Poppy Cultivation in Australia

Poppies (Papaver somniferum L.) were grown in Australia on a very small scale throughout the 19th century by some medical practitioners for the production of opium to be used in their individual practices. This was in the form of tinctures of opium (laudanum), a common item of medical practice in this period (). More comprehensive plans to establish a poppy industry based on opium production were considered in the state of New South Wales (Turner, 1891), however planned production was never brought to fruition at that time. World War II was the event which gave a strong motivation for the commencement of poppy production based, not on opium, but on dry poppy ‘straw’ (the capsules and a small quantity of stem). Morphine and related derivatives which were normally imported from Northern Hemisphere sources were in very short supply at that time and an experimental programme on the agronomy of P. somniferum was initiated by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Experimental plots were set out in the Australian Capital Territory at Canberra (Loftus Hills, 1945) and in collaboration with State Departments of Agriculture in Tasmania (), Victoria and South Australia. Small areas Read more […]

Poppy Cultivation in Australia: Plant Diseases

Although a number of fungal diseases of poppies which can have an impact on morphine concentration and yield have been recorded in Tasmania, their incidence has generally been low and fungicides are not commonly applied. These diseases have included poppy fire (Pleospora papaveraceae), Sclerotinia wilt (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) and poppy leaf smut (Entyloma fuscum). In exceptional seasons the morphine concentration of capsules has been reduced to about half the normal average. The fungi involved on this occasion were identified as Dendryphion penicillatum (Corda) Fr. the conidial stage of Pleospora papaveraceae, Alternaria alternata (Fr.) Keissler, Cladosporium macrocarpon and Stemphyllium vesicarium (Laughlin and Munro, 1982). In these field and laboratory experiments, associations were drawn between the degree of fungal cover of the capsules and their morphine concentration. The morphine concentration of capsules which had been colonized by fungi to the extent of >30% of their surface area were 20% lower in morphine than those capsules with a light fungal colonisation of <10%. The colonisation of these capsules was generally localized in the top half and the morphine concentration of the top half was about Read more […]

Opium Production in the Golden Crescent

Main Production Areas The main producers in this region are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Only a little information is available on production in Iran and Lebanon. From INCSR estimates () the total cultivation area of poppies which are planted for opium in this region is thought to be about 30 000 ha. Method of Cultivation Growing Procedure The poppy is cultivated in this region of the world mostly as an autumn-sown crop, with sowing taking place between October and December. The exact sowing period is dependent on the ecological conditions of the countryside and starts earlier in cooler climates, in some cases in September. Irrigation possibilities may also affect the determination of the sowing date. According to the data available, the amount of seed used for plantation varies in a wide range between 5-10kg/ha. In many areas of this region, especially in Afghanistan and the dry areas of Pakistan, the precondition for success in cultivation is proper irrigation. Irrigation is usually started in the spring and is repeated 8-14 times until ripening of the capsules is underway, according to the weather conditions. No irrigation is allowed during the lancing period. Harvesting Lancing of the capsules begins after Read more […]

Licit Production of Opium in India

Main Production Areas From the data of Bryant (1988), 800-1000 tonnes of opium are produced in India yearly. This amount of opium produces about half of the world’s annual morphine demand. There is no real competition to Indian opium producers, because India remains the only country in which the cultivation of poppies for opium is still legal. In previous decades other countries were active in the production of opium, such as Turkey, Iran, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and southern regions of Russia. In these countries no legal opium production is carried out nowadays, however, the production of poppy seed and straw is legal in some cases. The first records on the cultivation of the opium poppy in India date back to the 15th century (). At first it was cultivated along the sea coast and penetrated into the peninsula afterwards. During the Moghul Empire the production of opium became of great importance and was a valuable means of trade with China and other countries. In the second half of the 18th century the East India Company took the rights for controlling opium production, especially in Bengal and Bihar, which afterwards went into the hands of the British Governor. From that time until India’s independence, Read more […]