Friday, June 23, 2017

Northern Territory - To Get Australasia 's Biggest Electricity Network Back Up Battery

Northern Territory seeks solution for battery storage

Simon Mackenzie
Vector has won a multi-million-dollar Australian contract to supply the Territory Generation Alice Springs Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project.
Vector was one of a number of Australian and international firms bidding for the contract that will see it supply Australasia’s largest grid-tied lithium ion battery storage solution to stabilise and enhance generation on the Alice Springs electricity network.
The 5MW battery system will improve reliability on the network while helping smoothly switch energy use between renewable sources and the grid as needed. Vector will be responsible for the design, engineering, construction, and installation of the system and once commissioned, will also be responsible for ongoing maintenance.
Vector Chief Executive, Simon Mackenzie, said this contract further endorses Vector’s strategy and commitment to delivering customers world class sustainable energy solutions.
“It’s not just the technology Vector’s using that is innovative, it is the way we’re tailoring the solutions to meet quite specific and widely varied customer needs that is the game changer,” says Mackenzie. “It’s our mindset that is proving as innovative as the technology we’re using to meet the unique challenges and aspirations of the Alice Springs network.”
“When we complete this contract, Vector will have delivered the two largest grid-tied battery storage projects in Australasia. It’s a great endorsement of our expertise.”
Sort of nice to see the NT in the spotlight for renewable energy - in a positive story!!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rural America is Stranded in the Dial-Up Age

This is the heading for a pertinent article in the Wall Street Journal [ ] of 16 June 2017. 

It highlights the deplorable plight of rural America in regards to decent internet coverage, now seen as a necessity for business, education, healthcare and rural properties, let alone households.

While Australia has made considerable efforts to provide a decent service through the NBN, the once great US of A is struggling with services to rural areas.

We are not doing fantastically in Australia, but may be doing a great deal better than the USA it seems.

Read here - 

This should be relevant reading for all those outside capital cities in Australia, in terms of pursuing additional pressure on the Australian government to really consider rural Australia in NBN planning.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Renewable Energy Jobs Exceed Fossil Fuel Generation Work

Champions of fossil-fuel generation have long complained that jobs losses have been one of the biggest detriments to the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants. And renewable energy sources do nothing to help replace those jobs.
Not so, according to a panel of experts at the recent Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition held at the International Convention in Sydney. At the Q&A after The Benefits of Microgrids for Urban, Rural and Off-Grid Applications seminar, the question of how many jobs are created by renewables was raised by moderator Mark Higgins, COO of clean energy consultancy Strategen.
“In the United States there is a lot of hand wringing over the loss of jobs in the conventional fossil fuel industry,” said Higgins. “In California this issue is finally starting to come to light where statistics are showing that within the renewable energy industry there are more renewable energy jobs than the entire coal industry in the United States.”
This is backed up by a recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy that shows that solar power employed 43 percent of the electricity sector’s workforce in 2016, while fossil fuels combined accounted for 22 percent.
Almost 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, whereas gas, oil and coal power generation combined had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000.
While offering no hard data to back up his point of view, Michael Ottaviano, CEO of Carnegie Clean Energy, said anecdotal evidence suggested that clean energy job opportunities were on the rise.
“If you think about it, since 2010 we’ve retired about 5000 MW of coal-fired power stations,” said Ottaviano. “We haven’t built any coal-fired power stations in about seven years but we’ve built about 10,000MW of renewable [plant]. In terms of job creation, we’ve created no new jobs in the construction of coal-fired power stations in the last seven years, but an enormous amount of jobs to create 10,000MW of renewables. I think the battery storage space is about to take off so we’ll do something similar. Politically the argument doesn’t get much traction in Australia but it should. We’re hearing a lot even in the Finkler report that came out recently about the need for coal-fired power stations to give three years notice partly to allow people to be retrained. That’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.”
ESS vice president of business development, Bill Sproull, said not only did renewables create jobs, but tended to make them localised, which in a country like Australia, is a good thing for regional economies.
“When I think about renewables and microgrids, it’s really decentralising energy generation and control that’s been prevalent in most of our countries. With that, jobs become very much more local, even down to the community level,” he said.
Another panellist, Giin Sia, the Asia Pacific regional sales director for NEC Energy Solutions, sees nothing but positive outcomes in the near future.
“If I could provide feedback from the rest of the Asia Pacific, [renewable] projects are seen as progressive,” he said, “particularly with an existing structure where there is a big dependence on fossil fuel. When talking to some of the utility companies, as well as governments and ministries, I do not get the impression that energy storage or micro grids are going to take away any jobs at all. In fact, it’s going to be able to put in more jobs, specifically in areas that are not seen as traditional skills.”
Battery energy storage should also contribute to new jobs in renewables in coming years. 
So for all you young and work aspiring people, the renewable energy industry might just be the place to seek and build skills that would translate into jobs......real jobs, particularly in regional cities, where living costs might also be lower than state capital cities. 
 [based on article by Mike Wheeler in PACE magazine, June 2016]

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Green Wall by Elmich Survives Strong Typhoon

Elmich Green Wall Braves Strongest Typhoon of 2016By ELMICH AUSTRALIA PTY LTD

News Date: 05 Jun 2017
Category: Buildings
Elmich's VersiWall GM (VGM) Green Wall at JI Hotel Xiamen Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street survived the strongest typhoon to hit China in nearly 70 years.
Elmich Green Wall Braves Strongest Typhoon of 2016
Super typhoon ‘Meranti’ made landfall in Xiamen City, Fujian with a wind gust speed of around 170 km/h bringing heavy downpours and causing major disruptions to the electricity and water supplies affecting more than 3.2 million homes located in the region.
Elmich VGM mounting system is equipped with anti-lift arms and proprietary anchoring pilaster system, and certified by independent international test authority to withstand wind uplift from various directions up to 110km/h.
In this application, the real test of nature has proven that a product of quality can withstand the strongest typhoon.
For more information regarding the Green Wall at JI Hotel Xiamen, click here.

Quite a positive outcome with implications for many other tropical areas where the security of tall green walls has been quite a bit of a worry in cyclonic / hurricane / typhoon conditions around the world.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Zoysia Seed - Compadre and Zenith - UNAVAILABLE in AUSTRALIA

We have been lead to believe by the US supplier Patten Seeds in the last quarter of 2016 - that seed of both varieties would be available in Australia for use in 2016/ 2017 summer planting periods, through sales to a single nominated importer in Australia.

This story - saga maybe is better- developed from late 2016.  Through numerous updates and apparent recleaning plus further seed testing it festered along over many months, with an expectation that seed would be able to meet Australian biosecurity requirements and market quality requirements, and ship to Australia.

Our business continued to inform users, based on expectations that seed would make the grade and get shipped.

As April rolled around it had reached the stage where use in northern Australia was about the only place where sowing was considered possible, even there growth would be in a period of much cooler nights and predicted to be much slower such that waiting for warmer weather in August / September might be a better option.

However, the Australian importer has been informed recently that seed would not be coming to Australia at this time - it did not make the quality cut for import.

So all potential clients ........... it is NOT going to happen anytime soon - availability of both varieties in Australia is still some time away.  Do not be misled by overseas or international web sites offering zoysia seed for sale at this time - it is unlikely to be acceptable for use in Australia, and offers are really directed at US spring sowing options.

New season's production is likely to be harvested by June/ July and maybe this seed might get to Australia by the Australian temperate regions spring sowing period.

We are keen to assist potential growers of this class turf from seed, as we think it offers many advantages, both in quality of turf and costs, albeit with more time required to develop a full turf cover compared to laying full turf sod.  Most of our previous purchasers are extremely impressed with the outcome, independent of whether Zenith or Compadre variety was used.

As users and promoters of zoysia turf in Australia it is a significant setback to get so seriously screwed around by the major seed producer in the US who seems to not acknowledge that there is burgeoning demand outside of the US market including Australia.  If seed is not produced that market will die, yet the specialised and quality production areas cannot meet demand  of a quality product for the Australian market!

We hope to keep the users and potential users informed, but it is unlikely much news will be available before June or July.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals through Agriculture

29 March 2017
This year, more grain will be harvested than at any time in history. And yet, in this era of plenty, one in nine people do not have enough food to eat. Another two billion may eat, but their meals lack the nutrition necessary for proper health and development. Rapid population growth, dietary shifts towards meat and dairy products, and expanding food production are putting enormous pressure on our ecosystems. If these trends continue, we will be surpassing our planetary boundaries.

And yet, it is not too late to reshape agriculture and food systems to better feed the world and deliver sustainable development. No doubt, governments must play a critical role, but it is not their responsibility alone. It requires an unprecedented effort by all sectors in society, and business must be at the heart of this endeavour. I would like to highlight five priority areas where action is particularly urgently required to shift to more sustainable food systems.

First, we need greater investment, particularly in developing countries where the need and potential for increasing agricultural productivity and production are greatest. This would help feed growing populations sustainably, while creating jobs and incomes across rural areas.

Second, we have to make sure that smallholder farmers, who produce nearly 70% of all food consumed worldwide, are at the heart of all our efforts. Governments and the private sector can and must form innovative partnerships with farmers’ organizations, small farmers, and local agribusinesses, providing access to better seeds, sustainable farming techniques, and modern technologies.

Third, we must ensure that agriculture and food systems become nutrition-smart, because it’s not just about the amount of food we grow, it’s also about the type of food that we consume. Evidence shows that nutrition is crucial for economic growth as better nourished populations are more productive.

Fourth, we need food systems that produce more food but with fewer resources. This requires enforcing policies that promote responsible natural resource management and prevent the loss of natural habitats, forests and biodiversity. It is crucial that businesses source, process and manage resources efficiently to meet growing demand, while preserving our environment and climate.

Fifth, we must seize the moment to push for climate-smart agriculture and food systems. Cutting down agriculture’s climate footprint and shifting towards renewable energy sources will not only help avert climate catastrophe, but also create new opportunities for investment, growth and employment.

I have set out an ambitious agenda. With courage, vision, and bold leadership from every sector, we can move decisively towards truly sustainable food systems and agriculture. We have no time to waste. So let us turn aspiration into action and build a food secure, sustainable, and prosperous world for everybody.

Copy of presentation by Kofi Annan [former UN Head] to the Forum for the Future of Agriculture.

Agriculture [ and horticulture] has had a lot of activity of late with some very successful harvest outcomes around the world, and a trend to finally develop and use some new genetic tools for gains in performance of new varieties, while GM related developments are thriving, even if use can be curtailed in a number of countries [ think the EU], and it is using new technology avidly [ drones, precision agriculture etc].  And importantly, a new cohort of clever young students are again choosing agriculture as a career of choice.  But this has to translate into real improvements in African agriculture where need is still high.  If the continent can be a leader in small scale finance it can improve agriculture too! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Wet Season 2017

Certainly been a very wet season across most of north Australia, in contrast to the past few seasons.

In Darwin there has been few dry days since Christmas 2016, and among the wet days some VERY wet run of days, with a few 3-4 day periods exceeding 150- 200 mm totals, with some locations receiving double that.

Really only been one notable cyclone across the north coast areas of Australia with another cyclone a small Category 1 in the lower reaches of the Gulf of Carpentaria.  The blow that went across north of the north coast of the Top End was most of the time a tropical depression but there was strong winds and a lot of rain, with a cyclone declared once the system moved west into the Timor Sea, and then landfall happened as a Category 2 system in the north of WA between Wyndham / Kalumburu.  Relatively minor damage occurred thankfully from both systems.

The wet season is far from over, and it is still raining with showers and storms predicted for the Top End this week and into next week.  It is still too early to think there is no chance of another cyclone.

Importantly, soil moisture and aquifer recharge has been steadily occurring, and many of the shallow local aquifers are overflowing with excess being discharged as surface flow.  Of considerable importance the Darwin River dam has overflowed and is actually overflowing this week again for the 2nd or 3rd time this wet season.  A full dam going into the dry is a critical and positive factor for local water supply.

Elsewhere.......the mighty Ord Dam is seriously overflowing..........with water likely to flow over the spillway for some months yet.  Last data I checked, the amount of water in the main dam was more than 153% of design capacity, up over 72% from this time last year.  There will be some great photos no doubt of this event.

Livestock prices are still very good, and there are some mostly positive changes for cattle weights going into the Indonesian market.  Local stock producers are generally very positive over these changes but supply is a lot have already been sold in earlier years and replacements have been slower to arrive.

A good wet season generally is a positive feature in the north.  Now lets look forward to a great dry season.  I am sure most residents would like to see and appreciate some cooler and drier weather over the next month or so as it certainly has been hot and wet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NEW - Bee Safe Insect Control

A recently announced Australian product has proven effective for insect control in macadamias while also allowing bee pollinators to remain active and effective.

The product is derived from blue pea - Clitoria ternatea a tropical legume with a blue flower that thrives on heavy black soils in tropical areas.

A regional Australian company behind a game-changing bio insecticide that is safe for bees and other beneficial insects has secured funding to ensure its production remains on home soil.
Innovate Ag from Wee Waa in northern New South Wales has spent 15 years developing Sero-X, a pesticide using peptides from the butterfly pea legume as its active ingredient.
Last year the product was used under permit on macadamia crops and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority recently registered it for use by cotton growers.

The company this week announced a partnership deal with the Belgium based Biological Products of Agriculture (Bi-PA) to help commercialise its invention and distribute it globally.
There is a lot of science behind the product and it is worthwhile knowing about it for use where bees are important and active.  That may include vegetables.
Innovate Ag's project director Nick Watts said Sero-X had huge potential for improving the environmental sustainability and ethical production of food and fibre globally.
"The secret behind this innovative product comes straight from nature itself in the form of cyclotides," Mr Watts said.
"Cyclotides are peptides, or mini-proteins, that are naturally found in plants and have a range of biological activities, including insecticidal and antimicrobial."
They also have great pharmaceutical potential.
"Footy players have given peptides a bad name, but they are fantastic, potent natural compounds that can perform all sorts of functions," Mr Watts said.
Sero-X is already shaping up as a game changer in the macadamia industry which relies on honey bees for pollination but is susceptible to heavy losses from insect pests.

Until now, growers could lose up to 50 per cent of their crop if they did not use broad spectrum synthetic pesticides, Macadamia Industry Board agronomist Neil Innes said.
"There's more reliance on less specific, more broader spectrum synthetic pesticides which have a lot more affect on our pollinators," Mr Innes said.
"There's three basic pesticides and they all have major constraints and it's a big juggling act to not damage pollinators, moving hives around lots of growers have had issues with bee kills."

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Biofumigation - Is it An Option?

Biofumigation is relatively new, although a few growers have been involved for maybe 10 years plus here in Australia.  Many that trial the concept are vegetable growers with strong pressure from soil borne diseases or nematodes on their operations that can be controlled at times, but with expensive agrochemicals.  However, there is concern that the products might disappear due to regulatory issues.

The idea of using biofumigation then becomes a viable option to test / evaluate and maybe, implement.

Both nematodes and some soil borne diseases have been controlled / managed successfully, and areas in SW WA, Tasmania and Victoria are actively engaged while R and D is also occurring in SE Queensland areas eg Lockyer Valley, a big vegetable growing area.  There is also some evidence of effects on seed in the soil and small seedlings. 

Essentially it involves using highly specific cover crops that are mulched into the ground.  The factor that offers the help is the production of highly complex sulfur compounds that act as seed and seedling, disease and nematode “killers” with these compounds released during the cutting and maceration  by incorporation into the top 50 – 200mm of the ground where most of the target organisms are present.

Probably too complex to discuss here in detail, but more information is readily available.

This offers a good overview of the technology, and there are more farmer fact sheets available from a number of sources.

The Italians are very active in R and D and moving steadily towards wider use of the techniques, as are some other European areas, with Australia and NZ also active.

Unfortunately, not so much development seems to be occurring in warmer regions eg subtropical and tropical areas, where some of the species used may not be so easily grown.

More sophisticated technology used on the farm, once again.  Very cunning application of a simple technology.

A recent webinar should be available to view in the next week or so - the technology is worth investigating for growers of vegetables and similar crops.  It might also have applicaton for turf crops, as commercial products made of pelletted crop materials are also becoming available.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Exotic Invasive Ants

Exotic invasive ants

24 January, 2017
The Plant Biosecurity CRC is involved with stakeholders around the country in tackling the problem of exotic invasive ants. Here is an overview about the problem in Australia.

The invasive ant problem

Exotic invasive ants are an environmental and social amenity pest with the potential to cause significant negative impacts on Australia’s unique biodiversity and to human health. Australia’s National Biosecurity Committee has identified exotic invasive ants as high priority, and they have been placed on the national priority pest list endorsed by the Plant Health Committee.
There are many types of exotic invasive ant species which have been detected in Australia. Those that are of most concern include:
  • Yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes)
  • Tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata)
  • Electric ant (Wasmannia auropunctata)
  • Argentine ant (Linepithema humile)
  • African Big-Headed ant (Pheidole megacephala)
  • Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)
  • Browsing ant (Lepisiota frauenfeldi)
These ants can transform ecosystems, deplete insect life from an area and even kill small animals. Economically invasive ants can compromise eco-tourism and recreation, reduce crop yields and lead to the death of farm animals. The economic costs associated with control programs are substantial – the national cost of the red imported fire ant control program in Queensland has amounted to almost $330 million over a 16 year period.
Red imported fire ants attack ground-nesting bird chicks as they try to peck their way out of their eggs. Photo credit: Brad Dabbert,

A dead gecko being dragged away by yellow crazy ants. Photo credit: Dinakarr (CC0), via Wikimedia


The entry pathways for exotic invasive ants include sea and air cargo, imported machinery, shipping containers, nursery stock imports, international mail, imported scrap metal and air passenger baggage; however there are activities being undertaken to minimise the risk of incursions and to review current border control measures.
There are now eight separate exotic invasive ant eradication programs underway in Australia. Yellow crazy ant is considered established in Australia, and so not able to be eradicated, and is managed by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy.

National plan

The National Biosecurity Committee has agreed to the development of a national plan to prevent, prepare and respond to exotic invasive ant incursions and detections. This includes the establishment of a national surveillance program.
Achieving this requires the development of a comprehensive research, development and extension plan to identify and address gaps in research needs. Additionally, the plan will support decisions around allocation of resources for effective exotic invasive ant surveillance operations and the development of risk-based approach to surveillance.
Ant specialists from agriculture and environment agencies, researchers, international experts and the Invasive Species Council met in November 2016. This workshop was the first meeting of Australian and international experts to develop a national Tramp Ant Biosecurity Plan and to identify key research needs for national surveillance activities.
The workshop was organised by the Plant Biosecurity CRC on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in response to the increasing number, currently eight, of emergency response plans underway for exotic invasive ants.
The next step will be the compilation and analysis of the outputs from the workshop to be used in the development of a draft national biosecurity plan for exotic invasive ants. The draft plan will be considered by the National Biosecurity Committee in early 2017.
You can read the communique from the workshop here.
The item above came from the CRC on Biosecurity.
This is very relevant across northern Australia, including many urban areas.  Vigilance in managing ants is vital.
However, while there are some excellent products available to really knock over colonies of ants through accumulation of insecticides in the nest, so many homeowners and property managers do not take that step to actually do it. The process is relatively easy and small amounts of insecticides do a great job.

Watch out for denuded areas, often a sure sign of established colonies - in urban areas it can be denuded areas of turf / grass.  Closer inspection usually shows ant access spots or nests.  Then add modest amounts of suitable ant bait.  And watch for more!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

China Bans 100 of Current Golf Courses

It might seem strange to western democratic society, but the Peoples' Republic of China has now banned 100 of the existing cohort of Golf Courses - gone, no longer available!

There had been some prior "noise" about the issue but suddenly last week - it was announced this would actually happen.  Golf courses are reputedly numbering around 693 in China, with many developed after 2004.

I saw it mentioned in Singapore media, where there is also some activity on this issue, with the Singapore government recently announcing [ early January 2017] resumption of golf courses near Jurong for new transport developments, to occur from 2018, hence their interest.

However, the Asian media more broadly quickly picked up on the Chinese moves with a number of articles appearing in on line searches.

The story goes somewhat like this - 

China has launched a renewed crackdown on golf, closing 111 courses in an effort to conserve water and land, and telling members of the ruling Communist Party to stay off the links.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency said Sunday the courses were closed for improperly using groundwater, arable land or protected land within nature reserves. It said authorities have imposed restrictions on 65 more courses.
China banned the development of new golf courses in 2004, when it had fewer than 200. Since that time, the number of courses has more than tripled.
Developers build courses under the guise of parks or other projects, often with the tacit approval of local officials. In one example chronicled by state media, an illegal golf course boasting 58 villas was originally built as a "public sports park," only to be secretly converted later. Many of China's cities, meanwhile, face severe land shortages and skyrocketing real estate prices.
Golf has also come under scrutiny by way of the sweeping anti-corruption campaign launched under Chinese President Xi Jinping. The ruling Communist Party warned its 88 million members in 2015 not to play golf, likening it to "extravagant eating and drinking" and other bad habits that were at odds with the party's stated principles. An editorial in the China Daily newspaper the following spring clarified that party cadres were not to take free memberships or rounds.

Golf boom beginning in '80s

China has veered over the years between rejecting and supporting golf. Amid a spirit of austerity and attacks on the country's former elites, Mao Zedong banned golf after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. One Shanghai golf course was turned into the city zoo.

Exactly when this occurs is unclear at this stage, but it seems it might be very soon!

Friday, January 20, 2017

The New Farmer in the New Agriculture

Toil is no longer king. To a large degree, agricultural success these days is reserved for those who have the time and capacity to figure out which technologies will benefit their farms the most and for those who can implement them in the best way possible.
In a climate-controlled cab, while listening to the Blue Jays game, a farmer can control a machine approximately the size of a small house with a simple joystick. He or she doesn’t need to steer because the machine does that by itself. The farmer has full control over the machine’s thousands of moving parts via a touchscreen monitor.
Most combines in circulation now are capable of threshing hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of crop per day. They are also capable of processing and displaying a phenomenal amount of information. The farmer knows exactly how many bushels per acre his or her combine is processing.
Farming has become a vocation for the detailed, the tech savvy, the geek. From seeding to spraying to harvesting, and all the minute processes in between, farms are relying on machines capable of gathering and processing awe-inspiring amounts of information.
A sprayer that increases dosage in areas of a field that are more disease-prone will increase yield potential, increase profits, and allow that plot of land to generate more food. It’s called variable-rate technology. And it’s only one example of the way farms have evolved into digital playgrounds to grow more food on a finite supply of acres, feeding a hungry market, and offsetting rising land prices. 
Companies such as Case IH, John Deere, Caterpillar, and many others have invested millions (if not billions) in developing cutting edge technologies previously used in military applications for the agricultural market.
In many ways it’s a brave new world. And an intimidating one.
Robotics will find their way onto farms sooner than you and I think. Technology is advancing at a pace advantageous to those waiting for what’s new to become affordable.
In 2014, Grainews reported on ag-based technology that involved an advanced drone mapping a farmer’s field for specific weeds then sending that data to a fleet of unmanned tractors that would use it to locate and kill specific weeds on the field.
When such technologies become accessible to farmers like, say, me, the farmer will be nearly unrecognizable from a generation ago. And while I’m loath to call technological advancements progress without looking at them critically, I do believe that machinery allowing us to be more precise and effective in our use of chemicals is a good thing.
In August 2016, Case IH unveiled an unmanned, autonomous, high-horsepower tractor, a first for the industry. Previous attempts at robotic tractors were on smaller machines. The company has expressed its desire to market this technology to farmers.
Right now, on my farm, the tractors we use the most steer themselves. Our combine is a constant learning curve. And what we have is old. The return on investment for a farm this size must be high and nearly immediate for us to consider purchasing the kinds of technology the ag industry would consider new.
What is accessible and has my undivided attention is the use of drones for basic agronomy. While there are drones available for mapping and some even have the capacity to spray weeds themselves, my interest in them is much more pedestrian: field scouting.
To fly a video drone over areas I can’t access via truck, tractor or atv could be a valuable exercise.
Last spring, gophers ate a few acres of my then newly planted soybeans. This problem was new to me. I did what I could to mitigate the damage once an agronomist helped me determine what the problem was (it bewildered a lot of people), but the result was a loss of about two acres, which, at last year’s yields and prices, equaled a loss of more than $1,000.
In the southwest corner of the field, in an area I couldn’t get to nor see, gophers kept eating, a problem I only took stock of once combining.
Had I scouted that field and that area with an entry-level drone capable of taking video or stills, it would have paid for itself.
Toil is still very much a part of any successful farm, but in many ways it’s taking a back seat to buttons, switches, programs, and monitors. This means increased precision and less waste. And it means increased food production on a finite amount of land.
Next time you see a farmer, thank them, then assume they are handling technologies that put most things in your house to shame.
This appeared in the Financial Post in the Agriculture section on 9 January 2017 written by Torban Dyck. The link is here - 
It is a summary of the technology now appearing in modern agriculture on the farm, and together with some pretty smart genetic progress occurring and not all GM either, it is the future of agriculture NOW.  When you combine these trends with increasing attention directed towards food waste and similar post harvest actions, a vision of agriculture actually feeding the world with less land of lower quality may not be so far fetched.  When you also add the stuff being done with inside hydroponics and automated and robotic vegetable production it sure adds to technology in agriculture and horticulture.
And this technology is hopefully also encouraging some of the smart minds around the youth of today to consider agricultural science as a career.  It is not such a bad choice - plenty of science and technology and a chance to be outdoors at least some of the time!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Zoysia Seed Availability - Australia 2017

Delay and more delay, it seems.  

Christmas holidays and bad weather in the US have been part of the issue too, but not the only problem.  It is not at the Australian end!! 

However, rumours are around that both Zenith and Compadre zoysia seed should be available for sale in Australia by February 2017.

More detail expected over the next two weeks.

If interested in zoysia seed for planting this season we can assist with emailed pdf information sheets, sowing rates and fertiliser rates  - all the detail needed for a successful lawn sowing.

And remember........moisture management during the initial 2-3 weeks is absolutely critical for a successful zoysia planting, including " during the daylight hours" short bursts of water to keep the surface damp [ not super wet] every few hours for a few minutes [ time dependent on irrigation set up].  This prevents the slow germinating seed from dehydration, as it is close to the hot surface of the soil to ensure adequate light during germination.

For larger areas, hydroseeding may be a good option to consider, as the carrier material does help hold moisture near the seed.

UPDATE on 1 February 2017 - A significant issue has occurred.  A banned weed has been found in all lines of varieties being considered for import to Australia.  Recleaning, resampling and retesting will occur in the near term by the exporter.  A delay of at least 3-4 weeks is likely, maybe longer.  

There is no guarantee the recleaning will be successful.

At best..........check back after mid February.  We will try to keep you updated as information is made available. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

‘Gene-silencing’ technique - game-changer for crop protection?

Researchers at the University of Surrey and University of Queensland have developed a revolutionary new crop protection technique which offers an environmentally-friendly alternative to genetically-modified crops and chemical pesticides.

The breakthrough research, published in Nature Plants, could have huge benefits for agriculture and positively impact communities around the world. Plant pests and pathogens are estimated to reduce global crop yields by 30 to 40 per cent a year, constraining global food security. At the same time, the need for higher production, regulatory demands, pesticide resistance, and concern about global warming driving the spread of disease all mean there is a growing need for new approaches to crop protection.

The researchers have found that by combining clay nanoparticles with designer ‘RNAs’ (molecules with essential roles in gene biology), it is possible to silence certain genes within plants. The spray they have developed – known as BioClay – has been shown to give plants virus protection for at least 20 days following a single application. When sprayed with BioClay, the plant ‘thinks’ it is being attacked by a disease or pest insect and responds by protecting itself.  With virus diseases commonplace in many field crop and vegetable crops, this could be a huge breakthrough - essentially immunising plants when a disease threatens.

The latest research overcomes the instability of ‘naked’ RNAs sprayed on plants, which has previously prevented them from being used effectively for virus protection. By loading the agents on to clay nanoparticles, they do not wash off, enabling them to be released over an extended period of time before degrading.

The BioClay technology, which is based on nanoparticles used in the development of human drug treatments, has a number of advantages over existing chemical-based pesticides. Since BioClay is non-toxic and degradable, there is less risk to the environment and human health. It can also be used in a highly targeted way to protect crops against specific pathogens.

Professor G.Q. Max Lu, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey and co-author of the research paper, said: “This is one of the best examples of nanoparticles being effective for biological molecular delivery with a controlled release rate for combating diseases in plants or animals. The same nanoparticle technology invented and patented in my laboratory at the University of Queensland was used for effective targeted drug delivery. It was licensed to an Oxford-based pharmaceutical company and is now being commercialised for drug development.”

“I am very pleased to see the exciting results of this project and the publication of our research in the prestigious Nature Plants journal.”

The research paper, ‘Clay nanosheets for stable delivery of RNA interference as a topical application to protect plants against viruses’ is published in Nature Plants on 10 January 2017.

The research was led by researchers Professor Neena Mitter and Professor Gordon Xu at the University of Queensland in collaboration with Professor Lu of the University of Surrey. 

While field trials been conducted successfully, a lot more field and lab research will be needed to reach the goal of regulatory approvals and have the technique used widely. 

More at