Next week graziers will be introduced to a new strain of the cattle fodder leucaena developed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Meat and Livestock Australia and The Leucaena Network.
Next week graziers will be introduced to a new strain of the cattle fodder leucaena developed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Meat and Livestock Australia and The Leucaena Network. Contributed

Quest for bigger steaks leads to pest-resisant weed

A PEST-resistant plant could add some meat on the bones of the region's cattle, but environmentalists have warned the shrub, if unmanaged, could clog the arteries of the region's ecosystem.

Next week graziers will be introduced to a new strain of the cattle fodder leucaena developed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Meat and Livestock Australia and The Leucaena Network.

While the plant's seeds are a popular meal for cattle in drier parts of Queensland, DAF beef advisor Jim Fletcher said the feed was unpopular in Mackay's wetter climate.

In the region's wet environment plant lice, or psyllid, thrive and feast on the seeds and leaves of the leucaena, Mr Fletcher said.

 

A variety of the agricultural pest psyllid with the moulted 'skin' of a nymph.
A variety of the agricultural pest psyllid with the moulted 'skin' of a nymph. Plant & Food Research NZ

After almost 15 years in the making, scientists have produced a psyllid resistant strain of the feed, the Redlands leucaena.

Mr Fletcher said a trial at a cattle property in Bell, north-west of Brisbane, resulted in cattle gaining an annual live weight of 50 kg.

He said production had doubled from 130 kg per hectare to 260 kg/ha.

 

Leucaena is high in protein and drought resistant.
Leucaena is high in protein and drought resistant.

While DAF and beef industry groups has celebrated the prospect of bigger steaks, environmentalists have advised caution.

Biosecurity Queensland has warned the plant can rapidly spread and can suppress the regeneration of native plants.

The Whitsunday Regional Council has listed leucaena as public enemy number three on its pest plant prioritisation list and has classified the shrub as a locally declared weed.

Reef Catchments refused to hand out flyers about the field day. On its website, it lists the plant's subspecies as a weed, saying it was "invading creek banks, roadsides and mangrove margins".

 

The seeds of the leucaena.
The seeds of the leucaena. None

A Reef Catchments spokesperson said the decision had been made "to avoid confusion" between regions where the plant was weed-declared, the Whitsundays, and where it was not, Mackay and Isaac.

Mr Fletcher admitted the plant was a "touchy subject" and when managed incorrectly, it could grow out of control.

He said the introduced pest resilient strain could join the "weedy populations of leucaena already present in the region".

The Redlands leucaena establishment field day would allow farmers to see the new agricultural feed while being taught about the environmental risks, Mr Fletcher said.

"This is a good opportunity but if they take it on they have a responsibility to the region and to their industry to manage it well," he said.

Landmark Mackay livestock agent Paul Cooper said the pest-resistant feed remained difficult and expensive to establish in the region.

Mr Fletcher said establishment costs ranged between $250/ha-$450/ha, an expensive investment.

At last week's Sarina cattle sale Blue Mountain resident Lionel Parry said with so much grass around there little demand for supplementary feeds.

Redlands leucaena establishment field day

When: 9am - 3pm Tuesday July 30

Where: The Leap Community Hall, Westlake Dr, The Leap

Register by Friday July 26 by calling Leucaena Network executive officer Bron Christensen on 0488 931 691 or emailing admin@leucaena.net



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