Study nuts out viable crop options
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.