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We are working to improve sustainability in 9 key areas

Productivity: More cotton per hectare

Our goal is to increase Australian cotton yield and quality within sustainable environmental boundaries. 
This aligns to UN SDG 2.4: implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity, help maintain ecosystems, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, and improve land and soil quality.

Why is this a priority?
With the world’s population forecast to increase from 7.7 billion in 2018 to 9.7 billion in 2050, farmers all around the world need to sustainably produce more food, fibre and foliage with the same or fewer resources. This target tracks efforts to sustainably grow more and higher quality cotton fibre, and by extension more cotton seed, per area of land – within the boundaries of environmental sustainability. 

What is the context?
Farmers have sought to increase crop yields for thousands of years. The cotton industry takes the science of farming to a new level by investing heavily in research to increase yields, and working with innovative cotton growers to adopt research and new technologies. The industry’s aim from this investment is to help cotton growers produce more with less inputs.

The five-year average irrigated yield of Australian cotton increased from 7.4 bales per hectare in 1998/99 to 10.9 bales per hectare in 2018/19.  This was the result of sustained effort by the industry across all aspects of crop production. Better water, pest and nutrient management, new cotton varieties, appropriate tillage, and crop rotations are some of the factors that contribute to increasing yields over time. 

Increasing productivity is important but the industry works hard to ensure increases in yield do not come at the expense of environmental unsustainability or lower fibre quality. While quality can be impacted by seasonal conditions, in recent years key quality parameters have improved or remained relatively constant. 

What is our draft target?
Increase the yield of irrigated cotton by 12.5 percent every five years. 

An indicator of dryland crop yield is provided to give a more complete indication of productivity. Dryland cotton yield is highly dependent on rainfall, which is extremely variable and makes setting a target difficult. For that reason, we monitor dryland yield but have not set targets.

 

2014

2019

Baseline

2024

Draft Target

2029

Draft Target

Irrigated crop yield (bales/ha, five-year average)

9.9

10.9

12.3

13.8

Dryland crop yield (bales/ha), five-year average)

3.0

2.0

No target

No target

What are pathways to achieve the draft target? 
Strategic plans of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, CottonInfo and Cotton Seed Distributors have well established strategies, actions and networks to support productivity improvements.

Existing industry programs of myBMP and CottonInfo will be critical in motivating ongoing practice change.