Irrigating crops with mine water

The WA State Government has begun sewing its first crop that will be irrigated by surplus mine water. This technology has the potential to create new investment opportunities in the Pilbara while helping to drought-proof pastoral stations.

Agriculture and Food Minister, Ken Baston, said the Woodie Woodie project’s 38 hectare trial site on Warrawagine station, 190 kilometres east of Marble Bar, would be irrigated by mine water from a nearby manganese operation.

Mr Baston said the two-year research trial would examine the potential to grow a range of crops for stock feed and biofuels and assess the viability of irrigated agriculture in the Pilbara.

“The site has just been planted with summer crops, including lucerne, sorghum, Rhodes grass and legumes, which are irrigated with water from nearby Wet Creek that is pumped to a centre pivot irrigator,” he said.

“The irrigator, which is controlled remotely from Perth, more than 1,500km away, tailors the delivery of water and fertiliser rates to suit each individual crop.”

A winter program of trials will be planted next year with maize, temperate legumes, cereal crops and a number of oilseed species, including those for potential biofuel.

“This work will lay foundations to give pastoralists and investors further confidence to pursue irrigated agriculture opportunities in the Pilbara and other pastoral regions,” Mr Baston said.

WA Regional Development Minister, Terry Redman, said the Woodie Woodie project was part of the $12.5 million Pilbara Hinterland Agricultural Development Initiative, made possible by the State Government’s Royalties for Regions Pilbara Cities program.

Fact file

  • The Pilbara Hinterland Agricultural Development Initiative is led by the Department of Agriculture and Food. The department will make an information package on the trial findings publicly available at the project’s completion in 2017.
  • For more information on Royalties for Regions projects, visit Bigger Picture – Regions.

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