Drought, and a desire to farm more effectively when the season changes, is what prompted Richard Quigley to go down the research path.
Mr Quigley has received a 2020 Nuffield Scholarship, with support from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and Cotton Australia.
"I applied particularly because it had been so dry and I wanted to use the time to be able to learn and grow and hopefully bring something back to the industry for when it is wetter and times are better," Mr Quigley said.
"I'm planning to look at how we can retain more ground cover in our farming systems, with the ultimate aim of storing more moisture."
Mr Quigley works alongside his parents Tony and Sally, and brothers Tom and George, in a family farming operation at Trangie, in central New South Wales.
The Quigleys run a broadacre irrigated and dryland operation on the home-farm, Muntham, and other properties in the Trangie district. Their business also incorporates a grazing operation focused on breeding and finishing sheep and cattle.
The Quigleys have been in drought since 2017, planting significantly reduced cotton areas and only planting 10 per cent of their winter cropping country in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Mr Quigley will delve further into methods to retain more crop residue in zero-tillage cropping operations. He expects this will improve the ability to store moisture, increase infiltration rates and limit the rate of water evaporation.
"As farmers in marginal cropping areas, we usually find moisture to be our most limiting factor," he said.
"If we can utilise techniques that help us preserve more moisture, it could produce a range of benefits, from increased productivity, soil health, yields and reduced weed pressures.
"The outcomes of the research could provide increased planting opportunities within, and outside, traditional planting windows, opening up potential to grow different crop types in marginal environments, including increasing the viability of rain-grown and semi-irrigated cotton production."
As part of the Nuffield program, Mr Quigley will spend up to 16 weeks abroad and hopes to visit production areas like Brazil, the United States, Canada, and England.