Tuesday, 6 June 2006
Reporter: Annette Marner
South Australia's deserts, areas which have less than 250 mm of rain per year, still produce the most amazing fruits and food according to Joan Gibbs, lecturer in Ecology at the University Of South Australia Mawson Lakes. And planting these bush foods is helping to restore our damaged landscapes.
The desert banana has an interesting name given that
it doesn't taste like a banana or even look like one. It just
happens to be curved!
"The other big seller is quondong, Santalum acuminatum, which requires delicate care in planting out with its host plant, usually Acacia victoriae, an arid wattle shrub. In some soils, survival rates of young plants can be extremely low, and crops are not produced for four to six years, under irrigation."
In the South East there is the bush fig, bush apple, wattleseed coffee and coastal currant.
Joan is passionate about restoring deserts and other landscapes damaged by grazing and agriculture. Since 1998 her Sustainable Environments Research Group "has investigated the potential for restoring cultural, Aboriginal landscapes on the Coorong, 200 km south-east of Adelaide".
"We have planted over 4000 trees and
bushfood plants to create habitat for wildlife in patterns that
combine with culturally-appropriate landscapes."
people cared for bushland which provided food, medicines and
materials for livelihoods. Custodians of each region managed the
bush according to laws and instructions passed on from previous
custodians. Intricate systems of firing, cultivation and planting
ensured continuous crops, albeit at a subsistence level.
"The difficulty of achieving ecosystem restoration is many times greater than the ease with which they were destroyed. The methods of cultivating these bush plants are probably known to bush dwellers, requiring techniques very different to European-type farming.
"Bush horticulture would require the resources of current and traditional knowledge of caring for healthy landscapes if we were to produce enough food for wildlife, as well as humans."