Snacks from the Deep South by Denys Slee

Mr Alan Barrett and the large-seeded Aquadulce faba bean showing promise in Tasmanian trials.

How about a beer or a glass of wine and some roasted lupins or faba beans to go with the drink?

The latter are part of the human food market which Tasmanian growers and researchers are hoping to tap as they experiment with, and now start to grow, large-seeded Albus lupins and Aquadulce, a faba bean.

The aim at specialist export markets is to overcome high freight costs from Tasmania. Enter Albus lupins, which have been used for food in Mediterranean countries for centuries — particularly as snacks, in much the same way Australians eat peanuts. Growers are supporting trials being conducted by Kate Charleston, who works for the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Launceston.

The trials are showing that Albus lupins and Tasmania's rich soils and long growing season are soulmates. "The yield results of some of the lupin lines, especially Albus , were very good with one yielding more than 9 t/ha which I believe was a record lupin yield in Tasmania," Mrs Charleston said, while explaining that her research involved other lupins and grain legumes as well.

"It seems that the white lupins are very much suited to our climate — yield results indicate they can easily out-yield narrow leaf lupins. This year we have selected eight of the best Albus lines and are conducting herbicide, optimum time of planting, and density trials on these."

Mrs Charleston said that lupins for human consumption were sold on size and colour — the larger the seed, the higher the return. The price differential was highlighted at a recent seminar held at Cressy and organised by Mrs Charleston at which SA seed buyer, Mr Tim Teague, was a guest speaker.

A few mm difference

He told growers and researchers that 12 mm wide Albus lupin seeds would currently command about $240-280/t but those 16 mm wide, about $800/t.

Mrs Charleston said a principal agricultural officer with DPIF, Bob Reid, had collected some Albus lupins when in Italy. One line had very large seeds and had been grown for two years by the DPIF.

"The Albus variety, Kiev Mutant, which is grown on the mainland, is a good white lupin but hasn't quite got the seed size we want," she said. "The Italian lupin is bigger and we will try and bulk up this line fairly quickly."

She said contracts are being offered by Tim Teague for another line of Albus lupins known as Lago Azzurro. "This has large seed though somewhat smaller than the Italian line."

Top niches

At the seminar, GRDC Southern Region panel member and Tasmanian farmer, Ian MacKinnon, said the future of the Tasmanian grain industry was in servicing high-priced export markets. He said the production of Albus lupins, which he is trialing on his property, is an example of this.

"There are other opportunities too, for example, in the aquaculture industry, where the potential exists for a grain legume to replace fish meal."

'Big is better' also applies to the faba bean, Aquadulce, which is being examined in a separate GRDC supported project in Tasmania. Consultant Alan Barrett of Agricultural Management and Marketing, Pt Sorell, started out in 1993 to find a grain legume which could be used as part of the rotation on cereal farms.

He and partner Tim Douglas figured that the missing grain legume factor was costing cereal growers dearly in terms of nitrogen input and a crop disease break.

"Aquadulce has consistently performed the best over the past two years," Mr Barrett said. "It has exhibited better disease tolerance, has been easier to harvest, and has produced a good-sized bean that is very marketable for human consumption."

Aquadulce is being further tested in 1995. But this time, on a site which can be irrigated. And it will be, if a third year of drought plagues Tasmanian agriculture.

Subprogram 2.11.15 and 3.16.02 respectively Contact: Ms Kate Charleston 003 365 444, Mr Alan Barrett 004 287 032

Lupin specialist Mrs Kate Charleston — on the left, small seeded lupins used in animal feeds and right the high priced Albus lupin for the human consumption trade.Farmer Ian Mackinnon: the market for Tasmanian grains is the high-value end.