Cotton Australia has welcomed the findings of a study into the potential of northern Australia’s water resources and its potential to significantly boost the viability of irrigated cropping industries such as cotton.

The research, conducted by federal government agency The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), assessed three priority regions: Fitzroy catchment, Western Australia; Darwin catchments (Finniss, Adelaide, Mary, Wildman), Northern Territory); and Mitchell catchment, Queensland.

The Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment set out to evaluate and contextualise the feasibility, economic viability and sustainability of water resource development in these areas.

Specifically, they evaluated soil and water resources, identified and evaluated water capture and storage options, tested the commercial viability of irrigated agriculture opportunities, and assessed the potential environmental, social and economic impacts and risks of water resource and irrigation development.

The work is part of CSIRO’s engagement in delivery of the Australian Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, for which one of the key initiatives is the development of northern Australia’s water resources.

The study identified the potential for new dams, which could significantly boost the viability of irrigated cropping industries such as cotton. It also found boosting agriculture in the region could provide thousands of new jobs and inject billions of dollars into the country’s northern economy.

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Cotton Australia CEO, Adam Kay, says the study is good news for northern Australian farmers who are looking to move into growing higher value irrigated crops like cotton.

“The future of irrigated agriculture in northern Australia is looking brighter thanks to this study. These findings provide further evidence for what the Australian cotton industry has long recognised and advocated: northern Australia is a valuable region for agricultural growth in this country, and cotton can play an integral role in forging this exciting new frontier.”

Kay says the cotton industry is already expanding into northern Australia, and the study’s findings can now push that expansion further.

“The Australian cotton industry has for a long time invested in R&D in northern Australia with the aim of expanding where cotton can be successfully and viably grown. We’re currently seeing a number of innovative organisations and growers, particularly in Western Australia’s Ord and the gulf in Queensland, testing cotton on a large scale.”

Kay says Cotton Australia is looking forward to working with government and stakeholders to ensure the findings of the study “don’t fall of the radar”, and that the industry sees “real and meaningful” investment in agriculture in northern Australia.

“The sustainable development of irrigated agriculture in northern Australia will be critical if we are to reach the National Farmers’ Federation target of $100bn of agricultural exports by 2030,” he added.