top of page




The results are in from the 2020/21 summer black sesame field trials, during which the CQUniversity Spicing Up Northern Australia research project expanded from small plot varietal assessments to larger areas for bulking up seed supplies.

Across the six regions participating in the project, spanning Central and North Qld and the Northern Territory, there were two growers in each area, plus an additional grower from the Ord area of Western Australia, demonstrating growing excitement at the potential for the development of a viable black sesame industry across Northern Australia.

Such is the growing inquiry from farmers that seed company AgriVentis Technologies has this week appointed a new agronomist, Andrew McDonald, to work with growers across Northern Australia in maximizing yields and returns as they learn the nuances of growing spices.

“It’s a really exciting time to be involved in the cropping industry with so much interest and opportunity in Northern Australia to expand production and establish new crops that are suited to the unique and often challenging conditions of the region,” Mr McDonald said.

“The results of the summer trials show there’s huge potential for a viable northern spice industry, which is demonstrated by the increasing number of farmers participating in the trials, but there are also a number of challenges we still need to overcome to maximise their returns.”

CQUniversity is leading the large-scale research project funded by the CRC for Developing Northern Australia, part of the Australian Government’s CRC Program and supported by AgriVentis, and has been assessing the suitability of black sesame, fennel, carraway, kalonji, and cumin to broadacre production.

Lead researcher Dr Surya Bhattarai, of CQUniversity, said high black sesame crop yields had now been proven, but two big challenges remained in minimising losses from machine harvesters and refining weed control strategies.

“The summer trial results showed hand-harvested yields from the sample plots ranged from 306 to 2607kg/ha, while machine harvested seed yield ranged from 85-1088kg/ha, with the difference attributed to significant seed loss in the machine harvest,” Dr Bhattarai said.

“Seasonal conditions also impacted yields, with the highest yields recorded in Biloela, followed by Rockhampton and Darwin, with the lowest in Katherine.”

Meanwhile, winter planting has now been completed at all research sites across Northern Australia, with fennel, kalonji and black sesame planted in trials targeting specific crops to specific environmental conditions. Carraway and cumin have not been included after they did not perform well enough in preliminary trials to warrant further assessment.

Kalonji has been planted at three sites at Rockhampton, while kalonji and fennel have 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 in the NT fennel will also be trialled as winter crop.

“For this winter’s trial only one site per region, except for Rockhampton, will be used, but a larger area has been planted (1ha or more) for seed bulking,” Dr Bhattarai said. “Based on the results of the winter trials, additional growers will be sought for next year’s winter planting.”

Kalonji Alton Downs 2021: A winter-sown kalonji crop at Peter and Lynne Foxwell’s farm at Alton Downs outside of Rockhampton

Spices: T-B: Farmer Peter Foxwell and new AgriVentis spices agronomist Andrew McDonald


bottom of page