Crop diversification in a nutshell

31 Oct, 2012 01:00 AM
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Aaron Edmonds, pictured with wife Hilda and son Isaac, has planted 80ha of low-profit soils to sandalwood.
Aaron Edmonds, pictured with wife Hilda and son Isaac, has planted 80ha of low-profit soils to sandalwood.

SANDALWOOD trees grown on the Edmonds family’s Calingiri farm are proving their worth during dry conditions this season, tapping into moisture reserves well beyond the reach of annual crops.

Details of the family’s production of 80 hectares of sandalwood as a crop diversification option are outlined in the latest edition of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) magazine Ground Cover.

Aaron Edmonds, wife Hilda and parents Margaret and Charles are primarily grain growers, producing wheat, barley and canola, and are also developing a new miniature sheep breed named microsheep.

The family started planting sandalwood on marginal soils in 2000 – to provide an income diversification option which enables them to utilise their marginal land at minimal cost.

Their choice of the native West Australian species was based on the low input nature of its production.

After the initial investment to establish the trees, the ongoing costs are minimal.

Mr Edmonds said sandalwood helped shield their farming business from the costly losses that could result from dry seasonal conditions and frost.

“Frosts often turn grain crops into loss-making exercises and trees remove the temptation to ‘roll the dice’ on these sites,” he said.

Mr Edmonds said that although generating an income from sandalwood harvesting was at least another five years away, he expected timber yields of 10 tonnes per hectare and prices of at least $5000 per tonne.

“There is a significant upfront cost to plant trees, of about $1000/ha, so we need to see a return from that investment,” he said.

Sandalwood also produces large nuts which attract premium market prices as high as $60/kg.

The November/December edition of Ground Cover will be delivered to growers in early November.

Growers can sign up for Ground Cover or download articles via the GRDC website at www.grdc.com.au/groundcover.

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