Development of the Kakadu Plum Industry in Northern Australia

University of Western Australia

  • Project code: PRJ-005158

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Monday, December 30, 2013

  • Project completion date: Monday, May 30, 2016

  • National Priority: NEPI-Feasibility studies and industry literature reviews


This project is designed to add-value to the Aboriginal enterprise of the harvesting of Kakadu Plum fruit. This will be achieved by further developing the enrichment-planting concept for Aboriginal communities and secondly by adding value to product harvesting through understanding the fruit ripening process as well as the genetic and nutritional variability of the tree. This work will be done in collaboration with Aboriginal communities so that there is direct communication and training opportunities.

Health-market demand for natural vitamin C and anti-oxidants is creating a market for Kakadu Plum fruit that is a challenge to support reliably from wild harvest. A number of factors can impact upon wild harvest dependability such as tropical rainfall preventing site access late or early fruit-ripening which can mean a crop is missed or non-fruiting either due to pollination problems or forced fruit abortion in extreme climatic conditions. There is also the impact of fire to consider, a phenomenon occurring more regularly with climate change.

Supplementation of wild harvest with easily accessible enrichment-plantings is a means of ensuring reliable supply as well as maintaining a high fruit quality. This project starts the process of Kakadu Plum domestication by investigating the species genetic origins and by understanding fruit quality variation as the fruit ripens and across the population. It also provides the opportunity to work with Aboriginal communities during the collection as well as in the establishment of enrichment-plantings in WA and conventional horticultural/research plantings in the NT.


New and Emerging Plant Industries

Research Organisation

University of Western Australia

Objective Summary

The project has four simple objectives:

1. Aboriginal engagement: To engage aboriginal communities in the further development of the Kakadu Plum industry through their direct involvement in this research project. The first opportunity is with the collection of leaf and fruit material across the natural range of Kakadu Plum and the second in the establishment of arboretums in WA and NT. The project also aims to run training workshops (at least two) involving indigenous communities interested in developing the industry.

2. Understand the variation seen between the trees. A genetic study using leaf DNA and nutritional analysis of the fruit will facilitate this understanding in both the longer and more immediate term.
3. Understand ripening effects on fruit quality. Fruit chemistry will change as the fruit ripens, changes from green to yellow, and understanding this change will optimize harvest quality. This is important when native fruit samples are gathered for analysis/harvest. Fruit ripening variation will add “noise” to any sampling protocol and to optimise harvest quality and thus this variation needs to be understood and controlled as best as possible.
4. Establish enrichment-plantings/genetic orchards in WA and NT. The primary purpose of these plantings is to provide an R&D reference for the future development of the industry, that will enable selections dependent on market needs as they develop in the future. These plantings will also provide a training venue for Aboriginal communities interested in developing enrichment plantings on their own country. The plantings will also be be designed to capture the Kakadu Plum population for genetic conservation and protection of the species.