Using irrigation water from the Roper River could open up one million hectares to cropping, the Federal Government believes.
The Government yesterday announced the funding of a CSIRO study into the possibility.
The CSIRO study would "assess the transformational value of the NT's largest water catchment area to become a Super Food Bowl".
There have long been dreams of creating cropping industries like rice and cotton in the NT.
Many of these crops are being trialed at the Katherine Research Station.
The Department of Primary Industry has just planted a trial crop of GM cotton at its Katherine Research Station.
But there have also been public fears and protests over water-hungry agriculture and its possible impacts on aquifers and rivers like the Roper.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the CSIRO-led assessment of the Territory's Roper River catchment would add to the $15 million package of Northern Australia Water Resource Assessments, delivered by the Government as part of its White Paper for Developing Northern Australia.
"Today I am pleased to announce the Australian Government will provide CSIRO with $3.5 million to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the development potential of the water and soil resources of the Roper River Catchment in the NT," Mr McCormack said.
"The Roper catchment's development potential is enhanced by its proximity to major routes, particularly Highway 1 which provides access to Darwin and key agricultural centres including Katherine which provide a pool of ready expertise to support the development of agriculture in the catchment.
"The catchment features major ecological assets-some of which support the region's important grazing, tourism and recreational and commercial fishing industries-and Indigenous land and conservation areas constituting around 30 per cent of its 81,000 square kilometres.
"CSIRO believes there is potentially more than one million hectares of land that could be suitable for irrigated cropping in the catchment area.
"The Liberal and Nationals government understands if you just add water it can help to transform rural communities and economies by expanding agricultural production and I look forward to the CSIRO's expert analysis in this regard, for the Roper River Catchment."
Mr McCormack said in undertaking the independent assessment, CSIRO will closely engage with the NT Government, local communities such as indigenous landholders and agribusinesses.
He said this will help to deliver information that is readily accessible to governments and communities as a means of planning future developments.
"The Government looks forward to receiving an assessment that provides the detailed and scientifically robust data required to support public and private sector decisions to invest in major projects that will drive the economic growth of the region," he said.
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