FOOD systems and the supply chain pressures caused by drought, floods and shrinking land availability have given researchers a licence to research previously unthinkable crops.
With a growing population, nutritious food security has become front and centre for researchers and producers, with University of Adelaide researchers looking into smarter ways to feed, clothe and house people across the world.
Australia could be on the verge of a booming biofuel industry but it depends on technology and infrastructure progression, according to University of Adelaide professor Rachel Burton.
This boom can be driven by drought-resistant crops, to make Australian entirely self-sufficient.
Professor Burton has found a few novel crops that can cope with drought, aside from wheat, corn and rice.
According to Prof Burton, food supply has been disrupted greatly, which was forcing a look at how food is grown.
A contentious but "insanely valuable" crop, says Prof Burton, is industrial hemp.
But, she says confusing legislation and research barriers are limiting its potential and need to be removed.
"We literally need a barbed wire fence to grow it behind at the research centre," she said.
She believes Australia could be a leader in its breeding, being an ideal crop rotation that grows rapidly and shows signs of modest water usage.
"It has been tested and it will grow with a ridiculously small amount of water," she said.
"We found that it will grow with 5 per cent soil capacity - at 17pc soil capacity, wheat crops almost die."
It is also an ideal protein candidate and if legislation can be changed, Prof Burton said it could become a "power plant".
"Medicinal cannabis can be made from industrial hemp, we can grow that in SA," Prof Burton said.
"Hemp has 30pc oil - we can we use it as a replacement for crude oil and we are not doing it."
Alternative crops to replace plastic are also gaining a lot of traction, she says, and hemp is again at the forefront.
Using certain seeds to make alternative, sustainable and renewable plastic is something the University of Adelaide researchers are working on.
A goal to help curb plastic usage has researchers looking to a number of crops such as wild sage, to utilise its mucilage - a complex carbohydrate secreted when the seed comes into contact with water, generating high-viscosity solutions.
Psyllium crops can also been used - it is already used in gluten free foods but new technology, funding and infrastructure is needed, according to Prof Burton.
She says Australians are being faced with a big question - how to make enough food but most importantly, sustainable, nutritious food?
Protein replacements - not to replace livestock production, but to make the existing industry more sustainable - was also highlighted by Prof Burton.
She says there is potential to grow legume crops in areas where livestock production is not viable.
RENEWABLE forms of biofuels are needed and many crops have the potential to fill this void, according to SA researchers.
Basically, crops that are made of carbohydrates and sugars that can be bound together, fit the bill for the type of crop needed.
Sweet sorghum, hemp and agave are some of the crops that can be used to make biofuels and the University of Adelaide has a team of researchers looking into it.
They say these crops can fix carbon levels as it grows, so when it is used, it is carbon neutral.
Sweet sorghum is related to wheat, barley, millet and sugar cane - its a renewable resource and is fire retardant.
Prof Burton is working on crops at the Waite Campus and the present plots have reached 4.5 metres and use hardly any water.
"If we can translate this to a large-scale crop size, it could become a very beneficial crop," she said.
Crops like this are being turned into pellets and Japanese scientists are putting in huge orders to replace coal and burn this in electricity stations.
"Why can't we do that? It should be happening here," Prof Burton said.
Argave can be used to make biofuels but it can also protect livestock and provide a feed source.
"It is fire retardant and can be a hedge crop to protect stock or put in silage and used as feed," Prof Burton said.
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