The Lupin Plant
Lupins belong to the family of legumes like soy beans, peas, lentils etc. Additionally, lupins play an important role in the ecological balance of agriculture:
- Save fertilisation by nitrogen-fixation
- Diminish pollution through nitrate fertilisation
- Need less pesticides than e.g. wheat
- Mobilise phosphorus
- Improves the quality of the soil
The seeds of various species of lupin are rich in protein and have been used as both a human food and livestock feed for over 2000 years. However it was not until pioneering work was carried out in Western Australia in the 1950s and 1960s which concentrated on improving agronomic characteristics and overcoming their bitter flavour that lupin was brought up to the status of a crop plant. What is ‘Australian sweet lupin’? There are 12 lupin species within the Lupinus genus, which are native to Europe and the Mediterranean regions. Three of these are now fully domesticated for agriculture: ‘Australian Sweet Lupin’ refers to the legume crop of Lupinus angustifolius (narrow-leafed lupin) cultivated in Australia, the European white lupin, Lupinus albus and the yellow lupin, Lupinus luteus. While the European white lupin (L. albus) has been used as a human food since the time of the ancient Egyptians, it was during the 1960s, that Australian scientists domesticated L. angustifolius to create the Australian Sweet Lupin of today. Food Standards Australia New Zealand has recognised Australian Sweet Lupin as fit for human consumption since 1987. In Europe, the European white lupin has been used as a food ingredient for many years and the Australian sweet lupin was approved for general human consumption in 1999. In Europe, lupins are used to replace cereal grains or soy in food products such as baked goods, small goods and noodles and pasta. In fact it is estimated that 500,000 tonnes of food products in Europe contain European white lupin and Australian sweet lupin as an ingredient. The Department of Agriculture and Food WesternAustraliahas the world’s largest breeding team for Australian sweet lupin. Since the 1970s, the plant breeding efforts of this Western Australian breeding team have led to more than a doubling of yield of Australian sweet lupin – from 0.7 to 1.5 tonnes per hectare. Australia is the world’s largest producer of lupin. During the past 20 years, Australia has exported more than 15 million tones of Australian Sweet Lupin to countries all over the world including Spain, The Netherlands, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.