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  • Rikki Lambert

The new face of southern ag is quandongs and native peppers: researchers

Then prince, now King Charles III, tucks into a witchety grub in Alice Springs in 2006

Native bushfoods such as quandongs grown in the Murray-Darling Basin and native pepers in southern New South Wales could reverse degradation caused by intensive agriculture, James Cook University researchers claimed on Friday.

Sugar cane and wheat were identified as just some of the many intensive cropping activities, particularly in south-eastern Queensland, Victoria and NSW that had negative impacts on coastal ecosystems.

Instead, bushfoods such as the lemon myrtle, native citrus, the Davidsom plum and bush tomato should increase in Australia's farming profile, the researchers said whilst the crops with the most expansive potential distribution include acacias, Maloga bean, bush plum, emu apple and native millet.

Lead research author Adam Canning said researchers had mapped 170 native foods best potential growing locations for commercial production:

"Modern non-native crops such as sugarcane and wheat need intensive cultivation, irrigation, herbicides, and pesticides, and are grown as monocultures.
"This comes at a cost to the environment, and we've seen this happen along the Great Barrier Reef catchment."

The north Queensland paper recommend farmers trial intercropping with natives that are more resilient to floods and drought as a hedge against climate change. More natural landscapes with differing varieties would appeal to native animals and insects, creating less voids for pests, Dr Canning said.


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