Study nuts out vi­able crop op­tions

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

The Pil­bara could be a peanut grower’s par­adise, ac­cord­ing to a desk­top study un­der­taken by the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Food.

The Eco­nomic Anal­y­sis of Ir­ri­gated Agri­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Op­tions study iden­ti­fied peanuts, as well as Lucerne and Rhodes grass hay, cot­ton and sweet pota­toes, as vi­able crops for the Pil- bara. The re­port also in­di­cated a 10,000 head feed­lot of cat­tle trucked to Perth might also yield a pos­i­tive sce­nario, while a bio­fuel plant based on 800ha of sorghum broke even at $1.18 a litre.

Depart­ment of Ir­ri­gated Agri­cul­ture ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor John Ruprecht said the study sug­gested a staged ap­proach to ir­ri­gated de­vel­op­ment was prefer­able.

“The ex­pan­sion of fod­der crops in the im­me­di­ate term, which com- ple­ment the ex­ist­ing pas­toral in­dus­try, is a good model of ini­tial de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

“Over time, as the soil and wa­ter re­source base are es­tab­lished and pro­duc­tion sys­tems are de­vel­oped and re­fined, ad­di­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties can be pur­sued.”

Mr Ruprecht said in­fra­struc­ture and mar­ket links needed to be im­proved to cre­ate vi­able long-term busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The re­port is part of the $12.5 mil­lion Pil­bara Hin­ter­land Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive.

In­for­ma­tion from the re­port would be in­te­grated into new an­a­lyt­i­cal tools un­der con­struc­tion to as­sist ir­ri­gated agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Pil­bara.

“While this re­port is very use­ful to pro­vide in­sights into the po­ten­tial vi­a­bil­ity of a num­ber of crops, the ac­tual re­sults are very site spe­cific so DAFWA is de­vel­op­ing tools able to be ap­plied to spe­cific con­di­tions,” Mr Ruprecht said.

“The depart­ment is work­ing with stake­hold­ers to ground truth the re­port’s yield as­sump­tions, which will be in­te­grated into the PADHI project’s pre-fea­si­bil­ity study.”

In the case of large scale tomato grow­ing, the re­port showed the cost of veg­etable pro­cess­ing would be greater than any ad­di­tional ben­e­fit.

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