For nearly two decades (1994–2012) a series of three consecutive Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) dealing with cotton production provided the impetus and financial support for a substantial body of soil science research in eastern and northern Australia. Focusing on the most commonly utilised soil for irrigated crop production, the Vertosol, CRC-affiliated soil researchers undertook detailed soil inventories of cotton-growing valleys in New South Wales, and tackled a range of applied soil research questions that faced the entire Australian cotton industry. Across the broad categories of soil mapping and characterisation, soil physical condition, salinity and sodicity, soil chemical fertility, and soil carbon and biota, some 120 CRC-affiliated research papers were published in peer-reviewed journals during the years of the CRC. Findings from this body of research were fed back to the industry through conferences, extension workshops and materials, and to a lesser extent, the peer-reviewed publications. In certain cases, underpinning basic research was carried out concurrently with the more applied research, meaning that the cotton CRC were effectively supporting advances in the discipline of soil science, as well as in sustainable cotton production. A feature of the soil research portfolio over the span of the three cotton CRC was that priorities shifted according to the interplay of three factors; the natural maturation of research topics and the concomitant evolution of cotton farming systems, the rising importance of environmental implications of agricultural land use, and the emergence of carbon as a national research priority. Furthermore, the commitment of the CRC to education resulted in the involvement of undergraduate and postgraduate university students in all aspects of the soil research effort. A legacy of the triumvirate of cotton CRC is a wide-ranging body of both applied and basic knowledge regarding the physical, chemical and biological attributes of Australian Vertosols used for irrigated agriculture.