Future Farm Industries: Evaluating and Developing Woody Crop Species (7747)
Changing climatic conditions, increasing energy demands and new market forces will influence the makeup and design of future farming systems in Australia. Part of that redesign is likely to include the adaptation of farming enterprises to incorporate a greater proportion of sustainable and perennial woody crops within their farming business, especially on landscapes (or parts of landscapes) that are no longer viable for annual cropping.
The Future Farm Industries (FFI) CRC has supported research and development to help facilitate this evolution of farming systems in the dryland agricultural regions of southern Australia. The FFICRC’s FloraSearch project undertook a detailed screening of Australian native plant species to identify multiple Australian candidates to service current and future woody biomass industries. Potential industries targeted included bioenergy, livestock fodder, wood fibres, Eucalyptus oils, activated carbon and carbon sequestration. Laboratory testing identified those species with characteristics suited to each industry sector and genetic material of the most promising candidates for domestication was sourced from across Australia. However, the productivity of species selected to provide feedstock for new industry types directly influences their future profitability and viability.
To fully evaluate the commercial potential of these new woody crop species it has been necessary to undertake studies on the growth and survival of these plants in lower rainfall environments. Between 2004 and 2005 a series of FloraSearch field trials were established to evaluate the performance of range of species and provenances. In 2006, a more detailed field trial program was initiated at Monarto in South Australia to evaluate different provenances of the highest priority woody crop species. These trials included the national Oldman Saltbush fodder shrub development and domestication trials.
Surveys of the performance of all species and provenances contained these trials will be completed in 2013, and the results will be used to identify species and genetic resources suitable for future woody crop development and domestication/commercialisation.