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Large-scale winter spice trials open for inspection

Published:12 October 2021

Winter sown kalonji, fennel and black sesame crops at a producer partner property in Shirbourne, Queensland

Growers and agronomists across Northern Australia have the chance to inspect large-scale trial crops of black sesame, fennel and kalonji, as the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) and CQUniversity’s Spicing Up Northern Australia research project takes another step towards commercial viability.

A ‘field walk’ will be held at a property north of Ayr on Thursday, 21 October, where the project’s first large-plot winter crops are now approaching harvest.

Lead researcher Dr Surya Bhattarai of CQUniversity will be on hand at the event to discuss the results of the latest plantings and the project’s expansion from small-plot varietal assessments for kalonji and fennel.

“The trials are also unique in assessing black sesame as a winter crop. Black sesame has traditionally been grown in the summer months and performed quite well,” Dr Bhattarai said.

“So far all three crops have performed very well in the warm winter conditions of North Queensland, which could provide growers quite a bit of flexibility in their farming businesses.”

Dr Bhattarai will be joined by producers from other trial sites across Northern Australia, as well as Andrew McDonald from project partner and seed company AgriVentis Technologies.

Dr Bhattarai said only one site from each of the six growing regions participating in the project had been selected for the latest round of trials, with plot sizes ranging from 0.5 to one hectare.

“These crops will be used to bulk up seed resources to expand production in the future, and based on the results of the winter trials, additional growers will be sought for next year’s winter planting,” he said.

CQUniversity is leading the large-scale research project funded by the CRC for Developing Northern Australia, as part of the Australian Government’s CRC-Program and AgriVentis Technologies.

The project team includes partners from Burdekin-Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee (BBIFMAC), Rockhampton Regional Council, TRAP Services in Tully, the Northern Territory Department of Industry Tourism and Trade (NT DITT) and the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA DPIRD), and growers from across Northern Australia.

The project began by assessing the suitability of black sesame, fennel, kalonji, carraway, and cumin to broadacre production, but early small plot trials of cumin and carraway revealed they were not viable for large-scale production and have not been included in subsequent trials.

Over winter kalonji has been planted at three sites at Rockhampton, while kalonji and fennel have been planted in Biloela.

Black sesame and fennel – both previously assessed as summer crops – were planted in Ayr and Tully in July to trial as winter crops along with kalonji.

While gathered in the region, the project team will also meet in Townsville on Friday, 22 October to review the winter crop results in detail and further develop plans for commercialisation.

As leaders in the field, CQUniversity and AgriVentis Technologies are sharing their insights and expertise with AgriFutures Australia as part of the development of a national RD&E Strategic Plan for Australian Sesame.

  • The ‘field walk’ near Ayr is open to the public and will be held from 4.30pm on October 21. To join, please meet at the corner of Link Rd and Giru-Woodstock Rd, Mount Surround from 4pm, and participants will then drive 10 mins to the property. Contact Tieneke Trotter on t.trotter@cqu.edu.au or on 0402 406 385 for details.