This much maligned industry deserves better ……..
Cotton Australia reports that the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) has produced a detailed case study on Australian cotton growers as part of its “Towards Climate Resilience Series” outlining how farmers are using different advanced techniques and efficiency measures to adapt to extreme weather conditions.
This includes, for example, how some growers combine satellite imagery of their cotton crops with digital soil moisture readings and local weather data, in order to predict exactly how much water to apply on a particular day. Over the past decade, Australian cotton growers have improved water use efficiency by 40%.
Similarly, some BCI Farmers are using precision technology to apply inputs (like pesticides and fertilizers) in a way that exactly matches their crop’s requirements, therefore reducing the overuse of inputs.
For example, BCI Farmer Neek Morawitz in central Queensland recently upgraded his fertilizer application equipment with variable rate technology, allowing him to adjust the rate at which the fertilizer is applied according to the needs of the crop in different parts of the field.
“Variable rate technology is helping us to improve yields while saving fertilizer, improving water quality, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s good for cotton production and the environment.,” he said.
As the effects of climate change unfold, BCI Farmers in Australia are also contributing to the global push to curb carbon emissions.
BCI Farmer Andrew Gill in NSW has switched from diesel-powered water pumps to an irrigation system powered by 400 solar panels with the capacity to produce 100kW of power. Since 2015, he has saved nearly 165,000 litres of diesel and made a 46% cost saving.
Reducing emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas and contributor to ozone layer depletion, is also an important concern for BCI Farmers. But to do this, they must achieve a difficult balance between the need for nitrogen to produce good cotton yields and the need to suppress the N2O emissions it generates.
To address this challenge, BCI Farmers in Australia analyse levels of nitrogen both in the soil and the cotton plants themselves, and calculate the exact level of fertilizer required per hectare.
To build knowledge of climate change in the cotton sector, the Australian Cotton Research Institute is studying the effects of higher CO2 levels and warmer temperatures on cotton growing. Breeders are also exploring how best to develop new cotton varieties adapted to hotter, drier conditions.
Additionally, Cotton Australia, is promoting a holistic approach to saving water, combining both advanced technology with low-cost methods such as leaving the remains of harvested rotation and cover crops in the fields. This helps to prevent water evaporating from the soil and to harvest rain water more efficiently, retaining vital moisture for cotton crops as the droughts continue.