CSIRO ON ACACIAS
CSIRO Forest Products are on the bushfoods trail as this article from Jock Morse shows.
Reprinted from OnWood,
CSIRO trials established at four sites in the Northern Territory and Western Australia over the past 18 months are assessing the potential of various dry-country acacias as sources of seed for human consumption.
Jock Morse of the Division's Australian Tree Seed Centre worked with Aboriginal communities to set up the trials. The locations - Nyuka community in Western Australia's Pilbara region, Pingala community near Tennant Creek, Yuelamu in the Tanami Desert and Titjikala southeast of Alice Springs - span a broad. range of and zone rainfall and temperate regimes. The Centre's interest in acacias for food dates back to 1989 when researchers first recognised the food potential of species planted in the 1970s in Niger, North Africa, to help combat desertification. Since then, three species particularly well suited to food production in semi-arid Africa have been identified and villagers have introduced the seeds into traditional recipes. Seeds of Australian acacias seem set to become a significant part of local diets. Acacia seeds were a valuable component of the diets of central Australian Aboriginal people before European settlement and are still widely used. Scientists have recognised the importance of Aboriginal knowledge in further developing the seeds' use in Australia and overseas, and from 1992 Aboriginal communities to collect seed from about 30 traditional food species. From these 30 he selected the most promising 11 species for the planting trials.
Seed of these was collected on a variety of sites, resulting in a total of 33 provenances being chosen for testing. Aboriginal-owned nurseries in Alice Springs (Tangentyere Nursery), Tennant Creek (Julelikari Nursery) and South Hedland (Pundulmarra Nursery) raised seedlings for the trials. Morse and members of the local communities planted 2000 seedlings on 2.5 hectares at each trial site, and the communities are looking after the plants. Initially, all trees in the plantations are being irrigated; later, irrigation will be removed from half the trees on each site. Monitoring, initially twice a year, will show how well the different arid-zone environments with and without irrigation and how much seed they produce. `Basically, we will find out which will do well where,' Morse said.
The results will benefit planting programs in Australia and overseas. Aboriginal communities are interested in growing food acacias both to supplement their own diets and to supply an increasing demand in the broader community for 'bush tucker'. Overseas interest in the plants is coming from dry parts of India as well as Africa.
According to Morse, the seed has excellent nutrition characteristics, being high in protein and complex carbohydrates and low in sugar and fat. 'It can be included in cakes, biscuits or pasta, or used as a coffee substitute or ice cream flavouring. Imagination is the only thing limiting its uses.' Plantings around outback settlements offer additional benefits. Dust levels should be reduced, which may lower the incidence of the eye disease glaucoma. In addition, the acacias will provide an extra source of firewood which is often in short supply.
Collections and plantations have been supported by funding from the Australian Nature Conservation Agency through its Contract Employment Program for Aboriginals in Natural and Cultural Resource Management scheme.. Mr Jock Morse Tel: (06) 281 83 178
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