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First in a two-part series from Margaret A. Bailey
Australian Sandalwood ~ Graham & Iris Herde
Eremocitrus glauca ~ The Editor
Eucalyptus - edible and useful ~ Christine Jones
'Synthetic' crops ~ Rob Fletcher
The Growing Cycle ~ Mary Meadows
Grower's Notes ~ Wandu Yerta
Bunya ~ Peter Lewis
Pouteria (syn. planchonella) ~ David Sommerville
Bushfoods & Farm Forestry ~ Margaret Bailey
Native Bees ~ Dr Anne Dollin
Broken Hill Project ~ Steve Ross
Quandong ~ AQIA
What's it taste like? Akadjura
The following is intended as an overview of some of the issues in the bushfood industry and it's current general state. Although there are now a number of species coming into commercial production, there is as yet very little substantiated and detailed documentation of the requirements for specific species production to optimum commercial levels. This is because the bushfood industry is a "new" industry, in the sense that the products on which it is based have not been grown and used in a widespread commercial way for more than a few years.
This is not to say that these products have never been used before, they have, both in a commercial way in earlier years this century and more typically in home based preparations during the nineteenth century by European settlers. Native plants are, of course, what the Aboriginal people of this country always lived on - and by all accounts had a healthy and well balanced diet, utilising some thousands of the native plants of Australia not only for food but also for medicines, as well as for various other purposes.
Bushfoods as such are not "new" but as an "industry" (using the terms of our current economic system) this is a very new industry. It should be realised, therefore, that as with any other new product, investment of time, capital or labour is a high risk venture. As with other high risk ventures the potential for considerable losses is always present, but at the same time there is also the potential for some high gains.
All of this has many implications for the bushfood industry and these implications should be examined carefully if growing bushfoods is to be successfully integrated with farm forestry.
At first sight growing bushfoods seems to be one of the most complementary activities that there could be with farm forestry. Many of the species that can be utilised for bushfood can also produce useful and valuable timber. If the land manager is growing cabinet timber species and (particularly in the Northern Rivers region), rainforest cabinet timber species, then many of the bushfood species originate in the same ecosystem and so presumably have similar requirements in terms of rainfall, temperature, soils and other environmental factors. Of the dozen or so species which have been identified as having this sort of potential Australia wide, maybe half are indigenous to rainforest situations.
There also seems to be a neat `fit' in growing bushfoods with timber in economic terms. Bushfoods can bring a more immediate return, beginning anywhere from three to ten years, and so fill in the gap before returns are likely from cabinet timbers.
However, the newness of the industry means that there are many issues which need to be resolved if growing bushfoods is to be a successful and sustainable enterprise. Some of these are discussed in more detail here.
At the present time bushfood species are being grown in systems which range from large plantations of single species to small acreages (1 ha) of mixed species. In mixed species plantings the individual species may be grown in neighbouring rows or plots but there are also plantings where each orchard row contains a mixture of species. In the larger plantations the types of spacings used are often similar to conventional orchards where the fruit is being cropped. In some instances where the leaf is being cropped the suggestion is for close spacings within the rows to develop a "hedge" that can be machine harvested.
Production methods and options
The potential producer will need to make decisions about the scale and type of the proposed planting. Will they plant a single species or a mixture of species? What sort of acreage will be planted? If these are to bring in a return the potential grower will need to discover what sort of markets there are for the product, if any, and what existing infrastructure mechanisms exist to sell the product. The potential grower should not assume that there are the well established structures found in older established industries.
There are a number of other issues of which the potential grower should become aware. Unlike cut flowers or timber itself, this is a "food" industry and therefore is subject to stringent government regulations designed to try and avoid the sort of catastrophes that happened in the small goods and peanut industries within recent years. While there are these stringent requirements it should also be noted that there are no pesticides or herbicides that are labelled as being able to be applied to bushfood species. The testing required is expensive and the manufacturers are unlikely to go through this process unless they can see sufficient potential customers. This means that, by default, bushfoods must be grown organically - which has both benefits and disbenefits depending on your point of view, but is a significant factor if bushfoods are to be grown in conjunction with other crops, including timber. Quality assurance standards are yet to be developed for the bushfood industry. Another minefield for the unwary.
Turning to the possibilities of integration with farm forestry it is clear that there is a need for considerable research to be done to establish the optimum ways of managing operations for these two types of enterprises together. Research is needed in such areas as tree management, planting patterns, plantation/orchard management in general, and competing requirements, for example in harvesting and access requirements. In practical terms this means do you operate one area for bushfood species and another for farm forestry or do you integrate them in the same area? If you attempt the latter, for example, will you grow in, say alternate rows or sections, or have one type of planting surrounding the other? There are few trees that can really be dual-purpose, Bunya Pine being one of the few exceptions.
If you select a tree for better fruit production, or continually tip prune for leaf production, or maintain low branches for easy fruit harvesting, then such trees will never become viable timber trees. The competing requirements for root space, shade or not, and room for crown development are also other problems that will need to be solved. Day to day management problems include differences in watering and fertiliser regimes. All of these issues will affect the eventual quality of the product.
In terms of establishing a bushfood planting it is also important to become aware of the differences between cloned plants and seedlings, and the effect this has on the eventual likelihood of being able to market your product. Some bushfood species have now been developed and are protected with Plant Breeders Rights. The issue of what is truly a bushfood is one that is becoming significant. At one end of the spectrum it is argued that only wild harvested bushfoods are truly "bushfoods". At the other end of the spectrum we are now getting Microcitrus varieties grafted onto exotic rootstocks and grown commercially. Is this a "bushfood"?
As with all orchard type of production there are also various other needs - such as irrigation needs, the need for packing sheds and cool rooms, that will also need to be taken into consideration - before you have even got your produce off the farm.
Next Issue - Financial Returns and conclusions
Australia's first national survey of beekeeping with native stingless bees is now being conducted by Dr Anne Dollin and Dr Tim Heard to assist the fast-growing stingless bee industry.
"Hundreds of nests of these tiny, black, native stingless bees are kept in backards and farms around Australia," said Dr Dollin of the Australian Native Bee Research Centre.
"Stingless beekeeping shows exciting potential for gourmet honey production and crop pollination, but to date no systematic information has been collected about the bee species and methods being used."
"Even if a person has just one pet nest of stingless bees, they can contribute vital information to this historical survey. We urge everyone to join in. With their help we hope to get a complete snapshot of the stingless bee industry in Australia today," she said.
The survey results will be published in Aussie Bee, the bulletin of the ANBRC.
Every nest owner who sends in a completed survey form will receive a free copy of the exclusive and fascinating article, "The World of the Stingless Queen Bee". In addition, six lucky nest owners will receive a special prize: their choice of a quality gold-plated stingless bee Lapel-pin or a specialised hive tool for opening stingless bee boxes.
The survey is short, easy to complete and confidential. No personal identifying information will be published.
For a survey form or for further information about Australian native bees, readers should send their name and address to
Reply Paid 47, ANBRC, PO Box 74-G1, North Richmond 2754 (no stamp required) or fax these details to 02-4576 1196.
Dr Anne Dollin, Australian Native Bee Research Centre.
Publisher of Aussie Bee
Promoting the Preservation and Enjoyment of Australian Native Bees
PO Box 74, North Richmond NSW 2754. Ph: 02 4576 1495
Fax: 02 4576 1196
Visit their Website: http://www.zeta.org.au/~anbrc/
Crop Pollination with Australian Stingless Bees
Dr Tim Heard (CSIRO Entomology) and Dr Anne Dollin (Austraoian Native Bee Research Centre).
$8.00 + $2 postage
This magazine, although it has given regular space to articles on Australian native bees, has not looked in detail at the sorts of benefits bushfood growers might enjoy by developing a relationship with these small and helpful bees. The value of Australian bees as pollinators of crops is just beginning to be understood. How they might be used for pollination of native crops is even less understood but this booklet gives some indicators that we should be studying more closely.
In short, it claims that native bees: may be better pollinators of some crops than honey bees, thrive much better in tropical areas than honey bees and may be more environmentally friendly than using honey bees.
There are other, possibly obvious but often overlooked advantages to using the native bee: stingless bees are generally harmless - they don�t sting (though they can nip if you annoy them). Stingless bees can forage in glasshouses (something honeybees don�t usually do). They need no extra supply of water. Their colonies do not swarm. They are resistant to the diseases and parasites of honey bees.
There are disadvantages to working with our native bee but these stem largely from our lack of management knowledge and scarcity of supply.
This booklet is based on results from research undertaken by both Dr Tim Heard of CSIRO and Dr Anne Dollin of the ANBRC and includes enough information to convince me we should be looking more closely at using native bees for pollination - and the environment.
The following was kindly contributed by Steve Ross of the Arid Zone Bushtucker Project.(Broken Hill, NSW).
It gives an overview of the planting information being sent out to people in the area interested in bushfood plantings.
The 1 hectare site includes 6 species which will come on at different times of the year.
Soil preparation involves deep ripping for the wind break area, contour furrowing, deep ripping behind the contours 2 metres wide and the addition of the following to the ripped areas:
250g psqm Gypsum
150g psqm Agr. Sulphure
100g sqm Complete D fertiliser
Trace elements may be needed at the rate of 50-75 g sqm
Irrigation can be conventional drippers, poly pipe, tee tap or drip in line with flow through drips at spacings of 2.5m
The wind break is designed with a wind lifting species on the outside then the main tree Casuarina cunninghamiana next and Acacia victoria on the inside for wattle seed harvest (this species may need replanting every 8-10 years).
Mulching is important to keep the soil in a more stable condition and to stop water losses from surface evaporation - it also reduces salt build up.
Acacia victoria Prickly wattle seed
Acacia pycanantha Golden wattle seed
Santalum acuminatum Quandong fruit
Hibiscus heterophyllus Rosella flower hip
Solanum centrale Bush tomato berry
Ocimum tenuflorium Native thyme leaf
The Australian Quandong Industry Association has, along with the growers processors and marketers that make up it's membership, matured into an organisation of support.
A.Q.I.A. has developed a definitive data base to make entry into this new industry simple and without the risks taken by the pioneer growers.
A.Q.I.A. has assisted in notable research projects and continues to prioritise ways for the industry to prosper.
Australian Quandong Industry AssociationSixth Annual Conference
August 28/29 1999
If you have never attended an A.Q.I.A. conference before, this is an opportunity to assess the potential of Australia's premier native fruit and see the support that A.Q.I.A. can give new entrants into this industry.
If you wish to register interest in obtaining more details about this conference, contact
A.Q.I.A. CONFERENCE CONVENER
P.O. BOX 393
(08) 8634 7077
#1 - Akudjura (ground bush tomato)
Flavour - Sweet savoury taste of tamarillo/caramel and similar to concentrated sun-dried tomatoes. The darker berries tend to be more bitter.
Colour and Appearance - Approx. 10-13mm in diameter, red/brown and round with a texture similar to dried raisins. When dried and ground it is a light brown free-flowing powder.
Typical Use - Sprinkle as a seasoning for soups, vegetables, salads, cheeses or pastries. Salt or cheddar cheese enhances the flavour by balancing any bitterness. Chop coarsely for focaccia, antipasto, chutneys, sauces etc.
Available ready to use from Australian Native Fine Foods.
Helpful hints - use at 3% to 5% dry addition rate. Try it in biscuits or even ice-cream for something really different. If a product, eg a chutney or sauce, is too bitter, use less bush tomato and/or add salt.
Storage and Packaging - Store Dry.
Please note - seeds are toxic.
More than a Morsel
The Uniquely Australian Catering Experience
Ph: 02 8338 0055
What Did Barry Eat?
Morsel put on a spread for Barry Humphries late in March. Here's what he and Edna ate...
Garlic toast with paperbark smoked chicken with Warrigal green and pistachio
Mango, avocado. native mint and coriander salsa.
Wattleseed and buttermilk pikelets topped with lime marinated prawns
Warm salad of baby spinach, haloumi, grilled eggplant and Akudgera dressing
Poached salmon fillet served on parsnip puree with a lemon myrtle and chive butter.
Crispy field mushroom risotto cake topped with chargrilled veal cutlets and a lilli pilli chilli glaze
Served at the tables Dessert
Bush breads with native butters Lemon aspen and riberry mousse with chocolate curls
Canberra Organic Growers Society Inc.
COGS is a non-profit organisation providing a forum for organic growers in the Canberra region. COGS encourages the community to adopt organic growing methods. Members have access to community gardens, meetings; and receive the COGS Quarterly publication.
Canberra Organic Growers Society, PO Box 347,
DICKSON, ACT, 2602