Variety trials examining 13 lines of the food crop, plantago, were in the spotlight at a northern Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development field day.
The third year of trials are now underway at the department’s Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture at Kununurra, with field day participants viewing the crop just ahead of harvest.
Researchers are examining the commercial potential for plantago in the Ord River Irrigation Area, following renewed global interest in using the husks of the seeds, known as psyllium, which are high in dietary fibre.
Department principal research scientist David McNeil said the variety trials were examining yield, agronomic characteristics including establishment and ability to compete with weeds, and the end quality of the product.
Harvested seed will be sent to South Australia for DNA analysis and quality testing by the University of Adelaide and to Italy, where food company Dr Schär will test its baking performance.
After two years of research, four or five lines are emerging as stronger performers and subject to the results of this season’s trials, the amount of lines examined in 2020 will be reduced.
“We are narrowing down our focus on the lines, planting systems, irrigation and fertility management, as we get more information and move closer to an optimal system,” Professor McNeil said.
Department development officer Siva Sivapalan said increasing the crop height to improve ease of harvesting had been a focus, and this year’s trial crops were taller than previous seasons, at about 39-40cm.
Field day participants and growers had the opportunity to hear from Dr Schär’s Silvano Ciani, lead corporate research and innovation - basic research, and Ombretta Polenghi, head of corporate research and innovation.
Mr Ciani welcomed the progress made during the past three years of trial work in the Ord.
“The close collaboration between researchers, growers and industry will be key to develop a successful value chain for this crop in the Ord,” he said.
Jodie Thomson, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937