Lavender shows promise as cash crop for Australian growers

This will become a more familiar sight as lavender crops are expected to reach an annual gross production value of $10 million by 2022 as growers get behind this specialist industry – pic credit Bridestowe Lavender Farm

Lavender crops may be set to grow with a partnership forged between AgriFutures Australia and La Trobe University’s Institute for Agriculture and Food (LIAF).

The partnership is kicking off a research project to identify the best conditions and farming methods for growers to reliably profit from the fragrant purple flower.

The project is intended to result in a much stronger knowledge-based industry from growing to extraction to help growers and end users to optimise lavender production.

Lead investigator and LIAF Research Director Professor Jim Whelan said the work could position Australia as a world-leader in lavender oil exports and support diversification in the farming industry.

“Lavender is highly sought after for marketing opportunities from ornamental flowers to oil production for use in cosmetics; aromatherapy and culinary applications, as well as agritourism,” Professor Whelan said.

“This project will equip farmers with the tools and knowledge to grow consistent, sustainable and high-quality lavender.”

La Trobe agronomist Dr Marisa Collins added, “Lavender is super tough and highly tolerant of poor soils, drought, frosts and wind, but to tap lavender’s full potential, we will provide growers with tailored crop nutrition strategies that are backed by science.”

Specialist growers are expected to be drawn toward lavender cash crops as a whole series of growing techniques about to be released will make it a clever investment – pic credit Clive Larkman

The project is funded as part of the AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program that has its sights set on supporting the emergence of rural industries able to reach or exceed $10 million in revenue by 2022.

AgriFutures Australia Senior Manager, Emerging Industries Tom McCue said, “Lavender is a high growth potential industry and partnering with LIAF to improve agronomic principles, increase grower numbers and crop production will help the industry progress towards the $10 million gross value production goal.”

“Boosting grower confidence in the future of the industry is at the core of this work, and we look forward to achieving this through a combination of scientific expertise and dedicated industry research, development and extension (RD&E) plan,” said Mr McCue.

LIAF experts in soil science, plant mineral nutrition, chemical analysis, paddock trials and data collection, curation and analyses will map the performance of different lavender varieties and farming practices to optimise growth and production.

They will also assess soil characteristics and fertiliser regimes, and develop future breeding strategies to optimise lavender quality and yield.

The project is in partnership with lavender producer Larkman Nurseries; essential oil distiller and exporter Golden Grove Naturals; The Australian Lavender Industry Association (TALGA) and phenotyping technology company Scientific Instruments Australia – the Australian arm of global phenotyping company Photon Systems Instruments.