Scoping study into sustainable nutrition for productive tea tree oil plantations

University of New England

  • Project code: PRJ-012751

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Saturday, August 8, 2020

  • Project completion date: Friday, August 6, 2021

  • National Priority: TTO-Improving supply


Optimising tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) plant nutrition and soil fertility is a critical aspect of effective crop management, to ensure maximum biomass and TTO yield at time of harvest, as well as high quality TTO.
There has been limited published nutrition research (e.g. Drinnan 2003; Clarke 2008) and the industry
recognises that there is a lack of up to date information on best practice crop nutrition strategies for M. alternifolia that take into account the effects of different soil types, growing conditions and cultural methods. Current crop nutrition practices used across the industry (including on-farm innovations) are also not well understood.
This scoping study therefore seeks to: 
(a) document the current situation regarding nutrition management in Australian tea tree plantations, 
(b) determine the key limitations of current nutrition practices and provide solutions for best management, and
(c) report this information to the industry as well as provide recommendations for future RD&E.
To assess and summarise previous M. alternifolia crop nutrition research, and current industry fertiliser
application practices and strategies (building on earlier work carried out by Dr James Drinnan in 2000), a detailed literature review as well as extensive consultation with TTO producers and industry experts will be carried out (key informant interviews and focus groups). The final report will provide a synthesis from the literature and industry consultation, suggesting best practice nutrition management based on currently available information, and providing recommendations for future work.


Tea Tree Oil

Research Organisation

University of New England

Objective Summary

This proposal addresses Tea Tree Oil RD&E Objectives, 2018-2022 Objective 1 (Improving supply) and Objective 3 (Extension, sustainability and human capital).
The specific objectives of this scoping study are to:
1. Document the current situation regarding the impact of nutrition management in Australian tea tree plantations.
2. Determine the key limitations of current nutrition management practices and provide solutions for best management.
3. Report on this information to the tea tree oil industry and provide recommendations for research and extension needs and priorities.
The proposal has been developed following discussions with Mr Tony Larkman, CEO, Australian Tea Tree Industry Association (ATTIA). It has followed a similar developmental pathway to research that our group has been conducting for Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) since 2011, and more recently with the AFA Tea Tree Oil Program (2019-20). Mr Larkman will be a co-investigator on the proposed project, providing support and advice regarding earlier relevant industry activity, and linkages with key tea tree oil (TTO) producers.