Food Futures Institute

Transforming Christmas Island

Murdoch researchers have been working with Christmas Island Phosphates and the Commonwealth Government to turn ex-mine sites on Christmas Island into new food production, research and education opportunities.


Areas of research

Agriculture, Cropping, Land Rehabilitation

Lead Researcher

Professor John Howieson


What was the need for this project?

Phosphate has been mined on Christmas Island, 2600km north-west of Australia, for more than a century.

However, further ore resources have not been made available to mining and an alternative economy is required to provide ongoing employment for residents and increase food security on the island.


How the project was completed

A team of Murdoch researchers, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Government and Christmas Island Phosphates, spearheaded a project to evaluate the scientific basis for introducing agriculture following mining, reduce the island’s economic dependence on imported products, increase export opportunities and work with the local community.

After identifying what nutrients were required to make former mining land viable for growing—in particular nitrogen and potassium—the researchers trialled a number of crops, including legumes, cereals and vegetables.


Results and achievements for this project

Yields far exceeding world standards were achieved for forage sorghum, and a cultivar of lablab bean was bred to grow on the restored land for human consumption.

Excess grain was manufactured into feed for aquaculture fish and animals, fermented into beer and even distilled into gin, providing evidence for the viability of boutique industries on the island.

A small number of coffee plants also produced the island’s first harvests of coffee beans and the area is now being developed into a hub for agricultural innovation and education.

Read the Final Project Report:


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