Mosaic ag trials could boost WA beef

Zach RelphThe West Australian
DPIRD development officer Sam Crouch at the leucaena field nursery, near Broome.
Camera IconDPIRD development officer Sam Crouch at the leucaena field nursery, near Broome. Credit: Zach Relph

A $2.3 million mosaic agriculture project in the Kimberley is advancing its bid to eliminate the weed risk of an exotic legume tree to beef up northern WA’s cattle production.

State Government-backed field trials at Broome are aiming to breed a sterile leucaena variety, which does not produce a viable seed, to deliver a high-value food source to hungry cattle.

Leucaena is one of the most profitable fodder options for beef production, according to Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development development officer Sam Crouch.

However, the tree — native to central America and used widely at Queensland cattle operations — cannot be grown at WA pastoral leases because it poses a serious weed threat.

Mr Crouch told the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association conference in Broome last Thursday multiple leucaena lines would be crossed to breed sterile varieties and boost cattle feed options.

“The goal is to produce a product which is sterile, while maintaining productivity and profitability,” he said.

DPIRD senior research scientist Clinton Revell said although a $1.25 million single pivot irrigation system covering 40ha would aid feed production at pastoral stations, it would take up to 13 years to recoup the investment.

“The economic viability of these irrigation systems is really driven by the nutritional value of the forage produced,” he said.

“The objective is to develop an economic framework to consider both the development of an irrigation operation and integrating it into a beef and pastoral business.”

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