CSIRO's Steve Yeates took this image in the Ord, one of the regions in Northern Australia where he has been working with growers, potential growers, industry and farmer groups.

Research supports northern industry expansion

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September 10, 2019

Cotton research has been conducted in Northern Australia since the mid-90s, initially in the Ord River Irrigation Area region of Western Australia.

Past projects assisting cotton industry understanding of potential and management in coastal North Queensland and tropical Australia have provided expert knowledge to assist cotton investment decisions, validate the Burdekin production package (NORpak) for new wet season growing areas, extend past research to dry season cotton growing areas and support implementation of sustainable and economic production practices for those regions.

The information contained in NORpak-Burdekin was a distillation of results from research, conducted over the last decade, building on an earlier version - NORpak- which investigated dry season cotton production in the Ord River Irrigation Area.

“Past research has particularly focused on understanding the dynamics of pest and beneficial insects associated with cotton grown in the region, and to devise an integrated pest management (IPM) based approach to insect control which avoids the major pests,” CRDC R&D Manager Susan Maas said.

From 2015-18 CRDC and CSD supported CSIRO’s Steve Yeates in the role of Northern Cotton Development and Coordination Leader. Steve was involved in irrigated cotton experiments established with partners at the Ord River and Gilbert River region of Queensland. Working with QDAF’s Dr Paul Grundy, Steve’s research focused on the biophysical challenges to cotton production in the tropics such as sustainable pest management, preventing nitrogen losses during the wet season and management options to minimise the impact of extreme climatic events that occur in the tropics (monsoonal cloud, supra and suboptimal temperatures).

Crop protection is a serious consideration for any northern development.

CRDC supported additional trial work at the Ord River with Paul working with Bayer to confirm the efficacy of Bollgard 3 to Spodoptera litura, a major pest to early attempts to grow cotton in the tropics.  The project has also considered the risk that pink bollworm, present in the north, poses to crops in Central Queensland and further south. CRDC has also been actively assessing biosecurity threats through Dr Murray Sharman’s research into cotton blue disease, which he previously detected in East Timor. Murray’s work with the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) links the industry into surveillance and raise awareness of the risks associated with exotic threats.

“CRDC is providing ongoing support to build on this past research focused on addressing knowledge gaps in cotton development in tropical regions with a particular focus on new areas,” Susan said.

This project supports CRDC’s goal to ensure new farming systems are sustainable and productive.

“We are looking to work closely with growers and potential growers,” Susan said.

This article appears in the Spring 2019 edition of CRDC's Spotlight magazine.