Australia’s lavender industry is about to bloom in a big way thanks to a new partnership which could bump Aussie farmers into the international spotlight.

Placing a small bunch of lavender in your sock draw has always been standard practice, but this fragrant purple plant is bound for much bigger things than resting amongst your unmentionables.

Australia’s emerging lavender industry is set to grow thanks to a partnership between AgriFutures Australia and La Trobe University’s Institute for Agriculture and Food (LIAF) that will identify the best conditions and farming methods for the fragrant purple flower.

The research project aims to educate the farming industry on best practices for cultivating high quality lavender products, from growing to extraction. Lead investigator and LIAF Research Director Professor Jim Whelan says 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,” says Professor Whelan.

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

Professor Jim Whelan, LIAF Research Director

La Trobe agronomist Dr Marisa Collins says, “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.”

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

Bridestowe Lavender Farm
© Bridestowe Lavender Farm

From little things bit profits grow

AgriFutures Australia Senior Manager, Emerging Industries Tom McCue says, “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,” says Mr McCue.

LIAF experts in soil science, plant mineral nutrition, chemical analysis, field 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.

More about LIAF and AgriFutures

The La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food (LIAF) is a world-class research institute for soil science and agronomy, seed biology, nutritional bioengineering and medicinal agriculture – based at the University’s Bundoora campus. LIAF research aims to meet critical societal needs relating to seed production, food and nutrition challenges posed by a growing population in a resource constrained world.

AgriFutures Australia is the trading name for Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC). AgriFutures Australia invests in research, leadership, innovation and learning to support industries that do not have their own research and development function, new and emerging industries, and the issues that affect the whole of agriculture.

To read about another Aussie agricultural industry on the rise, click here.