Lupins - plea to look on bright side

23 Feb, 2001 10:00 PM
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FOR many WA grain growers, lupins are the grain they love to hate.

Lupins would curtly dismissed from the farm program today if another more profitable legume replacement could be found to work in with a cereal rotation.

But farmers have been urged not to give up on this much maligned crop.

Lupin research and industry development head Dr Mark Sweetingham says there's a bright future for lupins.

He acknowledges the recent concern over the potential decline in lupin production in WA.

"This has been largely in response to low returns to producers over the past two seasons due to low world protein prices," he said.

"And when price expectations are low, dropping lupins from poorer performing paddocks is quite sensible.

"But there already are strong indications that lupin prices will rise significantly in the short term because of an under supply last year and international price pressures."

According to Dr Sweetingham, several factors are emerging which are providing new opportunities for lupins in the market place.

"The BSE scare in Europe will fuel demand for vegetable protein and the current anti-GMO sentiment can be used to differentiate lupins from soybean," he said. "Additionally, the dramatic increase in demand for aquaculture feeds to replace fish meal is a reality.

"I think the future for lupins in WA is very bright and the on-farm performance of the newer varieties have been impressive. (Some estimates have put the new crops $12-$25/t ahead of the older varieties.)

Dr Sweetingham said there also were new initiatives in place to increase the long term profitability of lupin production.

These included:

pdevelopment of new markets with Japanese government approval of lupins in "shoyu" (soy sauce) an example of recent success.

pdevelopment of on-farm systems to produce quality assured grain for high value animal feed and human food markets.

presearch to demonstrate the value of lupins in aquaculture diets.

pincreasing crude protein content and protein quality through breeding.

passisting European interest in lupin flour and protein isolates as soybean substitutes for food ingredients.

pcollaborating with public and private research groups who are exploring the health benefits of lupin fibre and isoflavones in human diets.

"The lupin industry is still comparatively young and in both the short and long term, the crop appears set to maintain a major role in farming systems," Dr Sweetingham said.

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