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Setting the research priorities

We work with the Australian cotton industry to determine the sector’s key RD&E priorities; with Government to determine its overarching agricultural RD&E priorities; and with both the industry and Government to determine the Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy. In turn, these priorities help to shape our strategic RD&E priorities, which are formalised under the 2018–23 CRDC Strategic RD&E Plan.

Industry accountability

We are accountable to the cotton industry through our representative organisation, Cotton Australia. As the industry peak body, Cotton Australia is responsible for providing advice on industry research priorities.

We engage with Cotton Australia in a formal process of consultation in the development and implementation of the Strategic RD&E Plan, including R&D investments. This engagement ensures industry research priorities are regularly reviewed; emerging issues are actively considered; the uptake of research in the form of best practice is facilitated; and the overall performance of the Australian industry is enhanced.

Cotton industry priorities for RD&E:

  • Invest in the skills, strengths and occupational health and safety of the human resources in the cotton industry and its communities.
  • Improve the sustainability of the cotton industry and its catchments.
  • Improve the profitability of the cotton industry.
  • Create and support a strong, focused and committed research program.

Our investment process

The process of deciding where to invest our annual RD&E funding is a collaborative one, involving all major stakeholders.

We work closely with the industry’s peak representative body, Cotton Australia, and the Australian Government on an annual basis to identify and evaluate the cotton industry’s requirements for RD&E. Cotton Australia provides ongoing advice to us on research projects and where research dollars should be invested, guided by the priorities established in the 2018–23 CRDC Strategic RD&E Plan.

In line with the plan, we hold a research priority forum annually, bringing together the Cotton Australia research and development advisory panels to identify the gaps in the existing research portfolio and opportunities for new research. We also hold a series of discipline forums with research partners to identify emerging research priorities.

From here, we issue a targeted annual call for research proposals against these identified priorities. In determining which proposals are successful, we again undertake a process of consultation with growers, via the Cotton Australia panels. The final decision-making authority lies with the CRDC Board.

Successful proposals become contracted projects with us and are delivered by our research partners. Critically, our success in delivering RD&E outcomes to growers and the industry is contingent upon strong relationships with our research partners.

RD&E priorities

The 2019–20 priorities forum, held in June 2018, identified key areas of focus for future RD&E investment. These key areas formed the basis of the targeted call, with 21 expressions of interest developed on these areas to guide researchers in developing their proposals. The key focus areas included:

  • Development of disease-suppressive farming systems;
  • Sustainable insect management through improved insect resistance monitoring;
  • Improved management of weeds in cotton and grains farming systems;
  • Sustainable management of Helicoverpa through pre-emptive resistance management strategies;
  • Improved weed and disease management through the use of cover crops;
  • Supporting southern cotton farming systems and the development of northern cotton farming systems;
  • Benchmarking of water-use efficiency in irrigated and dryland cotton production systems;
  • Sustainability reporting, including the development of baselines for social capital and wellbeing;
  • Development of more resilient cotton production systems;
  • Improving soil health;
  • Cotton production course support; and
  • Developing higher value uses for cottonseed oil.

Through the 2019–20 procurement process, we have invested in projects to directly target these key needs.

Importantly, in addition to immediate cotton industry priorities, we also identify and invest in longer term priorities, specifically around ensuring a future for the industry that is profitable, sustainable and competitive

Government accountability

We are accountable to the Australian Government through the Minister for Agriculture. The Government communicates its expectations of CRDC through Ministerial direction, enunciation of policy, administration of the Primary Industries Research and Development (PIRD) Act 1989, and priorities (Science and Research Priorities and Rural RD&E Priorities). We respond to government expectations through regular communication; compliance with the Funding Agreement, policy and legislated requirements; and the development of Strategic RD&E Plans, Annual Operational Plans, and Annual Reports. In addition, in 2019-20, the Auditor-General conducted a performance audit of five statutory RDCs, including CRDC. CRDC was found to manage probity across RD&E procurements, conflicts of interest, gifts, benefits and hospitality, intellectual property, and credit cards.

Australian Government research priorities

The PIRD Act makes provision for funding and administration of primary industry research and development with a view to:

  • increasing the economic, environmental and social benefits to members of primary industries, and to the community in general by improving the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of the products of primary industries
  • achieving the sustainable use and sustainable management of natural resources
  • making more effective use of the resources and skills of the community in general and the scientific community in particular
  • supporting the development of scientific and technical capacity
  • developing the adoptive capacity of primary producers
  • improving accountability for expenditure on research and development activities in relation to primary industries.

The Australian Government Science and Research Priorities and Rural RD&E Priorities are:

The Science and Research Priorities

  • Food*
  • Cybersecurity
  • Environmental change
  • Soil and water
  • Energy
  • Health
  • Transport
  • Resources
  • Advanced manufacturing

Rural RD&E Priorities

  • Advanced technology
  • Soil, water and managing natural resources
  • Biosecurity
  • Adoption of R&D

* The Food Science and Research Priority also includes fibre.

National Primary Industries RD&E Framework and the Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy

The Australian state and territory governments, Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs), CSIRO, and universities have jointly developed the National Primary Industries Research, Development and Extension Framework to encourage greater collaboration and to promote continuous improvement in the investment of RD&E resources nationally.

National research, development and extension strategies have been developed across primary industry and cross- industry sectors, including cotton, animal biosecurity, animal welfare, biofuels and bioenergy, climate change and variability, food and nutrition, soils, plant biosecurity, and water use in agriculture.

CRDC, research organisations, industry and government are committed to the implementation of the Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy and its five research priorities:

  • Better plant varieties
  • Improved farming systems
  • People, business and community
  • Product and market development
  • Development and delivery.

CRDC provides the secretariat for the Cotton Innovation Network, which is responsible for implementing the Cotton Sector RD&E Strategy. CRDC is also committed to supporting the implementation of the cross-sectoral strategies, including climate change, soils, plant biosecurity, and water use.

Vision 2029: the industry’s vision for a sustainable future

In addition to the above, the industry has also developed its own 20-year vision for the future that encompasses industry priorities around improved industry performance, collaboration and capacity. Developed in 2009 and updated in 2019, this Vision uses a 20-year timeframe to ensure a long-term focus. The Vision 2029 elements (differentiated, responsible, tough, successful, respected, capable and innovative) were central to the development of the CRDC Strategic RD&E Plan, and continue to play a key role in guiding CRDC’s investments each year to ensure CRDC is contributing to their achievement.