PRODUCTION of high-fibre wheat looks like hitting 9000 tonnes in its second commercial year.
“Commercial production last harvest was 3500t, and 9000t looks like the number for this one,” Farm Trade Australia founder, Victorian grower, and contracted accumulator for Allied Pinnacle David Matthews said.
High-fibre wheat came about through a venture between CSIRO, seed company Australian Grain Technologies and its stakeholder, French company Limagrain, aimed at developing a variety to grow locally that would satisfy demand from food companies and consumers.
Australian flour miller Allied Pinnacle holds the rights to the variety, and its parent Nisshin is about to receive its third 500t consignment from the 2022-23 crop for milling in Japan, with packing of the final old-crop parcel due to start this week.
Grower base expands
High-fibre wheat was grown last season by 11 growers in total in the Victorian Mallee and Wimmera districts.
This season, they were joined by six new growers in the Dookie district of north-east Victoria, and one on the South Australian border.
“Our strategy is to get it into different geographic zones,” Mr Matthews said, adding there was potential for high-amylose wheat (HAW) to be grown in New South Wales and South Australia in coming years.
Mr Matthews said growers were being paid handsomely for their efforts to compensate for the variety’s yield penalty incurred when compared with conventional milling wheat.
“At the moment there’s a large premium; ASW might be trading at $320-330/t on farm, and farmers are getting $600/t for high-amylose wheat.”
While it adds considerable expense for the miller, Mr Matthews said the incentive was necessary to build production of high-amylose wheat to the level needed to properly gauge potential demand from food-ingredients and retail customers.
Mr Matthews said high-fibre wheat yielded around 5-5.5t/ha in the Dookie district, against standard milling varieties at more like 6.7-7t/ha.
In the Mallee and northern Wimmera, the yield penalty was greater at more like 2.5t/ha against 4-4.2t/ha for conventional varieties.
“In this drier year, the yield gap widened.”
Hopes are high that HAW2, which is being bulked up this year ahead of commercial release in time for 2025 planting, will help to address the yield gap from the initial HAW1 variety, provided HAW2 meets the metrics required by Allied Pinnacle.
While HAW1’s parent is Sunstate, the parent of HAW2 is the higher-yielding AGT variety Scepter.
“At the moment, there’s a 30pc yield drag; it’s unlikely you’ll ever get a per-hectare yield as high as milling varieties, but HAW2 should be an improvement.”
Mr Matthews said high-amylose wheat growers were working with private agronomists to ensure the crop was being managed to produce grain to the standard required by Allied Pinnacle.
He said growers also needed to be across their responsibility in the supply chain.
“It needs extra care to ensure high-amylose wheat is kept separate from other varieties.
“Our approach to date has been to store on farm where we can.”
He said the expanded area planted last year means all involved can assess different milling qualities coming from high-amylose wheat by region, and from different rotations.
The supply chain for high-amylose wheat is also developing, with Pyrenees Hay at Avoca north of Ballarat coming on stream to supplement capacity from a receival site in the Geelong district.
From these sites or from the grower’s on-farm storage, high-fibre wheat then either goes to Allied Pinnacle’s mill at Kensington in Melbourne, or to Nisshin in Japan.
Bay State Milling in Massachusetts is already producing HealthSense high-fibre flour from Arista Cereal Technologies wheat, and Limagrain is looking at introducing the genetics in Europe.
Mr Matthews said a mill in South Korea to evaluate the potential for high-fibre wheat, and a number of mills in South-east Asia are also interested in producing flour made from it under licence.
“We’re liaising with AEGIC in terms of identifying potential milling customers.
“We’re sharing intelligence; the great thing about this wheat is that researchers, farmers and millers are working together.”
Farm Trade Australia currently works with 85 growers, all in Victoria, and is working with AGT and Arista Cereal Technologies to supply wheat to Allied Pinnacle and Nisshin.
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