Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Soil Conservation and No Tillage Agriculture - in the NY Times???

When no-till farming gets into the pages of the New York Times newspaper then it is really time to stop and read the article and understand that you can do it too.

The link is :

And it is worth reading.

If you are already into conservation farming, then the ideas might not be new............but it does suggest that many have not made the change nor have they even thought about it.

Those who have, on the other hand can see the differences in soil performance and yield improvement - consistently.  And improvements in soil health and the biological systems in soil.
Commercial compost production for farm use - turning the row of compost

One thing you learn in dealing with degraded soils for example after mining or even civil works such as roads and construction is to rebuild the soils organic levels - often with mulch and what you see naturally is that happening - pioneering lichens give way to small plants and then in depressions where water accumulates real plants start to grow, all based on accumulating organic matter.  In farm soils that are poorly performing, it is the soil biology that needs a boost quite often, and this can improve moisture storage and availability.

Funny thing, it is really close to what I was taught in undergraduate ag science at university in the mid 1960s - a regular and sustained use of cover crops including leguminous ones such as cowpeas, clover etc, rotation of crops and even incorporating animals into the system.  Based on systems developed over many years, in Australia and Europe.

The US went all tillage along with bag nitrogen for crops.  Now it seems they are heading back to a sensible path that costs less to use. 

And might just perform better and be more economic!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Zenith Zoysia Seed to Develop A New Oval in the Tropics - Part 3 – Mowing Time

One of the milestone events in any new turf development is the mow………..yes, the first mow.
zenith zoysia coverage at about 6 weeks from sowing

For this site it was 45 days after sowing, and although a bit large we opted for a domestic rotary mower, which allows a bit of a closer check on what is going on with the turf, ease of manoeuvre of equipment, but with a greatly extended time requirement.

The cut went well…………., cutting the area back quite short. No serious problems and a very smart appearance.

The next mow was this past week, at 59 days from sowing, say at 8 weeks, and two weeks after the first cut.  This time however we used a zero turn front deck mower, adjusted to cut short, but not absolutely the shortest, and a fraction higher than the first cut.  We will probably continue with mowing at 10 – 14 day intervals for the next month.
After mowing at 8 weeks note small areas now covering in 

The turf has continued to grow well, and will receive a small fertiliser boost in the next 7 days, weather dependent. 

In the meantime we continue to remove grassy weeds, especially focussing on Bothriochloa spp.  Some are new plants, some are plants around the outer areas of the oval where they have had almost zero competition since the original sowing, and some very large clumps of runners that seem to have recovered from the glyphosate spray.  A big job, but it is almost inevitable with ovals that a major hand weed is needed.  We expect to have to do more over the next few weeks, but at this stage a very substantial number of plants – small to medium sized have been removed.  There is no easy herbicide solution to selectively kill Bothriochloa spp in turf.

A further spray to remove a few remnant legume weeds long with some other broad leaved weeds and some sedges will be needed as weather allows [currently wet and raining most days], and it may be possible to spot or strip spray for these weeds, rather than the entire oval.

The big change is the rapid growth of runners extending laterally in the zoysia.  These runners are very noticeable around the edge of the oval where the sown Zenith was either a bit thin or had not been sown out past the oval boundary.  These areas are rapidly being colonised by the Zenith as new runners spread quickly.

The odd small bare area on the oval is also being covered with these runners, and very quickly too, once they started, which was after the first mow.  Zenith and especially Compadre are well known for excellent lateral growth as is being seen with these new runners now covering the bare spots.
Runners rapidly covering a bare spot on oval

Runners now colonising an area off the edg eof the sown oval

It augurs well for over 95% coverage soon.
Getting close to 95 %cover on many parts of the oval now

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Renewable Energy Comes to Mining in Remote Australia - BIG TIME.

Sandfire Resources has recently signed a deal with Brisbane-based Juwi Renewable Energy to build a $40 million solar power station at its DeGrussa copper project near Meekatharra to help power the mine and its processing operations.

The project had potential to establish DeGrussa as an industry leader in the use of renewable power for mining and processing operations.  Sandfire said its cash contribution to the project would be less than $1 million, with Juwi to arrange project funding and own/ operate the facility.

The station will utilise a 10.6-megwatt solar array comprising 34,080 solar photovoltaic panels [ on 20 ha near the mine and concentrator] that track the sun coupled with a 6-megawatt battery, and will be the biggest integrated off-grid solar array in Australia, and one of the biggest used in the mining industry anywhere in the world. The solar power station will be integrated with the existing 20-megwatt, diesel-fired power station at DeGrussa, which is owned and operated by Kalgoorlie Power Systems.

It will be structured to maximise the consumption of lower-cost solar power, thereby reducing reliance on diesel, however the diesel power station will continue to provide base-load power to the DeGrussa mine.  The project is expected to achieve savings in diesel fuel and will deliver a significant environmental benefit for DeGrussa, reducing its carbon emissions by an estimated 12,000 tonnes a year.

Sandfire's managing director Karl Simich said the company had been working on the solar power initiative since 2013, with the project representing an attractive opportunity to participate in a low-risk renewable energy initiative with a minimal capital requirement.  It is interesting to see this announcement now, following a recent article bemoaning use of solar power in remote operations in Australia, especially in comparison to mining in Chile.

He said the project would not affect the efficiency or safety of existing operations, and would allow the company to contribute to the broader challenge of reducing CO2 emissions and potentially reducing operating costs. "We are continuing to explore other options to reduce our energy costs, including using alternatives such as compressed natural gas for gas-fired power generation," he said.

Juwi managing director Andrew Drager said the solar photovoltaic system would provide the majority of daytime electricity to substantially reduce the mine's dependence on imported diesel.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Zoysia CAN Grow Tall

In the tropics when the weather turns from dry to wet.........it can get very wet, and stay that way for many weeks

Even zoysia can grow to a tall sward, under those conditions.

Look at the Zoysia matrella shown here being cut with a residential model rotary mower.

About 8 weeks plus since it was cut and the weather was very monsoonal, and with the near constant rain it was just not possible to get the area cut..........but it had to be done.

As soon as a weather break occurred it had to be mown.

So with the mower on a moderate height the lawn was cut.  Once to get the top growth down and then a following cut in a day or so to lower the cut again.

Not ideal and there will need to be some further mowing soon.  BUT even  if zoysia is neglected and grows tall [ was about 150mm high] it can be resurrected successfully.

For most situations, especially in a normal residential area, mowing at 15 -30mm is normal, using a rotary mower.  Better lawns can be cut lower, but a cylinder mower is preferred once cutting below about 15 - 20mm. 

Tall zoysia - needing to be cut

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sanitation Pays Off - BIG TIME for Development in Asia

Globally, the sanitation Millennium Development Goal target is well off track. 

However, many countries in Southeast Asia have made substantial progress, although a number of them will not reach the sanitation MDG target by 2015.

 Many countries have recently revised their sanitation strategies in order to rapidly scale up sanitation and aim for universal access by 2030.

According to a new study from the Water Global Practices Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), sanitation has been shown to have significant economic and social returns in the six countries studied (Cambodia, Yunnan province of China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, and Vietnam) and benefits in both urban and rural settings exceed costs in almost all cases. 

The Economic Assessment of Sanitation Interventions in Southeast Asia found that all sanitation interventions examined have benefits that exceed costs, when compared with “no sanitation facility.” Economic benefits of sanitation are at least five times higher than economic costs in rural areas and at least three times higher for urban areas. 

Other key findings include:
- In rural areas, the most basic sanitation type, the pit latrine, had returns of at least five times its costs in all but one country, Cambodia. Across both wet and dry pit latrines, the returns are highest in Lao PDR at over eight times.
- In urban areas, pit latrines remain a feasible, affordable, and efficient sanitation option in some settings where density is low. Septic tanks were also found to be economically viable in all countries, with economic returns of around two or more per unit spent.

In all countries and for most sanitation technologies, health benefits and time savings accounted for the majority of the overall benefits. 

Some intangible benefits not quantifiable  from the above estimates were also shown to be important to households, including dignity, comfort, prestige, security, gender equality, household cleanliness, and aesthetics of the community environment. Because of inter-personal variation in responses, it was difficult to present population level averages for these intangible benefits. 

The benefits of reduced water pollution from improved fecal sludge or sewage management were not fully counted for those interventions that reduced release of fecal matter into the environment because of the methodological difficulties and data constraints involved in such valuations.

The report, which is part of the second phase of the Economics of Sanitation Initiative (ESI) launched initially in East Asia in 2007, provides sanitation decision makers with compelling evidence that directly compares the costs and benefits of alternative sanitation options across multiple contexts and countries.

Read the blog from Guy Hutton: "Why choosing the preferred sanitation solution should be more like grocery shopping."

For more information, please visit www.wsp.org

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Zoysia Seed To Develop a New Sports Oval - Part 2 - Seedlings at Four Weeks from Sowing and Weed Management

While early seedling growth was very good, the dreaded weeds then started to appear!

While herbicides for use on seeded zoysia have been a bit tricky in being able to choose one that had minimum collateral damage to the small zoysia seedling yet was efficacious in removing weedy plants, we decided to use quinclorac [trade name Drive], which will deal with some weedy annual grasses and many broadleaved and leguminous weeds, selectively, without damaging the zoysia seedlings.

Timing is still important...............very important.  It is important to apply Drive in the period of 14 - 28 days after emergence, and in our situation we had major emergence about 8 - 9 days after sowing and we sprayed 25 days after sowing, about 16-17 days after emergence.

Results have been good, with strong control of leguminous and broadleaved weeds, and some weedy seedling grasses.  More work will be needed over the next four weeks to deal with some of the weeds remaining which includes some broadleaved weeds as well as sedges and grasses.

About 4 weeks after sowing we also applied additional fertiliser [ Yara Hydrocomplex ] at a rate equivalent to about 30kg/ha of N.  Included was another approx 10 kg/ha P and 35kg/ha of K and more trace elements and sulfur.

With other species, more fertiliser is used eg couch, but trials have shown there is little additional growth benefit by applying more at this stage to seed sown zoysia, either Zenith or Compadre.  We expect to apply more fertiliser in about another four weeks.

Seedlings are growing well, weeds are mostly dying and the oval is developing steadily.  Yes, there is some uneven seedling distribution, but we did have a very high intensity rainfall event soon after sowing which resulted in washouts, which would have been much worse without the hydroseeding and use of mulch.

Over the past four weeks an early morning irrigation was applied almost every day, along with two very short daytime irrigation periods to boost dampness near the soil surface.  Some might have thought this irrelevant, as there has been quite a reasonable amount of rain - almost daily [ a few days break here and there] but it is essential to keep the surface damp in this initial period, especially as we often had hot sunny days.  Irrigation is now being reduced to three or four times a week, even though we are still receiving an occasional amount of  effective rain. Irrigation will be likely further reduced in coming days, if rain continues.

The next major exercise will be to start light mowing to enhance lateral growth of zoysia and help control any remnant weeds, and to continue with several other herbicide options for ongoing weed management.

weeds dying amid zoysia seedlings after selective herbicide application

close up of zoysia seedlings

overview of oval development at 29 days from sowing- some unevenness, but most areas with high seedling density

close up of dying weeds among zoysia seedlings  - note leaf twisting and colouration

overview of weeds dying at one corner with plenty of zoysia seedlings developing

All photos taken 29 days from sowing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

God and Lawn Care

It is most important to not take yourself too seriously............

Afterall, when you are close to a work area, you can fail to look outside .......at all.

A bit of a light hearted approach to turf management............


God and Lawn Care


Frank,   ...  You know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet?  What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago?   I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

   It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

   Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

   Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

   The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

   Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice or more a week, for some areas of grass called golf courses and sportsfields.

   They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

   Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

   They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

   No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

   Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
   Yes, Sir.

   These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

   You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

   What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

   You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

   No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

   After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

   And where do they get this mulch?
   They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

   Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

   'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....
   Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.....................

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

NEW Nickel Accumulating Tropical Plants Discovered

​New nickel accumulating plants uncovered
Researchers have uncovered dozens of new nickel hyperaccumulator plants in a study in Borneo.

Anthony van der Ent, working with the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (CMLR) with the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute has discovered the new plants species in Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu world heritage site.

The researchers found local trees contain some of the world’s highest concentrations of nickel in plants.

Mid last year scientists also uncovered a similar plant in the Philippines, Rinorea niccolifera, which can accumulate up to 18 000 ppm of nickel without being affected.  "Hyperacccumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, 'phytoremediation' and 'phytomining'," Dr. Augustine Doronila, from University of Melbourne said 

“From magnets to mobile phones and car motors, the world’s population uses a huge amount of nickel and the availability of mineable deposits, and the costs and complexity of recovery, are potentially limiting future supplies van der Ent said.  "Hyperacccumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, 'phytoremediation' and 'phytomining'," Dr. Augustine Doronila, from the University of Melbourne said.

The trees uncovered in Boreneo contain up to three per cent nickel “so there is the real potential to develop large nickel ‘farms’ in the Tropics, which would be of benefit to the environment and local communities who have previously dealt with the impacts of mining.”

CMLR Director Professor David Mulligan added: “By studying intact landscapes such as Kinabalu Park, researchers are gaining insights into plant development and growth and an understanding of the relationships between the biotic and abiotic environments – knowledge that is enormously useful for informing strategies relating to mine site rehabilitation.”

The use of hyperaccumlators has a long and storied history in mining.

Previously plants known thrive in soils with heavy metals were used to uncover metal deposits.

The technique has been recorded as being used in China since the 5th century BC, and in fact Sweden's former Viscaria copper mine was actually named after the Viscaria aplina flower which prospectors used to discover the deposit, as the flower is known to grow in soils with heavy copper concentrations.

Australian natives such as Stackhouse tyronii and ­Hybanthus floribundus can also be used as lead and nickel indicators due to their hyper-accumulator ability, according to The Lead Group and to research carried out by CQ University professor Nanjappa Ashwatha and Dr. Poonam Bhatia.

In fact "Stackhousia try­onii is a serpentine-endemic, rare, native Australian plant and is reported to hyperaccumulate nickel up to 55,500 mg g-1 on a dry weight basis," the group explained.

In 2013 it was also reported that native eucalypts were thriving around the highly acidic decommissioned Mt Morgan gold mine, near Rockhampton, and highlighted the potential for the plants to be used in mine site remediation.  "Seedlings were growing in highly acidic soil where the pH shouldn't support them, and they are thriving," local councillor Neil Fisher said.  "On the very edge of the water, 300-400 eucalypt seedlings are growing where plants normally would have died."

[ originally reported by Cole Latimer on 14 January 2015 ]

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Zoysia Seed to Develop a New Sports Oval - Part 1 - Hydroseeding

Hydroseeding works very well when you have tough conditions.

A monsoonal burst of more than a week,  over 100mm of rain in less than 2 hours  initially, continued ongoing heavy rain during the week [ more than 250mm], relatively short sunny breaks and lots of heavy cloud..........

Yes, a small amount of washout, but very small areas affected.

And at nine days from sowing when seedlings first appeared ..........was .looking very promising.

A true minimal cultivation operation based around a spray with glyphosate [ Roundup], a quick respray to kill off a few small missed spots after 4 days, hydroseeding with fibre mulch and zoysia seed after 7 days, when all plants were dead.

The recommended option of a short period of irrigation several times each day during sunlight hours was used [3 x 10 mins each time] to keep the surface damp - raining or not, with a slightly longer period early each morning to ensure adequate moisture at the surface - both VERY critical.  This irrigation started once sown, and monsoonal conditions did not start for several days after sowing.  Conditions at sowing were very hot - days around 34-35C, nights at 27-29C.

By day nine it was establishing very well. Yes, a few legume weeds were emerging which can be hand weeded, but will most likely be spot sprayed in a week or so.

There will be more of the story to come in the next two months as it develops.

So far it is a very promising early establishment.

hydroseeding with seed, fertiliser  and mulch 

Completed hydroseeding of oval - green from fibre mulch

seedlings at 11 days from sowing

yes - a few weeds too among seedlings  at 11 days
A bit of washout but still plenty of seedlings - at 11 days
general view at 11 days from seeding -- plenty of seedlings emerged - sun needed to boost growth

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Expansion Forecast for Buffalo Meat Markets - India to Dominate

The sustained increase over the past three years in Indian buffalo (carabeef) exports is projected to continue, according to a report recently commissioned by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) analysing the industry and its impact on the world beef market over the next five years.

Shipments of approximately 2.2 million tonnes carcass weight equivalent (cwe) Indian carabeef are forecast for 2020.

This assertion is based on the projected growth of India’s dairy sector, of which carabeef is a by-product, continued demand in international markets, and the abundant supply of water buffalo throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Beef consumption is shunned on religious grounds by Hindus, who account for approximately 80 per cent of the Indian population, leaving a substantial surplus from the routine culling of unproductive and dry buffalo cows for export.

Carabeef exporters have established a strong foothold in markets that are expected to expand under the combined power of population growth and higher per capita incomes, like China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

According to the report, Indian carabeef is currently trading below Australian beef in global markets, yet it is apparent that carabeef prices are rising to follow trends for Australian and Brazilian product.

Forecasts for growth in the Muslim and Christian segments of the Indian population are expected to underpin an increase in domestic disappearance by around 900,000 tonnes cwe, which would mean approximately 14 kilograms per capita consumption among that cohort by 2020.

Additionally, assuming no changes in the status of the current grey channel trade via Vietnam and Thailand, exports to China are expected to reach 1.375 million tonnes cwe, and account for about 60pc of India’s carabeef exports.

Importantly, the report indicates that India is unlikely to supply Australia’s traditional markets within the short to medium term.

Furthermore, the modelling suggests that while increased supply of carabeef will put downward pressure on world beef prices, the current market is sufficiently flexible to redistribute product to different markets in response to relatively small changes in price.

This demand for buffalo and buffalo meat should also have a positive effect on Australian export of buffalo for live export markets, as well as some modest potential for improved export of boxed carabeef meat into some markets.
  1. Australian buffalo
Australia cannot match the supply from Indian sub continent sources, but with some markets requiring foot and mouth disease freedom assurances there is a place for our export products.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Energy Efficiency - Where Do YOU Rank?

Guess Which Countries Rank the Highest in Energy Efficiency

Quite interesting reading and most do not quite believe the high level achieved by China [BTW - also very significant user of wind energy].

Australia is okay, but could be better.

From: JonesOil

Monday, January 05, 2015

Ebola Rapid Detection Kits

STMicroelectronics and partners create early Ebola detector
ST MICROELECTRONICS has worked with Clonit and Italy's National Institute for Infectious Diseases to create a portable analyser that detects Ebola in less than 75 minutes.

While not yet in production early testing is very promising, and could lead to rapid development of commercial test kits.

Early detection would be a major step forward for those many subject to infection as well as the people caring for them in so many different countries and capacities.

The portable analyser, currently in prototype stages, is based on the Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) molecular biology technique.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) amplifies a target biological material, such as the Ebola virus, contained in a tiny sample of blood so it can be detected. It is a common technique for many uses both medical and scientific where DNA is used a s a conformation technique.  The key procedure in PCR is the accurately controlled cycle of repetitive heating and cooling of the biological material that is subsequently evaluated against biological markers loaded on the microchip.

The next step will be to optimise the point-of-care Ebola-detection solution for large-scale deployment, including innovations to minimise the threat of infection when handling the biological sample. 

ST Microelectronics and its partners will also aim to lower the costs of the device.

The prototype analyzer kit has been successfully tested for compliance with applicable international standards by the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Spallanzani, one of the two Italian institutions designated by the Italian Ministry of Health as a reference center for care and treatment of Ebola.

The kit detects the presence of the Ebola virus with extreme accuracy in just a few microliters of human-blood samples and the accuracy of the result has been confirmed with a blood sample diluted up to a million times. The high sensitivity of the test allows the detection of the virus at a very early stage, which can significantly help limit the spread of the deadly disease.

An extractor extracts the virus RNA from a loaded blood sample. A stamp-sized silicon microchip from STMicroelectronics then acts as a miniaturised reactor and reproduces, in micrometer scale, the entire process of amplification and screening of the extracted genetic material on which the extracted RNA is loaded, to be then reverse-transcribed into DNA and amplified according to the RT-PCR methodology.

Silicon’s low thermal capacity and the minute volumes of tested samples significantly reduce reaction times and allow the fast temperature cycling that enables quick amplification of complex biological materials without compromising accuracy and reliability.

Clonit reagents then perform a Quantitative Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (viral load) in compliance with all standards and controls required by the international quality-control regulations.

In the final step, a STMicroelectronics-developed portable optical reader detects the presence of viral DNA in the sample, and sends the data to a PC which then processes and presents the information in graphical form.

The device is not just accurate, but small enough and fast enough to be of extreme application in urgent situations and for use in the field.

[ reported originally on December 16 2014 - but important enough to be reproduced here.]

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Uptake in Seed Use for Zoysia Turf Development - Need to Manage Weeds in Established Areas Not Just Mow

Both Compadre and its close cousin Zenith varieties  have seen a significant expansion of usage in domestic turf areas this Australian warm season, with Zenith sometimes being used because of tight seed supply for Compadre, still seen as the preferred variety.

While northern Australia continues with increasing use domestically, there has been some commercial use including where zoysia [ often Compadre as first choice] has been mandated as part of the commercial specifications.

As well, expansion has continued with Compadre especially being now very widely used as sod in commercial developments and areas of sod production have also increased, with Compadre now commonly the specified turf sod of first choice around much of north Australia.

The lateral growth [ rather than increased vertical growth], stolon density and potentially reduced mowing and maintenance plus overall good aesthetic appearance all contribute to this acceptance commercially.

That said, commercial users also need to understand that mowing is now not the absolute only maintenance required.

With many mowing contractors operating across many types of turf, vigilance and control to prevent entry of other turf species is needed [ often by adherence of seed and plant pieces on mowers], and specially to understand  that there are specific herbicide options to consider to keep the zoysia free of other turf species - with prompt maintenance a necessary practice to remove other, now weedy, turf types, to stop their spread.  Use of glyphosate [ Roundup(trademarked)] is not the only nor first option., although use of wick wiping with glyphosate to remove weedy grasses by killing via their seed heads may be an option for some species.......and yes it works well!  There are also very effective solutions for control of sedges in over watered or wetter areas of the turf area.

Mullumbimby sedge - serious sedge weed 

We can offer agronomic services to assist with weed control in zoysia, based on around 35 years of experience with the species in Australia, USA and Asia.

Where a considerable effort has been placed into higher quality turf, then it is important to also devote some effort and money to manage the areas more effectively for long term performance.  Do not ignore the turf weeds!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Zoysia Turf from Seed Is Worth the Wait

Sometimes a lawn takes time to develop to the stage where you think it is okay.

We often say that a zoysia lawn from seed will take 10- 12 weeks to develop a lawn appearance and be suitable for light use, or even up to 16 weeks, depending on the weather and time of year it is sown, and the degree of agronomic intervention.  We try to have an effective usable grass surface for light to modest use in about this 10 -12 week period, and it is important to actively manage the turf development to achieve this goal - good stand density, adequate fertiliser, weed control, light mowing to encourage spread etc.  
Compadre zoysia in a shaded area sown from seed at approx 20 weeks - north Australia

It is certainly hard to force a zoysia turf to grow a lot faster - more nitrogen fertiliser just does not work, although using slow release nitrogen is the better option.  Do not forget adequate potassium either.  After all, that aspect, of slower and maybe even less growth is one of the benefits of a zoysia turf area once established, and these turf areas can be used for many years.  My own zoysia lawn at home is now about 35 years young........and still doing quite okay, and it receives minimal fertiliser, and mowing.  

In the world of contracting, a period of 16 - 20 weeks is considered a common period for the development of a large turf area eg a playing field, from seed, suitable for sport use.  It is often also the same time as allowed for full development of a sportsfield from laying of the turf to full sod suitable for use - it can be quicker - and often is - but this tends to be the time allowed contractually. 

This is a useful concept to understand.........a turf area from seed will not happen instantaneously to be ready for use [not even if you use full sod at much increased cost - many times the cost of seed establishment!].  Also remember that most golf fairways are sown from seed, although the much smaller greens areas tend to be sod sown.

And there can be a few trials and false starts along the way.

Our common recommendation is to mow off the weeds, especially before they set seed.  The zoysia continues to grow laterally close to the ground, filling in the space, even when a bit shaded by the weeds, and will normally choke out most weeds over time.  In warm regions, summer growing grasses are vigorous and will grow above the zoysia, and sometimes using  a wick wiper treatment of glyphosate carefully can kill them off - but avoid getting herbicide on the zoysia - it is susceptible to glyphosate.

Where broad leaved weeds are the main problem, there are a few herbicide options for use after the zoysia seedlings are well established [ say 3-4 weeks after sowing], both post emergent and some pre-emergent.  Wick wiping can also be useful on taller broad leaved weeds, but a quick mow is often the better option especially if unsure about the correct or suitable herbicide.  

You might have a look at a suite of these you tube videos if not already seen.

All of these are worth watching – Compadre zoysia seed sown - Maryland, USA

There is one other in the series which will show up  if you click on any of these.

I thought after the initial sowing it would be a total disaster............but it is successful, albeit not instantaneously.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weed Control in Zoysia Turf - Seed Sown or Sod

Weeds in zoysia are mostly fixable.  

We suggest mowing followed by even more mowing as an option, allowing the strong density of zoysia to eventually win out.  There are two classic You Tube videos from the USA showing Compadre  zoysia in two successive years - year one is awful [ and I thought - what a disaster], but in year two it is a magnificent Compadre zoysia lawn.  Mowing and a strong zoysia species - Compadre zoysia - helped fix that problem.

Most broadleaved weeds in Compadre or Zenith seed sown zoysias are controllable with Kamba - M,  a commercially available dicamba / MCPA mix.  Approx price $30 for 1L.  A small quantity will last several years and is NOT residual.  Several repeat sprays may be needed. Use at recommended rates, and small areas can be sprayed with small hand spray bottles.  A few drops of detergent in the mix [ just a few drops!!] may help hold spray on plant leaves.

Or use one of the slow release fertilisers with pendimethalin in the blend as a seedling grass control - while it will not control emerged seedlings it will stop more summer growing grass weeds establishing for up to 10 - 12 weeks.  You must use at the recommended rate, which is on the bag.

You can also wick wipe weeds with glyphosate - BUT you must avoid the zoysia seedlings as they can be easily damaged if herbicide gets onto their leaves.  This can be useful if weeds are taller than the seedlings, as is often the situation.  Multiple applications may be needed. Commercial outlets sell wick wipers or see www.sherwoodmachinery.com.au  who make excellent small units [ any of the 4 smaller rope wick units] and supply by post.

Sedges may also be a problem.  First issue with sedges if they appear usually means overwatering.  Use less applications and make each one longer, if that much water is really needed.  If the soil dries out between waterings, sedges are less of an issue. Or reduce overall watering - the lawn is likely to be okay with less water  Small 25g packs of Sempra are now available through commercial outlets - this is a very specific sedge herbicide [halosulfuron].  Use as directed, and we suggest also continuing to use as a spot spray where needed, after that.  One or two applications usually removes well over 90% of the sedges, but often a few odd plants reappear - so spot spray them as needed.

There are other possible herbicides but some are not available to home owners, and cannot be recommended for use except by commercial operators.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Healthy Soils - Healthy Planet - Healthy Life

The article below was written by Robb Fraley of Monsanto.  Yes, by someone from one of those apparently dreadful multinationals involved in agriculture.  It is not all doom and gloom!

Also - remember that December 5 was World Soil Day.

This article talks up soil and the benefits of productive healthy soils for life on earth.

Get with it...............add more carbon to your soil.  Carbon comes with the organic matter added to soils.......and why add carbon?  Carbon is a basic fuel for many many types of soil microbes and helps boost their numbers.  Farming is truly carbon farming!

compost for carbon - in soils


You may not quite realize it, but the dirt beneath your feet is teeming with life. In any given tablespoon of soil, there may be more than 50 billion microbes - bacteria, fungi, nematodes, mites, and more. Ninety percent of all the organisms on earth live underground. In a handful of healthy soil, there is more biodiversity than there is among all the above-ground animals in the Amazon Basin.

Until fairly recently, the human race has been largely uninformed about this vast ocean of uncatalogued life. Although farmers have always valued their soil and understood the importance of maintaining it, science offered little detail about the organic material within it, let alone how that material interacts with crops to give us our food.

Now, however, advances in biotechnology have begun to exponentially advance our understanding. As a result, we are on the cusp of making major strides in sustainable agriculture that will benefit both humanity and our ecosystems.

These advances are clearly coming just in time. By the year 2050 we will have 2 billion more people to feed on this planet, and global food demand will be about 70 percent higher than it is today.
Meanwhile, our key resources are threatened. Fresh water - our single most precious resource - is finite in supply and fast being depleted. Topsoil - which is literally the foundation of our food supply - is being stripped or degraded faster than Nature can replenish it (new topsoil is made at the rate of 0.025 mm to 0.125 mm per year).

And now climate change - to which agriculture itself is making a contribution - is threatening crops and livestock with a variety of new challenges, including withering heat, drought, and new pressures from bugs and diseases.

For these and other reasons, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) explained recently, the world needs a "paradigm shift" to more sustainable methods. It's no exaggeration to say that if we don't think more holistically about agriculture, the 21st century could be grimmer than any of us want to imagine.

The good news is we can do this. We can enable a more sustainable and productive agriculture. And in part we can do that through the development of new frontiers that, not surprisingly, coalesce around soil.

In 2003 Craig Venter and a team of scientists set out to demonstrate that advances in genomics and computing power could enable the mapping of microbial life all over the planet. Beginning in the Sargasso Sea and then circumnavigating the globe, Dr. Venter and his team were able to uncover the secrets of microbial life and diversity throughout the oceans. Over the last few years many other scientists have followed, leading to the description of the microbial life in the soils, permafrost, deep-sea vents, and even geysers.

As a result, humanity is now finally learning about what lies below. At the same time, we're learning how different crop plants interact with the biological communities, or micro-biomes, in the soil. We're learning how some organisms help a given plant and some hinder it, not unlike the ways of micro-organisms in our own bodies.

For example, just as the "good" microbes in our gut help us digest our food and maintain our immune system, "good" microbes in the soil form symbiotic relationships with plants and help them absorb nutrients through their roots as well as resist bugs and diseases. "Bad" ones do things like triggering the outbreak of plant diseases. There is growing evidence that "good" microbes added to the soil can provide health benefits to crops just like "probiotics."

All of this is leading to a day when farmers will be able to use the tools of genomics and precision agriculture to analyze their fields in an unprecedentedly detailed way. They'll then be able to introduce or reintroduce the kinds of beneficial microbes found in the most productive soils. We may even be able to restore fertility to some of the lands - for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, or even areas of our own rich bread basket in the United States - where management practices driven by a variety of forces have rendered the land less productive.

By doing below ground what we've done above in reintroducing endangered species, we'll achieve great benefits. Specifically, healthier organic life in the soil will bring us:
Healthier, more resilient plants - Crops will have less need for some of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides we now rely on for production. They'll need less irrigation too, because the soil will retain water better and the plants will absorb it more efficiently.
Climate change mitigation - Healthier soils lead to lower rates of greenhouse gas emissions, as I'll discuss in a moment.
Increased biodiversity - the more beneficial microbial life in the soil, the more life there will be of all kinds.
Better ecosystem "services" - By many calculations, the living soil is the Earth's most valuable ecosystem. Besides mitigating climate change, it protects against soil erosion, filters our water, and performs other functions worth trillions of dollars each year.

To make this future work best, however, it will also be important for farmers to keep adopting better soil management practices, such as conservation tillage and cover cropping. Conservation tillage is a broad term to describe any method of cultivation that leaves the previous year's crop residue - corn stalks or wheat stubble, for example - on fields before and after planting the next crop. Cover cropping involves planting a secondary crop after the main one is harvested, to stop erosion or replenish nutrients in the soil.

These practices, which have indeed been gaining popularity, stand in contrast to tilling - the process of breaking and turning over the soil while plowing under the residue for the purpose of hampering weed growth. Tilling is a time-honored practice, but it disrupts the soil's sponge-like structure and disturbs the balance of its microbial life, decreasing the land's capacity to absorb water as well as nitrogen and phosphorus from artificial fertilizers. The result is excessive runoff of water and nutrients, leading to the infamous dead zones that afflict places like Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico and larger releases of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

By rebalancing the microbial community in the soil toward air-loving organisms, tilling also leads to the more rapid decomposition of the organic matter buried in the soil - and thus to the release of the carbon sequestered within it. And astonishingly, there is more carbon in the soil than in all the plants and the atmosphere combined. Only the oceans contain more.

Biotechnology - herbicide-tolerant crops, in particular - has helped farmers move away from till farming by giving them another way to control weeds. This USDA report is only the latest of many to make that point. In other words, biotechnology has proved to be a foundational technology for the new advances we anticipate in improving the soil biome.

Even more advances in soil management are on the way. Right now, for example, our company is partnering with the National Corn Growers Association and partners in conservation and academic science to gain a more systematic understanding of the economic and environmental benefits of different soil management strategies on a region-specific and crop-specific basis. The Soil Health Partnership, as it's called, has already established demonstration farms in the Midwest where innovative management practices are aimed at improving soil health. The partnership aims eventually to publish its findings and to encourage farmers to adopt them as appropriate.

Much more such research needs to be conducted. Success will take partnerships and collaborations among all of us -public and privately funded research groups, farmers, ecologists, and many others. My own company has partnered with Novozymes, a world leader in the use of microorganisms. We expect that marrying their insights into microbes with our knowledge of agriculture can accelerate much needed solutions to the problems we face in feeding a growing population.

The soil clearly must be protected, and to do that, we need to understand it. But we're making great strides now, and they're going to make agriculture more productive and sustainable - better for us and the earth.