Drought fodder crop takes centre stage

21 Sep 2018

A fast-growing legume could become a viable feed option for drought-affected cattle farmers in Australia’s north.

Leucaena experts will attend an international conference hosted by The University of Queensland from 29 October to 3 November. 

A young steer grazing ‘Redlands’, a new leucaena crop resistant to both drought and the psyllid pest

Associate Professor Max Shelton, from UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, said leucaena legume (Leucaena leucocephala) offers a profitable and environmentally-sustainable option for cattle producers in dry, tropical regions.

“Leucaena addresses the main problem with achieving high quality range-fed beef in the tropics - it supplies high quality protein when cattle need it most - in the dry season, or during a drought such as we’re having now,” he said.

“There are substantial establishment costs, but it’s a profitable long-term investment with few risks, so in trying times like this, it’s an amazing fodder crop.”

Leucaena has been widely adopted in northern Australia and other tropical countries in the past 20 years, and has been the subject of considerable research.  

This long-term data has helped address environmental concerns about the widespread use of the legume in farming.

“Many environmentalists view the legume as a potential weed threat, as there’s already a lot of weed leucaena along coastal Queensland,” Associate Professor Shelton said.

“The evidence shows that it didn’t come from graziers’ paddocks; nonetheless, this conference will reinforce farmers’ strategies to mitigate weed spread, including the promotion of a code of practice by landholders who’ve had extensive experience with leucaena.

“In fact, there are environmental benefits, as leucaena is very effective at reducing methane emissions and sequestering carbon.

“That’s just another reason why planting leucaena is the most productive, profitable and sustainable long term strategy for pasture improvement for the northern Australian beef industry.”

The event will feature research and development events, graziers’ forums and a Q&A with Joe Rolfe from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF).

There is also a dinner hosted by UQ’s Professor Neal Menzies, featuring Board Chairman of Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), former Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) President and experienced leucaena grazier, Don Heatley OAM.

The conference is sponsored by MLAACIAR, with support from QDAF and the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation.

Tickets can be purchased on the International Leucaena Conference website.

Media: Associate Professor Max Shelton, m.shelton@uq.edu.au, +61 432 850 834; Dominic Jarvis, dominic.jarvis@uq.edu.au, +61 413 334 924.