Some graziers may be aware of the weight-gaining advantages of leucaena as cattle feed, but not many know about its potential place in Australia's quest to lower carbon emissions.
The Leucaena Network hosted a carbon forum in Rockhampton on October 26 after receiving an influx of enquiries from graziers around the state about the relation between leucaena and carbon emissions.
Leucaena Network executive officer Bron Christensen said the organisation decided to host the forum so that producers could gain a better understanding of how planting leucaena can not only benefit their cattle, but also the environment.
"The carbon forum came about because there are these benefits to grazing on leucaena that just aren't being recognised, and existing plants aren't being recognised by the carbon credits scheme," she said.
"There's a lot of confusion about the inclusion of leucaena and other legumes in the current clean energy regulator and the methane emission reductions projects," she said.
"CSIRO has done trials with the methane emissions from cattle and they've found that cattle grazing on leucaena can reduce emissions up to 28 per cent, so leucaena and other legumes do have a part to play.
"It also increases your live weight gains up to 1.8kg per day, whereas on grass pastures you tend to be looking around about the .3kg to .5kg per day.
"So we're finding you can usually turn the cattle off about six months earlier than if they were only on grass, so you're actually reducing the time that they're on the planet, which means six months less emissions.
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Ms Christensen said that a major takeaway for forum attendees was the fact that practice change is needed in order for carbon reduction to be credited towards the net-0 emissions goal.
This means that current leucaena crops that are lowering emissions will not be counted towards future reduction statistics, so new crops must be planted to assist in the national scheme.
"One of the other key points that came out of it was, if you enter the carbon market and you sell your carbon, so your ACCUs or carbon units, they go off farm so you can no longer set those units against what you do," Ms Christensen said.
"So I guess that was a bit of a wakeup call for everybody there to realise you can't double dip, you either keep them on farm, or if you sell them they go off farm and you can no longer use them."
Stephen and Christine Williams, Dalby, attended the forum and believe that it was a valuable experience which provided them with further knowledge on the intricacies of the carbon market.
Mr Williams said he was particularly impressed with presentations from Professor Richard Eckhart, Melbourne University, and Founding Director of RCS Dr. Terry McCosker, who both discussed how producers can benefit most from entering carbon projects.
"It was certainly worthwhile," Mr Williams said.
"I suppose the takeaway message was that it's all a lot more complicated than you think.
"Probably the other takeaway is that Australian agriculture is not going to save Australia from having to do lots of other things to control the carbon that's going into the atmosphere.
"The consensus seems to be that agriculture is going to be doing it tough enough trying to look after itself, let alone looking after everybody else."
Mr Williams has been planting leucaena at his property on the Darling Downs since 2005 and believes that there is no better alternative for grazing fodder.
"Leucaena is undoubtedly the best cattle feed you can have," he said.
"It's one of the things I think that, if you have the country and the machinery to plant it, it would be a huge benefit to the Australian cattle industry.
"Absolutely nothing comes near it as far as I'm concerned, I think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread."
Currently, there are approximately 150,000 hectares of leucaena planted in Australia, predominantly in Central Queensland, and although its benefits are still unknown to many farmers, Ms Christensen said that it's popularity is on the rise.
"Redlands is opening up the opportunity to introduce leucaena to grazing systems across Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory," she said.
"We have live weight gain trials underway at the moment at two sites in North Queensland and one site in the Northern Territory, and an establishment trial with four producers in the Douglas Daly region of the Northern Territory."
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