Trial results highlight Pilbara's irrigation potential
Understanding the potential of irrigated agriculture in the Pilbara is a step closer, as results from a remote irrigation trial were shared with a crowd of enthusiastic attendees from the region.
Hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA), pastoralists, traditional owners, miners and government representatives gathered at the Woodie Woodie site in August to learn about the trial results for the first time.
Project Manager Chris Schelfhout, said the trial was designed to test the logistics of running an irrigation operation in the Pilbara, as well as the impacts of relying on surplus dewater for irrigation to grow fodder crops.
Many of the crop species evaluated were new to the region. The first trial crops of sorghum, Rhodes grass, lucerne and tropical legumes were planted in September 2015 and grown over summer.
Planted in May 2016, the winter trial program assessed a range of cereal and legume grain and fodder crops.
The trial demonstrated the capacity to yield high tonnages of quality fodder.
“There was particular interest in the mixed-species trials at the site, including a clover-oats-vetch mix which offered a good balance in feed quality.”
“While the Pilbara climate supports the growth of biomass, it is important to focus on the quality of fodder produced, especially if it is destined for an intensive cattle feeding operation.”
“Due to contrasting temperature regimes within the region, there is considerable variation in crop performance between inland areas of the Pilbara like Woodie Woodie, compared to the humid coastal areas.This highlights the need for different crop combinations to match the varied climate conditions of the Pilbara.”
The 38 hectare centre pivot was established on Warrawagine Station in the eastern Pilbara,
190km south-east of Marble Bar – Australia’s hottest town.
“The Woodie Woodie site takes its name from the nearby Woodie Woodie manganese mine which provided the source of dewater for the trial period.”
“Numerous mines in the Pilbara dewater. However, the supply is often dynamic making it challenging to secure a consistent supply for agricultural development.”
DAFWA’s Northern Beef Futures project also co-located a weed risk field nursery and additional small plot trials at the site. The preliminary findings from this research is available at…
DAFWA would like to acknowledge the contributions of Warrawagine Station, contractors and its project partners, Pilbara Development Commission and Department of Regional Development in the Woodie Woodie trial.
The Woodie Woodie trial is part of the broader Pilbara Hinterland Agricultural Development Initiative (PHADI), made possible by Royalties for Regions.
Research into agronomics, regulatory pathways, supply chain and market opportunities, economic viability, and soil and water resource investigations in the Pilbara are part of the PHADI program of work.
The Woodie Woodie trial results are currently being collated into a report and will be made publicly available via DAFWA’s website.
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