Issues in the commercialisation of wattle seed for food
Principal Consultant, Australian Native Crop Development Service (*previously Industry Development Consultant - Native Food). Primary Industries and Resources South Australia/Australian Native Produce Industries Pty Ltd
Wattle seeds are a versatile product with a range of potential uses in the food industry. Small amounts of mostly wild-harvested seed are currently used in baked goods and other products. In common with many other Australian native food crops, the expansion of uses and markets is currently constrained by the inconsistent quality and quantity of wild-harvested supplies.
Commercial cultivation of acacias has commenced and further expansion is likely. To date, most plantings for wattle seed are young and small in scale and tend to have taken a more-or-less horticultural approach to establishment and management. There is also interest in growing wattles as a dryland crop to replace shallow rooted annual crops in lands currently affected by salt (or likely to be so) in the Western Australian wheatbelt and the Murray–Darling Basin.
With this expansion comes normal new industry issues such as market requirements, suitable production areas, input management and pest and disease control. However, with wattle seed a whole set of new crop questions arise alongside these new industry issues.
Crops new to cultivation require the development and testing of production system models that consider a range of interlinked management components, including species selection, planting layout, canopy management, harvesting and rejuvenation methods.
As yet, the most efficient or even the ‘best-bet’ model for wattle seed production has not been determined and it is likely that a range of approaches may prove successful, depending on markets, geographical area, species, complementary and existing farm management practices and specific production targets. Testing and comparison of current and proposed production system models should be a priority.