Australia’s cotton sector was the first agricultural industry to measure its environmental impact starting in the early 1990s.
According to the latest updates, the Australian cotton industry has shown a 52 percent improvement in water use efficiency since 1997, and reduced negative impacts related to bee and algal pesticide use by 91 percent and 66 percent, respectively, since 2004.
Coupled with these positive figures is an increase in the proportion of female and indigenous workers.
The critical issues on the annual data
Annual data, however, are less positive, as noted in the 2022 Sustainability Update, released by Cotton Australia and Cotton Research and Development Corporation. They in fact showed a decrease in yield and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2022.
Transparency, efficiency, and sustainability
As stated by the CEO of Cotton Australia, Adam Kay, the Sustainability Update manifests the industry’s goals of balance and transparency and commitment to continually improve its performance while being aware of the risks, challenges, and opportunities of the near future.
The efficient use of irrigation water is one of the hot topics for the industry, which is called upon to meet the growing demand for food and fiber while reducing the negative impacts of production and promoting sustainable processes for nature and consumers.
Against this backdrop, the 2022 Sustainability Update revealed that the five-year average irrigated yield of Australian cotton increased by 55 percent from 1994 to 2002, compared with an 8 percent yield increase in drylands over the same period.
To succeed in the challenge of increasing both yield and sustainability at the same time, the Australian cotton industry is required to implement its internal and external industry collaboration and coordination programs.