity in the Australian cotton industry (CottonInfo technical specialist), with CSIRO;

·                Horizon Scholarship program, with RIRDC; and

·                Primary Industries Education Foundation, co-funded with Cotton Australia.

The ongoing Aboriginal Employment Strategy program, supported by CRDC and the Aboriginal Employment Strategy, is a school-based traineeship for Indigenous students. Running for 13 years, the program provides an opportunity for local Indigenous students enrolled in Years 11 and 12 at Wee Waa and Narrabri High Schools to gain paid work experience, a nationally recognised qualification, credit towards their Higher School Certificate, and exposure to the different career opportunities available in the cotton industry. The program increases the skills, experience and capacity of the young Indigenous students; exposes them to range of vocations available through the cotton industry; presents a possible source of future employment; and breaks down the barriers between non-Indigenous employees and Indigenous students. In 2016-17, CRDC supported two students through this program. This program is ongoing in 2017-18.

The ongoing Cotton Production Course provides a tertiary-level course on cotton production for those interested in, and working in, cotton. It also provides the wider benefit of mentoring prospective industry researchers and conducting applied systems research. As at semester one, 2017, 38 students are enrolled in the course. This program is ongoing in 2017-18.

The newly established Cotton Young Farming Champions program aims to identify youth ambassadors and future influencers working within cotton. The Young Farming Champions program promotes positive images and perceptions of farming and engages in activities such as The Archibull Prize. CRDC has partnered with Young Farming Champions organisers, Art4Agriculture, for the first time in 2016-17. Cotton Australia also has a relationship with Art4Agriculture, supporting the Archibull Prize. These programs form part of Cotton Australia's focus on education, and the combined CRDC and Cotton Australia focus on workforce development. The program will run until 2018-19.

The CRDC Summer and Honours Scholarships are available to university students completing the senior years of an undergraduate degree or enrolled in an honours program. The scholarships provide them with the opportunity to work on real research, extension or industry projects in a working environment as part of their professional development. In 2016-17, CRDC supported five summer/honours scholarships for students to work with existing researchers or research organisations. This program is ongoing in 2017-18.

The CRDC PhD Scholarship program funds researchers undertaking their PhDs. In 2016-17, CRDC helped fund 26 new or ongoing PhD scholars across all five of the CRDC's program areas. This program is ongoing in 2017-18.

The ongoing Developing education capacity in the Australian cotton industry project provides a full­time education officer, who implements a range of activities and programs in schools to boost knowledge of the industry and its varied career options. The officer is based at the Australian Cotton Research Institute. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The ongoing Horizon Scholarship program is an initiative of RIRDC that, in partnership with other RDCs and industry sponsors, supports undergraduates studying agriculture at university by providing a bursary, professional development workshop and work experience. In 2016-17, CRDC supported two new Horizon Scholarships for undergraduate students: Sam Knight (2016) and Holly Chandler (2017). Overall, CRDC has supported 12 Horizon scholars throughout the 2016-17 year. CRDC's support for the Horizon program is ongoing into 2017-18.

The Primary Industries Education Foundation is focused on encouraging primary industries education in schools, by providing national leadership and coordination of activities; providing resources for students and teachers; and encouraging interest in primary industry careers. CRDC and Cotton Australia continue to jointly contribute to the Foundation on behalf of the cotton industry. CRDC's support for the Foundation is ongoing into 2017-18.

Case study: Cotton appoints two Young Farming Champions

Jess Lehmann and Nellie Evans have been selected as CRDC's inaugural Young Farming Champions (YFC).

Run by Art4Agriculture, the YFC program identifies youth ambassadors and future influencers working in the agriculture sector. The YFC promote positive images and perceptions of farming and engage in activities such as The Archibull Prize.

CRDC has partnered with Art4Agriculture for the first time in 2017 through its support of the YFC program. Cotton Australia also has a relationship with Art4Agriculture, supporting the Archibull Prize. These programs form part of Cotton Australia's focus on education, and the combined CRDC and Cotton Australia focus on workforce development.

Jess Lehmann, the daughter of well-known consultant, the late Chris Lehmann, hails from the family cotton farm at Narrabri, and works in cotton research.

'I am always amazed by the various people and bodies who contribute to our agricultural sector,' she says.

'Whether it's farmers, contractors, researchers, scientists, policy developers, or agronomists, everyone is a part of the overall equation and everyone will benefit from future agricultural research.'

After studying landscape architecture, Nellie Evans discovered cotton on the plains of Warren, Bourke and Gunnedah that changed her career direction. Currently a fourth year agricultural science student at The University of Sydney, she believes passionately in the industry.

'The cotton industry is really at the forefront of research and development as it faces a future of climate, social and market-based challenges,' she says.

CRDC's General Manager of R&D, Ian Taylor, oversees CRDC's investments in the People program and says the partnership with Art4Agriculture further broadens CRDC's support of people in the industry.

'We support a wide range of programs - from Art4Agriculture through to the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation - all focused on providing development opportunities for people in cotton.

'It's an acknowledgement that people are our most important resource,' Ian said.

For more information on the Young Farming Champions program, visit: www.art4agriculture.com.au.

One of cotton's Young Farming Champions, Jess Lehmann, pictured with cotton industry researcher, Dr Robert Mensah, and Jess's grandfather, cotton grower Vic Melbourne.

Workforce capacity:

Creating opportunities for, and supporting the development of, leadership skills.

The cotton industry, like many other industries, is facing a period of change and uncertainty. Faced with variability in climate, competition for skilled labour, changes in land use and access to water, the industry requires a network of informed and experienced leaders that can work together to develop resilient and sustainable farming systems and communities.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its investment into leadership through a number of key projects:

·                Cotton industry leadership development strategy, with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation;

·                Nuffield Farming Scholarships program, with Nuffield Australia;

·                Peter Cullen Trust: Science to Policy Leadership Program, with the Peter Cullen Trust; and

·                Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture, with ABARES and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The Cotton industry leadership development strategy includes funding of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, which is focused on producing a network of informed, capable and ethical leaders who can work collaboratively to advance the interests of their industries, communities and rural Australia. In 2016-17, CRDC co-sponsored two participants with Auscott and Cotton Australia: cotton merchant Matt Bradd, and marketing services manager Meagan Laidlaw. CRDC's support for the Australian Rural Leadership Program is ongoing into 2017-18.

The Nuffield Farming Scholarships program is the leading agricultural study program for primary producers in Australia. It provides farmers with the opportunity to pursue an area of agricultural-related study overseas, to the benefit of both the individual grower and their wider industry. In 2016-17, the two recent CRDC and Cotton Australia-supported Nuffield scholars, cotton growers Matthew McVeigh and Thomas Quigley, graduated from the program, with the release of their respective research reports - into colour downgrades in cotton, and growing cotton under sprinkler irrigation. In this year, CRDC and Cotton Australia also commenced their support for cotton grower and Nuffield scholar Daniel Kahl, who is investigating career attraction and retention strategies for the next generation of farm managers. CRDC's support for the Nuffield Farming Scholarships is ongoing into 2017-18.

The Peter Cullen Trust: Science to Policy Leadership Program aims to enhance the role of science in policy development and to bring about positive change in water and catchment management in Australia. It is intended to build the leadership and communication skills of people actively involved in water systems management - be it river or catchment, rural water, or environmental science or policy. In 2016-17, CRDC supported two participants in the program: Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association executive officer Zara Lowien, and Border Rivers Food and Fibre executive officer Tim Napier. CRDC's support for the Peter Cullen Trust program is ongoing into 2017-18.

The Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture program recognises big ideas from young rural innovators who contribute to the success of Australia's agricultural industries. For CRDC, the awards provide an opportunity to help develop the technical and leadership skills of young cotton researchers, and reward them for their commitment to innovation. The 2017 recipient of the CRDC-supported cotton Science and Innovation Award is Dr Priscilla Johnston. CRDC's support for the Science and Innovation Award is ongoing into 2017-18.

Case study: Priscilla's polymers research scoops Science and Innovation pool

Postdoctoral fellow Priscilla Johnston of CSIRO Manufacturing aims to research the use of polymers to improve the efficient use of water and lower water requirements for cotton establishment.

Priscilla is the CRDC-supported awardee of the 2017 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

'I'll be researching the use of a new polymer that can be sprayed onto soil to form a barrier that slows down soil-water evaporation and keeps more water in the soil for the plant to use,' Priscilla said.

'The great thing about this barrier is that water can pass through it and into the soil, which means there is also potential to capture and save water from rain or surface irrigation.'

As the polymer degrades in soil, it also means there will be no removal and disposal costs for farmers.

'I'm really interested in making new polymers that can be used to help solve real-world problems. Applying polymer technology in agriculture is leading to some really interesting material-based solutions that could help meet the future environmental and economic demands of the industry.

'Growers have already made huge steps toward reducing their water usage, but there are a lot more improvements that could be made by adopting emerging technologies.'

This award will be used to run a glasshouse trial, with the next step being in-field trials.

Priscilla has a PhD in polymer chemistry and some experience in soil chemistry and ecology. She is part of a broader team at CSIRO developing material-based agriculture technologies, including a sprayable, biodegradable polymer membrane. This will be her first foray into the cotton industry.

'I am really looking forward to working with an industry that so clearly values research and the positive contributions it can make. I hope that my research project will help lead to a new solution for growers to reduce their water use and increase water-use efficiencies,' Priscilla said.

For more on the ABARES Science and Innovation Awards, visit: www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/ conferences-events/scienceawards.

Receiving her Science and Innovation Award, Dr Priscilla Johnston with CRDC Executive Director Bruce Finney and Chair Richard Haire.

Case study: Tom's Nuffield scholarship helps to optimise overhead irrigation

Cotton grower and 2015 CRDC and Cotton Australia-supported Nuffield Scholar, Tom Quigley, says ongoing issues around water availability prompted him to look at new techniques from around the world to help grow more profitable, water-efficient and sustainable cotton crops using pressurised overhead sprinkler irrigation.

Tom and his family manage a 1200ha irrigation property, alongside dryland cropping and livestock enterprises, at Trangie, NSW. As part of the Government's incentive to modernise irrigation infrastructure, a large proportion of cotton farms in the Trangie district implemented pressurised overhead sprinkler irrigation systems.

Having invested heavily in the new infrastructure, most notably Centre Pivots and Lateral Moves (CPLM), Tom says it was clear that the new technology wasn't reaching its potential.

'The initial results were promising, however we weren't seeing the full potential of these machines using existing cotton-growing methods. We identified that we had to change our farming technique with the new infrastructure, in order to produce more, with less,' he said.

'I began researching new techniques and elements employed by other farmers around the world, which ultimately led to my Nuffield scholarship. It enabled me to see first-hand the advances being made with similar sprinkler irrigation systems in countries like the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand and Israel.

'I talked to farmers who had 30-plus years' experience utilising sprinkler irrigation and was able to bring that knowledge back home to help accelerate the change in practices on our own farm, as well as those around us,' Tom said.

His findings uncovered several areas of improvement for growers, ranging from the need to have ground cover to adopting new systems like strip tillage, which has delivered significant gains for US farmers in corn production. He also found that sprinkler selection determines how water is delivered to the soil efficiently and will have the greatest influence in machine performance for minimal cost.

Ultimately, Tom hopes his Nuffield Scholarship report and his global experience will encourage other Australian growers to adopt new farming techniques and share these learnings with their peers.

'The cotton industry has a great history in sharing knowledge and helping each other to improve farming practices, so as to obtain greater water efficiency, yields and profitability.'

'I hope what I've seen and learnt overseas helps other growers who are already utilising - or are thinking about utilising - sprinkler irrigation to grow cotton,' he said.

For more on the Nuffield Farming Scholarships, visit: www.nuffield.com.au.

Cotton grower and Nuffield scholar, Tom Quigley, with CottonInfo regional extension officer, Janelle Montgomery.

Networks:

Establishing and empowering creative forums and initiatives which build relationships; Creating and facilitating opportunities for national and international RD&E exchange.

The cotton industry is well known for its collaborative and inclusive nature, and CRDC's investment in this area is designed to ensure the industry continues to stay connected via dynamic networks.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its investment into networks through a number of key projects:

·                CRDC Grassroots Grants program, funded by CRDC;

·                Rural.XO microhacks and Cotton-X bridging program, with Pollenizer and X-Lab;

·                Sponsorship of the 18th Australian Cotton Conference, with Cotton Australia; and

·                Understanding and building women's participation in the cotton industry, with Wincott.

CRDC's Grassroots Grants program encourages Cotton Grower Associations (CGAs) to apply for funding to support capacity-building projects in their region. Up to $10,000 in funding is available for CGAs to help fund a project aimed at increasing the engagement of growers in the industry, solving specific regional issues, and improving their skills, knowledge base and networks. Since the Grassroots Grants program commenced in 2011, it has supported 52 projects across the cotton-growing valleys, including eight projects in 2016-17. These projects include a series of weather stations, an investigation into controlled traffic farming for compaction management, and an in-field research trial comparing dryland cotton to sorghum on various row configurations. The CRDC Grassroots Grants program is ongoing in 2017-18.

The Rural.XO microhacks program was designed to encourage entrepreneurism in the cotton industry. Under the program, cotton industry innovators were invited to participate in a series of start-up science workshops, Rural.XO microhacks, in Sydney in March and May 2017 in collaboration with CRDC's fellow RDC, Fisheries RDC. CRDC sponsored 20 cotton industry participants, from growers to researchers, to attend, with the best ideas emerging from the workshops having the opportunity to be incubated into start-up businesses through the follow-up program, the Cotton-Xbridging program that commenced in June 2017. The Rural.XOmicrohacks program concluded in 2016-17; the Cotton-X bridging program is due for completion in 2017-18.

CRDC's Sponsorship of the 18th Australian Cotton Conference provided a platform to showcase the Australian cotton industry and enhance the outputs of CRDC-funded R&D and extension activities to the industry at large. The August 2016 conference again broke attendance records, with 1900 delegates - the largest gathering of industry participants since the event commenced. Of the 151 speakers on the program for the 2016 Conference, 52 per cent were supported in some way by CRDC, be it as a Board Director, team member or supported researcher. The Conference also formalised the continuation of the CottonInfo joint venture extension program to 2021, the launch of the CRDC 25th anniversary publication, and the launch of the CRDC-supported report Resilience assessment of the Australian cotton industry at multiple scales. CRDC will again be a founding sponsor of the 19th Australian Cotton Conference, to be held in August 2018.

The Understanding and building women's participation in the cotton industry project aimed to provide an understanding of the roles and contribution women make to all facets of the cotton industry. Four points of contact, resulting in a sample size of 298, were used to understand the role, level of engagement and interests of women working in farm-based and industry roles. The project found that women in the industry are highly educated, and juggle many concurrent roles, with a varying percentage of their professional time spent in a cotton business. The project found that women in the industry generally feel accepted and engaged, but are looking for opportunities for personal and professional development. The project concluded in 2016-17.

Case study: Start-up science - turning ideas into actions

CRDC partnered with start-up science company Pollenizer and the Fisheries RDC to run two workshops titled the Rural.XOmicrohacks, held in March and May this year.

CRDC sponsored 20 cotton industry participants to attend, from growers to researchers, with the best ideas emerging from the events now with the opportunity to be incubated into real start-up businesses. The hands-on, two-day workshops in Sydney used Pollenizer's 'Startup Science' methodology.

'XO stands for exponential opportunities; exponential opportunities for new ideas to help transform the future cotton industry,' CRDC Executive Director Bruce Finney said.

'The cotton industry was built on innovation and wouldn't be where it is today without the people who challenged the status quo, who took their big ideas and turned them into reality. It's in the spirit of this history that we see our future, albeit in a vastly different approach with new technology and start-ups.'

Cotton Grower Services business development manager Reinder Prins, of Wee Waa, said the microhack provided a stimulating environment that encouraged participants 'to come up with solutions to problems we didn't even know we had before we started.'

'The main value I see in the microhack is fostering innovation at a grassroots level,' Reinder said.

'There are many people in cotton with valuable ideas that could benefit many. They just don't know how to get them out there, so microhacks can ensure everyone gets a chance to work on their idea and see how they might make it grow into a business venture.

'Transforming an idea into a business venture is not easy in the best of circumstances, but with a geographically widespread industry that is located in predominantly sparsely populated areas where certain resources might be far away, it is even harder.

'To get this kind of knowledge into our industry will benefit everyone, especially once the participants start sharing the methodology with others with good ideas as well,' Reinder said.

For more on the CRDC and Pollenizer Rural.XO microhacks, visit: www.pollenizer.com/rural-xo.

Participants at the first Rural.XO microhack in Sydney with CRDC's Bruce Finney (front left), and Cotton Australia's Adam Kay (front right) and Nicola Cottee (back left).

Communication:

Providing information for demand-driven communication strategies and performance reporting; Applying innovative communication methods.

CRDC's investment in the area of communication aims to ensure that stakeholders' information needs are met. In 2016-17, CRDC continued its investment into communication through three key projects:

·                Stimulating private-sector extension in Australian agriculture to increase returns from R&D, with Dairy Australia;

·                Videos: Documenting the production of best practice Australian cotton, with QDAF; and

·                CRDC 25th anniversary publication, funded by CRDC.

The Stimulating private-sector extension in Australian agriculture to increase returns from R&D project aims to increase the capacity of commercial and private-sector extension services in delivering R&D outputs on-farm. A review of the issues facing the commercial and private-sector extension services over the past year has identified topics for four trials, including one led by CRDC: the precision ag trial. This trial aims to increase the capacity of farm advisors to engage with digital applications based on industry RD&E to benefit growers. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The Videos: Documenting the production of best practice Australian cotton project aims to communicate scientifically based crop production, protection and best practice principles to a diverse audience through a series of short, easily accessible videos. It builds upon the former Australian cotton production and best practice documentaries project. A total of 123 short videos have been produced over the course of the two projects, with collective views reaching over 50,000. One video, on starting a siphon pipe, has been viewed 20,000 times. The videos are accessible via the CottonInfo YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/CottonInfoAust. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The CRDC 25th anniversary publication was launched by CRDC at the Cotton Conference in August 2016, to mark 25 years of CRDC-led cotton RD&E. The publication outlined the 25 major achievements in cotton RD&E over 25 years - 25 key areas in which the co-investment into RD&E by cotton growers and the Australian Government significantly benefited the industry. The publication also featured 25 key industry people who provide their thoughts on CRDC and the contribution of cotton RD&E. The project concluded in 2016-17.

Program 5: Performance

Program: Performance

Outcome: Measured performance of the Australian cotton industry and its RD&E drives continuous improvement.

Theme

5.1 Best Practice

5.2 Monitoring and Evaluation

5.3 Reviews

Strategy Outcomes

World's best practice underpins the performance of the cotton industry.

Industry and RD&E performance is captured.

Continuous improvement in industry and RD&E performance.

Will be achieved by

5.1.1 Supporting a best practice framework as the primary integrated planning, risk management, benchmarking, knowledge development and delivery system.

5.1.2 Promoting best practices through the development and delivery Joint Venture.

5.2.1 Developing and implementing an internal M&E framework for evaluating CRDC's investment portfolio balance and its RD&E performance.

5.2.2 Conducting annual industry surveys to capture practice change.

5.2.3 Establishing a framework through which industry performance can be nationally and internationally reported.

5.3.1 Undertaking scientific discipline reviews of the industry's RD&E.

5.3.2 Commissioning and participating in independent reviews of CRDC's RD&E

and organisational performance.

5.3.3 Commissioning independent reviews of the social, environmental and economic performance of the industry.

5.3.4 Participating in cross-sectoral RD&E impact evaluations and reviews.

Measures of success

Industry is able to demonstrate best practice:

·                The cotton industry's myBMP program is the primary resource for farmers accessing best practice knowledge and tools.

·                The cotton industry's myBMP program is nationally recognised and integrated with other agricultural sector best management practice programs.

·                An 80 per cent coverage of Best Management Practice systems across the Australian cotton industry.

Industry and CRDC are able to capture and demonstrate performance:

·                A rigorous monitoring and evaluation platform which measures and reports on the performance of CRDC's research and development investments.

·                An industry performance monitoring and evaluation framework that is consistent with national and international standards.

·                Providing the industry with cotton sustainability indicators and supporting its capacity to report against these indicators.

Industry and CRDC are able to continually review and improve performance:

·                Independent reviews of the social, environmental and economic performance of the industry's performance.

·                Independent reviews.

Key program investments

This section provides a snapshot of some of CRDC's investments during 2016-17 in this program area. The full list of CRDC's investments for this period can be found at Appendix 4: the RD&E portfolio. Reports from all completed projects can be found at CRDC's online library, Inside Cotton (www.insidecotton.com).

Best practice:

Supporting a best practice framework as the primary integrated planning, risk management, benchmarking, knowledge development and delivery system; Promoting best practices through the development and delivery Joint Venture.

Ensuring world's best practice underpins the performance of the industry is a role for both the industry's best management practices framework, myBMP, and the industry's joint extension program, CottonInfo. CRDC is a founding partner of both myBMP and CottonInfo, and provides specific investment support to both programs.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its support of the best practice theme through key projects, including:

·                myBMP support and program coordination, with Rachel Holloway;

·                Review of myBMP database, with Mel Ziarno; and

·                'Science into best practice', linking research with CottonInfo, with CSIRO.

The myBMP support and program coordination project aimed to review all myBMP modules to ensure they contained the latest in RD&E outcomes from CRDC-invested research. The ten modules - biosecurity; energy and input efficiency; fibre quality; HR and WHS; IPM; pesticides management; petrochemical storage and handling; soil health; sustainable natural landscapes (natural assets); and water management - were reviewed and updated. This projected concluded in 2016-17.

The newly established Review of myBMP database project provides support to Cotton Australia to ensure that the software underpinning the myBMP program remains fit for purpose. This project will ensure the program remains easily accessible for growers into the future. The project is due for completion in 2017-18.

The 'Science into best practice', linking research with CottonInfo project forms part of CRDC's support for the CottonInfo program. CRDC invests in key CottonInfo personnel (including the CottonInfo program manager and communications manager), provides support for the myBMP program, and invests in the CottonInfo technical specialists via research projects under their specific topic areas.

This specific project is for one of the CottonInfo technical specialists. The role of the technical specialist involves the following tasks: developing new information and strategies to help the industry respond to current issues and pre-empt future issues; ensuring myBMP is linked to and updated with the latest best practice messages from research results; validating best practice guidelines using field experiments; supporting the development of key industry publications; and exploring opportunities for the development of new decision-making tools to support the uptake of research outcomes and best practices. This project is due for completion in 2017-18.

Monitoring and evaluation:

Conducting annual industry surveys to capture practice change; Establishing a framework through which industry performance can be nationally and internationally reported.

Measuring the performance of the Australian cotton industry over time is critically important in several ways: in helping the industry to continuously improve; in helping to tell the story of the industry to customers; and in helping to secure overseas markets through the demonstration of the industry's social, economic and environmental sustainability.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its commitment to industry monitoring and evaluation through five key projects:

·                Annual qualitative and quantitative surveys for the Australian cotton industry, with Crop Consultants Australia;

·                Australian Cotton Comparative Analysis, with Boyce Chartered Accountants;

·                Cotton Growing Practices Survey, with Roth Rural and Regional, and Intuitive Solutions;

·                Measuring and reporting the value of capacity building on farms and in research, with QualData; and

·                Longitudinal assessment of the cotton industry's People investments, with Jennifer Moffatt.

The Annual qualitative and quantitative surveys for the Australian cotton industry project consists of two separate data sets/reports. The qualitative report is a survey of cotton consultants, which provides information on the practices and attitudes of consultants and their cotton grower clients. The quantitative data provides hard data as to practices on-farm, such as chemical use, and tracks how this has improved over time. The information provided by both surveys forms a critical data set for benchmarking, trending and research purposes. The 2014-15 qualitative survey report was released in December 2016. In all, 63 consultants participated, representing 444 cotton growers. The report is available at the CRDC website: www.crdc.com.au/publications. This project is ongoing in 2017-18.

The Australian Cotton Comparative Analysis report provides the industry benchmark for the economics of cotton growing in Australia. The 2016 crop report, published in June 2017, focuses on the economics of the 2016 crop from growers across the different cotton-growing valleys. It is based on figures from growers who produced 340,000 bales, or 12 per cent of total Australian cotton production. It found that the 'average' group of cotton growers achieved a profit per hectare of $1706 in 2016 (compared to $1899 in 2015, and the five-year average of $1106) while the 'top 20 per cent' group achieved a profit of $3159 per hectare (down on last year's profit of $3388, but well up compared to the five-year average of $2272). The report is available at the CRDC website: www.crdc.com.au/publications. This project is ongoing in 2017-18.

The Cotton Growing Practices Survey gathers valuable information about cotton farming practices to give a greater understanding of the industry's performance. The survey provides important information to CRDC and Cotton Australia about the industry, on-farm practices, and priority areas for future research. The 2016 survey, published in May 2017, focused on nutrition, plant growth regulation, farm hygiene, chemical application management, harvesting and solar energy. The report is available at the CRDC website: www.crdc.com.au/publications. The 2017 survey was launched in June, with the resulting report set to be published in August 2017. This project is ongoing in 2017-18.

The Measuring and reporting the value of capacity building on farms and in research project aims to provide metrics to the industry to help measure and report the value of investments in capacity building. These metrics will help growers and the wider industry assess the value of their investments in developing the workforce, and the benefits that the upskilled workforce provides. The project will also help the industry understand how programs to develop the people contribute to attracting and retaining on-farm workers, and the value that employees place on having good working conditions. The project is due to report in 2018-19.

The Longitudinal assessment of the cotton industry's People investments project aims to assess the value of CRDC's investments to date in the People program. CRDC invests significant funds annually to provide educational opportunities for the industry, but there is currently incomplete knowledge of the long-term impact on the participants, and their skills and contributions to the cotton and wider communities. As such, this project will develop a longitudinal research framework to assess these impacts. This project is due to report in 2018-19.

Case study: Survey tracks grower trends

2017 marks 20 years since the first surveys of Australian cotton growers' management practices and attitudes were undertaken by CRDC. Ten surveys have been undertaken to date, with an average of 270 growers participating in each edition. Annual surveys have been commissioned since 2013 in an effort to build an ongoing picture of the industry, assess the success of RD&E and better focus future investment.

In 1997, the phrase 'pull, rake and burn' was still prominent in the cotton grower's vocabulary. That method of crop destruction was being used by 10 per cent of the 247 respondents. The use of solar as a serious energy source didn't rate a mention, yet by 2016, 37 per cent of respondents had solar energy installations.

In the disease arena, the first survey showed Verticillium wilt was a leading cause of yield reductions, albeit a different strain to those found in cotton fields today.

There have also been significant changes in terms of fertiliser use which, in irrigated cotton, has more than doubled from the average rate of 125 kg N/ha in 1995-96, to 275 kg N/ha in 2015-16. A significant increase was between the first and second surveys, to 176 kg N/ha in 1999-2000. Solid N and gas N were both used at higher rates in 2005-06 than in 2000-01.

In terms of irrigation management, irrigation scheduling was based on experience combined with crop stage and rate of growth for most irrigators, with neutron probes used by 36 per cent of respondents, water balance models and weather data by 32 per cent, and enviroscans by nine per cent. Today growers have a much bigger toolbox to draw from, which includes IrriSAT, canopy sensors, weather stations, C probes, and modelling.

Residual herbicide use has also changed dramatically, largely due to the introduction of stacked Roundup Ready Bollgard varieties. The survey of the 1999-2000 season revealed the main changes were an increased pre-plant use of diuron and a trend toward pendimethalin, and away from trifluralin, but with an overall reduction in the use of grass herbicides. Conversely, post-plant use of diuron had reduced from 51 per cent to four per cent over the four years between the first and second surveys. Hard-to-control weeds were nutgrass, bladder ketmia, noogoora and bathurst burrs, bell vine and sesbania. While some of these weeds still pose threats, a new range of problem weeds has emerged along with resistance to glyphosate-based products.

'There is no doubt cotton growing has changed significantly in the past 20 years,' CRDC Executive Director Bruce Finney said. 'Much of this change has been supported by the new knowledge and practices generated through investment in industry RD&E.'

For more on the CRDC Cotton Growing Practices Survey, visit www.crdc.com.au/growersurvey.

Reviews:

Commissioning and participating in independent reviews of CRDC's RD&E and organisational performance.

Ensuring continuous improvement is a key goal of the organisation, and as such, CRDC commissions independent reviews of RD&E investments and organisational performance as required.

In 2016-17, CRDC continued its investment into reviews through the following key projects:

·                Enhancing private sector agricultural RD&E investment in Australia, with Australian Farm Institute; and

·                Impact assessment of selected clusters of projects - stages I, II, and III, with Agtrans Research and Consulting.

The Enhancing private sector agricultural RD&E investment in Australia project established the type of policy measures and resources Australian agriculture needs to boost private RD&E. The project included a review of available private RD&E data and measures currently employed in Australia and overseas, along with a series of interviews with heads of agribusiness operating throughout the industry. This project concluded in 2016-17. The resulting report will be available at the CRDC website once released: www.crdc.com.au/ publications.

The Impact assessment of selected clusters of projects - stages I, II, and III projects are a series of qualitative and quantitative impact assessments of CRDC investments in important project clusters. Stage I was an impact assessment of the nutrition- and water-use efficiency projects cluster; Stage II is an impact assessment of the Bt technologies projects cluster; and Stage III is an impact assessment of the sustainability projects cluster.

The purpose of the evaluations is to determine the success of CRDC's investments against the stated Strategic Plan goals, and to inform future investments.

The Stage I impact assessment of the efficient use of water and optimising crop nutrition projects, which concluded in 2016-17, found that CRDC's investments delivered major economic benefits to growers. It found that CRDC's investment of $4.90 million on behalf of cotton growers and the Australian Government into six water-use efficiency projects from 2010-15 provided a return benefit of $40.62 million to cotton growers, a benefit-cost ratio of 8.29 to 1. In addition, CRDC's investment of $11.32 million of grower and Government funds into nine nutrition research projects from 2008-16 returned a benefit of $61.15 million to growers, or 5.4 to 1. The reports will be made available at the CRDC website once released: www.crdc.com.au/publications. Stages II and III are set to report in 2017-18.

Section 5: CRDC People and Governance

CRDC Board

Dr Mary Corbett bsc PhD (faicd, afaim)
Chair
(to 12 August 2016)

CRDC Chair, Dr Mary Corbett, has more than 20 years' experience as a Company Director in the scientific research and development area, and in education and training. Dr Corbett has significant board and corporate governance experience gained across a range of organisations. She is currently a board member of Horticulture Innovation Australia and of DairyBio, and Adjunct Professor with the University of QLD, Faculties of Health and Behavioural Sciences and Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Previously, Dr Corbett was Chair of the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service, a board member on the Wound Management Innovation CRC, Deputy Chair of the Southbank Institute of Technology, Deputy Chair of the Australian Agriculture College Corporation, and a board director of the Sugar Research and Development Corporation, and Food Science Australia.

Dr Corbett has extensive experience as Chair and member of a number of board committees. She is Managing Director of Australian Business Class, an organisation specialising in executive leadership development.

Appointed: 01/10/2008 until 30/09/2011.
Reappointed: 01/10/2011 until 30/09/2014 (term ended 12/08/2013 upon Chair appointment).
Appointed Deputy Chair: 15/12/2011.
Appointed Chair: 13/08/2013 until 12/08/2016.
Appointed Chair of the Remuneration Committee.

Mr Richard Haire (faicd, faim)
Chair (from 29 August 2016)

Mr Haire has held many leadership positions within the cotton industry, most recently as Managing Director and regional head of Olam International, a global leader in the supply chain management of agricultural products and food ingredients. He was formerly the Chief Executive of Queensland Cotton Corporation Pty Ltd and a member of the Rabo Australia Food and Agribusiness Advisory Board. Mr Haire is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Institute of Management. He formerly served as a Director on the CRDC board from 2011 to 2014.

Appointed Chair: 29/08/2016 until 28/08/2019.
Appointed Chair of the Remuneration Committee.

Dr Mary Corbett finished her tenure as CRDC's Chair on 12 August 2016. Mary served as a Director of CRDC from 2008, and as Chair from 2013. On behalf of the CRDC Board, we thank Dr Corbett for her contribution to CRDC during this period. CRDC Director and Deputy Chair Cleave Rogan served in the role of Acting Chair until the appointment of the incoming CRDC Chair Richard Haire on 29 August 2016 by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. As Mr Haire was the Chair for the majority of the 2016-17 year, he replaces Dr Corbett as a signatory to this Annual Report.

Mr Cleave Rogan (maicd)
Deputy Chair

Mr Rogan has been farming and marketing cotton and grains for 30 years. He is currently the Chair of the Cotton Innovation Network. Previously, Mr Rogan had acted in an advisory role to CRDC, working on research projects related to biosecurity, insects, weeds, diseases, cotton fibre processing and quality enhancement. Mr Rogan was a director of Cotton Australia and has been an industry representative on various other cotton industry associations and research advisory committees.

Appointed: 01/10/2011 until 30/09/2014.
Reappointed: 20/10/2014 until 30/09/2017.
Appointed Deputy Chair: 27/01/2015.
Appointing Acting Chair: 12/08/2016 until 29/08/2016.

Mr Bruce Finney BSCAg (maicd)
Executive Director

Mr Finney has extensive experience in the agricultural sector. Prior to his appointment to CRDC in 2004, he worked in corporate agriculture in various corporate, management and agronomy roles in Australia and in an advisory role in Argentina. He is a member of the Cotton Innovation Network, the Advisory Board QDAF programme on Agricultural Robotics at QUT and the Agriculture Senior Officials Research and Innovation Committee.

Mr Finney is a past chair of the Australian Cotton Growers Research Association and a past director of the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC and the Irrigation Association of Australia. Mr Finney is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program and of the Company Directors Course of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Appointed: 01/08/2004 by virtue of his appointment as Executive Director of CRDC. He attends the Audit, Intellectual Property and Remuneration Committees as an observer.

Dr Michael Robinson bsc (Hons), PhD (faims, gaicd)
Non-executive Director

Dr Robinson is the CEO of Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre. Previously he was the CEO of FrOG Tech Pty Ltd, a private research company specialising in geological reconstructions and interpretations across a range of sectors, including oil and groundwater, and CEO of GeoSphere Ltd, a specialist geological consulting firm in New Zealand.

Dr Robinson has extensive experience in primary industries and natural resources research, development and extension. He was the Executive Director of Land & Water Australia, Centre Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre (a joint venture between Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (Victoria) and University of Melbourne), Chair of the National Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries, CEO of the CRC for Greenhouse Accounting, and a member of the National Primary Industries Standing Committee RD&E Extension Subcommittee.

Appointed: 01/10/2011 until 30/09/2014.
Reappointed: 20/10/2014 until 30/09/2017.
Appointed Chair of the Audit Committee.

Ms Kathryn Adams BScAgr (Hons), LLM, MBus, MEnvStud, Grad Dip Leg Pract, Prof Cert Arbitration, Practitioners Cert Mediation & Conciliation, FAICD
Non-executive Director

Ms Adams, a microbiologist and lawyer, specialises in intellectual property management, commercial/industry application of R&D and corporate governance. She has had extensive experience in R&D investment from the perspective of a researcher, director of a research institute, and an investor. She has been a practising lawyer and was also the first Registrar of Plant Breeder's Rights in Australia.

Ms Adams was on the Board of the Cotton CRC and is currently on the Boards of a number of CRCs as well as Agriculture Victoria Services Pty Ltd, and PBIP Ltd. She is a member of the R&D Tax Incentives Committee of Auslndustry, an adjunct Senior Research Fellow with the Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture (ACIPA, Griffith Law School), and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Appointed: 20/10/2014 until 30/09/2017.
Appointed Chair of the Intellectual Property Committee.

Mrs Elizabeth (Liz) Alexander ba, MRurSysMgt, gaicd
Non-executive Director

As the Agribusiness Development Coordinator for the Central Highlands Development Corporation, Mrs Alexander assists business, industry, government and other stakeholders to collaborate and grow economic opportunity across the region's agricultural sectors and value chain. She has extensive knowledge of dryland and irrigated cropping industries across eastern Australia. As principal consultant for Blue Dog Agribusiness, Mrs Alexander has provided extension services for more than 15 years, supporting Central Queensland cotton growers to undertake on-ground activities that improve water quality flowing to the Great Barrier Reef, conserve and protect biodiversity, improve production, and participate in the cotton industry's Best Management Practices program.

Mrs Alexander is currently a director of Plant Health Australia, and was previously Chair of the Theodore Irrigation Local Management Arrangements (LMA) Transition Board (Stage 2 and 3), Independent Chair of the Glencore Clermont Open Cut Groundwater and Environmental Reference Group, and a director of Cotton Australia.

Appointed: 20/10/2014 until 30/09/2017.

Mr Greg Kauter BAgEc, GradCertRuSc, GAICD
Non-executive Director

Mr Kauter is an agricultural consultant with more than 30 years of cotton industry experience. He has had extensive experience in cotton research administration and industry stewardship through roles in crop protection, farming systems, plant variety and biotechnology research programs. He has also planned and developed extension strategies to facilitate the adoption of new technology and knowledge. He has experience with industry representative bodies in developing strategic priorities with cotton growers and industry stakeholders, identifying emerging issues and developing evidence-based policy responses based on sound research and information.

Mr Kauter currently consults on cotton farm management and Best Management Practice implementation. He has been the industry representative for biosecurity through Plant Health Australia Ltd and Chair of the Cotton Industry Biosecurity Group. He is a former President of the Cotton Consultants Association Inc.

Appointed: 20/10/2014 until 30/09/2017.

Composition

CRDC has a seven-member Board, consisting of a Chair (appointed by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources), the Executive Director (selected by the Board) and five non-executive Directors nominated by an independent Selection Committee. Appointment of non-executive Directors is subject to Ministerial approval, and Directors (other than the Executive Director) are appointed for three-year terms.

Board

CRDC Board at 30 June 2017:

1.              Mr Richard Haire, Chair

2.              Mr Cleave Rogan, Deputy Chair

3.              Mr Bruce Finney, Executive Director

4.              Dr Michael Robinson, Non-executive Director

5.              Ms Kathryn Adams, Non-executive Director

6.              Mrs Elizabeth Alexander, Non-executive Director

7.              Mr Greg Kauter, Non-executive Director.

Responsibilities of Executive Director

The Executive Director is responsible for day-to-day management of the CRDC, implementation of CRDC's plans, and liaison between the Board and management. The Executive Director is also a member of the Board with the responsibilities of a director.

Responsibilities of Non-executive Directors

The roles and responsibilities of Directors are set out in the Board Charter, which includes a governance statement, conduct and ethical standards provisions. Internal reviews of Board performance are conducted annually. The Board also obtains an external review of its performance periodically.

Expertise

The CRDC Board is a skilled-based board, with Directors collectively bringing expertise in cotton production, processing and marketing, conservation/management of natural resources, science and technology and technology transfer, environmental and ecological matters, economics, finance and business management, administration of research and development, sociology and public administration.

The PIRD Act requires the CRDC Selection Committee to specify how its Board nominations will ensure that CRDC collectively possesses experience in board affairs, adding to the existing requirement for an appropriate balance of expertise.

Directors may obtain independent legal and professional advice at CRDC's expense to enable them to discharge their duties effectively, subject to prior approval from the Chair, in consultation with the Board and Executive Director. This advice may relate to legislative and other obligations, technical research matters and general skill development to ensure there is a sufficient mix of financial, operational and compliance skills amongst Board members.

Induction

Following appointment to the Board, each Director is provided with an appropriate level of information about CRDC, its history and operations, and the rights, responsibilities and obligations of Directors. This information includes the Board Charter, Strategic R&D Plan and relevant legislation.

The induction process is tailored to the needs of new Directors and may include an initial visit to CRDC office in Narrabri to meet with the Chair and staff for a comprehensive overview of corporate activities and practices, and a tour of key industry research facilities.

Training

Where necessary and appropriate, CRDC sources training for Directors, either individually or as a group. The Board generally establishes the need for such training during the first meeting of Directors.

Functions

·                Establishing strategic directions and targets.

·                Monitoring and evaluating the research and development needs of the industry and ensuring CRDC's research program is effective in meeting those needs.

·                Approving policies, plans, performance information and budgets.

·                Monitoring policies, procedures and internal controls to manage business and financial risk.

·                Ensuring compliance with statutory and legal obligations and corporate governance standards.

Conflicts of interest

In accordance with section 131 of the PIRD Act, Directors are appointed based on their expertise and do not represent any particular organisation or interest group.

The Board follows section 29 of the PGPA Act regarding Directors' disclosures of interests. A Director who considers that he or she may have a direct or indirect pecuniary or non-pecuniary interest in a matter to be discussed by the Board must disclose the existence and nature of the interest before the discussion.

All disclosures are recorded in the minutes of the meeting and, depending on the nature and significance of the interest, Directors may be required to absent themselves from the Board's deliberations.

The Board is very aware of its responsibilities regarding conflict of interest and duty of care, and has adopted a very cautious approach. A Board Charter clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of Directors in terms of potential conflicts of interest. Further, the Board has a standing notice of Director's interests that is tabled and reviewed at each meeting.

Board Charter of Corporate Governance

The CRDC Board Charter assists Directors in carrying out their duties and setting out roles and responsibilities of Directors and staff.

Indemnities and insurance premiums for Directors and officers

The Board has taken the necessary steps to ensure professional indemnity cover is in place for present and past officers of CRDC, including Directors of the CRDC, consistent with provisions of the PGPA Act. CRDC's insurance cover is provided through Comcover; however, the insurance contract prohibits CRDC from disclosing the nature or limit of liabilities covered. In 2016-17, Directors' and officers' liability insurance premiums were paid and no indemnity-related claims were made.

Board Committees

The Board operated the Audit, Intellectual Property and Remuneration Committees in 2016-17. In addition to face-to-face meetings, the Board and its Committees conduct much of their work via email and telephone, supported by a secure online information portal. CRDC finds this arrangement to be effective, productive and cost effective.

Board meeting

Dates

Location

Meeting 5 - 2016

17 August 2016

CRDC, Narrabri NSW

Meeting 6 - 2016

27 September 2016

Teleconference

Meeting 7 - 2016

17 November 2016

Royal on the Park, Brisbane QLD

Meeting 1 - 2017

8 February 2017

SunWater, Theodore QLD

Meeting 2 - 2017

20 April 2017

QT Hotel, Canberra ACT

Meeting 3 - 2017

6 June 2017

Warren Service Club, Warren NSW

Attendances at Board meetings

Director

Board meeting attendance
Meeting 5 2016

Board meeting attendance
Meeting 6 2016

Board meeting attendance
Meeting 7 2016

Board meeting attendance
Meeting 1 2017

Board meeting attendance
Meeting 2 2017

Board meeting attendance
Meeting 3 2017

Board meeting attendance
TOTAL

Richard Haire

-

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

5 of 5

Bruce Finney

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

6 of 6

Cleave Rogan

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

6 of 6

Michael Robinson

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

5 of 6

Elizabeth Alexander

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

6 of 6

Kathryn Adams

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

6 of 6

Greg Kauter

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

6 of 6

Audit Committee

Established under section 89 of the PIRD Act and section 45 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act), the Audit Committee's primary role is to ensure CRDC's financial reporting is a true and fair reflection of its financial transactions.

The Committee also provides a forum for communication between the Directors, the senior managers of CRDC and the internal and external auditors. It carries responsibility for identifying areas of significant business risk and stipulating the means of managing any such risk.

Michael Robinson is Chair of the Audit Committee, supported by members Greg Kauter, Kathryn Adams and Alex Keatinge, an additional skills-based appointee. CRDC Executive Director Bruce Finney attended meetings as an observer. The Audit Committee met four times during 2016-17, three of which were by teleconference.

Intellectual Property Committee

The role of the Intellectual Property (IP) Committee is to assist CRDC's Board in fulfilling its responsibilities and to monitor the adequacy and effectiveness of CRDC's policies and procedures relating to the management of IP.

The Committee's specific responsibilities are to review the operation of CRDC's IP policy and IP operating principles and to consider IP matters directed to it by the Board for consideration.

Kathryn Adams is Chair of the IP Committee, supported by members Greg Kauter and Liz Alexander. CRDC Executive Director Bruce Finney attended meetings as an observer. The IP Committee met three times during 2016-17, once by video-conference.

Attendances at Audit Committee meetings

Member

Date of Audit Committee meeting
9 Aug 2016

Date of Audit Committee meeting
1 Nov 2016

Date of Audit Committee meeting
25 Jan 2017

Date of Audit Committee meeting
11 May 2017

Date of Audit Committee meeting
TOTAL

Michael Robinson (Chair)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

4 of 4

Greg Kauter

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

4 of 4

Kathryn Adams

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

4 of 4

Alex Keatinge

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

4 of 4

Attendances at Intellectual Property Committee meetings

Member

Date of Intellectual Property Committee meeting
19 October 2016

Date of Intellectual Property Committee meeting
31 January 2017

Date of Intellectual Property Committee meeting
3 May 2017

Date of Intellectual Property Committee meeting
TOTAL

Kathryn Adams (Chair)

Yes

Yes

Yes

3 of 3

Greg Kauter

Yes

Yes

Yes

3 of 3

Liz Alexander

Yes

Yes

Yes

3 of 3

Remuneration Committee

The Remuneration Committee advises the Board on the Executive Director's remuneration and senior staff remuneration adjustments. The Chair of the Remuneration Committee was the Chair of the Board, Mary Corbett, followed by Richard Haire, supported by members Cleave Rogan and Liz Alexander. CRDC Executive Director Bruce Finney attended meetings as an observer. The Remuneration Committee met four times by teleconference during 2016-17.

Attendances at Remuneration Committee meetings

Member

Date of Remuneration Committee meetings
21 July 2016

Date of Remuneration Committee meetings
16 November 2016

Date of Remuneration Committee meetings
5 April 2017

Date of Remuneration Committee meetings
17 May 2017

Date of Remuneration Committee meetings
TOTAL

Mary Corbett (former Chair)

Yes

-

-

-

1 of 1

Richard Haire (Chair)

-

Yes

Yes

Yes

3 of 3

Cleave Rogan

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

4 of 4

Liz Alexander

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

4 of 4

Statement of principles

CRDC Directors and staff members are required to:

·                Commit to excellence and productivity.

·                Be accountable to stakeholders.

·                Act legally, ethically, professionally and responsibly in the performance of duties.

·                Strive to maximise return on investment of industry and public funds invested through CRDC.

·                Strive to make a difference in improving the knowledge base for sustainable cotton production in Australia.

·                Value strategic, collaborative partnerships with research providers, other research and development bodies, industry organisations, stakeholders and clients, for mutual industry and public benefits, including cooperation with kindred organisations to address matters of national priority.

·                Value the contribution, knowledge and expertise of the people within our organisation and that of our contracted consultants, external program coordinators and research providers.

·                Promote active, honest and effective communication.

·                Commit to the future of rural and regional Australia.

·                Comply with and promote best practice in corporate governance.

·                Commit to meeting all statutory obligations and accountability requirements in a comprehensive and timely manner.

CRDC Employees

CRDC's small but dedicated team of skilled and experienced staff actively manage RD&E investment portfolios to achieve the cotton industry's strategic goals. Our internal capacity is an important element of the overall effectiveness of RD&E investment for the cotton industry.

CRDC Organisational Structure

As at 30 June 2017

CRDC Board of Directors

CRDC Chair Mr Richard Haire

CRDC Executive Director Mr Bruce Finney

R&D Investment

Business and Finance

CottonInfo

Communications

IT

General Manager R&D Investment
Dr Ian Taylor

R&D Managers:
Allan Williams
Jane Trindall
Susan Maas

General Manager Business and Finance
Graeme Tolson

Accountant
Emily Luff (extended leave)

Executive Assistant
Dianne Purcell

Project Administration Assistants
Megan Baker
Amy Withington

Accounts Officer
Melanie Moloney

CottonInfo Program Manager
Warwick Waters

Communication Manager
Ruth Rdfern

IT Manager
Peter Harvey

Employment

Staff members are employed under section 87 of the PIRD Act, which provides that the terms and conditions of employment are to be determined by the Corporation. The terms and conditions of employment incorporate the Fair Work National Employment Standards and the Australian Government Industry Award 2016. CRDC complies with the Australian Government Bargaining Framework when exercising its power to engage employees in relation to sections 12 and 87 of the PIRD Act.

Including the Executive Director, there were 12 full-time employees, 1 part-time employee and 1 casual employee on 30 June 2017.

CRDC employees

Employee type

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

Full-time employees

12

10

11

11

11

Part-time employees

2

4

1

1

1

Parental leave

1

2

2

0

1

Casual

0

0

0

1

1

TOTAL CRDC staff

15

16

14

13

14*

* The number of CRDC staff employed by CRDC on 30 June 2017.

Staff training and development

In 2016-17, CRDC spent $33,793 on training and $32,268 on recruitment. Areas of direct training activities were director intellectual property training, WHS, financial management, graphic design, social media, ICT, strategic planning, and support for an employee undertaking academic studies in sustainable value chains.

Throughout the year, Directors and staff participated in a wide range of CRDC-related activities involving other organisations, providing valuable experience, as well as skills and knowledge upgrades for the personnel involved.

Equal employment opportunity

CRDC is committed to a merit-based, non-discriminatory recruitment and promotion policy, and staff members are chosen strictly according to their qualifications for the job. Scientists undertaking CRDC-funded research are of diverse backgrounds and cultures.

CRDC's Equal Employment Opportunity, Discrimination and Harassment Policy defines prohibited discrimination and harassment and sets out a complaints procedure to be followed if there is a breach of this policy, including details of what action can be taken once the complaint has been made. The policy applies to all employees, whether full-time, part-time, casual or temporary, to Directors and to contractors and customers (clients).

Executive remuneration reporting

The Board reviews and approves the remuneration of senior executives annually in accordance with the PIRD Act. The Privacy Act 1988 limits the right to publish an individual's personal information. The following tables provide the average remuneration.

Table A: Average annual reportable remuneration paid to substantive executives

No. of employees

Average reportable salary*

3

$209,258

* Average reportable salary includes gross salary, employer superannuation, and reportable fringe benefits. There were no allowances or bonuses paid in the period.

Table B: Other highly paid staff

Nil.

Governance and Accountability

CRDC was established in 1990 as a partnership between the Australian people (through the Australian Government) and the Australian cotton industry (through Cotton Australia, its legislated representative industry body).

Location

CRDC is based in one of Australia's major cotton-growing areas, Narrabri, in North West NSW. Being centrally located within the Australian cotton industry, CRDC benefits from developing and maintaining important relationships with cotton growers, researchers, processors, and members of regional cotton communities.

PIRD Act legislation

CRDC began operations in 1990 under the PIRD Act.

Charter

CRDC's charter under the PIRD Act is to invest in and manage a portfolio of research, development and extension projects and programs in order to secure economic, environmental and social benefits for the Australian cotton industry and the community. This is to be conducted in a framework of improved accountability for research and development spending in relation to the cotton industry.

PIRD objects

The objects of this PIRD Act are to:

(a)       make provision for the funding and administration of research and development relating to primary industries with a view to:

(i)        increasing the economic, environmental and social benefits to members of primary industries and to the community in general by improving the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of the products of primary industries; and

(ii)       achieving the sustainable use and sustainable management of natural resources; and

(iii)      making more effective use of the resources and skills of the community in general and the scientific community in particular; and

(iv)      supporting the development of scientific and technical capacity; and

(v)       developing the adoptive capacity of primary producers; and

(vi)      improving accountability for expenditure on research and development activities in relation to primary industries; and

(b)       make provision for the funding and administration of marketing relating to products of primary industries.

Powers

Under section 12 of the PIRD Act, CRDC has the power to do all things necessary to carry out its functions, including but not restricted to:

·                Entering into agreements for the carrying out of R&D or marketing activities;

·                Applying for patents, either solely or jointly;

·                Charging for work done, services rendered, and goods and information supplied;

·                Acquiring, holding and disposing of real and personal property; and

·                Anything incidental to any of its powers.

Functions

Function

Application

Investigating and evaluating the cotton industry's requirements for research and development, and the preparation, review and revision of an RD&E plan on that basis

This is achieved by continuing interaction with CRDC's legislated industry body, Cotton Australia, as well as the Australian cotton industry's wider peak body, the Australian Cotton Industry Council (ACIC). Cotton Australia undertakes a range of functions relating to CRDC, including an annual review to ensure the CRDC Strategic Plan remains current and relevant.

The cotton industry and cotton researchers were closely involved in development of the CRDC 2013-18 Strategic R&D Plan, which incorporated Australian Government and cotton industry RD&E priorities, as well as advice from the Minister and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Preparing an Annual Operational Plan for each financial year

An Annual Operational Plan is submitted to the Australian Government and Cotton Australia prior to the commencement of each financial year.

Coordinating and funding RD&E activities consistent with current planning documents

RD&E projects are approved or commissioned in line with the Annual Operational Plan each year. The Annual Operational Plan is devised to address the objectives and strategies outlined in the current Strategic RD&E Plan.

Monitoring, evaluating and reporting to Parliament, the Minister for Agriculture, and to industry on RD&E activities coordinated or funded by the Corporation

The Corporation reports formally to the Australian Parliament through its Annual Report. In addition, CRDC informs the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources of any matters of interest or concern in the current operating environment.

This occurs in written and, where possible, face-to-face communication. CRDC is also in communication with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on a range of issues. Communication with the industry and Cotton Australia occurs continually on both a formal and informal basis, as outlined above. Communication with the broader community is a key focus of CRDC's communication activities.

In order to ensure stringent evaluation of its RD&E activities, CRDC is committed to the ongoing Council of Rural Research and Development Corporation's Impact Evaluation process.

Facilitating the dissemination, adoption and commercialisation of research and development results in relation to the cotton industry

CRDC plays a pivotal role in facilitating fast and effective dissemination of cotton R&D outcomes. CRDC undertakes detailed analysis and planning for determining the most appropriate adoption pathway for the results of research projects. While the majority of research results are extended as information, the CRDC actively works with its research partners to develop commercial adoption pathways where that is preferred.

CRDC is a founding partner in the industry's joint extension program, Cottonlnfo, along with co-partners Cotton Australia and CSD Ltd. Formed in 2012, the Cottonlnfo team works to improve responsiveness to grower needs through improved communication and regional representation, focusing on delivering research directly to growers and consultants. The model recognises the importance of supporting adoption of RD&E through multiple delivery pathways and is underpinned by the industry's best management practices program, myBMP.

In addition, CRDC hosts forums and on-farm events, participates in roadshows and the cotton trade show, produces publications, sponsors the biennial Australian Cotton Conference and Australian Cotton Research Conference, and has a communication strategy to extend and enhance the adoption of RD&E. CRDC also collaborates in the successful commercialisation of RD&E where possible.

The PGPA Act

CRDC has been subject to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 since 1 July 2013, which provides enhanced levels of accountability as well as a planning and reporting framework.

Other legislation

The setting and collection of levies on the cotton industry is enabled by the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999 and the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991.

Cotton R&D levy

The Australian Government introduced an R&D levy at the request of industry. The cotton levy funds CRDC research and development programs and the subscription for industry membership of Plant Health Australia. The levy is payable on cotton produced in Australia and the producer (the person who owns the cotton im