canola by Yondah Beach HouseFor centuries, rapeseed (from the Latin for 'turnip') oiled the wheels of civilisation, first as fuel for lamps, later as a cooking oil and food additive and then literally to lubricate the steam engines of the Industrial Revolution. Steam-powered merchant and naval fleets would have ground to a halt without rapeseed oil during World War II.

Canola, a strain of 'rapeseed' low in erucic acid, is a member of the mustard family. It was bred in Canada in the early 1970's with its name being derived from the phrase CANadian Oil, Low Acid. Canola oil is low in saturated fat, high in mono-unsaturated fat and has a beneficial Omega-3 fatty aid profile. 

Approximately 42% of the seed is oil, with around 23 kilograms of seed producing 10 litres of oil. The remaining meal is a significant component of stock feed in Australia and a rich source of protein.

Canola oil is a key ingredient in many frequently eaten foods and is highly sought after. It often replaces non-renewable resources in products including candles, lipstick, newspaper inks, industrial lubricants and biofuels.

Its bright, sunny yellow flowers brighten even the dullest day in late winter and early spring but can be the curse of hay fever sufferers!


green barley cropBarley was the first domesticated grain in the Near East, being grown on the Korean Peninsula from as early as 1500BC. It was a staple in both ancient Egypt and Greece, although wheat bread eventually became the preference of the rich, leaving barley and rye bread for the poor. Barley beer may well have been the first drink produced by Neolithic peoples, while a fermented, malted and alcoholic porridge was used for early Grecian rituals.

Barley is Australia's second largest grain crop after wheat, and Yorke Peninsula has a well-deserved reputation for growing high quality malt barley used in the various brewing processes of beer all over the world.

Barley is graded on delivery to the silos with several grades of both malting and feed (including human consumption). Malting barley attracts the highest price. Some varieties will not malt at all and can be used only for feed. High protein levels are best for stock feed as opposed to the malting process which requires a low protein level. Approximately 34% to 40% is accepted as malting on this basis.

On Yorke Peninsula barley is harvested during late spring to early summer when the heads turn a light golden colour and bend downwards.  Barley is used in many food items, but the most commonly recognised include pearl barley, flour, breads and breakfast cereals.


wheat crop 001Australia's first wheat was grown at the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. The first farmer of wheat was a convict, James Ruse. Soon others started growing wheat too and wheat farms were rapidly established in all Australian colonies. By 1870, South Australia, with half the nation's wheat-growing land, had a thriving export industry, with shipments to the other Australian colonies, South Africa and sometimes the United Kingdom. The invention in 1843 of the stripper harvester by South Australian miller John Ridley had already mechanised reaping, while the invention of the stump-jump plough later that century (an innovation proudly claimed by Yorke Peninsula) gave South Australians an advantage in opening up more mallee land to wheat growing. 

In 1858 19 acres of wheat were grown on Yorke Peninsula, yielding 380 bushels (around ten tonnes). These days approximately 19,000 tonnes of wheat are deposited at the Port Giles silos alone on an average year. It is generally the Peninsula's second most sown crop after barley.

While still green in the paddock, wheat can be distinguished from barley by its slightly darker, more blue-green colour compared to the yellowish green of barley. When it's ripened and ready to harvest, wheat is more golden and upright than barley.

Wheat is one of the most commonly eaten grains in many parts of the world, being made into flour, pasta, couscous, thickener and as gum in confectionery. It's also a valuable stock food, though as with other grains, sheep need to be conditioned over several weeks to avoid digestive upsets.

South Australian wheat markets currently include Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Korea and Japan.

Faba beans

faba bean in paddockNative to North Africa and South West Asia, faba beans are now grown throughout the world, with Australia being a major exporter. The faba bean figures large in history and folklore, reportedly being used to cast votes in ancient Greece and Rome, having saved the Sicilians from starvation when all other crops failed.  Perhaps most significantly, it was the faba bean that gave Jack a leg-up to the clouds and the land of Giants.

While faba beans are amongst the most ancient plants in cultivation, they've only been grown commercially for grain in South Australia since the early 1980's. With their valuable addition of nitrogen to the soil, faba beans are commonly grown as a rotation crop.

Australian's main export markets are to Egypt and Saudi Arabia for human consumption. Around 50% of faba beans are sold into the stock feed market as an excellent source of protein and energy. A far greater share of this market is domestic.

Faba beans have a distinctive purple and white flower with a strong sweet smell that can be detected from some distance. In a good season bean crops can grow to over a metre in height. When beans ripen they are black in colour.

Field peas

Field peasThe earliest archaeological finds of peas have been in Neolithic Syria, Turkey and Jordan. Early finds in Egypt date from 4800-4400BC. Peas were present in Afghanistan around 2000BC and Pakistan and India 2250-1750BC. Peapods are botanically classified as a fruit but are considered a vegetable in cooking.

Field peas are mostly grown for the grain, with some also planted for hay. Farmers enjoy the additional benefit of increased nitrogen in the soil. Wheat yields have been reported to be up as high as 50% when planted following peas.

Around 90% of Australia's pea crop is exported for animal feed as a good source of dietary protein and energy. A small percentage is also used for human consumption.

Close to harvest, field peas are far more susceptible to weather damage than cereal crops and tend to be more vulnerable to disease and insect damage.


lentilsLentils are thought to have originated in the Near East, where they became one of the first crops to be domesticated, and have formed part of the human diet since Neolithic times. With around a quarter of their caloric value coming from protein content, lentils are third only to soybeans and hemp in their level of protein by weight. As such a rich protein source, lentils form an essential part of regular diet in many parts of the world, notably in the Indian subcontinent where vegetarian diets are common.

Lentils have an earthy, nutty flavour. Downgraded lentils are mostly used for stock feed.

Harvesting is carried out when there is still a tinge of green on the pods as they will shatter badly if allowed to become too dry, causing significant loss in production. Lentils are a very short crop. After reaping, very little is left behind. The nitrogen added to the soil during the growth of this legume is an integral part of its value. 


chick peasChickpeas are high in protein and one of the earliest cultivated crops, 7,500 year old remains having been found in the Middle East. By the Bronze Age, chickpeas were grown in Italy and Greece. In classical Greece, they were called erébinthos and eaten as a staple, a dessert, or consumed raw when young. The Romans knew several varieties such as venus, ram, and punic chickpeas. They were cooked down into a broth or roasted as a snack. The Roman gourmet Apicius gives several recipes for chickpeas. In the First World War with access to coffee beans cut off, the Germans grew chickpeas as a coffee substitute: Ersatz Coffee.

Chickpeas are prepared and eaten in a variety of ways, and are a staple food in the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent. They are a major source of protein in vegetarian diets: the protein content is twice that of wheat and three times that of rice. This high protein content also makes chickpeas suitable as an animal feed.

Chickpeas are used to make aquafaba, a vegan substitute for egg whites and are also gluten free. Chickpeas are a winter crop and, because they are legumes, are valuable as a rotation crop with other winter cereals such as wheat and barley.

Kabuli and Desi are the Chickpea types grown in Australia, with Kabuli predominating in South Australia due mainly to variety limitations and disease management.

Kabuli chickpeas, larger and lighter in colour than Desi, are usually sold into size-based markets, where the larger (over 8mm) are used for canning and the smaller for making besan (chickpea flour).


lupins September near Minlaton 2Australia produces approximately 85% of the world's supply of lupins - 90% of these are used for stock feed and aquaculture with only 4% consumed by humans. Europe and East Asia are Australia's main markets.

Grown predominantly in areas with winter rainfall, lupins are harvested in spring. The window for reaping is narrow with pods shattering or dropping if not harvested within three weeks of ripening.

Lupins are an important rotation crop, grown in conjunction with cereals, for their valuable addition of nitrogen to the soil. Stubbles, partly due to their seed / pod loss during harvest, are a highly nutritious stock feed.

A concentrated source of protein and energy, with excellent handling and storage properties, lupins are a valued stock feed, particularly for sheep.

Flour, pasta, tofu, soy sauce and snack foods, such as muesli bars, constitute the majority of human consumption.



Oats often look quite similar to wheat and barley in the early stages of the growing season but on closer inspection, have a slightly broader leaf. They are usually grown on Yorke Peninsula for stock feed or for hay making.

Oaten hay for the export market should be free of visible damage due to leaf and stem rust.

Rolled oats or oatmeal are the most well-known forms of oats for human consumption, being found in porridge, muesli, other breakfast cereals and baked goods such as biscuits.





vetchVetches belong to the genus Vicia, which encompasses some 140 species. Member species are native to Europe, North America, Asia and Africa and vetch crops were amongst the first to be domesticated.

Bitter Vetch was a crop of last resort in times of starvation and were included in the diet of the poor until the eighteenth century, reappearing briefly as black market food in the South of France during WWII.

Vetch is an important pulse crop in South Australia. Not only is it a source of hay, stock feed and green manuring, its ability to grow on alkaline land and fix nitrogen in the soil is especially crucial.






Yondah Beach House hay balesWhile some farmers grow a mixture of oats and other grains (mostly medic or vetch) for their own use, oaten hay is in great demand for export to China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea. Australia's hay meets the high standard of quality demanded with South Australia being the second largest supplier after Western Australia.

Most farmers have their own technique for identifying when to cut, turn and bale hay, many of which are old methods passed through the family. A low moisture content is necessary to avoid spontaneous combustion and once stacked it's important to monitor the internal temperature for several months.



Visitor Information

Yorke Peninsula Visitor Information 
8 Elizabeth Street Maitland South Australia
T: 1800 202 445




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