Innovation gives jumpstart to cotton crops

Elders in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) and degradable technology company OneCrop are commercialising the first degradable plastic film of its kind – providing a unique microclimate for new cotton crops.

The thin plastic film, OneCrop, works by trapping heat from sunlight, raising soil temperatures significantly and improving establishment before breaking down prior to harvesting cotton.

Elders senior agronomist Heath McWhirter, says the product demonstrates strong results and has great potential for clients,  particularly in areas with low temperatures at the time of sowing.

“The clear plastic film cover is incredibly effective at harnessing warmth from the sun, resulting in an increase in ground temperature in many trials,” says Mr McWhirter.

“We have seen soil temperature improvements of up to 3.5 degrees through day and night, providing better conditions for germination,” he says.

Product development began in 2012 and has since been trialed by cotton growers and researchers across Australia.

Based on grower feedback, prototypes were refined based on the needs of the farm and the conditions found across properties. The result of this is a system that has helped mitigated replant risk, improved early crop vigor, conserved moisture and resulting in improved yields.

OneCrop Director, David McGrath, says that the collaboration between companies and the thorough testing process has allowed them to significantly benefit growers’ crop production efforts.

“Growers across many cotton growing regions planted commercial scale trials in 2016 with significant results,” says Mr McGrath.

“Despite cold and wet conditions at time of planting making establishment difficult, none of the cotton planted with the Techni-Plant FL were replanted, showing the feasibility of the technology in giving crops the best possible start,” he says.

“OneCrop is the first degradable film designed specifically for purpose and entirely environmentally sound. It has the ability to create a microclimate for plants without any negative side effects on the soil, crop, or wider environment,” he says.

Elders’ technical services manager Graham Page, says that this technology is an exciting initiative for Elders and demonstrates our focus on collaboration with industry to develop innovative solutions for clients.

“We are continually looking forward at solutions which make our clients’ lives easier and their yields higher,” says Mr Page.

“There are uncontrollable elements in farming, it’s the nature of the business, but by thinking slightly outside of the box and reapplying an old concept with an innovative design, the cotton film has the potential to mitigate some of the issues that growers face and ultimately create better outcomes at the end of the season,” he says.

In early 2015, Norseman Machinery based in Edgeroi, NSW began developing commercial scale machinery to plant and lay plastic film in a single pass and can now tailor machinery to individual client requirements for eight and twelve row configurations.