Pillar 3: Planet

Theme: Natural capital

Implement resilient natural capital practices that support productivity, help maintain biodiverse ecosystems, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, and progressively improve regional water, land and soil quality.

In 2028, cotton farms have maintained and enhanced natural capital and are more resilient to shocks.

Research consistently shows that the Australian community's trust in agriculture is driven primarily by perceived environmental impacts and responsiveness to community concerns. As the pressures of climate change and habitat loss intensify, the Australian cotton industry must provide evidence of responsible management of its natural capital to avoid the risk of declining community trust, and to capture the benefits of increasing community acceptance. There is also a need for the Australian cotton industry to consider the cultural values and wisdom of Australia's Traditional Owners in the use and management of natural resources.

At the same time, Australian cotton-farming systems and their catchments benefit from the ecosystem services provided by natural capital. Good soil health, strong biodiversity, and clean air and water deliver significant tangible and intangible value, including boosting farm yields and reducing farm inputs.

The interactions between farming systems and the provision of ecosystem services are complex, and often involve trade-offs. It is critical there is a clear understanding of the costs, practicality and benefits (including the potential for payment) of enhancing natural capital.

The Natural capital theme aims to help cotton farms benefit from enhanced natural capital conditions and demonstrate their coordinated contribution to the resilience of regional communities and ecosystems.

To achieve this, CRDC will invest across three sub-themes: Biodiversity and soils; Water; and Pesticides and nitrogen. These sub-themes will target RD&E action to:

  • Protect and enhance ecosystems > Biodiversity and soils
  • Improve water-resource efficiency > Water
  • Minimise the environmental impacts of farming practices > Pesticides and nitrogen.

The Natural capital theme will help the industry identify risks and motivate the adoption of best management practices to strengthen natural capital conditions. It will also help Australian cotton capture and quantify condition changes to demonstrate benefits.

Through the delivery of this theme, Australian cotton will be stronger, with enhanced natural capital and the capacity to confirm and communicate its contributions to the resilience of regional communities and ecosystems. As well as delivering these benefits, the outcomes of the Natural capital theme will play a crucial role in Clever Cotton overall.


  • By 2025, biodiversity and soils are benchmarked and industry has consistent supporting metrics and methodologies for reporting
  • By 2026, the industry has agreed strategies for:
    • 1) supporting growers to enhance and maintain biodiversity and soil condition and to be more resilient to impacts
    • 2) managing pesticide and nitrogen movement risks
    • 3) delivering co-benefits of regional water management for multiple water holders
  • By 2028, growers are quantifying changes in condition in natural capital on farm
  • By 2028, industry has improved management of pesticides and nitrogen movement
  • By 2028, losses in the water delivery system are reduced
  • By 2030, growers are enhancing and maintaining biodiversity and soil condition, and are more resilient to impacts