10 Years of R&D Collaboration

CSD and Syngenta - 10 Years of R&D Collaboration

The FastStart™ Cotton Program was established as a partnership between Cotton Seed Distributors (CSD) and Syngenta to focus research on improving the establishment and subsequent yield potential of Australian cotton crops.

The Program is funded through a contribution from the sale of CSD seed treated with Syngenta’s Seedcare range. Through their purchase of cotton seed, growers have contributed more than $3 million to the FastStart Research and Development Fund since 2009. This has contributed towards over 50 research projects focussed on the challenges of crop establishment; developing technologies, chemistry and management solutions for the Australian cotton industry.

10 achievements in 10 years

BION® was first identified by Dr Stephen Allen (CSIRO) and researched as a seed treatment tool for the suppression of black root rot and Fusarium wilt, as part of an integrated management program in cotton.

BION® is a plant activator which turns on the plant’s natural defences to resist disease infection. It improves establishment and protects against seedling diseases such as:

  • Black root rot:
    • 25% reduction in disease incidence
    • 9.5% increase in seedling size at 3 weeks
  • Fusarium wilt:
    • 16.5% reduction in disease incidence
    • 6.4% improvement in plant stand
    • 3.9% increase in seed cotton yield

VIBRANCE® COMPLETE is the combination of VIBRANCE® CST and BION®. Together they offer the most comprehensive protection against cotton seedling diseases and have been widely adopted across cotton growing regions in Australia.

Above: Dr Stephen Allen.

Introduced in 2001, CRUISER 600FS assisted cotton establishment through the control of sucking and soil pests that attack the crop in the vulnerable seedling stage. Upon its release in 2011, CRUISER EXTREME established a new benchmark in the control of sucking and soil dwelling pests.

Both seed treatments provide comparable performance to in-furrow granular insecticides, without the need for specialised equipment, calibration or refilling, resulting in superior ease-of-use. These insecticides also demonstrate consistent performance over a wide range of growing conditions.

CRUISER 600FS and CRUISER EXTREME have been widely adopted by the cotton industry as the staple seed treatment insecticide for the control of damaging establishment pests.


2019 FastStart Cotton Establishment Awards irrigated prize winner Angus Doolin, ‘Myall Downs’, North Star NSW, uses Cruiser 600FS and Vibrance CST to reduce soilborne risks.

Angus Doolin, ‘Myall Downs’, North Star NSW.

Above: a wireworm.

Optimal soil temperature is key at planting for emergence and early crop development. It is a FastStart best practice recommendation that planting should not begin until soil temperatures have reached 14°C at 8am for three consecutive days, with a rising plane of temperature above 14°C forecast for the ensuing seven days.

To help cotton growers determine when it is suitable to commence planting, CSD and Syngenta developed the FastStart Soil Temperature Network of more than 30 strategically located soil temperature probes across NSW and Queensland, as well as near Katherine in the Northern Territory and Kununurra in Western Australia.

Growers and advisors can access the data (which is sourced in partnership with Oz Forecast and the Bureau of Meteorology) in real time, along with information on the forecast temperatures and day degree accumulation.

The FastStart Soil Temperature Network is one of the most popular tools developed under the program, with more than 3,000 visits to this site in 2019. Usage increases in particularly cool years when planting decisions are more difficult.


I find the soil temperature network very useful at planting time. The fact that it logs soil temperatures at multiple locations 24-7 means I’ve always got an accurate reference point and it’s quick and easy to access. The traffic light system also gives confidence on the day of planting as it determines how good the warming trend will be post-irrigation.

Ryan Pratten, Muldoon Pratten Ag Consulting.

The FastStart Traffic Light indicator is a simple red-amber-green traffic light system that advises a grower when to stop, delay or go ahead with planting, based on localised data from the FastStart Soil Temperature Network.

The traffic light system takes into consideration current soil temperatures and the forecast average temperatures for the next seven days, to help guide decision making. This has widely been adopted as industry best practice.

The success of the traffic light system is in its simplicity - it is easy to use and interpret and is available as part of the FastStart Soil Temperature Network.

With more than 3,000 visits to traffic light webpage in 2019, it has become a vital tool in helping growers and advisors make planting decisions.


I use the data from the FastStart Soil Temperature Network regularly in the lead up to planting, to check that soil temperatures are on a rising plane for the 7-day forecast. The Traffic Light Indicator system provides clear guidance on timing the planting operation, and I encourage my clients to use these FastStart tools.

Cameron Corke, IMAG Consulting.

First published in 2015, the FastStart Cotton Establishment Guide is a comprehensive handbook comprising of all the current knowledge and research on early season cotton crop management, up until flowering.

Compiled into a handy ready reckoner, the Guide provides practical information on the key management steps required to achieve optimum plant stand. It is also used as a reference/study tool for advisors completing the FastStart Accreditation Course.

Since the first version of the Guide was published, there has been an improvement in the Planter Uniformity Index scores (as measured via the FastStart Cotton Establishment Awards).

In 2020, a revised version of the FastStart Cotton Establishment Guide has been published to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the FastStart Cotton Program.

The FastStart Cotton website is a one stop shop with the latest tools, information and resources to get your crop off to the best start, including:

  • Cotton planting rate calculator
  • Traffic light planting indicator
  • Replant calculator
  • FastStart Soil Temperature Network
  • Variety performance guide
  • Variety performance comparison
  • FastStart Establishment Guide
  • Planting checklist
  • Research reports
  • Grower case studies
  • FastStart Cotton Accreditation Course
  • FastStart Cotton Establishment Awards

Designed to be completed in association with the FastStart Cotton Establishment Guide, the FastStart Accreditation Course is a free training module which aims to equip cotton agronomists, consultants, rural retailers and on-farm staff with the principles and tools to advise growers on best practice cotton crop establishment.

The course is also part of the Crop Consultants Australia (CCA) accreditation program, whereby members can gain points by successfully completing the course. Non-members are also welcomed to complete the course, with the suggestion to include it as part of an on-farm induction for new employees, and/or an upskilling information update for existing farm workers.

The FastStart Accreditation Course was first offered in 2018, and since then, almost 500 users have successfully completed the training. It will be offered again in 2020, and users can access both the course and the FastStart Cotton Establishment Guide on this website.


Sound agronomic management is a crucial factor in the planting operation and the first 70 days after emergence, setting the crop up to maximise its yield potential.

Hannah Hartnett, CSD Research Manager.

VIBRANCE CST was developed through the FastStart Cotton program and provides the most comprehensive disease protection for establishing cotton seedlings. With the addition of SEDAXANE (a new active ingredient developed specifically as a seed treatment) this four-way fungicide mix targets Rhizoctonia to improve seedling survival and delivers enhanced control of pythium.

In 2018, VIBRANCE CST superseded DYNASTY as the standard cotton seed treatment fungicide. VIBRANCE CST has delivered next-generation control of seedling diseases, with a 27% increase in plant stand over the untreated control and 4% improvement over the previous benchmark DYNASTY. This marked improvement was documented in trials across 30 sites in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons at CSD Reference Farms.

Established in 2018 to reward and profile growers who are achieving excellence in cotton crop establishment, the FastStart Establishment Awards has supported 4 winners to explore the diversity of agricultural systems in northern Australia.

The competition compares establishment percentages and planting uniformity, with growers entering their details online to win a trip for two to Broome and Kununurra, Western Australia. In 2018, John Cameron (dryland cotton) and Todd Farrer (irrigated cotton) beat out over 70 other entries to win their respective categories.

They travelled to Western Australia in July 2019 to learn about the emerging cotton industry developing in the Kimberley region, and toured other local agricultural industries including sandalwood, horticulture, and alternative grain crops such as chia and quinoa. The tour finished with a trip to Broome to see some local sights, including the local pearling industry.

In 2019, Brett Enkelmann (dryland cotton) and Angus Doolin (irrigated cotton) won their categories, although their trip has been postponed to 2021 due to travel restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The awards will be held again in 2020 and growers are encouraged to review the FastStart Cotton Establishment Guide in preparation for planting.


I’m delighted to have won this years’ FastStart Establishment Award in the irrigated cotton category. We have a focus on holistic soil health through crop rotations, early bed preparation and minimal bed disturbance. This combined with precision planting and FastStart seed treatments have helped us achieve a vigorous and uniform stand for 2018/19. It’s great to be rewarded for this effort.

Todd Farrer, 2018-19 season FastStart Cotton Establishment Award irrigated winner.