FACT SHEET Fertile Soils Grow Medicine - Opium Poppies About opium poppies Opium poppies are grown for medical and food purposes. Poppies need high quality soils, reliable water and specific security measures. This makes North West Tasmania uniquely placed for growing poppies.
Security Security is important when growing poppies because some people use poppies illegally. All poppy farmers need a licence to grow poppies in Tasmania. Anyone entering a poppy field must have a licence and permission, including the harvesters. Any stubble left behind after havesting a poppy crop is destroyed. Warning signs must be shown on fences around poppy crops. Fences must have barbed wire or an electric top wire.
The poppy flower and seeds Photo source: Poppy Advisory and Control Board
Science Poppy straw contains ‘opiates’. Opiates are natural products used in medicine to make painkillers (morphine and codeine) and cough medicines (codeine). Morphine is used to treat severe pain, and can be addictive. Poppy seeds do not contain the opiates found in the straw, and are sold for food. Examples of the use of poppy seeds in food include baked goods and poppy seed oil. Lots of scientists are employed to find out more about growing poppies and their medicinal and food uses. Dangers of Poppies to Humans and Livestock Farmers must be careful their racing horses do not eat poppy straw. Horses turn the opiates into morphine in their stomachs. Morphine is banned in horse racing. Livestock (sheep and cows) that eat poppy re-growth can’t be sold for meat for three weeks. Poppy material is highly toxic, and people who eat poppy straw can become ill or die.
Example of a warning sign Photo source: Poppy Advisory and Control Board History of poppy growing in Tasmania • Opium poppy trials began in 1964. • Commercial production began in 1970. • In 1972 poppy growth in Australian was restricted to Tasmania, to be managed by the Poppy Advisory and Control Board. • Today, three companies control all poppy growing in Tasmania.
Poppy flowers Photo source: Poppy Advisory and Control Board
Horses are not allowed to eat poppies Photo source: Laura Skipworth
FACT SHEET Fertile Soils Grow Medicine - Opium Poppies
Facts • Tasmania supplies half the world’s medicinal opiates • Poppies are grown in a 3 year cycle with other crops • 1,000 farmers are contracted to grow poppies in Tasmania • More than 13,000 ha of poppies are grown each year in Tasmania Early trials of poppy growing looked at weed competition, herbicides (weed killers), nutrition, irrigation, ideal times for sowing, and harvesting. This has lead to Tasmania’s poppy industry having the world’s most eﬃcient and highest yielding crops per hectare.
A poppy field in Tasmania Photo source: Poppy Advisory and Control Board
Further information Poppy Advisory and Control Board www.justice.tas.gov.au/poppy/the_industry Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment http://www.launc.tased.edu.au/online/sciences/ agsci/alkalo/popindus.htm Cradle Coast NRM www.cradlecoastnrm.com Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_poppy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poppy_seeds
Poppies are used in foods we commonly eat Photo source: Toni Domaschenz
Growing Poppies in Tasmania • Farmers must be licensed with the Tasmanian Government, and registered with a company to grow poppies. • Sowing is from early winter to spring (June to November) • Harvesting is mid to late summer (December to March) • Poppy straw contains natural opiates used for medicine • Poppy seeds are cleaned, graded and bagged for export, and sale around Australia. Ideally, as poppy crops should not be grown in the same field in consecutive seasons, they suit farmers who mix cropping and livestock farming.
Dry poppy seed heads Photo source: Poppy Advisory and Control Board
Opium Poppies Fact Sheet 2012