Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Bananas and Disease - A Range of Ideas

Disease may wipe out world's bananas – but here's how we might just save them

Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Cardiff University

Catastrophe is looming for the banana industry. A new strain has emerged of a soil-borne fungus known as “Panama disease” which can wipe out entire plantations – and it is rapidly spreading around the world. Farmers in Australia, Latin America and across Asia and Africa all fear the worst.

The fungus is almost impossible to stop or eradicate. It moves through soil, so contamination can be as simple as infected dirt travelling from one farm to another on the sole of a shoe, or as complex as soil particles blowing on the wind across long distances – even across oceans, in theory.

Faced with huge losses to a global industry, many have called for a new strain of disease-resistant “superbanana”. However, this would be just another temporary fix. After all, the world’s most popular banana, the Cavendish, was itself the wonder fruit of its day, being introduced in the 1950s after an earlier strain of Panama disease destroyed its predecessor.


              Panama disease causes banana plants to wilt and die.
              Scot Nelson

The fungi simply adapted and fought back, though, until the Cavendish also became susceptible. Panama and other diseases will continue to do so until we seriously reform how we grow and market bananas.

The banana industry is its own worst enemy. The huge farms where most exported bananas are grown are ideal for pests. These plantations are monocultures, which means they grow only bananas and nothing else. With very few shifts between crops over the years, and lots of tropical sunshine, there is an abundant and year-round supply of food for pests without any breaks, in time or space, to disrupt the supply and lower the disease pressure.

Banana producers spend a third of their income on controlling these pests, according to a study I published in 2013. Chemicals to control microscopic but deadly worms are applied several times a year. Herbicides that control weeds are applied up to eight times a year, while bananas may be sprayed with fungicides from a plane more than 50 times per year in order to control Black Sigatoka, an airborne fungus.


              Keep out, pests!

And those bags that are wrapped around each individual banana bunch? They’re lined with insecticides to serve as both a physical and chemical barrier to insects feeding on and damaging the skins.

All of this amounts to approximately one litre of active ingredients for every 18.6 kg box of bananas that is exported to consumers in the global north. It’s a huge, long-running problem for the industry and the new strain of Panama disease may just be the nail in its coffin.

Or maybe this is the wake-up call the export banana industry so desperately needs.

Searching for the superbanana

Given the way the fungus spreads, containment and quarantine are hardly long-term solutions. Some experts, especially those entrenched in the business of growing export bananas, argue that we need to breed or genetically modify a new type of banana that is resistant to the latest strain of Panama disease.

But this is harder than it sounds. Modern bananas – the tasty yellow ones – don’t exist in nature; they were bred into existence around 10,000 years ago. They reproduce asexually, which means they don’t have seeds and every banana is a genetic clone of the previous generation.

This lack of genetic variation makes breeding a new banana particularly challenging. If one Cavendish is susceptible to a disease, all others will be too. When all bananas are clones, how do you create the genetic variation from which traits for better disease resistance can be identified and nurtured?


              Identical bananas – and only bananas – for miles on end.
              underworld / shutterstock

A new banana would also have to be tasty, durable enough to withstand long voyages without bruising, and bright yellow. Looks really do trump pest-resistance. A new type of banana introduced during a previous Panama disease panic back in the 1920s was rejected by consumers for going black on the outside, even when it was ripe and sweet inside.

Saving the banana

Today, banana growers are in a fight for survival, continuously applying newly-formulated fungicides in an effort to keep ahead of the diseases. But they are acutely aware that they are losing ground. While breeding a new banana staves off the current problem, history has already shown that this doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which is the design of the production system.

We need to ditch the massive farms. Around the world, millions of small-scale farmers already grow bananas in a more organic and sustainable way. Alongside bananas are cacao, avocado, mango, corn, orange, lemon and more. A mix of crops creates more stable production systems which rely on fewer, if any, pesticides and generates diverse income sources, handing local people greater food sovereignty. Farms where bananas are mixed in with other crops are also more resilient to climate change which is likely to hit banana-producing regions – developing countries – harder than most.

Yes, this would mean fewer bananas are grown. Sustainable agriculture simply can’t keep up with the megafarms. But if we learned to ignore the odd blemished or undersized banana, then the actual amount sent to market need not drop at all.

The farmers themselves should be okay as they’ll make up their income by producing different crops. Breaking the dominance of the banana multinationals should also distribute wealth among more farmers and empower the regions where they’re grown. As a consumer, ask yourself this: isn’t that a far better way to spend your money?

Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Research Associate, Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

This is but one view, and a variety of views is always worth hearing.  There is a lot of research occurring to deal with the proliferation of Panama Disease TR4.  Agricultural science research focused on solutions!.

Also relevant is a need to improve the nutrition quality of bananas in regions especially where it is a staple food eg Uganda and other parts of Africa.  Progress is being made, supported by the Gates Foundation.  Loss of bananas as a crop in these regions would be a very serious issue.  Genetics are at the forefront of the scientific work to find a solution.

The picture worldwide with bananas is far from the gloom and doom portrayed in this article. It might not be all beer and skittles,  but a lot of bananas are still being produced and shipped around the world.

Biosecurity programs, cultural and agronomic interventions and management are somewhat mitigating the disease spread in areas known to have the disease, but it is spreading slowly - absolutely correct.  And it is a steady "war "between plant disease and plant varieties - across many different crops, with new disease resistant varieties produced regularly across many crops yet the diseases continue to adapt and infect crops that are either not resistant, or the disease adapting to forma modified strain.  It has been that way for thousands of years.  Genetics at work, Even if more difficult in a cloned variety.

But banana demand in many regions also is expanding.  It is a fruit of choice quite often in many countries, so pressure to develop solutions is high.  And there may well be multiple solutions.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The International Year of the Pulse 2016

Feeding the Future With Pulse Crops
The year 2016 has been dubbed the “International Year of Pulses” by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). The goal of the initiative is to heighten consumer awareness of the nutritional and other benefits of pulse crops as well as to marshal the capabilities of agricultural research organizations worldwide in developing new, improved varieties that will further global food security and sustainable agriculture.

Pulses are the dry edible seeds of certain leguminous plants, including dry peas, lentils, chickpeas, mungbeans and dry beans (such as kidney and navy beans), but not fresh green beans, fresh peas, soybeans, or peanuts.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “Pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions, and cancer; they are also an important source of plant-based protein for animals.”
The Agricultural Research Service of the USDA has long been a proponent of pulse crops, with one research program—the Dry Bean Project at Prosser, Washington—dating back to 1958 and currently serving growers and other industry members in more than 11 states across the country. Scientists with the agency are also making global contributions, particularly through their participation in the Feed the Future (FtF) Grain Legumes Project, a food security initiative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Pulses are historically important food crops, and ARS is a leader in developing high-yielding varieties with enhanced nutritional qualities,” says plant geneticist George Vandemark, who leads the agency’s Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit in Pullman, Washington.
Vandemark’s laboratory is one of several ARS locations across the country whose pulse crop research programs produce improved germplasm and commercial varieties offering better resistance to pests and diseases, greater tolerance to environmental extremes like drought, improved nutritional quality, and other traits benefiting growers, processors, and consumers.
Over the past 5 years, in partnership with USAID and through their participation in the FtF Grain Legumes Project, ARS scientists at five locations have brought their considerable expertise to bear in addressing some of the agricultural challenges faced by rural and small-holdings farmers in developing regions of the world where pulses, particularly dry beans, are staple food crops.

• The Andean Diversity Panel (ADP), a collection of nearly 500 accessions of large-seeded dry beans of Andean descent obtained from more than a dozen countries in South America, Africa, the Caribbean, and parts of North America. ADP database information includes analyses from genomic mapping and genotyping, physical and biochemical descriptions of the accessions, and DNA markers associated with genes for important traits like higher mineral content, adaptability to nutrient-poor soils, and resistance to diseases like rust and angular leaf spot that can decimate susceptible bean crops. 
• Demonstration that certain genomic regions are responsible for “fast cooking,” a valuable trait that can reduce the cooking time of beans—thus reducing the amount of fuel needed to prepare meals in resource-poor households. FtF team members are also investigating the role of other contributing factors, namely, seed mineral concentrations (before and after cooking) to assess their correlations with cooking time.
• Use of a plant breeding technique called “pyramid stacking” to develop red, pinto, great northern, and navy beans with adaptability to a broad range of conditions, including extreme heat, productivity in nutrient-poor soils, and limited irrigation. Together with University of Puerto Rico colleagues, FtF team members have provided breeding and pathology training to East African, Haitian, and Central American scientists, particularly in developing locally adapted varieties that can withstand common bacterial blight, angular leaf spot, and other bean diseases.
• Identification of broad-spectrum resistance to the bean rust fungus in large-seeded cultivars from Tanzania and Ecuadorian germplasm lines. Crosses are under way to transfer the rust resistance into dry bean market classes (yellow, red-mottled, white, and tan) for small-holdings farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, where fungicide use to prevent outbreaks can be too costly.
• Evaluations of the agronomic performance of common and tepary (southwestern) beans inoculated with strains of Bradyrhizobium bacteria, which convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form the plants can use for their growth—reducing the need to apply fertilizers for subsequent crops.—By Jan Suszkiw, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
“Feeding the Future With Pulse Crops” was published in the February 2016 issue of AgResearch Magazine.  

http://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2016/feb       - link with images.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Niche Marketing for Quality and Differentiated Agribusiness Products

The article below came from a recent NAB Agribusiness newsletter and highlights the opportunity in agribusiness for shrewd operators.

The emphasis is on quality and differentiation of the product, a trait that seems to be increasing in Australian agriculture.  With large organisations such as Australian Agriculture Company - AACo - marketing their own branded beef through supermarkets, mango growers marketing single variety products sourced from a range of areas to the wheat group highlighted here, ways are being found to differentiate products formerly thought of as mass market products.  And creating significant value along the way.

Can you as a rural producer do something similar or create a group that could? 

While not for everyone, it certainly has a place in today and tomorrow's rural product mix, particularly to urban consumers who are often brand focused.

It is important to also note the emphasis on traceability - a big issue for food products.

Here is the NAB article - with acknowledgement to the NAB Agribusiness Newsletter [electronic].

Run by four families, Flinders Ranges Premium Grain in South Australia has an expanding grain and flour export business that sells itself on the location and soil it’s grown in, in the same way wine does. Their specialised Katana wheat is acclaimed by frozen dough producers in India and the Middle East as much as it is by artisan bakers in Australia.

It’s taken 15 years, but Flinders Ranges Premium Grain (FRPG) in South Australia is riding an export boom for their flour made from low-yield hard wheat called Katana.

The Ranges’ low rainfall and limestone rich soil give their specialised wheat an elastic protein profile that gives it an extended frozen shelf life without the inclusion of preservatives or additives. This has made it popular among frozen dough producers in India and the Middle East as well as artisan bread producers in Australia.  “We knew that doing well as a business meant moving away from producing a soft commodity where we were at the wrong end of the pricing chain,” says FRPG CEO Peter Barrie.  “We looked at what food producers in different markets required as well as what our four family-run properties in the Flinders Ranges could best produce. We started experimenting with hard wheat. While not as high yield as many grains, the elastic, high protein qualities of the grains opened up premium markets to us – abroad and at home.”

Understand your product’s role in the food industry

Ongoing research and development (R&D) is a hallmark of FPRG’s business strategy. From early on, they formed a solid relationship with Adelaide TAFE to test how the flour grown on their farms performed for different segments of the food industry.  “Discovering how our wheat performed as a baking ingredient led us to identify our niche export market,” says Barrie. “Once we knew what we needed to provide to frozen dough producers, we continued testing wheat varieties until we found our best for purpose grain.”

This emphasis on R&D coupled with ‘paddock-to-plate’ traceability helped FRPG secure the Bakers Circle India and the Middle East contracts to supply the flour for frozen dough for the regions’ Subway stores.

Even with the Indian contract well established, Barrie still travels to India, and now Dubai, to check how his flour performs within its production environment and as an end product in the local Subway stores. “It’s satisfying being part of the whole production process in all these different places,” he adds.

Consistent quality demands full traceability

Quality, consistency and traceability are equally important for FRPG’s large overseas clients. The company has a fully auditable path from farm to shipping that guarantees the clean and green standards of their produce. This traceability involves having their own storage silos and mill, so there is no risk of contamination with inferior grain from other farms.

Australia’s reputation as clean and green is a big drawcard internationally. The National Residue Testing Standards are a good base. However, Barrie points out that most countries and big food manufacturers have their own strict standards. This makes meeting individual customer protocols time-consuming.  “It’s another reason single origin grain and flour from small family owned farms holds an international advantage,” he says. “We can provide the traceability and quality control. The low rainfall on our properties means fewer chemicals.

We don’t need fungicides, and we select varieties that are disease resistant. Being a family farm is a definite marketing advantage. Companies and consumers like to know where their flour has come from and have the security of knowing who produced it.”

Find your niche and you find your future

Barrie is excited about the future of Australian agriculture and FRPG in particular. While acknowledging that the falling dollar helps, he doesn’t shy away from the need to continuously explore new markets and tailor wheat for their needs, saying: “It’s a non-stop learning curve for everyone involved”.  

FRPG is currently working with the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemical Engineering to try and double the shelf life of wholemeal wheat and, if international demand is high enough, set up a wholemeal mill.  “We keep one step ahead of the market by identifying and then solving a problem for the food industry,” he says.

FRPG went on three government trade missions in 2015. So far, they’ve steered clear of China because the margins were too low. However, that market is opening up for premium primary produce. “We’re looking to diversify into three or four countries plus develop our domestic artisan sourdough flour market,” says Barrie.

He sees great opportunities for young farmers today. The export market is opening up in exciting ways – if farmers become part of the food industry instead of suppliers of a soft commodity.

“Accept the challenges, and life on and off the farm gets more interesting,” advises Barrie.

More on the business here - www.flindersgrain.com.au

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Could Milk Proteins Clean up Heavy Metals in Water?

Modified milk proteins hold some promise to remove heavy metals from water according to recent studies.  If confirmed it is a big breakthrough that a common product might hold a key to cleaning up contaminated water - with heavy metals such as lead and arsenic as well as radionucleide  metals eg radium often seen as ground water contaminats in many countries including much of Asia.
Reports from Washington recently noted that scientists had found that proteins similar to those implicated in Alzheimer’s disease could help purify polluted water, according to Science News.
A new membrane uses thin amyloid protein fibers to pull heavy metals and radioactive wastes out of water. The membranes can capture more than their own weight in some contaminants, said scientists in the Jan. 25 report in Nature Nanotechnology.
I think what’s really interesting in this study is that it actually used a protein material, which is novel,” said Qilin Li, an environmental engineer at Rice University in Houston who was not involved in the study. Specifically, the team converted milk proteins into fibers of durable amyloid protein. Other amyloids are infamous for building up in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, but the team put their amyloids’ sticky tendrils to different use.
When paired with strong, porous carbon in a membrane, the lab-made amyloids successfully filtered over 99 percent of toxic materials out of solutions that mimicked severely polluted waters, the scientists report. The amyloids trapped particles of lead and mercury at a molecular site that is involved in turning the original milk protein into its pasty form. Radioactive waste particles also got tangled in the membranes. And the membranes snagged gold contaminants, which the team found could later be recovered and purified. A membrane with less than 6 milligrams of amyloids could trap 100 milligrams of gold, the scientists report.
It’s exciting to see that the amyloids can hold more than their own mass in heavy metal particles, said Li. More typical membrane materials, she says, would grab only a fraction of their weight in pollutants.
The membranes could be developed for small- or large-scale water purification units, said study co-author Raffaele Mezzenga, a physicist at ETH Zurich. Mezzenga estimated the technology would cost roughly one dollar per every thousand liters of water filtered. And a membrane can recover hundreds of times its own value in precious metals, Mezzenga says. The membrane design is simple and flexible, and could be adjusted to optimize cleanup or metal recovery, he says.

Li said the membranes will need to be tested and optimized in real polluted waters, which may have chemical complications such as high or low acidities. But the amyloids’ performance is encouraging, she said, and the proteins’ contaminant-trapping capabilities could inspire other researchers developing contaminant filters.

Partially sourced from Water Technology

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Benefits of Using Compost for Erosion and Sediment Control

The following article was written recently by a colleague in the US [ Ron Alexander] and some content needs be seen in the context of that general location.

However, the broad implications are still relevant and even more so in the tropics with normally much greater intensity of rainfall, in comparison to temperate areas.  The experience of our own operations in the tropics on very large mining projects in Indonesia and tropical Australia adds to to the ideas written below here by the author, with surface applied mulches and composts being excellent erosion and sediment management options, even on slopes up to 1:1 - ie 45 degrees. Much better than silt fences!!

We even used chipped coconut husk pieces on some steep slopes very successfully, but commonly in Indonesia we used rice straw, a nominally waste material supplied by local farmers rather than burning it as waste in the fields after threshing the grain.  It was excellent, as mucous exuded from the straw helped bind the material together, allowing permeation of water through but not necessarily washing it all away.

Yes.......we needed some rechecks and repairs but for a very large area of bare slopes it was excellent, and certainly reduced erosion enormously at relatively low cost.

Mulch berms are now also commonly used on larger flat exposed areas near Darwin, with more extensive use on several large mining, construction and building projects in recent years.  Definitely a go to option that works well, is easily repaired when needed and it can tolerate heavy tropical rain, reducing high intensity overland flows.

Surface applied mulches can be very effective - consider them as a sensible option for your next erosion and sediment management project.

We offer ESCP plan development for projects and can assist you develop an appropriate solution. 

9 Benefits to Using Compost for Erosion and Sediment Control

by Ron Alexander  8 January 2016
Credit: Erth Products

Erosion and sediment control. Although still considered relatively unknown in certain regions of North America, the use of compost in erosion and sediment control has been a very successful landscaping practice for over 25 years. 

Compost blankets (the application of a layer of compost on hill slopes), compost berms, and compost filter socks are incredibly effective, enhance the long-term quality of the soil, and, in the case of compost blankets, have excellent stormwater reduction advantages. These innovative techniques have been thoroughly proven through university research, and have been recommended for use by the USEPA. 

National specifications exist for these applications through the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. (Go to www.alexassoc.net, then “Library of Articles,” and look under “Compost Specifications” to see the full specs.)

When used as a compost blanket, compost is typically placed on up to 2:1—and sometimes more severe—slopes at an application rate of 1–2 inches [25-50mm] in depth. 

This technique is used and is highly effective in reducing and slowing the sheet flow of water. 

Lesser application rates are possible in areas of lower rainfall accumulation and intensity, on less severe slopes, and where vegetation is to be established. Once applied, the woody fraction of the compost increases surface roughness and slows the flow of runoff, thereby making it less erosive, more likely to induce infiltration into the soil and reduce the transport of pollutants. 

In addition, the woody fraction absorbs the energy of the rainfall, preventing soil particles from dislodging (the first stage of soil erosion), while the finer fraction beneath it absorbs a substantial volume of moisture, and is optimum for plant establishment and growth. Research completed at University of ­Georgia illustrated that a 2-inch[50mm] application of compost onto a slope could absorb and hold 1–2  [50mm]inches of rainfall.

Further, the unique properties of the product allow for extensive rooting of the grass and other vegetation, locking the blanket to the slope and protecting the soil beneath it. 

It should also be noted that compost blankets are effective with or without vegetation, but application rates of compost can often be reduced if it is applied with vegetation. University research consistently illustrates that compost blankets not only constantly outperform hydroseeding and conventional erosion control blankets (e.g., rolled fabric) in vegetation establishment, but also more effectively reduce stormwater runoff volume and peak flows, as well as total sediment and nutrient loads (Faucette et al. 2005; Faucette et al. 2007; and Faucette et al. 2009, “Large-scale performance and design…”).

Research performed for Portland Metro, an environmental regulatory body based in Portland, OR, and the USDA ARS further illustrated that yard trimmings compost was capable of not only controlling erosion, but also of filtering, binding, and degrading contaminants from the stormwater passing through the layer (Faucette et al. 2013; Faucette et al. 2009, “Storm water pollutant removal performance…”).

The benefit of using a compost blanket lies in its ability to:
  • act as a buffer to absorb rainfall energy,
  • reduce wind and water erosion,
  • stimulate microbial activity to increase decomposition of organic materials in the soil thereby adding to the soil structure,
  • prevent soil compaction and crusting, thereby facilitating percolation,
  • slow the flow of water over the surface of the soil,
  • capture and retain moisture, reducing soil moisture loss thereby facilitating plant growth,
  • provide suitable microclimate for seed germination,
  • in areas with cold winters - capture blowing snow to increase the insulating effect of winter protection, and
  • improve soil texture (Story et al. 1995).
Compost berms and filter socks are “3D” filters possessing huge sediment and biofiltration capabilities. 

Where the berms are used in sheet flow conditions, the filter socks (think pantyhose filled with coarse compost) can also be used in concentrated water flow situations. 

This is because filter socks can be staked into place, and the compost media is contained within a mesh netting material. 

Although both compost berms and filter socks are used as perimeter control devices for sediment, installed around the borders of construction sites and at the top and bottom of slopes, the filter sock technology is much more versatile (see www.filtrexx.com). 

They can even be used around stormwater inlets and to build “living” walls. 

One of the most important research findings pertaining to compost filter berms and socks, is that they are much more effective in capturing fine particles of sediment, which are not captured as efficiently by other more conventional sediment control devices (e.g., silt fences). 

This is very important in that fine particles of sediment have the potential to be much more damaging to the environment, since they transport further and stay in suspension longer, and also contain a greater amount of chemical contamination (e.g., petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, nutrients) than larger particles of sediment.

The use of compost in erosion and sediment control projects has expanded significantly since the adoption of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II regulation for construction activities in the USA. 

This regulation requires that construction sites of 1 acre or greater to have erosion and sediment control plans in effect on a daily basis using prescribed best management practices (BMPs).

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Styrofoam May be Banned More Widely

Will Styrofoam Get the Plastic Bag Treatment?

Say farewell to Styrofoam take-out containers in the US s capital. It’s been a few years in the making, but Washington, D.C. has finally enacted a firm ban on polystyrene food and beverage containers

Henceforth, all restaurants will have to provide biodegradable alternatives if they want to send their patrons home with leftovers.

The ordinance is a big score for the environment since Styrofoam is a harmful material that takes hundreds of years to decompose. Although it was recently discovered that mealworms can safely digest polystyrene, that’s not currently a practical approach to handling the world’s massive foam waste problem. 

As it stands, Styrofoam products account for about 30 percent of all space in landfills in the U.S. Altogether, Americans toss approximately 25 billion Styrofoam cups each year.

Styrofoam may be a nationwide problem, but lawmakers also factored in local concerns when deciding to enact the ban. The city has undergone a serious effort to clean the highly polluted Anacostia River, and the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) notes that foam containers are some of the most common types of litter fished out of the river. By eliminating Styrofoam boxes and cups, the river should become that much cleaner.

The D.C. law pertains specifically to food and drink containers obtained at restaurants. Styrofoam will still be allowed for a number of other uses, including to pack and ship food products. The DOEE says it will conduct regular inspections to determine that food industry businesses are complying with the law, and it invites citizens to call in tips to report restaurants that continue to serve Styrofoam.

While D.C. may be the current largest populated city in the United States to ban foam, it’s certainly not the first. The Surfrider Foundation compiles a list of places across America that have similarly kicked out polystyrene containers, including Seattle, Wash., Portland, Ore., and over 60 communities scattered throughout California. Though most municipalities are recent adopters, a handful of places have laws dating back to the late 1980s/early 1990s.

New York City was the biggest city to get rid of foam containers until a few months ago. 

A judge in New York state undid the ban on polystyrene containers throughout New York City, saying that the city had the responsibility to find better ways to recycle the material before outright banning it.

[ partially sourced from www.enn.com ]

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Australia - A Clean Energy Future?

The following online newspaper article is worth reading, in reference to where Australia may be headed with energy sources.

While the Australian government seems still locked up with coal, many professionals do not share that vision.

The article makes that point strongly and quite clearly - Australia has an emerging future with renewable energy sources.  This is a point previously made in relation to the use of solar energy where a clear case was made that Australia could have a strong base for solar power. [ see earlier posts both recent https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=36976850#editor/target=post;postID=9105132780225795741;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=9;src=postname  and over the past 2 years]

What is your view?


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Avoid Using Immature Compost

A recent warning is important for all users of compost - avoid immature compost as an organic amendment - it can do more harm than good according to Pam Pittaway at USQ.
Soil health specialist Dr Pam Pittaway has warned farmers of the danger of using immature compost on crops of all kinds.
Soil health specialist Dr Pam Pittaway has warned farmers of the danger of using immature compost on crops of all kinds, and advised that either curing organic compost yourself, or testing it and the soil for nutrients, is the best way to ensure organic amendments benefit crops.
Speaking at a recent symposium about soil health at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in Toowoomba, Dr Pittaway said knowing the microbial stability of your amendment and its salt content were the best ways to ensure your crop got the optimum nutrients.
“If you know the salt content of your amendment, and the plant-available and total nutrient content of your amendment, you might be able to reduce the amount of NPK fertiliser you put on your crop,” Dr Pittaway said.
This could result in farmers greatly reducing their inorganic fertiliser bills, but Dr Pittaway said the age and content of the organic amendment, or fertiliser, needed to be taken into consideration, and the purchase of product of indeterminate age or properties was a risky business.
“As soon as you put on something with readily available carbon as well as nitrogen and phosphorus, you stimulate a microbial feeding frenzy which can starve your crop. If soil microbes have access to fast food, they take up luxury amounts of available N and P, out-competing plant roots,” she said.
“Adding manure or compost high in potassium can also burn plant roots, as potassium is a soluble salt,” she said. 
“And when growers continue to add fertiliser nitrogen on top of past organic amendments, they can get an uncontrolled growth flush which commits your plants to an extra load; if they can’t support that during the growth period, they can end up shedding tillers, or can lodge.”
Dr Pittaway said root disease was also a possible symptom of over-feeding crops with organic amendments.
“The best way to get root disease in a crop is nutrient imbalance.”
“My advice is if you can’t afford good cured compost, invest in more soil testing, and put immature products on your least valuable crop.”- Dr Pam Pittaway
Australian horticulture and agriculture use a vast range of organic amendments, including pig and poultry manure produced, cured and used on-farm, and commercially produced preparations, most of which incorporate straw or green waste as a source of carbon.
Dr Pittaway said the best result from using cured compost achieved organic slow release which synchronised nutrient release with plant demand, and minimised grower expenditure on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) inputs.
“My advice is if you can’t afford good cured compost, invest in more soil testing, and put immature products on your least valuable crop.”
Dr Pittaway said producers needed to be aware of the business model of some waste management businesses, which sought a fast turnaround on organic amendments.
“Some businesses need to push product out the gate to make space for more waste, and while Australian Standards say certain aspects of organic amendments must be tested, those results won’t necessarily tell you what’s best for your crop or soils.
“Instead of a six-week turnaround, which is what some waste-management businesses operate on, you want to use organic amendments that have been cured for 16-20 weeks, because immature compost could do more harm than good.”
She said farmers should also be aware of the environmental risks of over-application of organic amendments, which can put phosphorus surplus to the crop’s requirement into waterways.
Dr Pittaway has conducted studies on a number of organic amendments including cotton trash, feedlot manure, sugarcane waste, and sawdust in broadacre and horticultural applications.
“Fully cured compost costs more but immediately conditions your soil. Humus-like organic acids in cured compost are very good at holding moisture and buffering against acidification, and can make more phosphorus available. Adding humus-like, cured compost builds the stable, long-term organic fraction back into your soil.
“If it is fully cured, you can build a slow-release nitrogen bank [ in the soil] which will release nutrients in synch with the crop’s development.”
- Source: University of Southern Queensland.

 This advice applies to soil applied compost but may not be so important for use of above ground mulch, which also acts as a erosion protection and soil stability mechanism, while breaking down.  This is a factor with using green manure crops or crop residues on the surface.  If in doubt over using crop residuals or compost,  seek advice from a competent agronomist.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Law of Food Conservation

Sometimes you read an item that calls out for wider dissemination.

This link takes you to some commentary on food waste issues, and covers a few themes where there is potential for thoughtful change.

While based on US analysis I feel sure it can equally apply in many ways across other countries, with change for the better possible almost everywhere.

Read the article ............you might generate some thoughts and ideas for your community.


Like most environment and conservation practices - it does start with you!

And I challenge you to rebuff the idea that you cannot implement some positive change to reduce food waste yourself. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thielaviopsis Trunk Rot in Palms – More Common in 2015

  One of the relatively common ailments seen in palms around Darwin is the death and damage in the stems of multi stem palms.  Think golden cane palm, some Rhapsis palms, sealing wax palms and similar plants common in many gardens.  It does seem to be more common over the past year or so, possibly as a result of less dry season irrigation to palms due to cost issues.

While there can be a few causes, with stress often related to poor irrigation management, a common problem here and also in Florida USA can be plant disease.  Unfortunately a cure is not available – except by removal of the infested plant, burning NOT composting the plant material, and removal and landfill disposal of the remnant stems out of the ground – AND then DO NOT replant a palm in the area.

Typically stress, commonly through lack of dry season water, will rapidly escalate the problem, which could be festering along, and not being noted, as afterall, palms do shed leaves quite readily!  

Water stress is not the cause of the stem dying but it does exacerbate the disease problem, and may act in concert with the disease  leading to severe and rapid escalation of the disease cases.

If you see the palm stem bending and breaking just below the crown shaft area [ the top part where new leaves emerge] , new leaves emerging and appearing brown or dying, cracks in the stem, and at times breaking near the base [ less common in multi stem palms] it might well be this disease.

All that can be done is to remove the infected leaves and dispose of into the landfill [ NOT as greenwaste] or burn them [ preferable], and removing the leftover leafbases and roots, and disposing of them in the same way.

While not highly infectious, it is common to see spread between nearby plants, and removing the source of infection is prudent. Infection via wounds on the palms - at transplanting or even cutting fronds off is seen as a common entry pathway for the disease.

In Florida, this disease and another one [ Ganoderma butt rot or canker] [ also see -http://abovecapricorn.blogspot.com.au/search/label/palms ] are a common problem in newly transplanted palms in landscape development, and examples of some of the problems are seen in these reports by Prof Monica Elliott -  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pp100 on Ganoderma and https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pp143 on  Thielaviopsis.

Both diseases are present in palms around the north of Australia.

The photos below are of Thielaviopsis trunk rot photographed in Darwin in late 2015. 

General view - typical of appearance with disease - brown and damaged leaves and stems

common appearance of split palm trunk with Thielaviopsis disease

broken stem below crown shaft in golden cane palm

Commonly seen stem damage on golden cane palms
The disease and pest problem with palms is significant in Florida, with calls to diversify the plants used in landscaping.  However, like here, if in the tropics palms are expected to be seen!

Locally, we need to be aware and wary of the disease issue with palms, and minimise spread.  For example, wait for palm leaves to fall, rather than cutting them off, if possible, and take care with sanitising equipment between plants - for example an antiseptic dip or spray - always a simple, but effective biosecurity measure. 

Watch out for these two widespread palm diseases!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cattle Emissions Much Lower in Australia - New Estimates

Rs6083 margaretta fahey

Methane emissions from Australian cattle are 24% lower than previously estimated - and that is very substantial, given the overall percentage of animal methane in the total greenhouse gases in Australia, according to data based on eight years of research into ways to reduce emissions in livestock. The new method has been published in the journal Animal Production Science and resulted in an update of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI).

CSIRO’s Ed Charmley said the work was conducted because of concerns about the large differential between NGGI and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methane emission figures for Australian cattle, as well as doubt surrounding the accuracy of previous calculation methodologies used for cattle — particularly northern Australian cattle,  where it was assumed pasture quality was very poor, leading to high methane emissions.  “Different methods used to calculate emissions from livestock in temperate and tropical regions were based on studies done in the 1960s and 1990s, mainly with dairy cattle,” Dr Charmley said.  “Both of these past methods were found to be likely overestimating the emissions from cattle.”

The revised method is based on improved ways of estimating ruminant methane emissions from forage-fed beef and dairy cattle, and has been tested against international defaults provided by the IPCC. The method has also brought the NGGI in line with the estimates of the IPCC, much to the delight of Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

“This revelation clearly shows livestock-based emissions are nowhere near what they were thought to be and will help improve the accuracy of Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions estimates,” said MLA General Manager, On-farm Innovation Dr Matthew McDonagh.  “This is positive news for the Australian livestock sector as it seeks to continually improve its production efficiencies and demonstrate its environmental credentials.”

MLA Manager, Sustainable Feedbase Tom Davison added that the latest research findings from the National Livestock Methane Program (NLMP) show there are a number of simple management measures producers can implement to substantially reduce methane emissions while increasing productivity.  “Some of these are as simple as integrating leucaena into grazing systems, improving growth rates or herd reproductive performance, while other future techniques may include feeding red-algae to livestock and have been prioritised for further research,” Dr Davison said.  “We look forward to continuing to make further gains in this field for the mutual benefit of both our livestock industries and environmental sustainability.”

Generally if higher quality leguminous feeds are a larger part of the diet, then methane emissions per beast falls.  Over the past 20 years or so, grass fed pasture diets have replaced the push to improve forage with legumes, more common in the 1970s - 1980s.  A swing back to a higher legume % based diets in the paddocks is emerging and methane emissions may continue to fall, as well as the higher quality feed also helping with animal productivity generally.

Image credit: Margaretta Fahey.

partially sourced from CSIRO press releases and Sustainability Matters online

Monday, December 14, 2015

Zenith Zoysia - New 2015 Sowing at Bundaberg Queensland

Zenith Zoysia was used for a new turf area sowing recently at Bundaberg, Queensland.

As a slightly alternative option, sugar mill "mud"was used as a cover and nutrient source and also to adjust pH closer to neutral [ it is alkaline].

Photo one month after sowing in early November.  There was some wash from a storm, hence a few bare areas, but the client is absolutely delighted with the outcome so far.

Sedges were controlled with halosulfuron [ a few different trade names available], and broadleaved weeds with MCPA/dicamba mix [ common trade name is Kamba - M].

Outstandingly, the seedlings are quickly developing strong lateral runners, which will help provide that all important ground cover to protect the surface as there will surely be more storms over the next few months.  Lateral growth is stronger in less dense areas, a great help to soil cover wher eit is most needed.

The area has not been mown but will be in the next couple of weeks and once that happens, expect a further surge in lateral growth.

Zenith zoysia at Bundeaberg, Qld approx 4 weeks from sowing in November 2015.  Copyright - B Cobb and used with permission

Saturday, December 05, 2015

High-tech Manufacturing “booming” in Australia

The depreciation in the Australian dollar has seen manufacturing exports up sharply, led by high-value companies selling into global supply chains.
The Australian Financial Review reports recently that transport equipment exports and machinery & equipment categories have seen exports grow by 9.9 and 11 per cent in the last year.
"Perhaps traditional manufacturing is not doing so well, but high-tech, high-value manufacturing is booming,” the Australian Industry Group’s John O’Callaghan told The AFR, adding that the highest-value global supply chain was in defence and aerospace.
Companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Thales valued Australian SMEs as suppliers for their innovation, engineering and other sets of expertise, as well as the political stability of the market and its nearness to Asia. He cited suppliers to Thales for its Bushmaster, Quickstep and Marand Precision Engineering.
"These are Australian companies, building the most complex pieces of machinery in the world today. They employ hundreds of people and build skills capacity in this country," said O’Gallaghan.

To this one could also add Austal – now a major shipbuilder for the US military as well as some other countries with its specialised mostly aluminium vessels, made in Australia as well as overseas sites in the US and The Philippines.  There has also been some reports that Incat in Tasmania now has stronger overseas ship building orders also.

Maybe mass scale manufacturing is unwell, but there are some very smart smaller companies moving to fill the gap, many operating in highly competitive niche areas of hi tech manufacturing outside the defence and aerospace areas where they are thriving, albeit from a small base.  They tend to operate below the radar of the general public, but they really are very smart operators, even in areas such as agriculture and solar cells [Dyesol].  One could also add the computer software company Atlassian – but does it truly manufacture?  

Friday, December 04, 2015

USA - "Call To Action" To Reduce Food Waste

The USA held an important summit recently to address the announcements a few months back from the US Government on reducing food waste in the US.

U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator  Mathy Stanislaus announced a "Call To Action" to help meet the U.S. EPA's and U.S. Department of Agriculture's goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Stanislaus issued the Call To Action during the Closing Plenary of the Food Recovery Summit, held November 16-18 in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. "We want to announce an Action Plan to meet the goal on Earth Day 2016," he stated. "What has to be done to meet this goal? What has to change? We are seeking a diverse plan made by representatives of all sectors of the food life cycle."

Stanislaus and other EPA officials participated in sessions and roundtables throughout the summit. They emphasized that EPA is open to new and "disruptive" ideas and strategies to prevent wasted food, increase food recovery, and assist in development of processing infrastructure for nonedible food. "We are pushing all of you to help develop a concrete plan that you can sign on to and commit your resources [to implement]," concluded Stanislaus.

There has also been some acknowledgment in Australia that we also need to also primarily reduce food waste in our country, and to better address  - successfully  - how to deal with the food waste generated.  Technologies are reasonably readily available, only requiring suitable adaptation and scheme specific design.

One can think of concepts such as anaerobic digestion, composting and co-composting of food and other organic wastes [ at home and commercially], even waste to energy schemes as all playing some part in better utilising the wasted foods.  Individual circumstances will drive the options.

It is better to reduce the initial waste where possible and even better management of unused foods in conjunction with food bank groups does help in reducing food wastes.

There has not been the serious and concerted push as seen in the US here in Australia so far to reduce food waste, with most western countries having greater food waste in the post production sector rather than during production. 

We can all do more though, to reduce food wastage, especially now with the festive season approaching and a trend to excess food being available.  Of major importance is the front end of the cycle – the reduction of actually avoiding the proliferation of food available that most people know may often go to waste.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Short Answers to Hard Questions on Climate Change

Credit James Yang for The New York Times
The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. Predictions about the fate of the planet carry endless caveats and asterisks.
We get it.
And so, as the Paris climate talks get underway, we’ve provided quick answers to often-asked questions about climate change. You can submit your own questions here.

How much is the planet heating up?
  1. 1.7 degrees is actually a significant amount.
    As of this October, the Earth had warmed by about 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, when tracking began at a global scale. That figure includes the surface of the ocean. The warming is greater over land, and greater still in the Arctic and parts of Antarctica.
    The number may sound low, but as an average over the surface of an entire planet, it is actually high, which explains why much of the land ice on the planet is starting to melt and the oceans are rising at an accelerating pace. The heat accumulating in the Earth because of human emissions is roughly equal to the heat that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day.
    Scientists believe most and probably all of the warming since 1950 was caused by the human release of greenhouse gases. If emissions continue unchecked, they say the global warming could ultimately exceed 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which would transform the planet and undermine its capacity to support a large human population.

  2. How much trouble are we in?
    For future generations, big trouble.
    The risks are much greater over the long run than over the next few decades, but the emissions that create those risks are happening now. Over the coming 25 or 30 years, scientists say, the climate is likely to resemble that of today, although gradually getting warmer. Rainfall will be heavier in many parts of the world, but the periods between rains will most likely grow hotter and therefore drier. The number of hurricanes and typhoons may actually fall, but the ones that do occur will draw energy from a hotter ocean surface, and therefore may be more intense, on average, than those of the past. Coastal flooding will grow more frequent and damaging.
    Longer term, if emissions continue to rise unchecked, the risks are profound. Scientists fear climate effects so severe that they might destabilize governments, produce waves of refugees, precipitate the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in Earth’s history, and melt the polar ice caps, causing the seas to rise high enough to flood most of the world’s coastal cities.
    All of this could take hundreds or even thousands of years to play out, conceivably providing a cushion of time for civilization to adjust, but experts cannot rule out abrupt changes, such as a collapse of agriculture, that would throw society into chaos much sooner. Bolder efforts to limit emissions would reduce these risks, or at least slow the effects, but it is already too late to eliminate the risks entirely.

  3. Is there anything I can do?
    Fly less, drive less, waste less.
    There are lots of simple ways to reduce your own carbon footprint, and most of them will save you money. You can plug leaks in your home insulation to save power, install a smart thermostat, switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off the lights in any room where you are not using them, drive fewer miles by consolidating trips or taking public transit, waste less food, and eat less meat.
    Perhaps the biggest single thing individuals can do on their own is to take fewer airplane trips; just one or two fewer plane rides per year can save as much in emissions as all the other actions combined. If you want to be at the cutting edge, you can look at buying an electric or hybrid car, putting solar panels on your roof, or both.
    If you want to offset your emissions, you can buy certificates, with the money going to projects that protect forests, capture greenhouse gases and so forth. Some airlines sell these to offset emissions from their flights, and after some scandals in the early days, they started to scrutinize the projects closely, so the offsets can now be bought in good conscience. You can also buy offset certificates in a private marketplace, from companies such as TerraPass in San Francisco that follow strict rules set up by the state of California; some people even give these as holiday gifts. Yet another way: In states that allow you to choose your own electricity supplier, you can often elect to buy green electricity; you pay slightly more, with the money going into a fund that helps finance projects like wind farms.
    In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies. So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.

  4. In the best case that scientists can imagine, several things happen: Earth turns out to be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than currently believed; plants and animals manage to adapt to the changes that have already become inevitable; human society develops much greater political will to bring emissions under control; and major technological breakthroughs occur that help society both to limit emissions and to adjust to climate change.
    The two human-influenced variables are not entirely independent, of course: Technological breakthroughs that make clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels would also make it easier to develop the political will for rapid action.
    Scientists say the odds of all these things breaking our way are not very high, unfortunately. The Earth could just as easily turn out to be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than less. Global warming seems to be causing chaos in parts of the natural world already, and that seems likely to get worse, not better. So in the view of the experts, simply banking on a rosy scenario without any real plan would be dangerous. They believe the only way to limit the risks is to limit emissions.

    What’s the worst-case scenario? 
  5. There are many.
  6. That is actually hard to say, which is one reason scientists are urging that emissions be cut; they want to limit the possibility of any worst-case scenario coming to pass. Perhaps the greatest fear is a collapse of food production, accompanied by escalating prices and mass starvation. Even with runaway emissions growth, it is unclear how likely this would be, as farmers are able to adjust their crops and farming techniques, to a degree, to adapt to climatic changes. Another possibility would be a disintegration of the polar ice sheets, leading to fast-rising seas that would force people to abandon many of the world’s great cities and would lead to the loss of trillions of dollars worth of property and other assets. Scientists also worry about other wild-card scenarios like the predictable cycles of Asian monsoons’ becoming less reliable. Billions of people depend on monsoons to provide water for crops, so any disruptions would be catastrophic.

  7. 6. ​Will a tech breakthrough help us?
    Even Bill Gates says don’t count on it, unless we commit the cash.
    As more companies, governments and researchers devote themselves to the problem, the chances of big technological advances are improving. But even many experts who are optimistic about technological solutions warn that current efforts are not enough. For instance, spending on basic energy research is only a quarter to a third of the level that several in-depth reports have recommended. And public spending on agricultural research has stagnated even though climate change poses growing risks to the food supply. People like Bill Gates have argued that crossing our fingers and hoping for technological miracles is not a strategy — we have to spend the money that would make these things more likely to happen.

  8. 7. How much will the seas rise?
    The real question is not how high, but how fast.
    The ocean is rising at a rate of about a foot per century. That causes severe effects on coastlines, forcing governments and property owners to spend tens of billions of dollars fighting erosion. But if that rate continued, it would probably be manageable, experts say.
    The risk is that the rate will accelerate markedly. If emissions continue unchecked, then the temperature at the earth’s surface could soon resemble a past epoch called the Pliocene, when a great deal of ice melted and the ocean rose something like 80 feet compared to today. A recent study found that burning all the fossil fuels in the ground would fully melt the polar ice sheets, raising the sea level by more than 160 feet over an unknown period.
    With all of that said, the crucial issue is probably not how much the oceans are going to rise, but how fast. And on that point, scientists are pretty much flying blind. Their best information comes from studying Earth’s history, and it suggests that the rate can on occasion hit a foot per decade, which can probably be thought of as the worst-case scenario. A rate even half that would force rapid retreat from the coasts and, some experts think, throw human society into crisis. Even if the rise is much slower, many of the world’s great cities will flood eventually. Studies suggest that big cuts in emissions could slow the rise, buying crucial time for society to adapt to an altered coastline.

  9. 8. Are the predictions reliable?
    They’re not perfect, but they’re grounded in solid science.
    The idea that Earth is sensitive to greenhouse gases is confirmed by many lines of scientific evidence. For instance, the basic physics suggesting that an increase of carbon dioxide traps more heat was discovered in the 19th century, and has been verified in thousands of laboratory experiments.
    Climate science does contain uncertainties, of course. The biggest is the degree to which global warming sets off feedback loops, such as a melting of sea ice that will darken the surface and cause more heat to be absorbed, melting more ice, and so forth. It is not clear exactly how much the feedbacks will intensify the warming; some of them could even partially offset it. This uncertainty means that computer forecasts can give only a range of future climate possibilities, not absolute predictions.
    But even if those computer forecasts did not exist, a huge amount of evidence suggests that scientists have the basic story right. The most important evidence comes from the study of past climate conditions, a field known as paleoclimate research. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has fluctuated naturally in the past, and every time it rises, the Earth warms up, ice melts, and the ocean rises. A hundred miles inland from today’s East Coast, seashells can be dug from ancient beaches that are three million years old. These past conditions are not a perfect guide to the future, either, because humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the air far faster than nature has ever done.

  10. 9. Why do people question climate change?
    Hint: ideology.
    Most of the attacks on climate science are coming from libertarians and other political conservatives who do not like the policies that have been proposed to fight global warming. Instead of negotiating over those policies and trying to make them more subject to free-market principles, they have taken the approach of blocking them by trying to undermine the science.
    This ideological position has been propped up by money from fossil-fuel interests, which have paid to create organizations, fund conferences and the like. The scientific arguments made by these groups usually involve cherry-picking data, such as focusing on short-term blips in the temperature record or in sea ice, while ignoring the long-term trends.
    The most extreme version of climate denialism is to claim that scientists are engaged in a worldwide hoax to fool the public so that the government can gain greater control over people’s lives. As the arguments have become more strained, many oil and coal companies have begun to distance themselves publicly from climate denialism, but some are still helping to finance the campaigns of politicians who espouse such views.

  11. 10. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?
    In some cases, yes.
    Scientists have published strong evidence that the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. It is also causing heavier rainstorms, and coastal flooding is getting worse as the oceans rise because of human emissions. Global warming has intensified droughts in regions like the Middle East, and it may have strengthened the drought in California.
    In many other cases, though, the linkage to global warming for particular trends is uncertain or disputed. That is partly from a lack of good historical weather data, but it is also scientifically unclear how certain types of events may be influenced by the changing climate.
    Another factor: While the climate is changing, people’s perceptions may be changing faster. The Internet has made us all more aware of weather disasters in distant places. On social media, people have a tendency to attribute virtually any disaster to climate change, but in many cases there is no scientific support for doing so.11. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

  12. In certain ways, yes.
    Countries with huge, frozen hinterlands, including Canada and Russia, could see some economic benefits as global warming makes agriculture, mining and the like more possible in those places. It is perhaps no accident that the Russians have always been reluctant to make ambitious climate commitments, and President Vladimir V. Putin has publicly questioned the science of climate change.
    However, both of those countries could suffer enormous damage to their natural resources; escalating fires in Russia are already killing millions of acres of forests per year. Moreover, some experts believe countries that view themselves as likely winners from global warming will come to see the matter differently once they are swamped by millions of refugees from less fortunate lands.

  13. 12. Is there any reason for hope?
    If you share this with 50 friends, maybe.
    Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have since built up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
    But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal that is likely to be reached in Paris in December will commit nearly every country to some kind of action. Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction. Around the world, many states and cities are pledging to go far beyond the goals set by their national governments.
    What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens. Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it. 
This is from the NY Times of 28 November as a lead into the Paris Climate meetings, primarily directed at US citizens.

A good short 12 Q and A summary.......

And......sorry about the paragraph numbering - it is a bit crazy, and it was not easily fixed..