Study to spice up northern Australia
Northern Australia is poised to create Australia’s spice trail with plans to grow a new condiment industry part of a new Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) project, headed by Dr Surya Bhattarai from Central Queensland University (CQU). The $1.2 million spice cropping project will see five crops taken from small to large-scale production within 3 years.
The project team spans seed and crop experts from agronomists from DPIR, Agriventis Technologies, irrigation and agronomist specialists from the Burdekin-Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee, economic development experts from the Rockhampton Regional Council, and the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development as well as six growers from across Queensland and the NT.
The team will initially run small trials of cumin, fennel, kalonji, caraway and black sesame crops, after earlier glasshouse trials showed they had strong potential for inclusion in broadacre crop rotations. The small trials will be across several different locations and used to assess the suitability of crops for wide-scale commercial production in northern Australia.
In the NT, trials will be located at Katherine Research Station, and Coastal Plains Research Station. Rain-fed black sesame and fennel trials are scheduled for planting at the end of 2019, with a field walk planned for April 2020.
Commercial trials are due to start in the project’s third and final year, by which time there will be a comprehensive manual for producers detailing which crops to grow, the best areas to grow them and an outline of the market and supply chain opportunities.
CRCNA CEO Jed Matz said the project would provide the foundation for a new, high-value industry with the potential to transform northern agribusinesses. “This project will build the supply chain links needed to establish a new and viable industry for northern Australia and create new income streams for producers.”
Agriventis Technologies CEO Lewis Hunter said the long-term goal of establishing a base level of spice crop production would be achieved through extensive grower engagement focusing on extension and adoption strategies. “We hope to build support among growers for spice production and provide them with the evidence and best management strategies they need to profitably include condiments in their farming systems.”
A high-value broadacre condiment industry in northern Australia could replace imports and generate exports to Asia and the Middle East and see northern producers secure their share of the growing global spice trade – estimated to be worth around $12 billion annually.