The top cotton achievers

Elsie Hudson of Goondiwindi is a finalist in the Chris Lehmann Young Cotton Achiever of the Year award. Pictures Contributed.

Sharna Holman of Toowoomba and Elsie Hudson of Goondiwindi, alongside Alex Trinder, Moree, NSW are finalists in the Chris Lehmann Young Cotton Achiever of the Year award.

The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) award recognises emerging cotton growers and industry participants, who bring a fresh wave of enthusiasm, energy and ideas.

Sharna Holman is a development extension officer (Cotton) and PhD candidate at the QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Elsie Hudson is an innovation broker at CRDC and Alex Trinder an independent agronomist at HMAg and director of Crop Consultants Australia.

The award recipient will be named at the Australian Cotton Conference in August.

“We know that many of our family farmers are generational with children taking over farms from their parents after succession planning but many new entrants to the cotton industry do not come from cotton farms,“ said Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray.

“The three finalists this year are great examples of young people who were not farmers yet who discovered their passion for the cotton industry early and decided they wanted to play a major part in its development.

“These three women are doing incredible work across their respective fields of science, research investment and agronomy.“

CRDC executive director Allan Williams said while people often say there’s a shortage of young people in agriculture it certainly doesn’t apply to cotton!

“This year alone, Cotton Australia and CRDC had 45 applicants for just 15 spots in the Future Cotton Leaders’ Program.

“Ours is an industry that attracts young people – testament, I think, to our openness and willingness to share, our sense of innovation and opportunity and the support we offer our people.

“And these young people are putting down roots and choosing cotton for their careers and their community.

“With the number of outstanding young people in the cotton industry, you can only imagine how difficult it is to select just three finalists.

“Our congratulations to each nominee in the 2024 CRDC Chris Lehmann Young Cotton Achiever category on the contributions they are already making to cotton.“

* Sharna Holman: Sharna’s journey into the cotton industry began in 2014 when she attended the Australian Cotton Conference as a student scholar, subsequently working as a CRDC Summer Scholarship student at the Australian Cotton Research Institute, Narrabri. Under Dr Mary Whitehouse, Sharna researched Helicoverpa Bt resistance genetics. Post-graduation, Sharna joined Queensland DAF as a development extension officer and later assumed CottonInfo’s biosecurity technical lead role in Emerald, contributing to significant advances such as August planting research and boosting crop yields. Sharna’s current CRDC-supported PhD research focuses on the pest status of cluster caterpillar in northern Australia, addressing sustainable cotton production challenges.

* Elsie Hudson: Elsie began her career bug checking during summer breaks from The University of Queensland, Gatton. Transitioning from a general Rural Science degree to a Bachelor of Applied Science with majors in plant science and regional and rural business, Elsie’s passion for cotton grew exponentially. After a year on-farm in Moree post-graduation, Elsie had a stint as a trainee agronomist in Narrabri and joined CottonInfo during the 2018 drought, bridging the gap between research and growers. In Elsie’s role as an innovation broker with CRDC, she has spearheaded many important initiatives including the newly-formed $9 million Australia Cotton Disease Collaboration. Elsie is focused on driving positive impacts through research, development and extension.

* Alex Trinder: Alex is a private consultant in Moree NSW who was awarded the Gwydir Valley CGA Young Achiever in 2023. Alex focuses on engaging with researchers and private stakeholders to achieve the best results for clients. Alex attained a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University, where she received an AgriFutures Australia Horizon scholarship and gained experience in the cotton industry through a placement at Auscott farms. After graduating, she joined HMAg as a junior agronomist and quickly progressed to become a director, specialising in consulting on irrigated and dryland cotton, which led to impressive yields and sustainable practices. As an active member of the Gwydir Cotton Growers Association, Alex has assumed roles such as social media coordinator and treasurer. In 2023 she joined the board of Crop Consultants Australia as the young member director and shadow projects director, focusing on professional development for young agronomists and supporting research projects.

The award recipients will be announced during the Australian Cotton Conference starting 6 August on the Gold Coast.