the responsible establishment and management of
leucaena grass pastures."
is Leucaena ? ...
Tree Legume Forage System Takes Off
About 1890 a little-known legume tree (Leucaena
leucocephala) arrived unannounced in northern
1920’s this leucaena, now referred to as ‘common’
ssp. leucocephala) had colonised pockets of ungrazed, non-agricultural
land along urban and coastal locations in northern
At that time no one was to realize that over 100 years later
glabrata cultivars would be established for pasture in
more than 200,000 ha in
. Smaller commercial stands have also been established in
and The Kimberley’s in
with grass pasture leucaena is now recognized as one of the
most productive and sustainable tropical free-grazing cattle
Now leucaena pastures are being established in southern
New South Wales
in areas previously thought to be too cold for this tropical
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Trees and shrubs of the Leucaena genus originate in the tropics of
and Central and
It has been used for many centuries for a multitude of purposes
(animal feed, human vegetable, green manure, timber,
fuel wood, shade and charcoal).History suggests that L.
leucocephala spread throughout South-east Asia
and the Pacific on sailing ships as early as 400
years ago from where it reached
was not until the early 1950’s that Australian
scientists recognized the potential for its
cultivation in extensive grazed systems for tropical
material was introduced to
for evaluation by CSIRO from 1954 from
. The first cultivars
were released for use in 1962, Cunningham in 1976
and Tarramba in 1994. They all belonged to the L.
leucocephala subspecies glabrata.
this humble beginning, intensive research,
development and promotion over the following decades
has seen the establishment and refinement of one of
the most productive and sustainable grazing systems
for the tropics and has expanded its use from less
than 400 ha in 1979 to some over 200,000 ha today.
most widely used leucaena cultivars today are
Cunningham Tarramba and
is a nitrogen-fixing, multi-stemmed legume shrub
that can grow into a tree if not ‘pruned’ or
leucaena is grown in rows 6-10 m apart with an adapted companion grass between.
These pastures are grazed directly by cattle to
manage seed set and maintain a leafy hedgerow form
accessible to cattle.It can be rain-grown or irrigated where water
So why is it so good?
exceptional value of the leucaena grazing system in adapted
environments is due to a combination of factors:
·The edible material has very high nutritive value (digestibility,
crude protein and essential nutrients) compared to other tropical
forages.This imparts much
faster cattle weight gains and turn-off rates that lead to greater
profitability and flexibility in marketing beef cattle.
·It is a long-lived system.While
it is costly to establish it can remain productive for 30-40 years
with minimal maintenance.
·A deep root system allows the tree to provide green forage longer
into the dry season and drought than conventional grass grazing
systems. The current drought has highlighted how leucaena can reduce
the cost of drought supplements.
But that is not all. Leucaena has some very
important environment benefits.
·It ‘fixes’ nitrogen that improves soil fertility and promotes
better grass growth.
·Leucaena grown in association with a vigorous and adapted grass
, green panic) will prevent soil erosion.
·The deep rooting habit of leucaena reduces the potential for deep
drainage and the movement of saline soil water that causes dryland
·As a woody-stemmed tree, leucaena acts as a carbon sink by
sequestering significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere in its
woody frame and in additional soil organic matter.
·Similarly, methane emissions from cattle grazing leucaena are
substantially lower than for tropical grasses, probably due to the
high digestibility and condensed tannin content of leucaena forage.
There is one important environment precaution
can cause weed problems in ungrazed and disturbed areas.The 'common' leucaena (i.e. L.
leucocephala ssp. leucocephala) that arrived here over 120 years ago has shown this.The cultivated ssp. glabrata
cultivars will also colonise ungrazed and disturbed areas if they are
allowed to escape from grazed plantations and precautions should be
taken to prevent this.
The Leucaena Network of growers (formed in 2000) have
recognized this and prepared, adopted and released a CODE OF PRACTICE
in August 2000 that is promoted widely among growers.The CODE OF PRACTICE highlights the need to manage leucaena to
minimize the risk of escape and to control any plants that move from
the planted area.This
CODE is consistent with the Queensland Government’s Policy
to Reduce the Weed Threat of Leucaena adopted four years later in
interested in growing leucaena for cattle forage should read
and adopt the CODE OF PRACTICE. It is neither difficult nor
expensive and the management strategies advocated optimize
pasture productivity and profitability.
you want more details on the role of leucaena in
, its suitability to your conditions and its establishment
and management, obtain a copy of the book "Leucaena:
Establishment and Management" or you can consult your
local Forage Extension Officer.