When it comes to growing cotton in Australia, farmers and leading fashion brands have a similar mindset – to produce cotton in a sustainable and environmentally responsible method.
Australian farmers are global leaders in growing cotton, and they are equipped with an important piece of equipment that sets them apart from the rest: a genetically modified seed.
The term “genetically modified” is often misunderstood, but it’s been a game changer for Australian cotton farmers who 20 years ago feared cotton was becoming unsustainable.
Farmers were applying insecticide sprays 17-18 times per season and weeds were taking over their crops. But thanks to the introduction of the industry’s Bollgard technology, that’s changed.
In some seasons, farmers might spray once, if at all. Weeds are more easily controlled, and cotton crops are producing three times the global average thanks to biotechnology.
The technology was welcomed by cotton farmers in 1996, when farmers feared they would become unsustainable and go out of business, Cotton Seed Distributors’ Extension and Market Development Lead Peter White said.
“We wouldn’t have a cotton industry today without biotechnology,” Peter said.
Peter manages the extension team at CSD. His team’s role is to ensure the growers get the best value from the biotechnology, but also assist with research conducted by Cotton Research and Development Corporation, as well as helping promote the industry’s myBMP (Best Management Practices) program.
Since the GM seed’s introduction, farmers have reduced their insecticide use by 97%. Advancements of the Bollgard technology continue to provide farmers with the tools to grow some of the most sustainable cotton in the world.
Farmers are spending less time on spray rigs, less time exposed to chemicals and significantly reduced environmental pressures, thanks to the technology.
“Cotton Growers are our most progressive farmers in Australia when it comes to technology, and they show why GM is so important in their operations because they’re used to using state of the art technology,” Peter said.
“It’s another tool that’s helped them to become world-leading cotton growers. It fits well with their farming systems and keeps them on top of their game world-wide.
“If farmers and industry aren’t worried about insects, we’re focused on producing a fibre that’s made for market.”
But the technology comes with strict management plans, licences and regulations. Cotton farmers are required to plant their crop in a certain timeframe, and ensure the crop is destroyed once harvested to ensure the longevity of the technology.
To learn more about the industry’s seed, watch this video.