HUGE POTENTIAL: Dr Suray Bhattarai shows the black sesame crop to stakeholders during last year's trial.
HUGE POTENTIAL: Dr Suray Bhattarai shows the black sesame crop to stakeholders during last year's trial. Contributed

Can we actually produce spices in our backyard?

A COMPLETE game- changer could be on the way for Central Queensland producers as a cropping project will determine the viability of growing spices in the region.

The $1.2 million spice cropping project, trialled in Biloela and Rockhampton, will see five crops increasing from small to large-scale production within three years, potentially worth billions.

Dr Surya Bhattarai, from Central Queensland University, is overseeing the project, and said it would start with small trials of cumin, fennel, kalonji, caraway and black sesame crops after earlier glasshouse trials showed they had "strong potential for inclusion in broadacre crop rotations”.

"The first year of activity is the scoping study: Do we have the right type of varieties to grow in these conditions and can we have a reasonable harvest of these crops,” Dr Bhattarai said. "The second year is to look at if we can grow them on a commercial scale, looking at the farmers conditions and translating that research into a reality.

"The third year will be the economic assessment, what will it mean in terms of dollar values to the growers compared to what they're already doing.”

Ian Kennedy is Biloela's local producer providing a plot of land and irrigation for the trail that he believes is important to the industry.

"If you don't do the research, you go backwards and you lose markets overseas,” Mr Kennedy said.

"It's another thing you need to do to progress agricultural and give young people a future in it.”

Dr Bhattaria hopes the trials in Biloela and Rockhampton can produce sustainable, commercial results, with planting in Biloela to start in October.

"These small trials will be across several different locations and used to assess the suitability of crops for wide-scale commercial production in northern Australia,” he said.

"Commercial trials are due to start in the project's final year, by which time we will also have a comprehensive manual for producers detailing which crops to grow, the best areas to grow them and an outline of the market and supply chain opportunities.”