THE COTTON Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) has highlighted the second cotton industry sustainability report as a key achievement for the 2019-20 year.
In the CRDC's annual report, CRDC chairman Richard Haire said the sustainability report would be a road map for the industry for years to come.
The report looks at eight critical areas for the industry - water, carbon, biodiversity, pesticides, quality of work life (safety, diversity and training), wellbeing and social capital, efficiency, and profitability.
"These are all areas that we invest in to ensure continuous improvement," Mr Haire said.
"It's a shared responsibility, and we pride ourselves on the strong relationships that we have with our growers, researchers, government and other core partners, and the work that we're doing to extend, adopt or commercialise our research."
In spite of the drought it was a busy year for the CRDC.
In 2019-20, Australian cotton growers and the Australian Government co-invested $20.0 million through CRDC into cotton research, development and extension (RD&E) across 234 projects and in collaboration with 99 research partners.
This is in line with the CRDC strategic five year RD&E plan released in 2018.
"The strategic RD&E investments that CRDC made in 2019-20 under this plan are helping to continue to drive the Australian cotton industry towards a future of innovation, increased commercialisation and digital transformation," Mr Haire said.
He said there were five key areas of investment, identified in the strategic plan, increasing productivity and profitability on Australian cotton farms; improving cotton farming sustainability and value chain competitiveness; building the adaptive capacity of the Australian cotton industry; strengthening partnerships and adoption; and driving RD&E impact.
An example of the on-the-ground impact of CRDC investment was a University of Southern Queensland project with CRDC investment that made identification of the pest species silverleaf whitefly easier.
The damage from the pest, near impossible to spot with the naked eye, has increased in prevalence in recent years.
Dr Alison McCarthy and Dr Derek Long, in collaboration with Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries researcher Dr Paul Grundy, are developing a new artificial intelligence smartphone app with funding from CRDC.
"Traditionally, sampling is labour-intensive and done manually, with growers and their agronomists having to closely monitor the changes in the numbers of pests across hundreds of cotton plants on a weekly basis to determine if control action is required," Dr McCarthy said.
"We identified that machine vision could automate the pest counting on each leaf by using infield cameras and image analysis software. We have since enabled these vision detection algorithms to be used on a smartphone device," she said.