Cotton Industry Icon Turns 40

05 July, 2007

Cotton Seed Distributors, Australia’s leading producer and marketer of cotton seed developed by CSIRO, has celebrated 40 years of continuous operations with a gala function attended by pioneers, dignitaries and special guests at its Wee Waa headquarters.

The guests included four cotton growers who participated in the original meeting that formed CSD on April 5, 1967: Frank Hadley, Bill Findley, Ralph Schulze and Bruce Mackey.

__The program included presentations by 18 industry leaders looking back to the foundation of CSD’s domestic heritage, and forward to its future global development and progress.

Current managing director, Peter Graham, described CSD as “an Australian grower owned and controlled, commercially-focused industry icon, with access to quality germplasm and freedom to operate with high-value biotechnology traits for the benefit of all cotton growers.”

He paid tribute to its founding growers, giving a special mention to Namoi Cotton Cooperative stalwart, John Howes, for his role and influence in driving the cotton industry to the pinnacle of agribusiness success.

“CSD will remain at the forefront of the Australian cotton industry through prudent investment in technology, people and partnerships,” Peter Graham said.

Steve Ainsworth, CSD general manager, said a key philosophy fundamental to CSD’s heritage, and also basic to its future, is the concept of Partnerships.

“CSD shares a unique common bond, vision and communication with its members, cotton growers in general, CSIRO, biotech developers, suppliers, distributors and cotton communities.

“These partnerships, which are at the heart of what CSD is all about, underpin its success and are the key to its future, where its charter and commitment are to deliver world class cotton and technology choices that provide innovative solutions to growers.

“One of CSD’s most enduring partnerships is with its employees, who are both the face and force of CSD. The success of CSD could not have happened without the support and contribution of past and present staff,” Steve Ainsworth said.

Speaking on behalf of major partner, CSIRO, Jeremy Burdon, chief of Plant Industry, also acknowledged the contribution of other important participants including ACGRA, the CRDC and individual growers.

“We have each contributed materially to the success of each other and to the overall success of the industry as a whole. Over the years, the relationship between CSIRO and CSD has matured and become more sophisticated – this reflects the changing nature of agriculture in general and the cotton industry in particular.

“The high degree of collaboration of all players is unique in agribusiness in Australia and provides a model for many other industries. While we in CSIRO believe that skills in breeding and basic science are a vital part of this, equally importantly has been the vision of successive leaders of CSD to enthusiastically respond to the outcomes of this work. Science push – industry pull: we have a good balance.

“A willingness to adopt new technologies and approaches is a benchmark by which the vibrancy and long-term prospects of our industry can be assessed. Too often adoption is slow – this is not a problem here.

“The willingness of CSD to make significant investment in inventory management has ensured that new elite lines are quickly progressed through to varieties for growers thereby maximizing the opportunity of growers to benefit from new advances. Close integration of a commercial focus with breeding and basic research has been enormously powerful in delivering continued improvement and value to the industry,” Jeremy Burdon said.

Adam Kay, a former CSD general manager and now CEO of Cotton Australia, acknowledged that 40 years of almost continuous progress in the Australian cotton seed industry would not have been possible without “the foresight, vision and dedication shown by that small group of spirited, innovative, entrepreneurial and progressive pioneers that formed the original CSD.

“It’s been a long and interesting journey, full of unpredictable twists and turns, with quite a few valleys of despair and depression, interspersed with emotional, financial, economic and technological peaks.”

He referred to the quality of research, products and people involved in the cotton industry, noting that quality will be remembered long after price is forgotten. He urged the cotton industry to “continue to think big, improvise, innovate, and never give up.

“Don’t worry too much about the spots on the windscreen; keep your eyes fixed on the road ahead, and constantly challenge convention. There’s always a better way,” he said

Ben Stephens, Auscott farm manager, representing ACGRA, said CSD, along with Auscott, Namoi Cotton and Queensland Cotton, were foundation members of ACGRA in 1972.

“Since then, CSD has provided ACGRA with many years of support through membership, sponsorship (including the biannual Australian Cotton Conference), and past secretarial services.

“CSD has always been a strong supporter of industry R&D and extension. Investment in the past two and current Cotton CRCs represents a significant reinvestment in our industry.

“CSD’s support of disease research through contributing to the funding of industry plant pathologist, Dr Steve Allen, not only complements their own programs but benefits the industry as a whole.

“But by far the greatest success of CSD has been the development of continually new and enhanced cotton varieties. Its unique partnership with CSIRO has been the backbone of the modern Australian cotton industry, allowing growers to develop farming systems that are second to none in the world.

“The effort CSD has put into developing and maintaining its extension network across the industry sets a fine example for us all. We look forward to another 40 years of high quality, high yielding, disease tolerant cotton, incorporating competitive modern biotechnology.”

Further information: Steve Ainsworth 02 6795 0000

Caption: Left to Right: Dr Greg Constable, CSIRO senior cotton plant breeder; John Grellman, CSD Chairman; Dr Jeremy Burdon, Chief, CSIRO Plant Industry; Belinda Steigrad, Assistant to CSD Managing Director; Peter Graham, CSD Managing Director; Peter Rozendaal, CSD Chief Financial Controller; Phil Steel, CSD Seed, Product and QA Manager; and Steve Ainsworth, CSD General Manager.