Survey to benchmark water use efficiency in cotton (6 October 2017)

Cotton growers are invited to participate in a water productivity benchmarking study, from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Agriculture Division, over the 2017-18 season.

The 2017-18 survey, which is delivered with support from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), follows on from similar surveys in 2006-07, 2008-09 and 2012-13, which found that the cotton industry has achieved a 40 per cent increase in water productivity since the study conducted by Tennakoon and Milroy (2003) (0.79 bales per megalitre) 10 years earlier.

Water productivity benchmarking compares the amount of harvested cotton produced per farm to the amount of water used, determining a bales per megalitre result. It involves calculating water use indicators from on-farm data, and evaluating these relevant to established performance indicators.

This provides a snapshot of how fields and farms are performing at this point in time, across seasons (for those who have participated previously), and against regional and industry averages.

Whole-of-industry benchmarking provides valley by valley data, to see how different regions have performed this season compared to other regions, and compared to previous surveys; as well as providing a means for the industry to identify trends, determine what drives top water productivity outcomes, and help facilitate continuous improvement.

What’s involved

Benchmarking your water productivity involves:

  • compiling accurate measurements during the season of the volumes of water used for each cotton field; including all sources of irrigation, stored and soil moisture, and in-crop rainfall
  • recording harvested yield for each field
  • a soil description for each field
  • a scaled farm map (used to determine length and width of channels and drains, and the area of storage dams).

At the end of the season, this information will be run through the benchmarking calculator WaterTrack Divider to produce a seasonal water summary and performance indicator report for each grower. This takes a couple of hours and will give a water productivity snapshot for the season.

Details are then coded and data is anonymously collated for broader regional and industry-scale benchmarking analysis by the team. As in previous years, this provides important data for establishing current industry performance.

There is no cost to be involved, and all cotton growers are invited to participate. To register your interest, contact Ali Chaffey, NSW DPI/CottonInfo on 0439 326 601 or via ali.chaffey@dpi.nsw.gov.au.