Carnarvon Research Facility

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The Carnarvon Research Facility is strategically situated to provide regional assistance to the agricultural industry in the Gascoyne, an area of about 68 000 square kilometres.

The facility covers 65 hectares close to the Gascoyne River in the plantation district, and is available for research trials of many fruits and vegetables.

The Carnarvon Research Facility is located along the southern bank of the Gascoyne River in the region's horticulture district, on the corner of South River Road and Research Road, 10 kilometres east of the Carnarvon townsite.

Local staff are involved in the three main activities areas; rangelands, irrigated agriculture and biosecurity, with many more staff from across the state contributing to specific projects throughout the year.

The Research Facility carries out trials and investigations on a variety of fruits and vegetables, focusing on improving long-term profitability, improving markets and trade, building industry capacity and building a sustainable agricultural sector.

With a reliance on the water-soaked sands of the often-dry Gascoyne River for irrigation, opportunities to improve water efficiency are constantly being reviewed through programs such as More dollars per Drop.

Crops grown

Traditionally, melons, pumpkins, bananas, mangoes and tomatoes were grown in the region, however over the last 15-20 years, growers have increased plantings of table grapes, stone fruit, many vegetables and mixed herbs.

Produce worth $104 million was grown and transported south in 2012. Tomatoes were valued at close to $42 million, with table grapes at $11 million, bananas $10 million, water melon and rockmelons $8 million and mangoes $3 million.

Vegetables grown include capsicums, eggplant, chillies, sweetcorn, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers and beans with a gross value close to $28 million.

History of development

Early in the 1900s Afghan camel drivers and Chinese labourers grew vegetables for their own use along the few waterholes close to Carnarvon town.

Following World War I many pastoralists began to purchase lots along the northern and southern banks of the Gascoyne River to rest their stock during business or rest breaks away from their inland pastoral properties.

This led to many shallow bores in the river being developed and vegetable and fruit growing increased. Following World War II many European migrants travelled north from Perth to the Gascoyne specifically to grow commercial produce.

Production grew quickly and was regularly sent to Perth by ship. Later, the introduction of refrigerated road transport saw the five-day boat journey cut to two days.

Over the past 50 years the Carnarvon Research Facility (previously known as Gascoyne Research Station) has seen a number of innovative managers contributing to the state’s agricultural industry including, but not limited to, Wilfred Dennis Marr who was awarded an OBE in 1979 for his contribution, and George Barker, who also playing a significant role in developing the facility.

Paddocks were originally flood-irrigated, before technology and farming practices changed to include drip irrigation, spray irrigation and other current systems.

Recent history

In 2013 mixed varieties of fruit and vegetables were being grown and trialled on the 65ha facility including avocados, citrus, bananas, watermelons, rockmelons, pumpkins, tomatoes, zucchini, lychees, dates, longans, macadamia nuts, dragon fruit and mangoes.

Some 27 varieties of mangoes are being grown with new varieties expected to be released in 2015, and season varieties harvested as late as March.

The annual wheat trials play an important role to the grain industry in developing pest and disease-resistant strains without risk to the southern wheat industry due to Carnarvon’s geographic location. This is considered to be one of the ideal trial sites in Australia due to the climate.

The Carnarvon Research Facility hosts a sandalwood trial for the Forest Products Commission that was begun in 2006 looking into native hosts for Indian sandalwood varieties.

Staff work closely with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Pastoral Lands Board, Forest Products Commission, Gascoyne Water Co-operative, The University of Western Australia, growers, wholesalers, fertiliser companies and seed companies.

We are always looking for new research trial opportunities and expanding our networks. Contact the Research Facility in Carnarvon if you wish to discuss any opportunity.

The Carnarvon Research Facility has single-persons quarters available for workers and research partners during the year.

Contact information

Robert Vinson
+61 (0)8 9956 3307

Author

Robert Vinson