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Enabling strategy 1: Strengthening partnerships and adoption

Further strengthening our collaboration and relationships with our partners, and working together to ensure effective adoption pathways exist for research outcomes, are CRDC’s aims within this enabling strategy. To work towards this, CRDC focuses investments in strengthening partnerships and collaboration, best practice through myBMP, and supporting innovation and commercialisation.

In 2019–20, CRDC invested in 40 projects within this goal, accounting for eight per cent of our total RD&E expenditure.

Performance against the Strategic Plan:

Key Focus Areas

Outcomes

Performance Indicators

Measures

2019–20 progress

4.1 Partnerships and collaboration

4.1.1 Growers/ consultants value CRDC farming systems research outcomes

Maintain or increase the number of growers/ consultants that value CRDC research outcomes

Percentage of growers/ consultants that report valuing CRDC outcomes

81 per cent of cotton growers and 89 per cent of consultants value CRDC’s outcomes. Our 2023 target is 85 per cent.

4.1 Partnerships and collaboration

4.1.2 CottonInfo partnership is maintained and practice change improved

R&D outcomes are demonstrated through extension and adoption activities

Number of demonstration sessions

CottonInfo organised or contributed to 78 events involving 1,188 participants in 2019-20. Of these, 25 activities were organised by CottonInfo and 53 were organised in partnership with other organisations.

4.1 Partnerships and collaboration

4.1.2 CottonInfo partnership is maintained and practice change improved

R&D outcomes are demonstrated through extension and adoption activities

Percentage of participants that report increased knowledge, skills, and intention to change behaviour as a result

Three workshops/webinars focused on improving irrigation management were held in 2019-20. 84 per cent of the 126 participants reported increased knowledge and skills. 89 per cent reported an intention to change their behaviour.

4.1 Partnerships and collaboration

4.1.3 Partnerships are strengthened to engage multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional resources (centres of excellence)

Evidence of effective collaborative projects

Percentage of investments that include cross-sectoral partnerships

48 per cent of RD&E investments in 2019-20 were in cross-sectoral partnerships, including strategic collaborations on water-use efficiency, nitrogen, novel crop protection, biosecurity, engagement and Northern Australia.

Collaboration was prioritised as part of managing reduced investment due to drought.

4.1 Partnerships and collaboration

4.1.3 Partnerships are strengthened to engage multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional resources (centres of excellence)

Evidence of effective collaborative projects

Number of new international and national partnerships

Two new national partnerships were established looking at community trust in agriculture and ensuring an Australian perspective is provided to the European Union on their product environmental footprint policy. An existing partnership, the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative, was renewed.

4.1 Partnerships and collaboration

4.1.3 Partnerships are strengthened to engage multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional resources (centres of excellence)

Evidence of effective collaborative projects

Partner satisfaction ranking

The 2019-20 Partner Relationship Review indicated that CRDC’s current overall satisfaction ranking is 8.4 out of 10, an improvement from the 2016 baseline of 8.2. Our 2023 goal is 8.5 out of 10.

4.2 Best practice (myBMP)

4.2.1 Best practice is based on science and measured impact

myBMP practice modules reflect latest R&D outcomes

Percentage of topics within myBMP modules (that CRDC contributes to) that have been updated with CRDC R&D outcomes

All relevant myBMP modules were updated during the year with research and development outcomes.

4.3 Innovation and commercialisation

4.3.1 Improved R&D innovation and commercialisation

CRDC supports researchers to innovate and become more commercially focused

Number of projects with commercialisation potential

Seven of the 17 projects that have commercialisation potential either have a commercial partner on board or have commercialisation processes underway. However, the ongoing ability to support at the desired commercial pace may be affected by the ongoing drought, depending on the level of support willing to be offered by commercial partners. CRDC has also provided support to innovation and commercialisation processes, such as the AgFrontier Regional AgTech incubator during 2019-20, and developed a CRDC Intellectual Property & Commercialisation Strategy.

4.3 Innovation and commercialisation

4.3.1 Improved R&D innovation and commercialisation

Research partners are supported through the commercialisation process (to ensure successful knowledge transfer)

Researchers report satisfaction with CRDC commercialisation support

A Commercialisation Manager (contractor) has been appointed to CRDC to review commercialisation approaches. Changes in researcher satisfaction will be assessed once the revised processes are bedded down.

4.3 Innovation and commercialisation

4.3.1 Improved R&D innovation and commercialisation

Commercialisation and knowledge transfer is accelerated

Percentage improvement in duration from conception to market entry (per product category)

A Commercialisation Manager (contractor) has been appointed to advise and enact a process to reduce time from conception to market entry. Percentage improvement will be assessed once the revised processes are bedded down.

RD&E highlights:

Collaboration agreement inversion towers GRDC/CRDC (GRDC2003)

CRDC and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) have been collaborating to minimise the potential for, and impact of, the occurrence of spray drift from cotton and grain properties since 2016. Before this collaboration, there had been no reliable and accurate method to determine when inversion conditions are hazardous or non-hazardous for agricultural spraying.

The research funded by GRDC and CRDC has developed such technology – a Spray Drift Hazard Alert and Warning System – allowing growers to identify spray opportunities. The objective at this stage of the collaboration is to explore the potential options to establish, operate and maintain a network of Profiling Automatic Weather Stations (PAWS) across the cotton and grain belts of eastern Australia, to deliver this technology to growers. In June 2020, the partners opened an expression of interest call, seeking proposals from parties to deliver the technology.

Cotton industry sustainability reporting: On- farm safety incidences 2014-2019 (US2001)

Agriculture contributes disproportionately to workplace health and safety (WHS) incidents across Australia, and the cotton industry is focused on improving WHS. To monitor progress, CRDC commissioned a review of the cotton industry’s injury and safety profile in 2014, and repeated this in 2019-20. The report found that six people lost their lives on cotton farms in Australia from July 2014 to June 2019. The causal factors were aeroplane, farm vehicles and farm machinery. From 2014 to 2019, the annual number of serious injuries in the cotton industry declined by 13 per cent. This data was incorporated into the Australian Cotton Sustainability Report 2019, and targets are currently being set to ensure continuous improvement in WHS.

Understanding motivational factors for improved spray application on farms (UNE1901)

Spray drift, the off-target movement of herbicides and pesticides, negatively impacts agricultural production across Australia. The problem is particularly acute in mixed cropping regions where a diverse range of chemicals may be applied at any given time. Although industry organisations have developed and implemented an impressive set of technologies, education programs and workshops aimed at improving spray solutions across multiple agriculture sectors, the problem persists. This project took a unique approach to the problem: using theory and practice from the behavioural sciences to: identify the main drivers and barriers to engagement in best-practice spray application; identify the number and nature of grower segments, based on their current practices; and identify the main leverage points to initiate and sustain behaviour changes to reduce spray drift. As a result of this work, the researchers have recommended targeted engagement strategies for segments that are not engaged in best-practice spraying.

2019 ICAC Plenary Meeting (ICAC1901-1907)

The International Cotton Advisory Committee’s (ICAC) 78th Plenary Meeting was held in Brisbane over four days in December 2019, hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment with support from CRDC as a major sponsor and organising committee member. ICAC is an association of governments from cotton-producing, consuming and trading countries, and is the only global intergovernmental group for cotton and cotton textiles. More than 300 people from 23 member governments attended the meeting, including representatives from five international organisations and five non-member countries. There were a range of international guest speakers, along with a contingent of 10 presenters from Australia’s world- leading crop of cotton scientists, who shared their latest research and expertise. Topics included soil health, plant breeding, energy, climate and resistance management.

WeedSmart Phase 4 (UWA1801)

WeedSmart is an Australian agricultural industry-led initiative to enhance on-farm practices and promote the long-term sustainability of herbicide use. The aim is to provide growers with tools and information to ensure weed management is at the forefront of farming practice. The 2019 WeedSmart week was held in Emerald in August 2019, and consisted of a one-day forum, a one-day bus tour to farms in the Emerald region, and a half-day tour of SwarmFarm Robotics. Cotton growers and consultants attended, with specialists discussing integrated weed management practices to minimise the impact of herbicide resistance. The event also saw the launch of the ‘Summer Big 6’: the six core management tactics growers should implement to manage weeds.

CottonInfo Field Demonstration Trial: Soil health workshop (CSD2001)

One of CottonInfo’s key focus areas is the improvement of knowledge and awareness of soil health issues and adoption of best practices. To help achieve this, in 2019-20, CottonInfo hosted workshops in conjunction with Crop Consultants Australia to improve grower and consultant awareness of the importance of soil health, demonstrate practical techniques to assess health, and discuss options to address soil-related issues. The workshops were facilitated by CottonInfo Technical Lead for Soil Health, Dr Oliver Knox, and focused around on-farm soil pits to provide a practical focus for discussing issues. The workshops were attended by 150 growers and consultants and built upon knowledge gained from previous CRDC- supported research conducted by Dr Knox (UNE1603 and UNE2001) about constrained root growth below 60 cm, resulting in a focus on soil and sub-soil health for productive plant growth.

Communicating cotton best production practices with video (DAQ1901)

The CottonInfo YouTube channel (youtube.com/ CottonInfoAust) was created in August 2013 under a previous CRDC-supported project to house the repository of short informative videos on a wide range of cotton- related topics. The videos feature CottonInfo team members, researchers, growers and other industry experts, and include how-to examples, topic overviews, research outcomes, case studies and key messages. The channel is an important conduit of research and development, extension and adoption, best practice and practice change information and for forming a critical resource for CottonInfo communications. The channel is well supported: as at May 2020, it contained a total of 194 videos, had 4,288 subscribers and 1.26 million views.

Case studies:

Case study: ICAC brings world of cotton to Brisbane

Cotton industry people travelled from around the world to attend the ICAC Plenary Meeting in Brisbane in December 2019.
The International Cotton Advisory Committee’s (ICAC) 78th Plenary Meeting, with the theme Global Leadership: Pushing Cotton’s Boundaries, was held in Brisbane in December 2019, with support from CRDC as a major sponsor.

The Sofitel Brisbane was a hive of multicultural activity, discussion, networking and resolutions, all aimed at strengthening the cotton industry across the globe. A trip to the Darling Downs also took delegates and ICAC staff into the field, where they met growers, visited Bayer’s laboratory and saw Australian researchers and research at work. They also learned how to distinguish male and female Helicoverpa pupae with a hands-on demonstration of pupae-sexing.

ICAC is an association of governments from cotton- producing, consuming and trading countries, and is the only global intergovernmental group for cotton and cotton textiles. More than 300 people attended, from 23 member governments, including representatives from five international organisations and five non-member countries.

There was a range of international guest speakers, along with a contingent of 10 presenters from our world-leading crop of cotton scientists, who shared their latest research and expertise with a very attentive audience. Topics included soil health, plant breeding, energy, climate and resistance management, of which Australia is considered a leader.

“From a cotton point of view, Australia is one of the few countries in the world that is at the cutting edge of cotton research,” ICAC Executive Director Kai Hughes said in his opening address.

“Therefore, it is very apt and appropriate that we should be discussing global leadership and pushing cotton’s boundaries here in Australia, a country that has taken the lead in this area in so many ways.”

With a mission to assist members in fostering a healthy world cotton economy, ICAC continually strives to operate internationally in the interests of the cotton industry. Its role is to raise awareness, provide information, and serve as a catalyst for cooperative action on issues of International significance.

“ICAC membership delivers tangible benefits in the form of increased access to statistics and critical technical information provided by the Secretariat, and can lead to enhanced participation in collaborative interactions in cotton research and development,” Kai said.

“Perhaps most importantly, membership provides the avenue for a country’s government and cotton industry to fully join with other cotton countries to discuss issues of international scope and significance.”

The meeting was opened by CRDC Chair, Richard Haire, who was followed by Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds, Executive Director of ABARES, within Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, who identified global megatrends in the cotton industry, along with the opportunities and challenges they would create. These trends are: growth juggernaut; empowered consumers; disruptive technologies; more from less; fractal politics; and cascading planetary risks.

“Change and constant innovation will be needed to address these trends shaping agriculture, especially climate change, geopolitical realities and consumer choices. The challenges should be seen as opportunities requiring intensive research, consumer understanding and engagement.”

For more: read the full article in the Autumn 2020 edition of CRDC’s Spotlight magazine.

Case study: Spray drift warning system a step closer to implementation

Pre-spraying a cotton paddock.
Minimising spray drift is a high priority for Australian agriculture, with the grains and cotton industries joining to develop a hazardous weather warning system to provide real-time weather data and alerts to growers and spray operators.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and CRDC are currently working to identify partner/s to develop and deploy the Spray Drift Hazard Alert and Warning System in NSW and QLD, with potential to expand to other states and industries.

GRDC’s Manager Chemical Regulation Gordon Cumming said the aim of the investment was to create a system that would improve on-farm decision making by accurately identifying and predicting hazardous spray conditions.

“Reducing the risk of spray drift is imperative for social, environmental and financial reasons for Australian agriculture and the wider community,” Gordon said.

“As research leaders, GRDC and CRDC are committed to investing in research that supports improved on-farm practices, the sustainability of agriculture and, more specifically, the enduring profitability of Australian farmers.

“This work will be a significant venture into an innovative new space that will see the development of a continuous network to mitigate spray drift across the cropping areas of eastern Australia.”

Regulations currently provide strict guidelines for the application of agricultural chemicals, which do not permit spraying when hazardous surface temperature inversions are present. In this situation, droplets can remain suspended in the inversion layer in concentrated form and be carried significant distances.

Until recently, there has been no reliable and accurate method to determine when inversion conditions are hazardous for agricultural spraying using real-time data. A previous CRDC and GRDC project investigated the effect of near-surface temperature on spray operations and produced methodology and algorithms that allow accurate predictions of hazardous inversion conditions.

After the recent expression of interest (EOI) process, CRDC and GRDC are now considering proposals for the building of a tower network, and the development of software with remote sensing capability to provide information back to growers and spray contractors about weather conditions. This work involves establishing, operating and maintaining a network of Profiling Automatic Weather Stations (PAWS), initially across the grain and cotton regions of QLD and NSW, with the potential to expand nationally.

GRDC and CRDC are equal investment partners in this project to develop the technology for this spray drift hazard alert and warning system.

CRDC’s Executive Director Dr Ian Taylor said the EOI and subsequent submissions represented the next step in the process of improving spray drift hazard detection by creating an effective warning system for growers.

“Spray drift is a significant issue for agriculture, and this investment represents a vital cross-industry collaboration to improve information and outcomes at a farm level,” he said.

For more: read the full article in the Spring 2020 edition of CRDC’s Spotlight magazine.