Indonesia is likely to cultivate sorghum as an alternative food staple to wheat as many factors hinder the latter's local production, a food expert says.
"Since wheat is a subtropical plant, we need to focus first on cultivating a tropical breed," said Listyani Wijayanti, from the State Ministry of Research and Technology, on Thursday.
She said further research was necessary to identify and anticipate potential wheat diseases in tropical soils and weather like Indonesia's.
The current land shortage is also a problem hindering cultivation, Listyani said.
She said wheat cultivation was neither possible in low-lying land, which is used for rice, nor high-altitude soils used for vegetable cultivation.
"In effect, this relegates wheat cultivation to marginal soil considering current land shortage. We need to extensively research the possibilities," Listyani said.
The grain sorghum cultivation, however, was more likely in the short run, she said, adding that sorghum cultivation could serve as a preliminary stage prior to venturing into wheat.
"While sorghum grains can be used as a food staple, sorghum stems are useful for bioethanol," Listyani said.
Indonesia has recently begun diversifying its food staple production in order to anticipate rising wheat import costs.
"Food invasion from the West, such as bread, as well as noodles from the East, are really doing our head in as the type of wheat used to produce such items do not grow in Indonesia," State Minister for Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman said. (*)