Fantastic results and big profits for Sydney-led cotton research

2 February 2022

A unique approach to funding and a great initial success is looking likely to turn into a long-running partnership.

The University of Sydney and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) have teamed up and generated huge yields and a large return on investment with an innovative cotton farming research project.

Cotton in the sunlight

Dryland cotton crop at “L’lara”, May 2021

The CRDC is a funding platform for cotton research, and the company reached out to the University of Sydney with the opportunity to utilise its massive research farms at “L’lara” (at Narrabri) and “Nowley” (at Spring Ridge) with a view to fund ongoing university research with profit from selling cotton.

The inventive approach to funding commenced in October 2020, when the CRDC invested AUD $75K into the growing of 65 hectares of dryland cotton at the University’s two northern NSW farms. The initial investment would be repaid through the sale of the cotton grown, with any surplus being returned to the University in grants for the development of dryland cotton research.

The University of Sydney has a history of cotton research stretching back to the early 1990s, when the University was a partner in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Sustainable Cotton Production with the CRDC
Associate Professor Stephen Cattle


Serendipitously, the summer growing season of 2020/2021 was almost perfect for dryland cotton production. The resultant cotton crops at both farms averaged between 5 and 6 bales per hectare – a return of approximately $432K in total. This was touted as a fantastic outcome by both teams.

Off the back of the success of this project, further research agreements are being finalised across two more projects in 2022. At “L’lara”, last season’s cotton crop will support a new PhD project investigating the Radiation Use Efficiency (RUE) of cotton and how this may be improved to increase eventual cotton yield.

Dryland cotton crop at “Nowley”, May 2021

Dryland cotton crop at “Nowley”, May 2021

At “Nowley”, a new PhD project investigating the carbon account of dryland cotton production will be supported by the CRDC research grant. The PhD student will measure and monitor soil carbon concentrations, soil water dynamics and dryland cotton crop yields to assess the effects of various management strategies.

“As limiting greenhouse gas emissions is now an urgent political and environmental challenge across the globe, estimating the carbon account of dryland cotton production and developing techniques to make that crop more carbon positive, seems a prudent use of the research funding drawn from last season’s crop.” said Associate Professor Stephen Cattle.

With the success of the 2020/2021 dryland cotton investment arrangement between the CRDC and the University, the two parties have agreed to repeat the arrangement for the 2021/2022 season. This crop investment strategy is a game-changer for the CRDC and university cotton research programs.


Related articles