Lifting leucaena adoption in North Queensland

Contact: Mark Keating, email

Where: Whitewater, Mt Surprise and Rocky Springs, Mt Surprise, North Queensland

When: October 2013 to December 2017


Due to rising debt, high cost of production, static cattle prices and poor annual liveweight gain, extensive beef businesses in northern Queensland are under significant financial pressure. This financial pressure has been exacerbated following devastating wild fires across northern Queensland properties late 2012 and a poor or failed wet season in many areas. The short growing season and poor grass response this year is typical of the seasonal constraints that regularly impact on the profitability of northern beef enterprises.

Producers need to increase their productivity if they are to stay viable in the current economic climate. Increasing annual liveweight gain and reducing age of turn off through the use of improved pastures are achievable targets on northern properties with suitable soils. However the adoption of improved pasture systems such as leucaena is very low with less than 2500ha established in North Queensland. This low adoption rate is due to: low producer confidence, establishment issues, establishment costs, psyllid attack on existing varieties, frosting and tree clearing regulations.

Leucaena performs best on well drained fertile areas in north Queensland including the basalt, frontage, red duplex (Goldfields) and some red earth soils. The area of basalt soils alone between Charters Towers and Mt Garnet is greater than 2 million hectares and the annual liveweight gain, without pasture improvement on these soils, is approximately 120kg/head. However the introduction and successful establishment of leucaena can double annual liveweight gain (200–240kg/head) and increase stocking rate potential.


This Producer demonstration site (PDS) will provide the opportunity for producers to increase their awareness, be involved in the process, actively learn and answer questions they have regarding leucaena establishment and management as well as detail the direct costs in establishing leucaena and outline the achievable dollar benefits. Findings will be used to develop a NQ leucaena handbook including establishment techniques/costs, on-going costs and variety performance.

The PDS will demonstrate and document:

  1. Practical and cost effective methods to establish leucaena in timbered basalt soils typical of the savannas between Charters Towers and Mt Garnet.
  2. Whether planting leucaena in timbered country reduces the impacts of frost.
  3. Machinery, establishment and on-going costs.
  4. Damage to leucaena from psyllid infestations in the drier basalt soils compared to existing stands on higher rainfall (and humidity) areas of leucaena to the east.
  5. Weaner liveweight performance on leucaena.
  6. The feasibility and affordability of drip irrigation systems in the first dry season of leucaena establishment.

Progress to date

Over 1200ha of leucaena is established in cleared paddocks on Meadowbank to the east of Mt Surprise where the incidence of frost is high and the leucaena is very prone to psyllid attack. This PDS is situated on the drier and potentially less frost and psyllid prone end of the McBride basalt province.