Broadscale production of wattle seed to address salinity: potential and constraints
Olsen & Vickery, PO Box 357, Waroona, Western Australia 6215
Edible Acacia seed, or ‘wattle seed’, is a potential commercial crop that could provide land management benefits in low- to medium-rainfall agricultural areas in southern Australia. A review of wattle seed on behalf of the Joint Venture Agroforestry Program found that large markets for food ingredients are out of reach for existing wattle seed production systems, due to the high harvesting cost. Lowering the cost to a level competitive with other large-scale food crops will require development of a new production system that integrates crop layout, harvesting method and species selection. An efficient harvester is likely to have many features in common with modern cereal crop headers: light weight, continuously moving, straddling the crop, and a wide intake to maximise the tonnage harvested per operating hour. Species best suited to such a harvesting system would be short, compact and erect, bear their seeds near the top of the plant, have a high ratio of seed production to vegetative growth, and be suited to growing at high density. A plant with these characteristics would be very different from the tall, spreading shrubs currently used for edible seed production. A first step towards building a large-scale wattle seed industry would be to explore the abundant genetic resource of this genus for species with desirable characteristics for low-cost production.