Sustainable long term leucaena grass production in northern Australia PDS
The Leucaena Network’s Sustainable Long Term Leucaena Grass Production in Northern Australia producer demonstration site wrapped up recently, bringing an end to a fruitful project.
The project aimed to demonstrate ideal row spacings, promote best practice leucaena management, increase leucaena plantings in the Northern Territory, while building the capacity of local agronomy staff through upskilling opportunities.
The Leucaena Network Executive Officer, Bron Christensen, indicated she was pleased the results of the three year project.
“In the Sustainable Long Term Leucaena Grass Production in Northern Australia Producer Demonstration Site, we aimed to show how leucaena can be used to address the protein drought experienced by beef producers in the north for long periods every year.” Ms Christensen continued, “Leucaena has the potential to augment the poor nutritional value of the native pastures in these regions over the dry season.”
More than 7.5 million hectares of the Northern Territory is suitable for leucaena-grass grazing systems. However, challenges in successful establishment, and limited access to experienced producers and local assistance, has proven to be a barrier to adoption.
“The project was able to assist three graziers to successfully establish leucaena-grass pastures on properties located in the Douglas Daly region.
“Unfortunately, one of those sites was decimated by fire, however the final two are proving to be productive additions to the grazing systems. Cattle have achieved live weight gains up to 1.8 kg/day during short term trials. These results are comparable with improved jarrah and native pastures,” Ms Christensen explained.
Whilst it was anticipated that the northern climate would result in high psyllid pressure on leucaena plantings, and a subsequent preference for the psyllid tolerant Redlands variety, neither trial site experienced extensive psyllid pressure resulting in both trial sites exhibiting a preference for the Wondergraze or Cunningham leucaena varieties.
All sites were augmented with inter-row plantings of improved pasture including jarrah grass. However, the high amount of leucaena fodder available meant that wider row spacings of 14 metres are required to ensure both the leucaena and grass are grazed at comparable rates for maximum weight gain.
Northern Territory graziers, agronomists and service providers viewed the leucaena trials at the various stages of growth during the field days held throughout the three-year project. Field day attendees listened to the producers involved as they shared their experiences.
Agronomists and service providers were also invited to attend an initial ‘Introduction to Leucaena’ workshop held for trial producers and other interested graziers at the commencement of the project.
Ms Christensen believes that whilst there are several diversification options available to landowners in the Northern Territory, including the burgeoning cotton and horticultural industries, leucaena has the opportunity to play a key role in assisting Northern Territory enterprises to increase their grazing productivity and profitability.
“As we have seen from the two pilot sites, well-managed leucaena provides a grazier with dramatically increased cattle weight gain over the thirty year life-span of the legume, with relatively little maintenance required.
“In addition, it provides the opportunity for increased carrying capacity in leucaena paddocks, better grazing management by enabling adequate periods of rest for native pasture paddocks, decreased time to turn off for individual animals and the opportunity to meet the turnoff specifications of markets alternative to live export. And all of this whilst assisting graziers to meet CN30 targets as leucaena reduces bovine enteric emissions, or cow burps, by up to 28%,” she said.
Further information on the establishment and management of leucaena can be accessed at The Leucaena Network’s website at www.leucaena.net.
The Leucana Network would like to acknowledge and thank the producers involved in the trial – Logan Reid of ‘Blackbull Station’, Brett and Suzanne Gill of ‘Malilangwe’, Chris and Amanda Howie of ‘Bindaroo Pastures’ and Tony Hayne of ‘Douglas Station’; the Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Tourism and Trade (DITT) and Peter Shotton and staff at the Douglas Daly Research Farm; the MLA Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) program; FutureBeef; NTCA and NT Farmers and all who contributed or attended to field days and workshops.