Global Agriculture

Bayer celebrates 30 years of water use efficiency gains in Australian cotton

13 May 2022, AU: Bayer is partnering with Thirst Foundation to support RUN BLUE which involves CEO and Founder Mina Guli completing 200 marathons to put the water crisis at the forefront of the global agenda.

On Wednesday, 27 April 2022, Bayer celebrated Ms Guli’s mission and 30 years of water use efficiency improvements in the Australian cotton industry at their Locharba facility in Narrabri, NSW.

As part of her journey, Ms Guli ran through NSW cotton country, highlighting the 48 per cent improvement the industry has made to water use efficiency since 1992.

The event saw Bayer, Thirst Foundation, Cotton Australia, CRDC, CSIRO, Department of Primary Industries, growAG, The University of Sydney, local council and cotton growers come together to reflect on gains the sector has made since environmental benchmarking began in 1992 – as well as to generate innovative solutions for the future. 

Bayer Australia and New Zealand Head of Public Affairs, Science and Sustainability, Ailish Hanley, said it was great to mark Bayer’s partnership with Thirst Foundation to recognise and celebrate the work the Australian cotton industry has done in improving the way it uses water over the past 30 years.

“Bayer is delighted to bring together Thirst Foundation and leaders across Australia’s cotton industry to mark 30 years of continuous improvement in water use efficiency,” Ms Hanley said. 

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“As a founding partner of Thirst Foundation’s RUN BLUE campaign, and contributor towards sustainable agriculture, Bayer welcomed the opportunity to travel with Mina out to Narrabri in NSW, a significant town for the Australian cotton industry. This event itself marked the achievements of the cotton industry and the growers themselves who have made Australian cotton some of the highest quality fibre and one of the most water efficient industries in the world.

“We see it as both an opportunity and our responsibility to partner with farmers and other industry stakeholders to provide the solutions needed to make farms both more water efficient and more productive.”

Cotton Australia Chief Executive Officer, Adam Kay said it was great to be able to come together as an industry and collaborate. 

“Australia’s wide-open spaces and healthy natural environment make it the perfect place to grow cotton and, due to biotechnology and advances in precision irrigation and timing, Australia’s cotton industry is one of the most water efficient cotton industries in the world,” Mr Kay said. 

There are currently around 1,500 cotton farms in Australia, with approximately 66 per cent of the country’s cotton grown in NSW. Australia exports around $2 billion worth of cotton each year, with that figure expected to double this year to $4 billion, and leads the world in sustainable, ethical cotton production.

Bayer Head of Customer Marketing ANZ, Tony May said the sustainability of Australian cotton has been progressing for over 30 years, in part due to genetically modified (GM) trait technology. 

“Bayer first made GM trait technology commercially available to farmers in the cotton sector in 1996. By the 2021/22 season, 99.9 per cent of the Australian cotton crop contained a Bayer herbicide tolerance or insect protection trait,” Mr May said. 

“The reduction in insecticide use through adoption of GM insect protected cotton, coupled with better pest management has made an important contribution to improving water quality in the North East rivers of Australia.

“We need sustainable food and agriculture systems, and this requires intensive agriculture that can deliver productivity without the impact. This is what the cotton industry in Australia has contributed towards and Bayer is proud to be a part of that story.

“Global agriculture and food systems face a range of challenges including water crisis, extreme weather, uncertain markets and supply and that is why Bayer is committed to developing tools and implementing water smart solutions that farmers need to reduce their water consumption in the paddock,” Mr May said. 

As part of its sustainability efforts, in 2021, Bayer and Goanna Ag launched the Water Use Efficiency Grant for myBMP certified cotton growers which helps growers optimise irrigation scheduling. 

“Bayer is dedicated to helping people and the planet thrive and we are committed to continuing work with the Australian cotton industry to help achieve sustainability targets with a robust innovation pipeline of products, stewardship and support programs,” Mr May said.