Thursday, December 05, 2013
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
|Brussels sprouts powering a Christmas tree in London|
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
In developed areas we take toilets for granted. Many do not have them around the world and there is a society cost. A toilet is a major development issue in many countries.
And it can be especially important for women and teenage girls even more so than men.
The infographic shows this clearly. Combine this issue with lack of opportunities, or failure, to wash hands to prevent and improve disease management, even in western societies is also relevant.
Simple stuff really. And it needs support to happen. It shocked me to see people toileting in public areas because there were no toilets, while working in some developing countries - an issue that seems so simple to remedy.
The infographic may not be as clear as needed - try here if you need to see it better - http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/08/30/whats-a-toilet-worth-infographic
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
This is in the spirit of Christmas giving. While produced by a Spanish bank [ Banco Santander ] for a 130th Anniversary event, it is truly uplifting. And it is popular - about 20 million hits on you tube!
Enjoy the break from dry agricultural issues.............
Friday, November 22, 2013
Have a new lawn this summer..................
In Australia we prefer to use Australia Post Express satchels that provide prompt and trackable delivery. Sizes up to 5kg available.
For large quantities, commercial road freight is used.
E-mail to email@example.com for more information.
Written advisory sheets for site preparation and sowing as well as ongoing maintenance available, and there is also additional information on this blog if you search under zoysia on the LHS.
Compadre zoysia lawns have been successfully established over the past few years, from seed, in the NT, NSW, Qld, WA and with new areas also recently sown in Victoria. We provide free consulting advice to help with your questions.
|A new Compadre zoysia lawn - approx. 20 weeks from sowing|
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
|The mothballed biodiesel facility near Darwin|
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Donating to the Haiyan Disaster in the Philippines - Is Your Preferred Aid Donor Operating with Best Practice?
Going back to the Aceh and Nias disasters of about 10 years ago, through to more recent events in the Philippines of both earthquakes and the very recent Haiyan typhoon [ cyclone], aid donors have been active in the region.
There are many agencies operational - local ones based in the recipient country, plus many international ones [ Oxfam, Red Cross, Save the Children, AUSAid, CARE, Caritas etc ] with many of the latter group also with Australian operations that seek donations from Australians, as well as from other countries.
Australians tend to be a generous lot, and do give quite a lot of money to the aid cause.
The big question is - are you getting value for your donation, and is the money being spent wisely?
A good starting point is whether your preferred agency operates according to a series of best practice guidelines for aid.
Best practices have all or many of these characteristics:
- They are comprehensive, aiming at all aspects of an issue.
- They are flexible and responsive, reacting to the needs of the population and changes in circumstances and conditions.
- They persevere, keeping at it as long as is necessary – indefinitely, if that’s what it takes.
- They look at issues and people in their context – family, history, community, etc.
- They target the underlying causes in addition to the symptoms of an issue or problem.
- They have – and stick to – a clear mission.
- They evolve over time, as need dictates.
- They are managed by competent people with appropriate skills.
- Their staff members are trained and supported to provide high-quality, responsive service.
- They foster strong staff/participant relationships based on mutual respect.
- They collaborate, both internally and externally.
- Both the organization and individual staff members have a set of core values that strengthen their dedication, morale, and resolve, and that give them a shared sense of purpose for the work.
One answer to this question is obvious: employing a method or program that’s been tested and found successful increases the chances that you’ll accomplish your goals, and that life will therefore be better for the folks who participate. There are, however, further reasons why the use of a best practice can be advantageous.
- Using a recognized best practice makes it easier to justify the work. .
- Using recognized best practices can bolster the credibility of an organization. It shows not only that the organization is using a tested process, but that it has been thinking ahead and conducting research to make sure it’s doing the best job possible.
- Using best practices can make it easier to get funding.
There is a downside to this advantage as well, as it also minimizes the possibility of innovation and the development of new best practices. Moreover, it ignores the fact that best practices don’t always work in every situation, and that some organizations may get outstanding results using practices that don’t show up in the research.
- Using a best practice removes a lot of the guesswork from planning. Employing a program or method whose structure and process are carefully documented makes it easier to set up and implement, and increases the chances that it will go smoothly.
- The originators of the practice are known, and might be available to consult on how to best implement it. If the originators aren’t available, there may be others experienced with the practice who can help.
- Most important – and most obvious – we know that best practices work. They’ve been shown to provide the changes in behaviour or conditions and the outcomes we’re interested in.
Promoting the adoption of best practices should probably be an ongoing activity, but some times are especially appropriate for it.
- Before a new intervention or program begins.
- When there’s a serious community problem that has to be tackled.
- When what’s being done isn’t working well.
- When the community requests it.
- When funders or officials request or demand it.
A word of caution here: as mentioned above, strict use of best practices can sometimes get in the way of flexibility and new ideas.
Some have tried to categorise aid agency performance based on a few criteria.
A 2011 research paper looks at “five dimensions of agency ‘best practices’:
minimal overhead costs,
delivery to more effective channels, and
selectivity of recipient countries based on poverty and good government / governance”
and calculates an overall agency score.
With the recent disasters, the last point is probably not directly relevant - aid needs to go to a specific country, so four issues are probably relevant. However, the governance issue is especially critical in some areas [with Afghanistan seen as a bad example in recent times - too much corruption / poor governance], and in disaster areas can distort what is happening, as governance is often lacking at least initially, although improving once the major effort starts to build momentum.
Not all agencies do the right thing - there are a few shonky ones around.
Major aid agencies tend to be effective and efficient, but all can do better. A good point is always to see what their overheads are, and reject those where overheads are excessive. There are some online comparisons around.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Companies such as Lesco and Scotts which specialise in turf products and equipment, also have small prilled, turf starter fertiliser with some slow release nitrogen. Quite good to use but can be more expensive and may be more difficult to source.
Commonly the NPK ratios are around 20: 12: 15, often with 5-10% sulfur as well, plus trace elements, for these starter fertilisers.
There are other brands as well, but many other brands are less well known and less available for smaller users.
Use what is available and attractively priced in your region. These products are soluble fertiliser and can be mobile ie leach, and need additional fertiliser within about 4 weeks of application.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
A good option is to aim for around 20 -25mm cut height, a height easily achieved using a common rotary mower.
Some people have used a much higher cut height - 100mm and even up to 150mm. Personally, I believe that is probably too high, although for less maintained larger commercial areas there can be justification for maybe more than 25mm as a cut height. Cutting too high all the time often reduces lawn vigour, especially lateral development, so that when cut lower at a different time of the year, the appearance of the area is not good. A good compromise is to use a cut around 35 - 50 mm, which can reduce mowing frequency even more while having a reasonable appearance. A word of warning though - zoysia turf can get spongy if cut too high repeatably, and develop thatch, as well as often developing a bit of loss of leaf green colouring due to lower light at the grass surface. Yes, an area can be left to grow a little, for example, if the owner is away for a period, but getting back to a lower height is desirable, and that may take two cuts to reduce lawn height from 100mm or more, back to 25mm
Compadre zoysia can also be cut much shorter which encourages better lateral development and a dense surface appearance. To do it well, a sharp bladed cylinder mower is preferred, and a cut of 5-10mm is certainly possible, although a good flat, hollow free surface is essential to have a good final finish and avoid scalping of the surface.
The occasional cut with a rotary mower at 12-15mm is okay though as it will pick up surface debris and reduce accumulation of thatch. All zoysia turf varieties do have more material closer to the ground and it is surprising how much additional leaf material will be cut once you start lowering the mowing height below 20mm - you can often double the amount of clippings collected.
|Compadre sod production|
In most warm areas, a 20 - 25mm cut of zoysia turf, and modest fertiliser and irrigation, will allow at least 2 -3 weeks between mowings in the warm season and up to 6 weeks in cooler periods of the year, while still maintaining a great appearance. You might also get a longer period as well particularly with prudent reduced irrigation, that does not reduce aesthetic appearance. I do!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
There is some benefit in using organic fertiliser for example pelletised chicken manure , or DPM - densified poultry manure. It adds organic matter and some nutrients but the nutrient level is relatively low, and it can be more expensive if freight costs are an issue eg in rural and remote areas. It can be short in some nutrients as well. It can be useful if the turf is growing on light sandy loam soil or sand.
Conventional inorganic fertiliser is modestly priced, and there are blends that mostly meet criteria for use on turf, but all have generally rapid availability of nutrients and they can often leach quickly. Because they are mostly readily available you get rapid lawn growth = more mowing, then the nutrients disappear and you need more, maybe in 4 weeks. And more mowing still!! Not the best choice at all.
Slow release turf fertilisers are ideal. They release the nutrients, especially the nitrogen, over an extended period [often 10 -16 weeks, but longer release period products are also available]. The result is less mowing, a better appearance lawn and better availability of plant nutrients. Many are available in small bags through garden stores and chain shops - 2-4kg sizes, but for best cost effectiveness, buy a 25kg bag and store it in a sealed plastic bin, in the bag. It will stay usable for 2-3 years at a lower cost.
|Domestic Compadre zoysia turf - Darwin area, 20 weeks after sowing seed|
The blend is important, and a general use product has around 15- 25% nitrogen, 1-3% phosphorus and 10 -20% potassium, plus some sulfur [ 5-10%] , trace elements if possible, and most importantly a small amount of iron - 0.5 -1.0%. The iron boosts the lawn colour to a lovely green, without much effect on growth.
The potassium level is important, particularly in wetter and /or warmer climates. Potassium is mobile so can leach out in wetter periods but its role is to strengthen cell walls and provide better stress resistance, hence the need for decent potassium levels in hot weather. Modest to low phosphorus is better, assuming the soil does have a reasonable base P level. With more P you tend to promote legume growth [ essentially a weed in turf].
For zoysia, which is not a prolific growing lawn, the iron is especially important as mowing is less frequent and that delightful green colour is impressive for many weeks, without being cut off.
The other question is always how much. We suggest halving any recommendation on a fertiliser bag if applying to zoysia, of any type. Many products recommend 3 - 4kg/100 sq m for slow release fertiliser for eg couch lawns. For zoysia - 1-2 kg/100 sq m is usually enough. The exception may be on new lawns less than 1 year old, when you are building up a store in the soil when the recommended rate may be okay in peak growth periods.
And of course in cooler months - applying fertiliser is really not needed as the lawn is not growing very much anyway. And not too much in wet summer conditions - it means more mowing!
If one of the common types of slow release turf fertiliser is used with a nominal 12 week release period, for zoysia of any type - twice a year is okay, once established. Nominally apply in Autumn and Spring [or late wet season and late dry season].
The fertiliser question is always tricky and individual areas may require a slightly modified approach in areas where particular nutrients are in short supply or even may be in abundance.
But the above maxims apply in many areas, and are a suitable starting point.
Enjoy your zoysia turf.....and apply a bit of TLC!!
Friday, October 18, 2013
They have announced a major, near $17 million contract with Simplot, to source product from their processing plant in Tasmania, a major and possible business saving contract for the company, as well as the supplier growers, which has been discussing shutting down totally in Australia.
Media reports are focussing on the deal to grow and process in Australia, but is not the real issue that maybe, just maybe, that consumers in Australia are beginning to favour the quality, safety, health status and food biosecurity issues related to poorly supervised and often less appropriately produced product from places such as China, where there have been so many food safety alerts over food products?
And is Woolworths now tapping into that concern? The media report from late yesterday seemed to have more focus on that aspect, yet today there is maybe a bit less emphasis on that aspect.
This is an important deal for Australian vegetable growers, and especially those in Tasmania. And for whatever reason, Woolworths also deserve some plaudits to "use Australian". Now lets see how it develops.
It also follows an earlier deal in which Woolworths switched to Australian canned fruit, rather than overseas product and saw a 40% sales rise in the canned fruit product.
See more here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-18/simplot-woolworths-deal/5030720
and here - http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/woolies-imports-freeze-boosts-farmers/story-e6frg8zx-1226741990944
Monday, October 14, 2013
A fungal disease which was found in the Cavendish banana variety in August has become a catalyst to the destruction of banana trees across the Northern Territory.
A $2.8m plan to control the fungus which is known as banana freckle, will be undertaken in an effort to protect the spread of the disease to Queensland where 90 percent of the country's bananas are grown.
Australian Banana Growers Council representative, Doug Phillips said that the disease would cause significant damage to the industry.
This eradication program commenced in the NT last week, with a significant plantation near Batchelor a major loss with many more smaller and domestic crops also affected. Others have boosted biosecurity to ensure they do not get the disease on their property.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Opium poppy production is quite a large industry in Tasmania, but therapeutic demand has outstripped production, and they are looking at geographically diverse areas to grow more.
Some companies have been investigating production in Victoria, but one of the major companies has grown trial areas in the NT.
And they have done well. So well, that up to 500ha is planned for next year, with potential for significant area increase after that.
Yes - the NT has seen crops come and go before, often before they increase in area even to be successful. But this has some reasonable promise. Strong demand for an industrial, not food product into a market that seems to continue to grow modestly. The company wants to diversify geographically, but I am sure the NT will get the "extra" areas needed with the bulk of ptoducyon still in Tasmania.
Legal issues need to be addressed, but id does look promising.
More here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-11/opium-poppies-in-the-northern-territory/5015606 with some audio also available.
As an agronomist, it is great to see another possible crop showing local potential. With rice and guar also being revived it seems a throw back to the 1970s, when crop production seemed to offer much potential - will we see a few other possibles again? Mung bean, more peanuts, and probably a few more.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Monday, September 16, 2013
But the big one is that the further along the chain the loss is, the greater the energy and other embedded costs are that are lost, or wasted. Westernised societies thus do not do well in this regard.
We all need to lower our food wastage and losses - this is another timely reminder. It is not a new issue - see the old poster from WW1.!!
|Not a new issue - but a bigger one!|
Who wastes what?
According to the FAO, 54% of the world's food waste occurs 'upstream' - during production, post-harvest handling and storage, while 46% happens 'downstream,' at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.
The report also found that the later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences - as the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs.
Meanwhile fruit waste was said to contribute significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe - mainly as a result of extremely high wastage levels.
Similarly, large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialised Asia, Europe, and South and South East Asia was shown to translate into a large carbon footprint for that sector.
Causes and solutions
A combination of consumer behaviour and lack of communication in the supply chain were found to underlie the higher levels of food waste in affluent societies.
To tackle the problem, FAO has launched a 'tool-kit' that contains recommendations on how food loss and waste can be reduced at every stage of the food chain and details three general levels where action is needed:
High priority should be given to reducing food wastage in the first place. Beyond improving losses of crops on farms due to poor practices, doing more to better balance production with demand would mean not using natural resources to produce unneeded food in the first place.
In the event of a food surplus, reuse within the human food chain - finding secondary markets or donating extra food to feed vulnerable members of society - represents the best option. If the food is not fit for human consumption, the next best option is to divert it for livestock feed, conserving resources that would otherwise be used to produce commercial feedstuff.
Where reuse is not possible, recycling and recovery should be pursued: by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion, composting, and incineration with energy recovery allow energy and nutrients to be recovered from food waste were all said to represent a significant advantage over dumping it in landfills.
“All of us - farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers - must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can't,” urged FAO director general, José Graziano da Silva.
Recycling Food Waste into Animal Feed within the UK’s Legislative Framework
Paul Featherstone, group director of SugaRich, looks at legislation and logistics to reduce the waste of former foodstuffs and instead turning them into valuable resources.
VIDEO: Micro Anaerobic Digestion Biogas Unit Wins U.S. Defense Award
UK based small scale biogas technology specialist, SEaB Energy, has been selected as one of the Winners in the 2013 Defense Energy Technology Challenge.
California based renewable fuel specialist, Aemetis has been granted approval to produce ethanol from separated food waste at its 55 million gallon per year renewable ethanol plant in Keyes, California.
Monday, September 09, 2013
|outdoors green wall - with art pattern|
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Robotics are coming to a farm near you - sometime in the next year or two. Initially, they will not be everywhere - but they are coming, and reasonably quickly.
Mark has predicted that within the next two to three years there will be autonomous weeding, autonomous crop intelligence and autonomous harvesting.
While robotics have seen developing use in industry, with fixed robots, the trend has been to try and match and develop co-operation between robots and their mentors [ if that is the term]. A recent Scientific American magazine [May 2013] had an intriguing story of industrial robots and their operators, and the level of co-operation that can be developed. It was extraordinary - and made for real improvements in speed and quality of work.
How quickly it will develop in agriculture is probably still even too early to speculate.
But agriculture has often been a keen user of new technologies - it is not a backwards looking industry at all, and current use of drones is quite relevant to how robotics may move in the industry.
Develop a decent option - it will be commercialised and used!
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Last week in Brisbane was a very important meeting between Indonesian officials at a high level, and Australian participants in the live cattle trade to the country - the term of note is free and frank discussions - to try and develop some improvements and sensible co-operation in improving beef food supplies in Indonesia. There is a monumental need to get the beef price down to around 75000 Rp per kg. It has been well over 100000! Indonesia also pretty well admitted that self sufficiency in 2014 for beef supplies was not achievable. Then the ANZ Agribusiness area examined [ commissioned by the Indonesian Government] what self sufficiency might mean to Indonesia - for example was meeting 70% of demand a more reasonable goal, and a more achievable one? This document is not yet publicly available, although there has been some media comment around.
Today saw announcements coming from Indonesia about a possible 60000 head increase in live cattle imports, and a potential change in how imports might be adjusted - with the critical issue being market beef prices. If they rise, then that triggers more imports; if it falls below the nominated figure [ nominally around 76000Rp /kg] then trade reduces or stops.
All of the changes seem to signal a positive note for the live cattle trade into Indonesia, as well as some increase in boxed beef from Australia.
There is sure to be more, and clarification from Indonesia is certainly needed to ensure local pastoralists are able to begin some planning about how to be part of the increased live cattle trade.
More is here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-29/indonesia-live-cattle-changes/4921398
and here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-29/female-cattle-exports/4919486
and here - http://adf.farmonline.com.au/news/state/general/elections/indoz-meeting-held-in-brisbane/2669324.aspx?storypage=0
and here too - Original Jakarta Post article: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/08/28/govt-issue-new-rules-meat-imports.html [ update on 29/8/13]
There certainly has been major discussions. Lets see how it transforms into better co-operation between Australian and Indonesian interests in this important cattle trade business.
It can be a win-win for both countries and their respective business areas. And hopefully quite quickly, as we do need each other!
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Be warned - it is predicted to be warmer [ especially at night] and wetter in the pre wet season period in the Top End of the NT.
South of Katherine, it could be slightly drier than the median values.
These predictions are quite strong for the Top End, north of Katherine, with an order of a 75% or better chance for the warmer temperatures, and around 65% for the rainfall. And thus, there are implications for management of pastoral and farming properties. Could there be opportunities for some early pasture plantings? Or will there be a need for less hay as the resumption of pasture growth will allow grazing?
Read more directly off the BOM site here:
http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/ahead/rain.naus.shtml for rainfall, and here for temperatures:
Remember - they are predictions! But they do come with some strong probability numbers for night temperatures, and medium strong for rainfall.
Think of them as a planning tool to aid your decision making.