Group sees trial results
Understanding the potential of irrigated agriculture in the Pilbara is a step closer, as the results of a remote irrigation trial were shared with pastoralists, traditional owners, miners and Government representatives at Woodie Woodie recently.
The group attended a walking tour hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA to learn the results of a pioneering project testing the use of surplus mine dewater for irrigated crops.
DAFWA project manager Chris Schelfhout said the trial was designed to test the logistics of running an irrigation operation in the Pilbara, as well as the impacts of relying on surplus dewater for irrigation to grow fodder crops.
The first trial crops of sorghum, Rhodes grass, lucerne and tropical legumes were planted in September, 2015 and grown over the summer months.
Planted in May, 2016, the winter trial program assessed a range of cereal and legume grain and fodder crops.
Mr Schelfhout said the trial demonstrated the capacity to yield high tonnages of quality fodder.
“There was particular interest in the mixed-species trials at the site, including a clover-oats-vetch mix which offered a good balance in feed quality,” he said.
“While the Pilbara climate supports the growth of biomass, it is important to focus on the quality of fodder produced, especially if it is destined for an intensive cattle feeding operation.”
DAFWA irrigation development and agribusiness acting director Vicki McAllister said on-site discussions with pastoralists in the Pilbara revealed a high level of interest in irrigated agricultural development in the region.
“People are keen to learn and access scientific research and expertise which they can use to inform their business decisions,” she said. The 38ha centre pivot was established on Warrawagine Station in the eastern Pilbara, 190km south-east of Marble Bar.
The Woodie Woodie site takes its name from the nearby Woodie Woodie manganese mine which provided the source of dewater for the trial period.
“Numerous mines in the Pilbara dewater,” Mr Schelfhout said.
“However, the supply is often dynamic, making it challenging to secure a consistent supply for agricultural development.”
DAFWA’s Northern Beef Futures project also co-located a weed risk field nursery and additional small plot trials at the site.
The trial results are being collated into a report and will be made publicly available via DAFWA’s website.