Reward for effort
25 May 2017
While many northern beef producers have introduced leucaena as a long-term productive feedbase option, its susceptibility to attack by the leucaena psyllid has limited adoption in humid, high-rainfall coastal areas.
This is set to change with the arrival of Redlands, a new psyllid-resistant variety developed by the University of Queensland with MLA funding.
Seed build-up and trials of Redlands are underway and the seed is expected to be commercially available in 2018 (climatic conditions permitting).
Bruce Mayne and his son-in-law Nathan Evans have been growing the new psyllid-resistant Redlands variety of leucaena on ‘Bandana Station’, Rolleston, Queensland for a couple of years. More recently they have planted it at Bruce’s new property ‘Fairview’ at Calliope in an effort to establish a seed-producing crop.
Leucaena has delivered him a protein content equivalent to lucerne, the ability to carry one beast/2ha and annual weight gains of 250kg/head.
“It has made a tremendous difference to our output, especially in the forest country where it has transformed spear grass flats that were only considered breeding country into high-class fattening pastures.
Bruce said taking part in the development of a psyllid-resistant variety that thrived in humid, northern coastal areas was exciting, despite a less-than-perfect start to the trial.
“Unfortunately, the season was against us and we had a disappointing harvest at Bandana this year. We hand-harvested a small amount of seed and it is currently being graded,” Bruce said.
Bruce said leucaena thrived with little or no fertiliser in the well-drained, deep soils on the flats at Bandana Station because of the high phosphorus content in the soil. On the other hand, Fairview has quite low phosphorus, but Bruce is hoping the reliable rainfall in the area will make up for the substantial fertiliser inputs.
“Presently, steers at Bandana are fattened off the leucaena with the leads going to market in June-July at 20 months of age and dressing at 280–300kg," he said.
"The tail enders are held over for another summer and dress at 350–400kg. At Fairview, we run brought-in Brahman-cross heifers to be sold onto feedlots when they reach 350–400kg liveweight.”
With 35ha of irrigated area planted and another 25ha ready to go, the family is poised to move to larger-scale mechanical harvesting of Redlands seed to sell to fellow producers. Bruce said they were on track to harvest seed from the new plots at Calliope and the existing plots at Bandana in March 2018.
Tips for establishing leucaena
The Leucaena Network Executive Officer Michael Burgis has these tips for establishing a productive leucaena crop:
- Prepare: Plan at least one year ahead to enable strips to be prepared through cultivation and spraying. The industry recommendation is to plough 4–5m wide strips to enable mechanical and spray control of the weeds in the all-important 9–12 months of leucaena establishment.
- Soil test: Leucaena requires phosphorus levels of 15–25ppm and sulphur should be applied if levels are low or unknown. Monitor the soil nutrition in subsequent years.
- Site selection: Plant leucaena on your best, preferably well-drained, soils. A good seed bed with fine soil for optimum seed/soil contact will ensure a better rate of germination.
- Density: Aim to establish 8–12 plants/metre of the seed row. All seed must be accompanied with inoculum. Ideally, inoculum should be applied in a water solution into the seed trench at the time of planting.
- Pest control: Check paddocks for scarabs, earwigs, wireworm beetle and wingless cockroaches – they all chew leucaena seed.
- Timing: Plant when there is a full moisture profile of 1m of moist soil between 6–10m row spacing in either a single or double row configuration. A seed depth of around 3cm is ideal: be careful not to plant too deep.
- Control competitors: At planting or after planting, spray the rows with Spinnaker® to control broadleaf weeds and use Verdict® to control grasses. The plants are delicate in the emergence stage and susceptible to weed competition and insect attack, so get as close as possible with machinery to keep the environment weed-free. Keep the rows free of competition until the plants are 1.8–2.4m high. It needs to be the dominant plant in the paddock.
- Companions: If you are planting into a clean paddock, don’t plant companion grasses until the leucaena stands are 12 months old. Any grasses will thrive alongside the legume.
Leucaena growers, and producers intending to establish leucaena on their properties, should adopt the Best Management Code of Practice available on The Leucaena Network website
More information and resources:
Bruce Mayne, Bandana Station E: firstname.lastname@example.org
MLA website: www.mla.com.au and search 'leucaena planting tips'
For technical and practical leucaena establishment support: The Leucaena Network
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