Stone fruit has been successfully harvested near Newman as part of a State Government trial which could see produce grown in the Pilbara displace seasonal imports. The 0.2 hectare trial crop was established at Martu Farm in November 2018 as part of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Transforming Agriculture in the Pilbara project, with 40 trees comprising a mix of low chill peach and nectarine varieties. A micro-sprinkler system was used to irrigate the trees, which encourages grass to grow in the inter-row area to provide a cooling effect over the summer months. The trial was undertaken to explore the potential for irrigated horticulture, fodder and field crop production in the Pilbara. TAP project manager Chris Schelfhout said the trial was harvested in late October and produced some encouraging results. “While this was a proof-of-concept trial and more agronomic and economic analysis is required, the trial results show that low chill stone fruit can be successfully produced under irrigation in the eastern Pilbara,” he said. “Although the trees are still young, some varieties were laden with fruit. “There were no significant pests or diseases and the eating quality of the fruit was very good.” Mr Schelfhout said if further investigation proved stone fruit was viable in the east Pilbara, it could provide a new crop for pastoralists and Aboriginal businesses. “With harvest in October and potentially even September, there could be a good early season market opportunity for Pilbara stone fruit production to displace imports,” he said. “Potentially, stone fruit could provide another diversification option for Pilbara landholders or create a whole new opportunity for entrepreneurs.” The TAP project has investigated land and water resources suitable for irrigation development in the Karratha hinterland, lower DeGrey and Shaw River areas and Newman. It has also examined the potential and challenges associated with using mine dewater for irrigated agriculture and evaluated a range of grain, forage and fibre crops for cultivation in the region. A final report on the findings from the project will be produced at its conclusion in 2022.