Skip to main content
Start of main content

Australian native rice commercialisation

native rice grains with and without husk
Native rice grains (photo: Jason Wilkes)

CDU project leads

Dr Sean Bellairs and Dr Penny Wurm


Australian native rice has potential as a high-value, low-volume, Indigenous culturally-identified, nutritious food, but currently it is not commercially available. There is strong interest among Australian Indigenous communities in enterprises based on native plant species and growing interest in native plant foods among consumers.

We are supporting commercialisation of Australian native rice by developing knowledge about native rice agronomy, nutrition, value addition, supply chains and markets. Agronomic studies are developing protocols for cultivation of high-value native grain. This grain is ethically-sourced and the work is being done in collaboration with Indigenous enterprises and communities. Nutritional and economical effects of varying those protocols will be evaluated. Value addition includes modification of milling and processing techniques to develop whole grain and other food products.

Our Australian native rice project aims to commercialise native rice in a ten-year time frame.

four people standing in an open space with trees and grass in the background
L:R Penny Wurm and Sean Bellairs (CDU), Lynette Kenyon and Graham Kenyon (Pudakul AC Tours)

Research partners

Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods (RIEL); Plant Industries, NT Department of Industry Tourism and Trade (NT DITT) - Plant Industries; Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours (Pudakul); Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy, Queensland University of Technology (CAB); Olive Vale Pastoral Pty Ltd (Olive Vale); Myera Group (Myera)

Contact details for CDU team

Sean Bellairs 08 8946 6070
Penny Wurm 08 8946 6355
Sonam Adhikari Rana – Native Rice Research Officer
Gehan Tarek Eltaher Abdelghany – Native rice agronomy PhD student

approximately a hundred pots with small rice plants growing in them, in a greenhouse, with a CDU ute visible outside
Freshly planted native rice trial (photo: Sean Bellairs)

Native rice projects

Field of grass-like rice plants with forest in the background
Oryza meridionalis, Fogg Dam, NT (photo: Melina McDowell)

CDU student research projects

Available PhD scholarships
Potential project areas
  • Native rice seed biology and establishment ecology
  • Native rice agronomic studies
  • Native rice seed quality
  • Native rice markets and supply chains
  • Benefit sharing and provenance
  • Native rice harvesting and processing
Past projects


  • Design of an awn removal thresher for Australian native rice (M Eng final thesis)

  • Australian policy, law and agreements relevant to Indigenous benefit sharing and intellectual property rights of Australian native rice (professional placement)

Publication and resources


Abdelghany G. (2022). Effects of dense cultivation on the yield performance of cultigen rice: Meta-analysis. Poster presentation #468, TropAg International Agricultural Conference: incorporating Harlan IV and Ag Futures, 31 October – 2 November 2022, Brisbane, Australia.

Bellairs S. (2022). Agronomic research supporting cultivation of Australian native rice. Poster presentation #475, TropAg International Agricultural Conference: incorporating Harlan IV and Ag Futures, 31 October – 2 November 2022, Brisbane, Australia.

Rana S.A., Bellairs S. and Wurm P. (2022). Biological Control of Aphids in Australian Native Rice (PDF, 556.88 KB). Poster presentation #585, TropAg International Agricultural Conference: incorporating Harlan IV and Ag Futures, 31 October – 2 November 2022, Brisbane, Australia.

Wurm P. and Ford P.L (2022). Traditional use of Australian native rice by Aboriginal people, Northern Territory, Australia (PDF, 2.33 MB). Poster presentation #688, TropAg International Agricultural Conference: incorporating Harlan IV and Ag Futures, 31 October – 2 November 2022, Brisbane, Australia.

Bellairs S., Wurm P., Rana S., Patel T., Abdelghany G. (CDU), Kenyon G., Kenyon L. (Pudakul ACT), Asis T., Niscioli A. (NT DITT), Hoang L.T.M., Williams B., Mundree S. (QUT) (2021). Australian native rice: a high-value low-volume specialty food (PDF, 679.1 KB).

Bellairs S., Wurm P. (2019). Commercial use of Australian native rices by Indigenous enterprises; regulatory setting in the Northern Territory (PDF, 618.85 KB).

Bellairs S., Wurm P., Williams L., Kenyon L., Kenyon G. and Sunk S. (2017). Grain quality and preliminary cooking assessment of wild harvested native Oryza species from the Northern Territory (PDF, 763.12 KB).

Reports and articles

Australian native rice as food

Wurm P. and Bellairs B. (2018). North Australian native rice: market evaluation of a potential new wild food enterprise. Publication No. 18/032, AgriFutures Australia. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.35076.58246 Available at

Wurm P.A.S., Campbell L., Batten G.D. and Bellairs S.M. (2012). Australian native rice: A new sustainable wild food enterprise. Research Project No PRJ000347/Publication No 10/175, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra. Report available at

Campbell L.C., Batten G.,Wurm P., Bellairs S.M.and Campbell C. E. (2009). Australian native rice species: Grain minerals and starch properties. In C. Blanchard, D. Pleming, H. Taylor Cereals, pp.69-72. Downunder Section, American Society of Cereal Chemists.

Australian native rice as a crop

Abdelghany G., Wurm P.A.S., Linh Thi My Hoang and Bellairs S. (2022). Commercial Cultivation of Australian wild Oryza spp.: A Review and Conceptual Framework for Future Research Needs. Agronomy, 12(1), 42. Available at

Chapman, B., Henry,R., Wurm,P., Bellairs, S., Crayn, D., Smyth, H., Furtado, A., Sivapalan, S., Ford, R. & Matchett, T. (2020). A situational analysis for developing a rice industry in Northern Australia - Final report. CRC Northern Australia. ISBN 978-1-922437-07-5. Available at

Global significance of Australian native rice

Hoang, T. M. L., Tran, T. N., Nguyen, T. K. T., Williams, B., Wurm, P., Bellairs, S., and Mundree, S. (2016). Improvement of Salinity Stress Tolerance in Rice: Challenges and Opportunities. Agronomy 6(4): 54.

Ecology of Australian native rice

Bellairs S. Wurm. P and Kernich B (2015) Temperature affects the dormancy and germination of sympatric annual (Oryza meridionalis) and perennial (O. rufipogon) native Australian rices (Poaceae) and influences their emergence in introduced para grass (Urochloa mutica) swards. Australian Journal of Botany 63: 687-695.

Wurm P.A.S., Bellairs S.M. & Kernich B. (2006) Suppression of native wild rice germination by exotic para grass. In C. Preston, J.H. Watts & N.D. Crossman, 'Managing Weeds in A Changing Climate': Proceedings of the 15th Australian Weeds Conference, Adelaide, SA, 24-28 September 2006, pp 823-826. Available at

Wurm P.A.S. (1998). A surplus of seeds: high rates of post-dispersal seed predation in flooded grassland in monsoonal Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 23, 385-392.

Wurm P.A.S. (1998). The population ecology of Oryza meridionalis Ng on the South Alligator River floodplain, Kakadu National Park, monsoonal Australia. PhD thesis, Charles Darwin University, Darwin. Accessible at

Wurm P. (1994). Physical and biological factors determining the distribution and abundance of the wild rice Oryza meridionalis Ng in the Northern Territory. Research project report prepared forAustralian Flora Foundation, Dulwich Hill, NSW. Available at

Threats to Australian native rice

Boyden J., Wurm P., Joyce K.E. and Boggs G. (2019) The spatial dynamics of invasive para grass on a monsoonal floodplain, Kakadu National Park. Remote Sensing, 11, 2090; doi:10.3390/rs11182090 Available at

Boyden J., Wurm P., Joyce K.E. & Boggs G. (2018). A spatial vulnerability assessment of monsoonal wetland habitats to para grass invasion in Kakadu National Park, northern Australia. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 71: 43-55.

Boyden J., Joyce K., Boggs G. and Wurm P. (2013) Mapping of native vegetation and para grass (Urochloa mutica) on a monsoonal wetland of Kakadu NP using a Landsat 5 TM Dry-season time series. Journal of Spatial Science 58 (1): 53-77.

Wurm P.A.S. (2007) Suppression of germination and establishment of native annual rice by an exotic grass on an Australian monsoonal floodplain. Plant Protection Quarterly 22(3), 106-112.

Grain processing

Stefanija Klaric S, Bellairs S., Wurm P., Yafei G., Zhenyang H., Sutherland F. (2020). Designs for a Small-Scale Grain Thresher for Australian Native Rice: Technical Report (PDF, 1.39 MB). Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia.

In the media
Back to top