Sunday, January 31, 2010

Memorial to Stephen King - the pioneer of Poppy growing in Tasmania

While travelling around Tasmania we were fascinated by the fields and fields of gorgeous mauve poppies; I then recalled Tasmanian farmers grow medicinal poppies.  The fields all had warning signs attached to the fences stating Restricted area do not enter etc.  We got the message, so no pics folks.IMG_2510 

In Devonport we found a wonderful memorial to the pioneer of the Tasmanian Poppy Industry. 

The following words have been copied from the memorial.

“This memorial celebrates the pioneer of the poppy growing industry in Tasmania, Stephen King.

In1964 the Glaxo group decided to concentrate poppy cultivation in Tasmania after unsuccessful attempts to grow poppies in the UK and trials in several other Australian states.  As director of poppy research and production for Glaxo in the 1960s and 1970s, King encouraged a research culture in the industry and oversaw significant developments in the areas of field production and factory processing. The continuation of this research has led to major breakthroughs in the development and utilisation of:

  • Improved poppy varieties capable of producing high yields of alkaloid
  • Chemical control of insect, weed and disease threats to the industry
  • Improved planting and harvesting techniques

King’s important role in the Industry’s success was recognised in 1979 with an OBE for services in the development of the oil poppy industry.

The Tasmanian Poppy Industry now supplies approximately 50% of the World’s medicinal morphine, codeine and thebaine. Poppy cultivation is one of the major industries in the state, and Tasmania is internationally recognised as having the highest assays and highest alkaloid yields per hectare.

From Vision to RealityIMG_2516

We recognise all who have pioneered and advanced our unique Tasmanian Poppy Industry, including growers, contractors, government agencies and staff of Tasmanian Alkaloids and GlaxoSmithKline.

A tribute to the success of the Tasmanian Poppy Industry and one man’s vision and contribution

Tasmania is the only location in the Southern Hemisphere where poppies Papaver somnifererum are grown for the licit production of morphine, codeine and thebaine.  The crop can only be grown by farmers who are contracted to the processing companies, and they must be licensed by the State Government .

Planting occurs in various parts of the state from July to October, with the brilliant flowering panorama occurring in November and December.  It then takes 7 weeks for the capsules to mature, ready for harvest.  Harvesting occurs from January to March.” 

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