Go to top of page

Enabling strategy 2: Driving RD&E impact

Ensuring CRDC’s investments deliver impact and effectiveness, therefore creating value for our stakeholders, is CRDC’s aim within this enabling strategy. To achieve this, CRDC ensures our RD&E investments meet grower, industry and government needs and our projects align with stakeholder priorities.

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

Performance against the Strategic Plan:

5.1 Impact and effectiveness

5.1.1 CRDC investments meet grower, industry and government needs

Funded projects align with CRDC research priorities

Percentage of aligned projects

All funded projects aligned with CRDC research priorities; 90 per cent of new investments in 2019–20 were fully aligned with grower panel advice.

5.1 Impact and effectiveness

5.1.1 CRDC investments meet grower, industry and government needs

Positive stakeholder feedback about the relevance and value of CRDC investments

Percentage of positive responses

89 per cent of growers and consultants have provided positive feedback about the relevance and value of CRDC’s investments. Our 2023 goal is 95 per cent.

5.1 Impact and effectiveness

5.1.2 CRDC monitors and evaluates RD&E impact

Monitoring and evaluation evidence demonstrates RD&E impact

RD&E impact reported

CRDC has established a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Framework aligned with the Strategic RD&E Plan. During 2019-20, CRDC invested in Phase One of the evaluation of the More Profit from Nitrogen program. In addition, the Australian Cotton Sustainability Report 2019 was published jointly with Cotton Australia during 2019-20. Notable outcomes supported by CRDC investments include a continued reduction in the amount of water required to produce a bale of cotton, an increase in irrigated cotton yields over the five-year period of 10 per cent, and a reduction in the Environmental Toxic Load for algae and bees.

5.1 Impact and effectiveness

5.1.3 CRDC-funded projects demonstrate value and return on investment

Positive return on investment (ROI)

Investments demonstrate a minimum ratio of benefit/cost

CRDC is investing in independent assessments of the return on investment of selected projects. Economic case studies were commenced on selected nitrogen research investments to assess the extent to which the research outcomes have or will result in improvements in productivity and/or profitability.

5.1 Impact and effectiveness

5.1.4 Growers, the cotton industry and government are informed and aware of R&D outcomes and CRDC’s progress and performance

Stakeholders report that CRDC communications meet their needs

Communications satisfaction rating

The 2019-20 Partner Relationship Review indicated that CRDC’s current communication satisfaction ranking is 8.3 out of 10, unchanged from the 2016 baseline. Our 2023 goal is 8.5 out of 10.

RD&E highlights:

Annual consultant qualitative and quantitative survey (CCA1901)

The annual qualitative and quantitative surveys measure the performance of research, production, practices and capacity critical to the Australian cotton industry. Crop Consultants Australia (CCA) collect the quantitative and qualitative data for the industry. The data plays an important role in informing the cotton industry, wider supply chain, the community and government of practice change within the sector, helping the industry to better tell its story. During this year, this project collected data for the 2018-19 season, representing 494 cotton growers and covering 155,287 hectares: 41 per cent of the Australia cotton production area). The report is available at the CRDC website.

CRDC Cotton Grower Survey (CRDC1733)

CRDC undertakes an annual survey of cotton growers to gather information about farming practices and growers’ views on research, development and extension. This information helps to inform CRDC about the benefits of the research it invests in. Change in industry practice can be quantified by comparing information across the surveys conducted over the past 20 years. The 2019 Cotton Grower Survey collected data for the 2018-19 season.

A total of 219 growers participated in the survey, growing an average of 298 hectares of cotton; 80 per cent of respondents were very positive about the future of the industry, despite the challenging seasonal conditions, and 24 per cent of respondents hosted a cotton industry research trial on their farm during the season. The report is available at the CRDC website in PDF and interactive digital formats.

2019 CRDC Stakeholder Research Survey (CRDC2006)

To assess the health of its partnerships with stakeholders, in 2019-20 CRDC invited its key partners to provide feedback on the health of the partnership, to identify what was working effectively and to highlight the opportunities for strengthening the partnerships. The feedback from this survey demonstrated strong results across each of the three headline organisational performance metrics. Overall satisfaction with the partnership across all partners was strong (8.4 out of 10), as was satisfaction with CRDC as an organisation to trust (8.9 out of 10) and satisfaction with the way CRDC engages (8.3 out of 10). Partners valued the commitment from CRDC to invest in and develop relationships, with the review finding that continuously improving relationships will deliver dividends.

Case studies:

Case study: Cotton growers remain positive and supportive

The cover of the 2019 CRDC Cotton Grower Survey report.
Last season (2018-19) was a tough one climatically for most cotton growers. Asked to describe the season in three words, the recurring themes were ‘dry’, ‘hot’, ‘challenging’ and ‘tough’ – only six per cent of respondents described it as good!

Planted area dropped 30 per cent on the previous season to 336,000 hectares of irrigated and dryland cotton. Yield was back to 2.2 million bales, down from 4.5 million in 2017-18, with an irrigated average of 10 bales per hectare, compared to 11.8 bales in 2017-18, which also faced high temperature and low water availability. Dryland cotton averaged 1.2 bales per hectare, down from 2.5 the previous season.

While being a trying season, growers are continually making improvements in the way they manage their farms. Water-use efficiency continues to be a focus, with growers generally adopting multiple strategies. Reductions in energy use are being achieved through a range of practices, including minimising tillage and field operations, energy benchmarking and audits, installing more energy efficient equipment and the use of solar energy. Cotton growers are also strong supporters of the communities they live and work in, with 90 per cent involved in local community activities.

These are just some of the positive messages coming out of CRDC’s annual survey of cotton growers.

The surveys gather information about farming practices and growers’ views on research, development and extension. This information helps inform CRDC about the benefits of the research it invests in. The 2019 Grower Survey includes baseline information about growers and their farm business, including respondents’ demographics (region, farm area) and season and farm information (yields, area of cotton). Each survey contains a number of focus areas, and this year that included water, energy, nutrition and soil, myBMP, IPM and crop protection, natural resource management, industry research trials, community and social contribution, and industry sentiment.

In total, 219 growers completed the 2019 survey. Of those who planted a crop, the average age was 49.9.

Climate was a big driver of results. Not surprisingly, 89 per cent said limiting factors for the crop were climate related: mainly hot weather and lack of water, with an average of 115 mm of in-crop rain and low allocations.

Growers used several strategies to manage limited water. In these limited water situations, most (73 per cent) planted to water availability. Some growers planted later, while 19 per cent planted both fully and semi-irrigated crops, with some single skip-row configurations. Nearly 20 per cent stopped irrigating during the season and ploughed crops in.

Nitrogen use changed little from last season: total N (kg/ ha) was 325 kg in fully irrigated and 166.7 in partially irrigated. The industry’s advised rate is a total of 200 to 250 kg/ha applied.

Soil surface testing was the most popular method to determine fertiliser rates, with similar levels for semi- irrigated and dryland crops. Petiole and leaf testing were similar across all systems, at around 30 per cent of growers surveyed.

Good news is that growers are increasingly adopting industry-recommended thresholds for pest management (97 this year compared to 90 per cent in 2016-17).

The value of integrated pest management is obvious – 96 per cent of growers are preserving beneficial insects.

For more: read the full article in the Autumn 2020 edition of CRDC’s Spotlight magazine, and download the full Cotton Grower survey results and digital dashboard.

Case study: Strengthening partnerships creates unity

Two cotton growers at a field day, with a sign demonstrating CRDC's support for an in-crop trial.
As an investment organisation, CRDC relies on high- quality partnerships with research providers to deliver findings and innovations that address new and existing challenges for the benefit of the industry in the long term.

For the Australian cotton industry to benefit from research investments, the outcomes need to be rapidly extended and adopted, and as applicable, commercialised. To achieve these outcomes, CRDC works with many partners: research institutions, industry groups, individual researchers, fellow research and development corporations, and state bodies of agriculture. CRDC works with about 100 different research organisations each year.

“We pride ourselves on our strong relationships with cotton growers, research providers, government and other core partners,” CRDC Executive Director Dr Ian Taylor said.

“Collaboration is at the very heart of everything we do: there isn’t a single research project we invest in that isn’t delivered in partnership with our growers, researchers and other collaborators.

“Of all the RD&E projects in cotton, we are partners in over 80 per cent of them.”

CRDC also recognises the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration in solving issues bigger than the cotton industry alone. In 2019-20, 48 per cent of CRDC’s investments were in cross-sectoral RD&E, tackling issues like climate variability, soil health and nutrition, irrigation, plant biosecurity, crop protection, farm safety, and human capacity.

To assess the health of its partnerships, CRDC invited its key partners to provide feedback, to identify what was working effectively, and also highlight opportunities for strengthening the partnership. This was undertaken in late 2019 and early 2020, replicating a similar study by CRDC in 2016.

The feedback has demonstrated strong results across each of the three headline organisational performance metrics and improvement in the partner ratings across a large number of measures from 2016.

“This was particularly encouraging, given the already high benchmarks achieved in 2016, the significant organisational changes at CRDC over the past few years, along with the increasingly difficult operating conditions now faced by the industry,” Ian said.

“Trust is also integral to partnerships, and with a collective rating of 8.9 out of 10 for trust (up 0.2, with no partner rating this at less than a five out of 10) points to a strong foundation for a successful partnership.”

Overall satisfaction with the partnership across all partners was again strong. The ratings and feedback provided highlighted a number of perceived strengths of the current engagement and relationship with partners.

“It is very pleasing for us to receive acknowledgment that our motivation is driven by our role as an ‘industry custodian’,” Ian said.

For more: read the full article in the Winter 2020 edition of CRDC’s Spotlight magazine, and download the Partner Relationship Review.