Modern cotton trials

Cotton is a natural, premium, profitable and diverse fibre, with the potential to become a reliable cornerstone of the Northern Territory’s (NT) agriculture industry. With the Territory’s favourable tropical weather conditions and the implementation of modern technologies, there is increasing interest in growing cotton.

Australia’s cotton industry is one of the most water efficient industries with modern cotton requiring 40% less water to produce one tonne of cotton lint than 10 to 15 years ago.

In 2019/20 800 hectares of cotton was sown in the Territory across six properties in the Katherine and Top End regions, of which 80% of the total area was rain-fed. In 2020/21, 10 Territorian growers planted over 8,000 hectares of cotton, and only 2% (155 hectares) was irrigated. Rain-fed farming, also known as dryland farming, uses the Top End’s annual wet season rainfall as the primary water source.

It is anticipated that over 90% of a future NT cotton industry will be sustainably developed using rain-fed cropping strategies. The remaining less than 10% will likely be supplemented by irrigation where adequate water resources are already allocated and matched to suitable soils.

Currently, 98% of cotton grown in Australia is genetically modified. The cotton trials at Katherine Research Station and Douglas Daly Research Farm have included significant testing of new technologies, modern cotton varieties, production systems and contemporary agronomic methods to build local expertise in optimising growth, production and sustainability.

The Bollgard3 cotton variety currently in use has three Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) genes for pest resistance, which protect the crop against a broader range of pests including those prevalent in the wet season.

Australian cotton growers produce some of the best quality fibre cotton in the world with additional market opportunities for lint and seed by-products. The diversity of cotton crops allows many parts of the plant to be used from the lint, which is processed to produce yarn, and lint and seed by-products which are processed into oil, meal and hulls for human consumption, the production of soaps and cosmetics and as part of livestock feed.

General information

More information on growing cotton in the NT:



Last updated: 23 August 2022

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