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Cotton partnership reaches $150m investment milestone

A 50-year partnership that enables Australian growers to produce the highest yielding cotton in the world and has boosted earnings by more than $5Billon is being celebrated in Canberra.

Since 1971, Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO has been partnering with Cotton Seed Distributors (CSD) in plant breeding and agronomy to put globally competitive cotton varieties that are pest and disease tolerant into the hands of Australian farmers.

This week the two organisations mark a combined investment of more than $150 million in research to ensure the long-term profitability and viability of Australian cotton.

CSIRO Executive Director of Future Industries, Kirsten Rose said CSD was one of CSIRO’s most important partners and their shared investment in innovation for the long term was the cornerstone of the Australian cotton industry’s success.

“The CSD-CSIRO collaboration demonstrates what can be achieved when an R&D partnership is flexible and fully integrated across the value chain to solve unmet industry needs,” Ms Rose said.

“CSIRO’s world-class research combined with CSD’s seed production, extension services and delivery to farmers ensures the industry has access to short-term and long-term solutions to the challenges they face.”

The CSD-CSIRO partnership has resulted in 116 cotton varieties delivered to growers, which have returned more than $5 billion to the cotton industry and through the delivery of third-party GM traits reduced insecticide use by 85 per cent and cut herbicide use by 52 per cent. Australian cotton farming is also the most water efficient in the world.

CSD is the only company in Australia that supplies farmers with cotton planting seed and is one of only a few independently owned and controlled cotton seed companies in the world. What began from humble beginnings in 1967 in Wee Waa, northern NSW, has gone on to become a highly successful home-grown company with global impact.

CSD Managing Director, Peter Graham credited much of CSD’s success to the strong relationship with CSIRO, built on trust and a shared long-term vision.

“For 50 years, our partnership has helped Australian cotton growers achieve world leading yield and quality outcomes, and provided them with variety choice tailored to their production system,’ Mr Graham said.

Plant breeding is a long-game, and the time from initial crossing to the commercial release of a new variety can take up to 14 years. For this reason, in 2007, CSIRO and CSD formalised their relationship through the joint venture, Cotton Breeding Australia (CBA), to guarantee long-term funding for cotton breeding research projects.

Cotton Breeding Australia research ensures an ongoing pipeline of technologies that underpin long-term success of the cotton industry and continues to safeguard Australia’s $2 billion+ per annum cotton industry that produces enough cotton each year to clothe 500 million people.

Source: CSIRO

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