The WA Government has announced a $2.3 million project which aims to prove the science behind developing a sterile form of leucaena that has all its production benefits but does not produce viable seed, eliminating a future weed risk.
Research will also explore whether it can be adapted to WA’s northern rangelands.
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the new research project that could provide a high value food source for northern cattle to strengthen Western Australia’s beef industry and drive new jobs in the north.
The three and a half year sterile leucaena project is jointly funded by the McGowan Government, Meat and Livestock Australia Donor Company and the University of Queensland.
Although leucaena is currently prohibited from being cultivated on Western Australian Crown land, due to its risk of becoming an environmental weed, it has shown great potential as highly nutritious cattle feed in Queensland and Central America where it originated.
Conventional breeding technology will be used to develop the variety from national and international germplasm acquired from the Australian Pastures Genebank.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is leading the project in WA, which will include several field trials at controlled irrigated and dryland production sites across the Kimberley and Pilbara.
“Providing northern beef producers with a highly productive, cost-effective fodder that poses no risk to the rangelands environment presents real opportunities for finishing off our cattle here in WA and creating jobs across the north,” WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.
“This project draws on the scientific capability and experience of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s plant breeding staff and will build on past research with universities and industry.
“The development of a sterile leucaena would have an application far beyond WA – both nationally and internationally – putting our industry back at the forefront of research and development.”