Kununurra - Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture

Page last updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2022 - 8:42am

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Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development's (DPIRD) Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture was established in 1945 on the grounds of the Carlton Reach Research Station, which had been set up in 1941 by Kimberley Michael Durack and his brother William. The Institute represented the first serious attempt at tropical agriculture on the banks of the Ord River in Kununurra. In an average year, the Ord River horticultural area now produces more than 33 500 tonnes of fruit and vegetables, including mangoes, bananas, grapefruit, lime, melons, pumpkins and beans.


Over the past 75 years, the Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture has led research into sugar cane, cotton, rice, sorghum, maize, winter cereals, safflower, linseed, peanuts, lemongrass, kenaf and other fibre crops. Over the past four years, the Western Australian government has revitalised the institute, with more than 20 project collaborations underway including hemp, quinoa, plantago, mangoes, safflower, cassava and cotton.

A key focus of research is the evaluation of crops that will fit into a cotton production sequence. The intent is to identify production systems that underpin the expansion of a viable cotton industry in the Ord River Irrigation Area. Current trials are evaluating plantago and hemp as dry season options. Sesame and a range of other forage and cover crops are being evaluated as wet season options.

The research farm covers 450 hectares of flood-irrigated clay soil farmland with an additional three hectares of sandy loam levee soil under pressurised irrigation. The institute has a guaranteed supply of high-quality water throughout the year.

The Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture oversees off-season seed production of southern summer crops such as cotton and safflower, enabling two generations of the crops per year for breeding purposes.

Staff are highly experienced in field and horticultural crop agronomy and accommodates plant pathology and entomology specialists.  


  • Flood furrow, pressurised sprinkler and drip irrigation systems
  • General storage, and machinery sheds
  • Chemical store, preparation area and washdown bay
  • Mechanical workshops
  • Specialised farming equipment for row cropping and intensive horticulture systems
  • Shade houses
  • Seed processing and cleaning facilities
  • Plant and soil drying ovens
  • Cool room and cooling units available
  • Controlled temperature growth chambers
  • Plant pathology and entomology laboratories
  • Post-harvest fruit treatment facilities


Universities, Agrifutures and the Northern Australia Crop Research Alliance.


For more information on the facilities and research and development opportunities available at the Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture please contact:

P: +61 1300 374 731 (1300 DPIRD1) or +61 (0)8 9166 4000
E: enquiries@dpird.wa.gov.au

Kununurra - Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture