A 400-HECTARE research cotton crop at Richmond in north Queensland
is the latest in a number of trials evaluating cotton production in
northern Australian environments. The three-year trial, being run
at Silver Plains Station in the southern Gulf, aims to determine if
cotton crops—using the genetically modified INGARD
cotton—can be environmentally sustainable. Broadscale
plantations of INGARD cotton are currently being trialled in the
Ord Irrigation Area. The NT Department of Primary Industry &
Fisheries has also been running a trial for three years to guage
how productive broadacre cotton would be on country around
In the Gulf however, while there is strong producer and community
interest in diversification in the region’s pastoral areas,
there are still widespread concerns about the long-term
environmental impacts of establishing an irrigated cotton industry
on the Flinders River.
A community forum was held in Richmond at the beginning of May in
response to those concerns. Hosted by the Southern Gulf Catchments
Inc., in conjunction with the Richmond Shire Council, the forum
drew more than 100 stakeholders including conservation groups,
shire councils, graziers, and commercial fishing groups.
Technical representatives from scientific and government bodies
were present to answer stakeholder questions.
Andrew Humpherys, Coordinator of Southern Gulf Catchments Inc. said
the forum provided an opportunity for discussion over a range of
issues, including the economic, social and environmental concerns
of local people.
“The major feeling from the forum was that conflict was
avoided and that people were willing find common ground and
cooperatively address issues,” he said. The forum identified
key issues and nominated stakeholders for a Flinders River
Catchment Advisory Panel.
The cotton trial is a collaboration between the Queensland
Department of Primary Industries and the Australian Cotton CRC. It
aims to refine a sustainable production system for cotton that is
based on extensive field trials of INGARD cotton and insect
resistance management protocols carried out at Emerald and Theodore
in central Queensland during the late 1990s. INGARD cotton has been
genetically modified to resist the main pest, heliothis, which
closed down cotton production in the Ord in the 1970s.
Any stakeholders with an interest in the Flinders River catchment
are invited to express their views on the proposed developments in
writing to Andrew Humpherys.