Mosaic agriculture in northern WA

Page last updated: Tuesday, 18 January 2022 - 12:50pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Traditionally, agriculture in the Western Australian rangelands has predominantly relied on grazing stock on native vegetation, with some irrigation precincts around Carnarvon and on the Ord River near Kununurra. In recent years there has been increased interest in irrigated forage production by northern pastoral businesses, referred to as mosaic agriculture.

The benefits of mosaic agriculture include:

  • producing fodder for on-station use,
  • providing a feed buffer against dry seasonal conditions, and
  • targeting cattle to a broader range of markets outside traditional selling periods for forward selling or price premiums.

Mosaic agriculture bulletin

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has published a comprehensive guide – Mosaic Agriculture: A guide to irrigated crop and forage production in northern WA (Bulletin No. 4915) - on growing irrigated crops and pastures within a rangeland pastoral setting. The guide is specifically aimed at Western Australian pastoralists, agronomists, agribusiness and the broader community, but many of the principles and information are widely applicable across northern Australia.

Cover of the Mosaic Agriculture bulletin
Mosaic agriculture: A guide to irrigated crop and forage production in northern WA

This bulletin summarises the work undertaken in DPIRD’s mosaic agriculture project, which had a particular focus on quantifying the production potential and feed quality for a range of pasture, fodder and crop options. In addition, the publication includes contributions from a range of disciplines across DPIRD (climate, soils, regulatory, irrigation, pests and disease) as well as industry and research collaborators.

This research was funded through the department’s Northern Beef Development project, in partnership with the MLA Donor Company.

Bulletin contents


Chapter 1

1.1       Farming system options

1.2       Economics of small-scale irrigation

1.3       Pre-feasibility and project approvals

1.4       Understanding the climate

1.5       Understanding the soils of the Kimberley and Pilbara

Chapter 2

2.1       Water requirements for irrigation

2.2       Irrigation management

2.3       Soil moisture monitoring

Chapter 3

3.1       Pasture and crop options – summary

3.2       Warm season annual grasses

3.3       Warm season perennial grasses

3.4       Tropical legumes

3.5       Temperate crops and pastures

3.6       Plant nutrition

3.7       Monitoring for pests and diseases

Chapter 4

4.1       A guide to animal nutrition and expected growth rates

4.2       Grazing Rhodes grass pastures

4.3       Understanding feed quality



Click on the link to download the Mosaic Ag Bulletin No. 4915

Next focus areas

  • DPIRD research pivot at Skuthorpe (north Broome) started in 2020. The focus is on:
    • Monthly production and feed quality of a range of warm season perennial grasses
    • Nitrogen balance of irrigated Rhodes grass pastures
    • An annual cropping system with a maize variety trial over the 2021 dry season
  • Refining weed risk assessments for non-indigenous species to inform policy
    • Weed risk field nursery trials were established in four key environments to assess the environmental weed risk posed by non-indigenous agricultural plants.
  • The feasibility of developing a sterile leucaena variety. Leucaena is a leguminous that provides high quality cattle feed, however it can also be an environmental weed in some situations.

Contact information


Clinton Revell
Geoff Moore