Essential Oils and Plant Extracts

Program Overview


Essential oils and plant extracts are inputs to a range of products including food flavours, pharmaceutical goods and industrial solvents. They include citrus oils, spearmint, peppermint, lavender and lavandin, and eucalyptus oil.

Australia’s diverse climate and unique flora provide opportunities for new crop development and agricultural diversification. Increasing consumer interest, and a wide and growing range of applications in commercial industries has led to strong, albeit fluctuating, growth in world demand for these commodities.

Essential oils have been extracted from over 3000 plants, of which 200 to 300 are commonly traded on world markets.

The Rural Industries R&D Corporation’s Essential Oils and Plant Extracts Program is funded by Australian Government contributions.

Research and development is guided by an advisory committee of industry and research professionals.

The key long-term strategies for the Essential Oils and Plant Extracts Program are to:

  • Improve production systems to raise productivity and control over product qualities.
  • Support the demonstration of safety and effectiveness of Australian products and facilitate the satisfaction of regulatory requirements to enhance market access.
  • Support new ideas that provide potential for growing the market for Australian product.
  • Improve the industry and research capacity.

Priorities and Deliverables

Priorities for 2013–14

Increased productivity through new product development, ranging from plant extracts for the cosmetics industry through to new varieties resulting from technological advances in breeding (tea tree, waxflower).

Deliverables in 2013-14

  • Three key extract products (Tasmannia, Tanacetum and Black Currant Cane) are identified for further development and one further extract (leptospermum/manuka) screened for suitability for the cosmetics market (leptospermum/manuka).

  • Unique varietal combinations of waxflower are produced using somatic fusion techniques.

Performance Measures

  • Delivery of the research project: 'Tropical sandalwood silviculture management to minimise fungal attack'

  • Delivery of the research project: 'Bioactive extracts for the personal care industry: year 2'

R&D Plan

The Rural Industries R&D Corporation’s vision for the Essential Oils and Plant Extracts Program is of a profitable and sustainable industry producing essential oils and plant extracts of the quality and content that meets customers' evolving demands.

The Essential Oils and Plant Extracts Five-Year R&D Plan 2008-2013 provides the guidance for that vision to be achieved.

Key contacts and links

RIRDC Senior Research Manager

Alison Saunders
Ph: 02 6271 4124
Fax: 02 6271 4199

RIRDC Program Coordinator

Isobel Whiting-Davis
Ph: 02 6271 4181
Fax: 02 6271 4199

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RIRDC Projects and Results

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Completed projects

All essential oil and plant extracts research projects completed by RIRDC appear here. Click on a project name for more information about that project.

Completed projects
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