What makes cotton growers tick

USQ researcher digs into cotton industry decisions


Cotton
Driven to improve: Queensland cotton grower Glenn Rogan, Benelong, St George, says he is constantly motivated to improve the quality of his crop. Picture: Hayley Kennedy

Driven to improve: Queensland cotton grower Glenn Rogan, Benelong, St George, says he is constantly motivated to improve the quality of his crop. Picture: Hayley Kennedy

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A new survey has dug into the decisions made by cotton growers.

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After decades in the cotton industry, producer Glenn Rogan is still driven by the challenge of growing a quality crop.

"Those things that are hardest to achieve make you more determined to get there," he said.

Mr Rogan from Benelong, St George, said the toughest challenges in recent times had not necessarily been on the land.

"Probably the biggest challenge we face, and it tears you down a fair bit, is the way that cotton is covered in the media," he said.

"In comparison, coping with droughts and floods is not so bad, it's what gets said in the media that hurts the most."

Researcher Dr Geraldine Wunsch from the University of Southern Queensland has spent years digging into the things that make Australian cotton growers tick.

The project is particularly close to home for Dr Wunsch considering she is a cotton grower herself.

Her recently published thesis seeks to fill the gaps in knowledge surrounding these decisions and what they mean for the Australian cotton industry as well as agriculture more broadly.

"Primary production is integral to feeding and clothing the world, and cotton is both a food and a fibre," the thesis read.

"The cotton industry's producer employers are critical to the longevity of the Australian cotton industry.

"Understanding their motivation and the influencers of their decision-making processes in crop choice is important."

Understanding decisions

Researcher Dr Geraldine Wunsch from the University of Southern Queensland.

Researcher Dr Geraldine Wunsch from the University of Southern Queensland.

The thesis used face to face interviews as well as a national survey of Australian cotton growers in order to tease out issues such as job satisfaction, industry relationships and lifestyle.

"There has been a focus for some time on the technical aspects of agriculture - the 'hard' sciences," Dr Wunsch said.

"This study understands why some decisions are made irrationally.

"People make systemically biased decisions that are not 'always' in their best interests due to factors such as time, social pressure, emotion and the power of habit to name just a few."

The survey found cotton growers were dedicated to the industry.

Being able to spend more time with family was one of the motivating factors singled out in the face to face interviews.

"Well, I want to buy another farm, but I can't let myself do it because I'd see less of my kids," said one grower.

"It's a bad financial decision but I just figure, seen too many people get stuck in that run and then ... the next thing they know, Oh gee, the kid's 18."

It was obvious that many participants in the study had a deep love for the cotton industry and valued relationships with other growers.

However, cotton growers also said it could be hard motivating others.

"Cotton is a food and a fibre; we get to clothe and feed the world. This excites me, makes it easy to be motivated when you're part of something bigger," said one grower interviewed for the thesis.

"Trouble is, I still sweat the small stuff, and decision-making and motivating others every season can be overwhelming."

The project was funded by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation.

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