Drought hits Australian cotton growers hard, but GMO insect-resistant crops help mitigate the pain

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It will compound the pain already being felt in surrounding regional economies, but the tough times are also forging a new generation of growers determined to change negative perceptions of the [cotton] industry.

One of those lucky enough to have a crop this year is the Porter family on Queensland’s Darling Downs. “I vividly remember when we were planting, it was like trying to raise seedlings in a desert,” Grant Porter, 34, said.

He helps run the farm on the fertile Cecil Plains, 200 kilometres west of Brisbane. The region has been drought declared since 2014 …. But what they are picking now is some of the highest yielding cotton they have ever grown.

Cotton was once known as crop that required a lot of water and a lot of insecticide, but the Porters …. only irrigated and sprayed their crops twice.

Related article:  Viewpoint: How New Zealand's biotech 'science deniers' hinder effort to fight climate change with GMO ryegrass

Since the 1990s the cotton industry has strived become more efficient, and according to industry figures, cotton grown today in Australia uses using 48 per cent less water, 97 per cent less insecticide and 34 per cent less land.

The varieties of cotton grown today have been genetically modified to resist insects and allow the crop to be sprayed for weeds without killing the plant.

“It’s really freed growers from the day to day concern of having to worry about insect management,” said Paul Grundy, principal scientist at Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

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