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TAS Country : February 16th 2012
4 Tasmanian Country Friday, February 17, 2012 News The good oil on lavender trial ROGER HANSON GROWING POTENTIAL: Sam Smee says Tasmania's climate is ideal for the production of high-quality lavender oil. Pictures: ROGER HANSON GATHER ROUND: Farmers learn about the lavender trial near Hamilton. GOOD OIL: The Hamilton distillery uses a former railway boiler. THERE is oil in those hills. But it is the oil extracted from true or French lavender (Lavandula angu- stifolia) that is creating the interest, not the ''black gold'' used to produce petrol. Essential Oils of Tasmania is trial- ing a hillside plot at Hamilton to showcase the potential of the crop. Essential Oils' research field agron- omist Sam Smee said Tasmania offered the right mix of conditions to produce high-grade lavender oil. ''Lavender requires a cold winter to set the flowers, followed by a warm, sunny summer to allow for maximum oil accumulation,'' Mr Smee said. ''Tasmania's climate is ideal for pro- duction of high-quality lavender oil.'' The lavender plant is very frost tolerant, although a late, out-of-season frost can affect yield. Mr Smee said it needs to be grown in well-drained soils, for example on a slope, and doesn't require a lot of water. ''Lavender can tolerate fairly poor, stony soil and can often be grown on the under-utilised hill slopes common in Tasmania,'' he said. ''Growers can potentially get a good return for what has traditionally been marginal land for agriculture.'' The trial crop, which was estab- lished in 2010 from cuttings, is now ready for its first harvest. ''All the oil from this harvest has already been pre-sold, but we're tak- ing orders for next year,'' he said. The lavender being grown was selected by the University of Tas- mania because it is high yielding and capable of producing oil that con- forms to the international standard for French lavender oil. ''Over the past couple of years we have conducted various field trials to refine our systems of managing this crop, and we are now confident to offer lavender as a perennial cropping option to landowners,'' Mr Smee said. There is a worldwide shortage of high-quality lavender oil, and Tasmanian-grown lavender is well placed to step into the breach. France's ability to produce high- quality lavender oil for a range of perfumes and toiletries has suffered recent setbacks. ''In part (it is) due to climate change in the traditional growing regions of France,'' Mr Smee said, ''but also (due to) the recent emergence of a serious disease that has severely reduced production.'' He said samples of oil collected from the Hamilton plot have been sent to potential customers in Europe. ''The feedback we have received indicates that it is as good as the French-produced oil,'' he said. ''We're confident we are producing the very best lavender oil, so we will always have a ready market for our product.'' At a recent field day farmers saw how a plot can be cultivated as a whole block or in a strip system. ''The strip system has the advan- tages of lower herbicide use and enhanced soil conservation practices, whereas the block system is easier to manage and can fit in better with other broad-acre cropping enter- prises,'' Mr Smee said. The field day, which was attended by 35 people, covered all aspects of lavender production, including site selection, establishing the crop, man- aging the crop, harvesting and distil- lation, plus a breakdown of what a typical crop might pay. ''We aim to get 50 hectares planted over the next few years, by entering into long-term contracts with land- owners,'' Mr Smee said. He said this area would be capable of producing about 2½ tonnes of oil, which is only a small fraction of the world production. ''We feel it is better to start conservatively and test the waters before committing to larger areas,'' he said. Mr Smee is looking for interested growers in the Hamilton, Cressy, Fingal and Winnaleah districts, which are serviced by an essential oil distillery. The field day also looked at the Hamilton distillery. Essential Oils' production man- ager, Phil Causon, said the lavender oil is extracted by passing steam through a vat filled with lavender flowers. The Hamilton distillery contains a piece of Tasmanian history. The wood-fired boiler that is used to generate the steam is a 1945 Aust- ralian Standard Garrett locomotive, which was last used by the Emu Bay Railway in 1963. The locomotive was sold to Bakers Milk before being shifted to Hamilton to be used in the oil extraction process. Landowners interested in grow- ing lavender can contact Sam Smee on 0409 249 922, or email sam@ essentialoilsoftasmania.com.au
February 9th 2012
February 23rd 2012