THE third year of variety trials examining 13 lines of the food crop, plantago, are now underway at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture at Kununurra in northern Western Australia.
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.
DPIRD 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.
DPIRD 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 39-40 centimetres.