During the winter of 2014 the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and Cotton Seed Distributors partnered in engaging Eco Logical Services to conduct a scoping study into the opportunities and limitations to cotton production outside the traditional growing regions.
Ecological were tasked with identifying both irrigated and dryland cotton growing regions, also look potential barriers to the expansion of the industry.
“We were looking to get an indication of where cotton could be grown within Australia. There is possibility to mover further north with some river systems which have a climate and soils suitable for irrigated agriculture but especially cotton. Some have already existing infrastructure such as the Ord, but there are other regions such as the Gilbert and Fitzroy catchments which have some possibilities but are reliant on infrastructure to develop a sustainable irrigation industry.” CSD General Manager Steve Ainsworth said.
“The real area where the industry can expand is in the dryland cotton space, there are large tracts of country which are suitable to the production of dryland cotton. We have divided these up into three categories from which we hope to use the study to increase the amount of dryland cotton grown in Australia.”
“One, conversion of acres within traditional cotton growing areas, those areas which have all the infrastructure and service industries at their doorstep but choose a different summer crop rotation than cotton. Two, those areas on the periphery of traditional cotton growing areas, both east and west, where the tyranny of distance can be overcome. And thirdly we aim to develop pilot areas in new and exciting regions which we hope to engage the wider cotton industry to assist in encouraging the uptake of cotton as a crop of choice.” Mr Ainsworth said.
Although the dynamics of growing dryland cotton have changed considerably for the better in the past decade. With the crop more reliable, easier to grow and cash flow management improved. It is not just as simple as putting the seed in the ground and off you go.
“There are some infrastructure hurdles we need to overcome if we would like to see cotton reach the potential area within Australia. Firstly, the tyranny of distance, from established regions. Where the expertise and service industries are located. Secondly, the lack of ginning infrastructure is a big impediment to the future expansion of the industry.” Mr Ainsworth concluded.