From little things, big things grow: Broadacre cropping to be tested in Far North Queensland

A $50 million industry could stem from a test crop of oilseed in Far North Queensland launched today as one of three projects designed to diversify the crops industry across Australia’s north.   

The $1.6 million oilseed industry development project is part of the $4.7 million investment that also consists of a cropping trial and skills-building project ($1.6 million) and a broadacre cropping project ($1.5 million).

Run by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA), the trials will support pastoralists wanting to diversify and try their hand at growing crops that have so far only grown in cooler, drier climates.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Minister Canavan said the small plot trials of oilseed crops on the Atherton Tablelands could lead to a North Queensland industry delivering up to 50,000 tonnes of seed per year and worth up to $50 million.

“Alongside that, the broadacre cropping project aims to expand the grain crops grown within the Gulf Rivers region, to assess their profitability and if they could also be produced across northern Australia,” Minister Canavan said.

“The cropping trial is expected to better inform growers and agri-businesses on cropping investment and risks and provide additional feedstock for the northern cattle industry.

“The project strengthens the Liberal Nationals Government’s actions in developing the north’s economic and social potential. We are funding research into the north’s water resources, building water infrastructure, investing in better roads to help get product to market more efficiently and supporting new industries through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

“In combination, this is a roadmap towards a more productive and prosperous future for Northern Australia. Investigating new agricultural opportunities such as broadacre farming fits perfectly into that picture.”

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the CRCNA was a leading example of how industry and researchers could work together to provide solutions to boost the economy.

“The three projects will significantly drive forward the crop industry in Northern Australia by increasing skills and market competition, as well as opening up export potential," Minister Andrews said.

“The outcomes of the work will bring widespread economic benefits to the local and regional economy and pave the way for further expansion of Australia’s flourishing agri-business sector.”

Townsville-based Senator Susan McDonald said the trials were recognition of the importance of rural Australia as a key economic plank of the nation.

“This is a great opportunity to realise the true, bold potential of the regions,” Senator McDonald said.

“Oilseed crops include soya bean and sesame which are in growing demand for use as healthy edible oils and stock feed, so this can open up multiple revenue streams for North Queensland farmers.

“Initiatives such as this mean more jobs in regional areas which will give a welcome boost to business in small towns, and incentives for people to move out of the big cities.”

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