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Research Aims for Higher Value Lupin Markets

05 March 2010

AUSTRALIA - Current research into lowering alkaloid levels in lupins could help growers achieve valuable new markets both overseas and nationally.

Department of Agriculture and Food development officer Greg Shea said lupins were becoming increasingly popular in human foods such as breads and biscuits because of their health benefits in providing high fibre and protein.

Mr Shea will outline the latest research findings tomorrow, on the second day of the department’s 2010 Agribusiness Crop Updates in Perth.

“Scientists are finding lupins have enormous health benefits as they are high in protein and fibre, and have the lowest Glycemic Index (GI) of any commonly consumed grain,” Mr Shea said.

“Western Australia’s Mid West is already leading the way with the use of lupins in flour, and West Australian bakers are producing product with lupins.

“The challenge now is to find ways to achieve consistent low levels of alkaloids in lupins to ensure they meet the more stringent international standards for use in human foods.”

Mr Shea said alkaloids were natural bitter chemicals that helped plants defend themselves from insect attack.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand require that lupin alkaloids are below 0.02 per cent in the grain or flour to ensure they are not toxic.

“Caffeine is an alkaloid that is in coffee and other foods which we know is damaging in excess. It is the same with alkaloids in lupins. At low levels, it is fine, but high levels are not good for us,” Mr Shea said.

“A number of lupin deliveries from the 2008/09 harvest slightly exceeded the 0.02 per cent level. This is not typical and we are seeking to find out why it occurred.”

Mr Shea said the department was working towards a better understanding of the agronomic factors that influence alkaloid levels to assist growers to keep alkaloid levels low.

“Our latest research trials point to the importance of choosing the right fertilisers and the right paddocks when growing lupins for human consumption,” he said.

“Although it is not certain what causes all the variation in alkaloid levels from site to site, it is possible that soil fertility and soil type, and an interaction with available moisture make a major contribution to the variation.

“When we can consistently produce lupins with low levels of alkaloids, we can take advantage of the growing market opportunities internationally for lupins in foods for human consumption.”

The 2010 Agribusiness Crop Updates, supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, are held on 25-26, February. Regional Updates for growers will be held during March.

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