Cotton under the microscope: PhD students tour industry (19 May 2014)

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18 PhD and postdoc students from across Australia’s east coast had a behind-the-scenes look at the cotton industry at Narrabri last week, visiting dryland and irrigated cotton farms, exploring the cotton seed, ginning, and classing processes and hearing about the range of research underway at the Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI). 
The tour, hosted by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), was designed to provide the students with an introduction to the cotton industry, and included a visit to the Norrie’s family farm ‘Mollee,’ Auscott’s farm and gin, CSD’s breeding lab and seed plant, the Australian Classing Services’ facility and CGS’s Wee Waa office. 

The tour was a paddock to processing look at the industry to help the students understand the life cycle of cotton and how their research may help the industry. 

The students not only saw picking in action, but also research and development, viewing an old two row cotton picker harvesting dryland cotton, to the latest in technology, a round module picker harvesting an irrigated crop. A tour of the Auscott gin provided an understanding of how cotton seed and trash is removed from the cotton lint, and a visit to the Australian Classing Services provided an opportunity to try classing cotton into its colour grades. 

The students also visited ACRI, where they toured the station and met a number of researchers investigating various aspects of cotton production – from breed varieties to pest management and disease control – before taking part in a media, writing and presentation workshop, providing important skills for life during, and after, their PhDs.  

The 18 students are all funded by CRDC and are in various stages of completing their PhD and postdoc studies. They are researching a diverse range of cotton-related topics, from improving the length, strength and fineness of cotton fibre to understanding human capacity needs and management, and from understanding more about green vegetable bugs, to mapping the impacts of herbicide drift on cotton and developing self guided drones for tracking irrigation in a cotton field. 

In 2014-15, CRDC will invest over $500,000 in developing future researchers through its support of PhD students.