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FEATURED AUSTRALIA: Charles Darwin University Report: Researchers successfully harvest native rice, opening opportunities for First Nations enterprise

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#AceNewsRoom With ‘Kindness & Wisdom’ Oct.02: 2022 @acenewsservices

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#AceNewsDesk – As the world regularly faces a shortage of one of its most important food staples, scientists in the Northern Territory are looking take advantage of the rice that grows naturally across Northern Australia’s wetlands.

A man's hands hold seeds attached to green plants.
Research into cultivating Australian native rice is still in its early stages.(ABC News: Mitchell Abram)none

Researchers at Charles Darwin University recently achieved the milestone of successfully harvesting three species of native rice within the campus’s nursery, after collecting it from flood plains along the Adelaide River, south of Darwin.

Senior lecturer at CDU Sean Bellairs is leading the project, and hopes native rice — which has been consumed by local First Nations communities for “thousands of years” — will soon be on the menu of gourmet restaurants or on the shelves of specialist stores. 

“What we’re looking at is to develop it as a boutique food source, so a high value ancient grain,” he said.

native rice researchers at Charles Darwin Univeristy (3)
Sean Bellairs and Gehan Tarek Eltaher Abdelghany are leading the way on Australian native rice research. (ABC News: Mitchell Abram)none

” It really achieves that higher value because of the local Aboriginal connection with it as well.

“We’ve even had interest for the native rice to be served at government functions.”

He said the research could create new opportunities for First Nations enterprises.

“That’s really a focus of the project … to have this rice unique to this area [which has] the cultural significance of being collected and utilised for thousands of years in the past as a native food,” he said.

“We’re particularly interested in supporting Aboriginal enterprises utilising the native grain and growing the native grain.”

Paving the way for a new industry

Mr Bellairs, as well as PhD research candidate on the project Gehan Tarek Eltaher Abdelghany, are at the forefront of native rice research, which is still in the early stages.The rice was collected from floodplains near Darwin. (ABC News: Mitchell Abram)none

“There [is] no current information about how to grow Australian wild rice,” Ms Abdelghany said.

“What are the management practices? What [is] the fertiliser regime that is required? What is the water demand for the water rice?”

She said the hope is to eventually apply the project’s findings on a bigger scale, but there were challenges to overcome before native rice could be produced on a commercial scale.

“The biggest problem is the harvesting of wild rice,” she said.

“Some plants still at the flowering stage, some are at maturity stage and shedding their seed.”

But Australian native rice is distinct from the rice that’s already widely available, making it worth the effort.

“It has been confirmed — it really has high nutritional value which can be exceeding the nutritional value of rice you normally have from the supermarket,” Ms Abdelghany said.

Research ‘timely’ amid worldwide shortages

NT Farmers chief executive Paul Burke said the research was “very timely” given the growing global demand for rice and food shortages. 

“Worldwide, consumption of rice is growing quite rapidly, we do regularly have a shortage of rice,” he said.

“So I see this as a really niche opportunity to create some boutique and premium lines into some of those higher yielding markets.”

He said native rice could become an important new crop in northern Australia’s agriculture industry.Paul Burke says native rice could provide a boost to the Northern Australian agriculture industry. (ABC News: Che Chorley)none

“There’s a lot of work currently being done in food processing and the opportunity to create food processing in northern Australia,” he said.

“One of the limiting factors we’ve had to this point is ‘what is the carbohydrate source?’

“So, I think there is real opportunity to test these genetics and see which is the most productive for our growing systems.”


#AceNewsDesk report ………..Published: Oct.02: 2022:

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