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Lifting Leucaena adoption in north Queensland

Project start date: 15 February 2014
Project end date: 31 December 2017
Publication date: 13 September 2019
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle
Relevant regions: Sub-tropical moist
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The introduction and successful establishment of leucaena has the potential to double annual live-weight gains and increase carrying capacity for beef enterprises.

The low rate of adoption of leucaena by graziers across north Queensland appears to be linked closely to establishment costs, potential frost impact in some areas, tree clearing regulations, low confidence in plant establishment and the impact of psyllid attack on productivity.

The Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) at Whitewater Station, near Mount Surprise, included both a 40 ha site aimed at improving industry understanding of establishment costs and options, as well as a one hectare replicated experiment to assess the palatability of new leucaena lines bred specifically for psyllid resistance.

The leucaena planting on a 40 ha lightly timbered site was fully established in mid-2016 enabling assessment of management requirements and potential productivity-profitability gains on uncleared land.

The palatability assessment of the four new psyllid tolerant lines was conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and the University of Queensland (UQ) in December 2014 and May 2016.  With the aid of this data, all four lines were confirmed to be palatable with Line 12 (Redlands) selected and released to commercial partners.

Based on these preliminary study results, UQ and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) proceeded to commercialise the Redlands variety by contracting two seed producers in Central Queensland. Commercial seed is now available for producers to plant in the 2019 growing season.
Key messages

Leucaena is a proven legume that can improve live weight gain substantially over native or grass-only pasture. Successful establishment of leucaena in lightly timbered basalt country in north Queensland is achievable although expensive and can be difficult to establish.

Substantial areas of leucena need to be established for beef enterprises to improve economies of scale and access better marketing opportunities.
The new Redlands line is tolerant to psyllid attack and is palatable; however animal live-weight gain data over extended periods is yet to be generated. Preliminary live-weight gain data from the now completed first phase of the Pinnarendi grazing trial will be available from May 2018 and reported separately.  

Future research

This project has led to the development of a large-scale replicated research experiment at 'Pinnarendi Station' (Mount Garnet), co-funded by MLA and DAF, to compare the live-weight gains of cattle grazing 'Redlands' with that of the current industry cultivar 'Wondergraze'. Animal performance data from 'Pinnarendi' will be combined with the results of this project to produce a 'Tips and Tools' guide for conventional and woodland leucaena production systems in north Queensland.

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries