Sustainability performance of the cotton industry 

Sustainable cotton production


There is lots of interest in the sustainability performance of the cotton industry. When tour groups visit Southern Cotton, many questions relate to the impact of cotton production on the environment. The growers we work with in southern NSW, have a long-term record of continual improvement.

According to Cotton Australia, Australian cotton growers produce more cotton on less land, with more efficient water use and with less impact on the environment than ever before. The aim of the Australian cotton industry is to become a global leader in sustainable cotton production.

Sustainability targets and results

The Australian Cotton Sustainability Report is one way the cotton industry is setting sustainable targets and tracking environmental performance. Following the industry’s first five-year report in 2014, here’s the key insights and results from the 2019 Australian Cotton Sustainability Report (PDF)

Southern Cotton’s representatives are actively involved in setting the sustainability targets for the next five years.

Water: A long-term decrease in the volume of water used to grow a bale of cotton has continued.
Carbon: Carbon emissions have increased, mainly from increased nitrogen fertiliser use. The amount of carbon stored on farms is not currently measured.
Biodiversity: The area of land managed for conservation has declined slightly or remained steady.
Pesticides: The amount of toxic pressure on human health and the environment from pesticides has continued to decrease. Work to reduce the hazard and volume of pesticides is ongoing.
Efficiency: The amount of cotton grown per hectare continued its long-term increase.
Profitability: Increased yields and historically high cotton prices increased profitability.
Quality of work life – safety: Injuries have decreased.
Quality of work life – diversity and training: Most diversity indicators increased; the proportion of young people decreased.
Wellbeing and social capital: The wellbeing and social capital of growers and their communities was measured for the first time.

Cotton and water use


Cotton is sometimes referred to as a ‘thirsty’ crop. It’s simply not the case. If you have this perception of cotton production, we encourage you to learn more about cotton’s water use in Australia. In fact, Australia’s cotton industry is one of the most water-efficient industries in the world.

Cotton’s average irrigation requirement is 6-7 megalitres per hectare (Australian average), with crops in the south using an average 10 magalitres per hectare. As highlighted in the 2019 Australian Cotton Sustainability Report, a long-term decrease in the volume of water used to grow a bale of cotton has continued. Since 1992, water-use productivity has improved by 48 per cent.

Australian cotton growers are leading the way with water sustainability through the use of land development and innovative on-farm technology. These systems provide an increase in water productivity, resulting in no water waste.

The Australian cotton industry has a reputation of being the most water efficient cotton industry in the world, thanks to biotechnology and advances in precision irrigation and timing.

Dedication to best practice


myBMP (Best Management Practices) is a voluntary farm and environmental management system which provides self-assessment mechanisms, practical tools and auditing processes to ensure Australian cotton is produced according to best practice.

myBMP delivers growers with the latest technical data and research, allowing them to adopt continuous best practice. At Southern Cotton, we're dedicated to best management practices. Our best-practice philosophy is showcased on our own myBMP accredited farm, Tubbo Irrigation.

Southern Cotton gin is also audited annually as a myBMP accredited gin.

The cotton industry, working together

Southern Cotton is proud to work alongside many others in the Australian cotton industry to continuously collaborate and improve our sustainability practices and performance, including five key organisations: The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), Cotton Australia, myBMP, Cotton Seed Distributors Ltd., and CottonInfo.

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