Beginning in 1994 under the Sustainable Cotton Production CRC, The University of New England Cotton Production Course has continued through all three cotton CRCs. The aim of this project has been to develop and deliver the only specialised university level qualification in cotton production in Australia. The course is delivered through the Diploma in Agriculture for externally enrolled undergraduates and the Graduate Certificate in Rural Science for externally enrolled post-graduates. Completion of all four units (Applied Cotton Production, Cotton Protection, Cotton and the Environment and Cotton Farming Systems) is required to achieve formal recognition by a university award.
The ‘cotton course’, as it has become known, has seen approximately 190 graduates. It has been coordinated by a UNE-based lecturer funded by the CRC and dedicated full-time to the project. Over the years successive lecturers, Steve Buster, Guy Roth, John Stanley and Brendan Griffith have had extensive research and/or practical experience in the cotton industry, and have drawn extensively on industry contacts provided through the CRC to help deliver the course. The success of the cotton course is due primarily to strong collaboration with industry and the broad involvement of cotton researchers, consultants and growers in providing relevant, up-to-date presentations and written material.
The program was designed to provide tertiary agricultural education for advisors and consultants, farmers, agribusiness, natural resource management staff and others within the Australian cotton industry. Many advisors receive little training in areas specific to cotton during their education, even at tertiary level. A structured production course enables participants to improve their skills more rapidly and exposes them to a broad range of information, cropping issues and industry contacts. The Crop Consultants Association (formerly Cotton Consultants Association) recognises the course in its classifications of membership.
The cotton course has efficiently prepared cotton industry personnel to make sound decisions based on well-founded information. As a result, the graduates are now seeded throughout the industry and greater community, with a better understanding of production, environmental and post-farm gate issues. As well as contributing directly to the productivity of the industry, this provides a healthy basis for an articulate debate on the merits of cotton production across the agricultural and urban communities.
The Cotton CRC is confident that the industry will continue to work with UNE to make this valuable educational opportunity available to future generations of cotton industry personnel after the CRC closes.