Bush Produce Systems Research:

Sustainable bush produce systems for the arid zone ("Bush produce systems") - "Post-harvest storage and produce quality"

Curtin University staff: Associate professor Dr Zora Singh. Dr Maria Jose' de Sousa-Majer (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

S Dhaliwal (Public Health), Ms Alicia Pasznicki 

Funding agency: Desert Knowledge CRC

Funding: Total Funding: $ 635,262, for post-harvest storage / quality of bush tomato: $142,642

Project period: October 2004 - June 2006 

Sustainable bush produce systems for the arid zone ("Bush produce systems") along with partners: CSIRO, Curtin, ATSIC, University of South Australia, Flinders University, Charles Darwin university, James Cook University, Department of Agriculture with total Funding: $ 635,262 from Desert knowledge CRC for two years.

This research project aims to improve opportunities for arid zone produce to be used in the native foods industry and seeks to underpin the contribution of indigenous people to the native foods industry and the benefits they may gain from it; also to assist the development of the native foods value chain.

Specific research activities within the project are: sustainable wild harvest systems, horticultural production systems, genetics and plant improvement, post-harvest storage and produce quality, market and consumer issues and a study investigating the impacts (positive and negative) of the industry on Indigenous communities. The vision of the project is for a demand-driven native foods industry that has strong Indigenous participation, with clear benefits to Indigenous people and others in arid zone communities.

This research activity at Curtin focuses on postharvest handling of bush tomato. Cultivated and/or wild harvested fruit exhibit moth / weevil infestation and larvae appear in the fruit if stored at ambient temperature. Presently these moth and weevil pest species have not been identified. 

No research work has been done at point of harvest to solve this pest problem. Moth/weevil infestation in bush tomato after harvest phase not only causes economic losses to the product but also has implications for food safety issues. How can moth /weevil infestation in the postharvest phase of bush tomato be managed or eradicated? This research activity will address the questions of post-harvest treatment, storage conditions and produce quality. A reliable supply of good quality bush tomatoes is a prerequisite for a sustainable and expanding industry, which has export potential. Bush tomatoes are without doubt, a native food that has a large market potential for flavouring value added product and also as a dry, ground flavouring/spice (J. Robins, Robins Foods, Pers. Comm). The bush tomato has been identified as a species that has growing market demand and is therefore emerging as an important bush food plant. It is being cultivated in various parts of Australia including SA, NT and WA but over 75% of fruit going into commercial food products are harvested from the wild.

The proposed research will address the following questions:

Identification of post-harvest insect pests in bush tomato.

How these pests can be managed/eradicated

Development of post-harvest treatment(s) for insect control in bush tomato. Evaluation of various post-harvest disinfection methods with no chemical or minimal use of chemicals. The research in this area will focus on the evaluation of storage environments, particularly testing the effect of gas composition during storage on reducing infection by insect pests.

The research proposed in this activity aims to contribute to developing postharvest handling technology for bush tomato that can be used for both the wild harvested and cultivated crop. This technology will enable produce to be stored and kept in good quality for both local community use and for the commercial sector. The proposed research has the potential to reduce the cost of postharvest storage (through reduced wastage) and therefore to benefit the industry, Aboriginal people, domestic and international consumers.