2017 Finalists

ADAMA Chris Lehmann Trust Young Achiever of the Year Finalists

Fiona Norrie, Moree

Fiona grew up on a mixed farming operation near Narrabri, Northern NSW, and was attracted to cotton operations from a young age. Fiona started out spending her summers bug checking while studying a Bachelor of Rural Science at UNE. She now works as an agronomist with Integrated Crop Management Services in Moree, helping many local growers improve yields, sustainability and farm performance. Fiona is also committed to improving support networks in agriculture, becoming the inaugural Young Aggies Committee Chairperson in 2016. This organisation has been highly successful, hosting informative workshops and raising much needed funds for suicide prevention services. In 2016 Fiona was named the Gwydir Valley Cotton Growers Association Young Achiever of the Year recognising the significant contribution she has already made in agriculture.

Liz Lobsey, Dalby

Through her work as an agronomist in Southern QLD, Liz has made major contributions to the cotton industry in a representative capacity and by raising awareness in the broader community. In 2016 Liz was appointed Director of Crop Consultants Australia, fostering professional development opportunities for younger board members and participating in the critical work of CCA’s Helicoverpa resistance monitoring team. She is currently also Chair of the Darling Downs Cotton Growers Inc Field Day Committee, sits on the Executive Committee of Darling Downs Cotton Growers Incorporated and has previously served as Secretary of Central Downs Irrigators. Liz has also been actively involved in the Australian Cotton Conference Organising Committee, Australia Future Cotton Leaders Program and Art 4 Agriculture.

Cameron Derbidge, Goondiwindi

Cameron Derbidge is an Agronomist with Total Ag Services (Gundy) Pty Ltd servicing the Macintyre Valley. Cameron started his career in cotton working as a farm hand, working his way up to irrigation manager and continued to work in the field while studying agriculture externally. His leadership skills and keen interest in developing the cotton industry has seen him excel as an agronomist and make significant contributions to the industry more broadly. Cameron has been actively involved with the Macintyre Valley Cotton Field Day Committee for the past six years and has recently served two years as committee president. The committee hosted the Monsanto National Cotton Grower of the Year Field Day at Reardon Farms in March 2016, an event which has been described as the cotton industry’s most successful field day. Cameron has also been actively involved in the Macintyre Valley Cotton Charity Golf Days which have raised $77,000 towards the Goondiwindi State School bursary over the past 11 years, as well as their Cotton Awards Dinner that attracts 240 guests annually.

Cotton Seed Distributor Researcher of the Year Finalists

Sharon Downes, Narrabri

Dr Sharon Downes leads CSIRO Food and Agriculture’s IPM and Resistance Evolution research team. She has been located at the Australian Cotton Research Institute since 2004, and has made a significant contribution to the Australian Cotton Industry through her work on resistance evolution in Helicoverpa to the toxins contained in Bt cotton. This includes resistance monitoring data that allows the industry to judge how to effectively manage and adapt the Bt Resistant Management Plan (RMP) for Bt cotton. Dr Downes has made a significant contribution to establishing robust and practical strategies for managing resistance in Australia for both Bt cotton and the insecticides used to control all insect pests. Dr Downes has worked collaboratively with researchers across several NSW and Queensland based research agencies and universities. She has also collaborated internationally with researchers from the USA, Brazil, China, India and Spain. She leads a strong research team and invests significantly in developing technical staff and mentoring students and trainees. In 2014 Dr Downes graduated from the highly regarded Australian Rural Leadership Program.

Paul Grundy, Toowomba and Steve Yeates, Ayr

Paul and Steve are dedicated cotton research scientists with over 40 years research experience between them. Both researchers have had made significant contributions to the wider cotton industry and mainstream research through their systems analysis and in depth understanding of cotton physiology. By taking the approach of “learning to think like a plant” they are fundamentally changing the philosophy of cotton production across the cotton industry, whether it be in northern Australia, established cotton production valleys, or the newer southern production systems. Through rigorously planned and executed trials and a strong understanding of plant physiology Paul and Steve teased apart the intricacies of the CQ production system.  They analysed, temperature, solar radiation, rainfall, the farming system to determine how this could be manipulated to provided better returns and a more sustainable and profitable system for CQ growers. This work has led to yields in this region increasing by up to 3 bales/ha with significant improvements in quality and colour. This result has had a profound impact on the profitability of cotton growing in this region. Paul and Steve have a unique ability to work with growers, put complex science into laymans speak and to obtain such a result in a short period of time.

Graham Charles, Narrabri

Graham Charles is an applied weeds researcher with 29 year’s experience in all aspects of weed management in the Australian cotton industry, covering such areas as the management of specific problem weeds, the effectiveness of the farming system, developing a threshold for weed control in cotton and the identification and management of herbicide damage in cotton. Graham has established himself as an authority on weeds in cotton farming systems both in Australia and internationally, he was the major author of “WEEDpak – the integrated weed management guide for cotton”, first released in 2002 and has continued to contribute significant content, including the Herbicide Damage Symptoms Guide.  Graham has provided considerable technical support to the industry’s adoption and stewardship of glyphosate tolerant cotton through his dedication to the TIMS Herbicide Tolerant Crops Technical Panel.  His ongoing commitment to this panel is helping to prepare for the next generation of herbicide tolerant traits. Over the last 12 months Graham has also presented at most of the CottonInfo regional herbicide resistance/weed training events, as well as the consultant specific events, imparting his significant knowledge on use of residuals in cotton, weed ecology and herbicide resistance. Graham’s wealth of experience and knowledge, developed over years of outstanding research will help to ensure that the industry is well positioned to manage the growing issue of herbicide resistance.

Agririsk High Achiever of the Year

Andrew Dickson, “Marebone”, Warren, NSW

Andrew Dickson farms 650 hectares of irrigated cotton on ‘Marebone’, 50 km north of Warren in Western NSW. He operates a system based on a cotton, cereal and legume rotation. In recent years, average yields have ranged from 13.8 to 15.5 bales per hectare. Through improving water efficiency, attention to soil health, promoting beneficial insects and keeping to a simple fertiliser program, Andrew has managed to increase bales produced per megalitre. He believes careful budgeting and forecasting, with an emphasis on yields, helps improve profitability. In the future he hopes to increase water security allowing the production of more consistent, sustainable cotton.

Mark Cathcart, CSD Farms, Wee Waa, NSW

Mark Cathcart has been growing cotton for 35 years and currently farms 260 hectares of irrigated cotton on CSD Farms, near Wee Waa, Northern NSW.  CSD Farms have three principle functions being early generation seed increase, cotton crop research and technology demonstration.  Mark and his team take the breeder seed provided by CSIRO and over successive years screen and produce volumes of potential varieties which can then be grown out by commercial seed growing partners.  Mark and his team are also responsible for conducting a vast array of trials including screening of new varieties for diseases such as verticillium, crop spacing and row configuration for dryland and irrigated systems, irrigation technologies, crop nutrition, seed treatments as well as new biotechnologies. To achieve the highest possible seed quality as well as commercially acceptable lint yields, Mark undertakes an extensive soil testing program annually to determine soil needs, depletion and remediation.  Cereal and pulse rotation cropping is critical in maintaining soil health and seed crop quality, so retention of crop stubble has enabled him to improve soil health, also improving water use efficiency. Where possible, he also employs a minimal approach to insecticide application in order to encourage early season beneficial insects. Mark routinely achieves an evenness of maturity across the crop to produce the most consistent, highest quality seed and commercially acceptable lint yields.

Rod Smith, Ruvigne, Gunnedah

Rod Smith has significantly improved water and nitrogen efficiencies, soil productivity and minimised chemical applications since he started managing Ruvigne in 2013. He farms 400 hectares of irrigated cotton in rotation with 250 hectares of durum wheat, with over all farming country covering 1700 hectares dryland and 740 hectares irrigated. He also runs 80 head of Wagyu x Angus cattle on area unsuitable for farming. Rod has focused on morphing the operation into a cotton, durum, fallow rotation with stubble retention to improve soil health which has seen an increase in average yields, with 12.5 bales per hectare achieved in irrigation last year. He has also managed water application rates by way of soil probes, applying 6.8 – 7.2 megalitres per ha. Routine soil testing has ensured optimal nitrogen application rates, while machine adaptations have improve labour and machinery use efficiencies while also minimising soil disturbance and compaction.

Monsanto Grower of the Year

Uebergang Agriculture, “Tinobah” Miles, QLD

Ross Uebergang farms 400 hectares of irrigated cotton yielding up to 12.5 bales per hectare in recent years. During the past decade he has introduced the use of centre pivots into the irrigation scheme to improve water efficiency in areas where topography makes flood irrigation unsuitable. Centre pivots now make up 75% of irrigation scheme and achieve both greater water use efficiency and labour savings. Over the past three years he has doubled the amount of waterings by tightening the watering interval, which has drastically reduced stress on the bush and lifted yields by 30-40%. The centre pivots also save on seed bed preparation operations as there is no tilling required. Cotton is the pillar crop in a varied rotation system including cover crops and cereals.  Attention to cover cropping and stubble retention has greatly aided in storing more moisture and limiting irrigation runoff. Ross is proactive in environment protection, fencing the river to reduce erosion, conducting aerial shoots to control pigs and retaining wildlife corridors which double as wind breaks to limit spray drift.

Simon Corish, Yattlewondi, Mungindi, NSW

During the last 19 years of farming Yattlewondi, Simon Corish has achieved significant increases in productivity, efficiency and yields, as well as increasing the total farm production area. With the support of Maurice Pearce and Jim O’Connor, he currently farms 1950 hectares of irrigated cotton and 1220 hectares dryland farming area, while also employing a wheat, barley and chickpea rotation. Setting a field rotation schedule of “1 in 1 out” in the irrigation area has enabled him to maximise crop return from minimum water, labour and fertiliser and chemical input. This was a major departure from the previous management style where some fields were farmed for 4 or 5 seasons without a break, due to the high reliability of water supply. In 2015 Simon implemented bankless channel irrigation which resulted in significant water savings. Overall, under his management, average yields have increased from 10 to 15 bales per hectare, whilst improving the long term sustainability of the farm through better soil health.

Cavaso Farming, Darlington Point, NSW

Cavaso Farming have achieved impressive results since they began farming cotton just seven years ago. They use siphon and bankless irrigation on a cotton, wheat, fallow rotation, employing minimum till and controlled traffic approaches. They are transitioning from a maize and cotton rotation, now achieving an average yield of 12 bales per hectare. Streamlining their operation by reducing the number of crop varieties has helped find efficiencies in labour and machinery use. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) helps encourage beneficial insects and protect bees, while weeds have been a huge focus in recent years resulting in a much cleaner property. Having Murrumbidgee river frontage has also meant the Toscan’s have focused on environmental improvements including fencing off riparian zones, installing water troughs.