WITH escalating disease pressure impacting cotton yields, profit, and grower confidence, Cotton Research and Development Corporation is rising to the challenge with a $10-million five-year initiative that will shake up its approach to cotton disease research in Australia.
Championing co-investment and co-design, the Australian Cotton Disease Collaboration (ACDC) heralds a new collaborative approach to cotton disease research aimed at mitigating the economic impact on growers.
Interested partners with the resources, skills, and capacity to help are asked to submit an expression of interest to CRDC by August 21.
“The cotton industry has invested in disease research for several decades,” CRDC innovation broker Elsie Hudson said.
“While we’ve built a huge knowledge bank and made some real gains, the breakthroughs are getting harder to find.
“We have a limited toolkit for managing disease, and with impacts rising, it’s time to shake up the way we do research and development. ACDC offers that.”
As the first initiative announced under CRDC’s Clever Cotton RD&E plan, ACDC embodies the industry’s new approach to solving industry-defining challenges, and marks a shift away from smaller projects to bigger investments with outcomes and impact to match.
“There’s a lot of work already underway in cotton disease R&D, and a lot of interested players.”
“ACDC will bring together researchers, commercial partners, innovators and government agencies willing to help CRDC define the challenge, co-design projects, and co-invest in solutions.”
Moree-based cotton grower Mick Humphries has been involved in CRDC’s disease research for the past five years, and is hopeful the change in approach can unlock new solutions.
“Disease is such a hard area to get meaningful R&D breakthroughs,” Mr Humphries said.
“We’ll get a head of steam on apromising solution and then, almost out of the blue, it’s back to the drawing board.
“ACDC is about bringing people together to attack the problem in a strategic, coordinated way rather than the piecemeal ‘one project here, one project there’ approach the industry has relied onfor the last 30 years.”
Strategic partnerships are sought from research, government, and commercial partners to understand the impact of disease, enhance foundational pathology resources and capability, and deliver tactical management and innovative technical solutions for cotton growers.
“Disease is so multifaceted that the solutions will be too.
“At one end of the innovationpipeline, it means looking at blue sky research that could transform disease control.
“At the other end it means chipping away at the ‘one percenters’ – those incremental small changes that, when aggregated on-farm, can help growers claw back some of what we lose now.”
Growers like Mr Humphries are embracing the ACDC’s mission of reducing the economic impact of disease to less than 5pc of the cost of production by 2028.
“Our farms grew cotton year in year out through the 1980s and ‘90s, and that frequency of cropping allowed the disease inoculum to build up to the point where it has become a real production issue for us now.
“All up, I’d estimate disease costs our business 20pc of our gross income per annum.
“I want to claw that 20pc back, so I’m excited to see what ACDC can bring.”