Sandalwood investment starting to pay

Sandalwood investment starting to pay

Agribusiness
North Stirling farmers made up a large component of the attendees at the Sandalwood Field Day late last month.

North Stirling farmers made up a large component of the attendees at the Sandalwood Field Day late last month.

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"In an industry where you have to wait 20-25 years for your payday you have to be extremely patient..."

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A GROUP of farmers who started a sandalwood plantation in the North Stirlings in 1999, finally received their due reward late last month when a field day was held to harvest the sandalwood they planted 22 years ago.

Sandalwood farmer and researcher Geoff Woodall, who is in the process of harvesting the sandalwood plantations in Gnowangerup and Borden and has more than 20 years of experience in the field, presented at the field day covering topics including thinning, processing and licensing in the sandalwood industry.

While taking the group on farm to see the harvesting of the sandalwood, he also discussed wood quality, fuel management, insuring the product and how to salvage burnt sandalwood.

The event was organised by the North Stirlings Pallinup Natural Resources (NSPNR).

"In an industry where you have to wait 20-25 years for your payday you have to be extremely patient, but it's amazing how quickly that time goes by," Mr Woodall said.

"The timber we planted 20 years ago in fairly marginal agricultural land has good oil in it and should be worth $7-$11 per kilogram.

"There were some of the original participants there, mostly broadacre farming families from the North Stirlings who have small sandalwood portions on their farms, which were originally about trying to make the original landcare movement profitable rather than based on government handouts."

About 30 people attended the field day with the sandalwood growers group, Australian Sandalwood Network and potential buyers of the sustainably produced sandalwood were invited to attend.

The Great Southern region and the North Stirlings from Tambellup to Borden and beyond have a long history of sandalwood production.

 Geoff Woodall discussing sandalwood quality and value at a site that was burnt during the 2019 Stirling Ranges fire.

Geoff Woodall discussing sandalwood quality and value at a site that was burnt during the 2019 Stirling Ranges fire.

The region is home to two of the oldest areas of cultivated sandalwood aged more than 35 years old.

Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) is a WA native plant and its oil-rich edible nuts can be harvested once the trees are about five years old, but the main product is the high value aromatic heartwood harvested after 20-25 years of growth.

The wood is commonly used for incense and processed to extract oils for use in perfume, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products.

Sandalwood plantations are also used to improve natural landscapes by using excess water, preventing salinity and waterlogging, improving biodiversity and native animal habitat and reducing soil erosion caused by wind and water.

The field day was sponsored by Great Southern Development Commission, Australian Sandalwood Network, South Coast NRM, Australian Sandalwood Co-operative Ltd and The Sandalwood Shop.

The first batch of cultivated sandalwood to be produced from the North Stirlings, sold and ready for transport.

The first batch of cultivated sandalwood to be produced from the North Stirlings, sold and ready for transport.

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