AT WORK: CSIRO cotton researcher Stephen Yeates at work in the Ord River region.
AT WORK: CSIRO cotton researcher Stephen Yeates at work in the Ord River region. Contributed

Heavy hitters in town

THE next Food Futures Roadshow event set down for later this month has attracted some of the heavy hitters in the cotton industry from across Australia.

The roadshows, which are held throughout the north in the run up to the 2018 Food Futures Conference in Darwin in July, usually attract a good turnout from primarily local producers and stakeholders.

However, the Kununurra Roadshow, to be held on Wednesday, Mach 28, has also attracted a big contingent from the cotton industry from far north Queensland right down to northern New South Wales.

One of the key speakers at the roadshow will be former Graincorp head Ron Greentree.

Mr Greentree, in partnership with Strathmore Station's owner Scott Harris, has developed Australia's northern most commercial cotton crop on the station near Georgetown in Queensland's Gulf Country.

Following a successful 1000 hectare trial, the venture expanded to plant 3000 hectares which are due to be harvested around May.

No doubt Mr Greentree will also be interested to find out from Kimberley Agriculture Investment (KAI) General Manager Jim Engelke how their pending foray into commercial cotton cropping in the Ord region is stacking up.

Following a small-scale trial of cotton last year, in January, KAI planted a 300 hectare crop.

It represents the first commercial cotton crop in the region in more than four decades.

Mr Engelke, who is also set to speak at the roadshow, has been reported as saying KAI's aim is to build a $40 million cotton processing gin.

He said if that came to fruition it would service an industry with 10,000ha to 15,000ha of crops right across the Ord.

Mr Engelke said a downstream industry for cattle could also flow from the cotton seed by-product.

Mr Greentree and Mr Engelke will be joined at the roadshow by the chairman of Cotton Australia Simon Corrish and vice chairman Hamish McIntyre.

Attendees will also hear the latest news in cotton research taking place in the north from Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries researcher Paul Grundy.

Mr Grundy has been heavily involved in cotton research in the north with CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Dr Stephen Yeates.

The research, lead by Dr Yeates, involves several projects conducting research and extension into sustainable tropical farming systems, physiology and agronomy of cotton and grain crops.

His collaborative work with cotton has developed sustainable cotton farming systems in tropical Australia and significantly improved cotton water use efficiency and yield in temperate Australia.

Although cotton will be a big part of the roadshow there is plenty for other stakeholders to glean some insights from.

Speakers at the roadshow will also include local Ord River region farmers, chair of Grains Research and Development Corp John Woods, CEO Co-operative Research Centre Northern Australia Jed Matz and Mark McGrath from the Northern Australia Crop Research Alliance.

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