Benchmarking Rural Industries' Practices and Productivity Performance and Review of Industries' Capacity to Change
The cotton industry's Central Border Region includes Darling Downs, St George-Dirranbandi districts and the Macintyre, Gwydir and Namoi Valley districts. Cotton is produced on 424 000 hectares in this region and is sent to one of 28 gins in the region gins for processing.
How much cotton does the Central Border Region produce?
In 1999, this region produced:
- 2 466 200 bales of cotton
- average irrigated yield of 6.9 bales/hectare
- average dryland yield of 3.1 bales/hectare
Over the last 11 years, cotton production in this region has increased by more than 150%. A drop in production was experienced in 1994/ 95 to 1995/ 96 due to flow on effects from an unseasonally dry 1995 season with plantings restricted due to low antecedent soil moisture levels.
The trend in area and production is presented in the graphs below.
The Central Border Region receives an average of between 478 and 676 mm per year, distributed across the months as shown in the graph below.
The temperature in this region varies from 4.2°C to 35.5°C as shown in the graph above. The predominant soil type used for cotton production are grey, brown and black cracking clays, red-brown earths and river alluvial soils are used to a lesser extent. Typically, these soils are found on flatter landscapes, many on alluvial floodplains.
In 1999, the Central Border Region included:
- 302 500 hectares of irrigated cotton
- 121 500 hectares of dryland cotton.
The distribution of irrigated and dryland production in this region is outlined in the table below.
|Darling Downs||42 000||281 400||6.7||44 000||167 200||3.8|
|St George-Dirranbandi||33 500||259 800||7.8||500||600||1.2|
|Macintyre Valley||55 000||374 000||6.8||14 000||49 000||3.5|
|Namoi Valley||82 000||565 200||6.9||38 000||95 000||2.5|
|Gwydir Valley||90 000||612 000||6.8||25 000||62 500||2.5|
|CENTRAL BORDER||302 500||2 092 400||6.9||121 500||374 300||3.1|
Extension officers from the cotton production districts identified the following issues for this region:
|St George -
|Land use capability|
|Off-site pesticide impacts|
|Downstream water quality|
The Cotton CRC (2000) also identified the following issues as occurring in the region. The figure in brackets indicates the percentage of growers surveyed in this region that agree they have a problem.
- salinity on the property (1%)
- water table problem (3%)
- weed problem (9%)
The survey also determined the priority research areas as perceived by growers. The figure that follows provides the percentage of growers who indicated a strong preference for research on various management issues.
What is the cotton industry doing to meet these environmental challenges in the Central Border Region and across Australia?
MANAGEMENT PRACTICE ADOPTION
Management practices being adopted to face these challenges include integrated pest management (IPM), water use efficient irrigation systems, permanent beds and/or permanent wheel tracks, conventional and minimum tillage and chemical fallow management.
The percent of cotton producers in this region adopting these and other practices is indicated in the following figures:
Other practices include those listed in the following table along with percentage adoption for the entire industry and the region.
In relation to crop rotations in this region, cotton is rotated with wheat, sorghum and fallow. Cotton rotation frequencies as identified are shown below.
BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICE MANUAL
The CRDCs Australian Cotton Industry Best Management Practices Manual (Williams et al, 2000) outlines the steps undertaken as part of each grower's commitment to the BMP program.
Aspects of cotton production covered by the BMP Manual include:
- application, storage and handling of pesticides
- integrated pest management
- farm design and management
- farm hygiene
- risk assessments.
Self-assessment work sheets are provided for each aspect covered in the BMP Manual and an external audit timetable is provided.
Research and Development
The CRDC have proposed the following performance targets for the year 2003 as a means of measuring the achievement of their 'production' objective:
- 40% reduction in the use of traditional pesticides
- 30% reduction in the use of residual herbicides
- 10% improvement in water use efficiency
- 50% reduction in farm-origin contaminants in the riverine system
- 100% of cotton growers trained and auditable in BMP.
How is the Australian cotton industry working with other agricultural industries to overcome some of the challenges faced by this region
Cotton is one of the major rural industries in each of the regional centres that comprise the Northern region. The industry is generally concentrated in irrigation areas on or along the river systems. Other existing rural commodities produced in the region include grains and beef cattle. Cotton production systems need to be aware of marketing restrictions and production requirements of these alternative systems.
Particular requirements the cotton industry needs to be responsive to include:
- pesticide contamination of meat and crop products;
- contaminated water supplies used for stock and domestic consumption;
- restriction of flood flow events required for pasture rejuvenation;
- spray drift;
- degradation control to minimise soil erosion; and
- vegetation management.
In response, the practices recommended in the industry's BMP are aimed at limiting impact onto adjoining or nearby landowners. The region has relatively high adoption (>40%) of mechanical approaches such as:
- middle busting and cultivation;
- permanent 1 m beds;
- stubble incorporation;
- use of beneficial insects;
- aware of insecticide resistance management strategies
In addition, extension officer advice is that the industry involves itself with wider planning initiatives in natural resource management. These activities include involvement with Landcare and catchment committees.
The cotton industry in the Northern region has particular responsibilities. As well as being a wealth and employment generator, it also is part of a delicately balanced inland environment. Based on past history, the balance between land, water and vegetation needs to be considered as a major shift will result in substantial degradation effects.
The industry is aware of this through its auditing process. Industry issues such as pesticide use, land and water use are considered in recommended BMP's. The challenge is to gain adoption by growers through a range of education, incentive and regulatory processes.
In addition to currently adopted management practices, the nominated high preference research topics provide an indication of likely future management responses. The Northern region respondents nominated:
- soft options for IPM;
- drift reduction;
- water use efficiency;
- irrigation timing;
- insect management; and
as their key areas. These research areas relate well to current and future environmental challenges.
Link to Map maker to make a map using this information.
Link to data available for download on "A spatially consistent sub-set of agricultural statistics (AgStats) data 1982/93 to 1996/97"
- Cotton Research and Development Corporation website
- Cotton Cooperative Research Centre website
- Australian Cotton Research Institute website
- Cotton Australia website
Some documents on this website are available as PDF files. Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view PDF files.
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