Friday, October 19, 2018

Compadre Zoysia - Buying and Sowing Seed

Compadre zoysia seed offers an alternative option to create a great zoysia turf area, and you do not need to purchase expensive sod of other similar alternative varieties.

While there are some zoysia varieties that only exist as vegetative sod areas, once you need to move sod any distance especially in our warm Australian climate it can be expensive and a bit tricky, as it is also if larger areas are required on a site.

Seed of Compadre [or even Zenith if available] offer an alternate and similar quality turf, once established.  Yes, a longer period to establish to a suitable standard for use, but at considerable $$ savings in comparison to using sod.

With sod costing $10 - 20 per sq m at the production site, and a delivery charge often added, seed offers a real alternative, and is much cheaper per unit area. the time to seriously consider Compadre zoysia for your lawn.   If in areas of Australia, say Brisbane and south, soil is about warm enough for prompt establishment [average soil temperature 18-20C desirable] and the longer days ensure adequate light to invigorate seedling growth.

Remember you need a clean seed bed and it is worth taking the time to remove as many weed seedlings as possible.  We offer services and advice to ensure you can establish an area successfully, and can advise on appropriate herbicides for weed control within a developing zoysia lawn, including zoysia sod areas [ unfortunately not all sod finishes up weed free including from a weedy sub soil].

We consign any seed purchased promptly via air express - with a normal 2-3 business day delivery around Australia, including outside capital cities. 

Ask for our information sheets, after reading the many articles on this blog.

Remember that Compadre zoysia is a great warm season lawn needing less mowing, less water, less fertiliser and mostly disease will not be disappointed once the lawn is established.
Young partially shaded area of zoysia turf area sown from seed, on a school oval.

Friday, August 10, 2018

New Light on Seed Germination Genetics

Scientists have identified a key gene that helps seeds decide whether to germinate.

The study was conducted on Arabidopsis, a very close relative of oilseed rape.
The MFT gene stops seeds germinating in the dark or under shady conditions, where their chances of survival would be poor, according to new research from the University of York.
The study, conducted on Arabidopsis, a very close relative of oilseed rape, increases our understanding of one of the most important stages in the life cycle of a plant and may help to improve the seed quality of agricultural crops in the future.
Scientists have known for some time that two plant hormones play an important role in regulating if and when a seed will germinate - “Abscissic Acid” or ABA blocks germination and “Gibberelins” or GA promotes it.
However, in a breakthrough in our understanding of the mechanism by which these hormones control germination in response to light quality, the researchers have discovered that MFT is the key component that integrates and interprets signals coming from both ABA and GA.
The MFT gene is regulated by light quality and receives signals from both ABA and GA. In dark or shady conditions, it then directs the production of the MFT protein, which regulates germination by switching on a block of genes that prevent growth and switching off another block of genes that promote growth.
Sophisticated mechanism
This prevents a plant from germinating under the wrong conditions such as when there is not enough light to grow.
Professor Ian Graham, corresponding author, from the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products in the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: “This is another great example of how plants have evolved very sophisticated molecular mechanisms to stay in tune with their environment. This allows seeds to survive in the soil for many years so that when the time is right, such as when a tree falls in a forest or soil is turned over, seeds can suddenly spring into action.”
For many plant species the ability of a seed to sense the quality of light can inform it if it is located in direct sunlight, under a canopy of other plants that only allow a certain quality of light to pass through or in the dark, which is often the case when seeds are buried in the soil.
In wild plant species the ability for seeds to remain dormant even under conditions that would allow them to germinate is important for survival. For crops species, eliminating this dormancy is one of the first traits that has to be dealt with in a plant breeding programme.
Lead author of the work, Dr Fabian Vaistij, from the Department of Biology at the University of York added: “Understanding the molecular genetic basis of how seed germination is controlled will provide new tools to improve seed quality and seedling vigour in developing new crops for the future.” 
This work provides some ideas about how light interacts with seeds and germination.  Especially where species are known to respond to light during germination.  Zoysia turf grass is one of the species that does require light to germinate - if buried, even at shallow depth, germination and subsequent establishment is greatly impaired.
[ adapted from University of York press release 7 August 2018]

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Mosquito Control with Sterile Insects

The world's most dangerous animal isn't a lion, shark, snake or croc: it's the menacing mosquito. 

While many mosquitos are harmless to humans and ecologically important, three groups of mozzies, the Aedes, Anopheles and Culex, are found almost all over the world and are responsible for around 17 per cent of infectious disease transmissions globally. 

In a landmark trial working with international partners, CSIRO were able to suppress the invasive and disease spreading Aedes aegypti mosquito by 80 per cent along the Cassowary Coast, Queensland. 

Millions of non-biting male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were reared, sterilised using a natural bacteria and re-released into the area.

Click through on the link to read the story - Australian science at work - for good! Read more by clicking through below.

Very sharp, smart science!

Our infertile mozzies are now wiping out the invasive irritants.

Click here

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Innovative Methodology For Multiple Gene Insertion Into Plants - Easier Plant Improvement

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Albany, California, have found a way to streamline the process that scientists use to insert multiple genes into a crop plant, developing a reliable method that will make it easier to breed a variety of crops with vastly improved traits.
The technology is expected to speed up the process for developing new varieties of potatoes, rice, citrus and other crops that are better equipped to tolerate heat and drought, produce higher yields and resist a myriad of diseases and pests. Crops with greater resistance to pathogens and insects could greatly reduce pesticide use and prevent billions of dollars in crop losses.
“Making genetic improvements that were difficult or impossible before will be much easier because we can now insert not just one or two genes, but multiple genes, into a plant in a way that will lead to predictable outcomes,” said Roger Thilmony, an ARS molecular biologist in Albany.
A paper describing the achievement by Thilmony, James Thomson, an ARS geneticist in Albany, and Ray Collier, a former ARS postdoctoral researcher, was published recently in the August issue of The Plant Journal.
The GAANTRY gene stacking technology will be freely available to anyone interested, and a commercial firm in the US is planning to use it to introduce multiple genes into potatoes to make them more resistant to late blight, which is caused by a fungus-like organism. Late blight can destroy entire fields and force some farmers to spray fungicides up to 15 times a year.
“We have struggled to put multiple late blight resistance genes into potatoes for years. They are very long, complex genes, and with existing technologies it’s been extremely difficult. But the GAANTRY technology will help us tremendously,” said Craig Richael, a director of research and development for J.R. Simplot Co., an Idaho-based company that produces French fries, frozen vegetables, fertilizer, turf grass seed and other products.
Scientists over the years have modified the genetics of soybeans, corn, canola and other crop plants to develop varieties that tolerate specific herbicides and resist insect pests. But those traits were controlled by one or two genes, and in most crop plants, important traits such as cold and drought tolerance, yield and seed production are almost always controlled by multiple genes. Inserting more than two or three genes into the same site on a plant chromosome has been notoriously difficult.
The researchers’ unique platform stabilizes large “stacks” of DNA needed for conferring key traits, allowing researchers to insert suites of genes “so precisely that no unintended DNA is added or lost during the process,” says Thomson.
“Before this, assembling 10 genes to insert into a new line would be difficult or impossible, but this technology basically stabilizes the stack and makes for results that are more stable and much easier to predict,” Thilmony said.
Read the report in The Plant Journal.
This technology offers some very smart options for plant improvement, and is potentially likely to be assessed similarly as the CRSPR system whereby derived plant lines are not assessed as GM plants, easing regulatory approvals. 
The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. 

Each dollar invested in agricultural research through the ARS results in $20 of economic impact.

That is a very good return on the investment.   I wonder if those returns are achieved in Australian institutions?

[ modified from publicly available press release of ARS ]

Friday, July 27, 2018

EU Court of Justice Ruling on Plant Breeding Innovation

EU Court of Justice Ruling on Plant Breeding Innovation

On July 25 the European Union (EU) Court of Justice ruled that plants resulting from some of the latest plant breeding innovations, including targeted mutagenesis (i.e. gene editing) such as CRISPR, are considered genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

It is important to note that the ruling is an interpretation of existing EU law. It is not a scientific assessment, nor an expression or statement of policy by the EU’s political bodies.

This interpretation is at odds with decisions and interpretations made elsewhere in the world, including here in Australia, US, South America and Israel.



The EU Court of Justice has issued its long-awaited decision on the regulatory status of plants resulting from some of the latest plant breeding innovations. This determines whether they can practically be taken up by researchers, universities, breeders and farmers in the EU.

The ruling’s line of argument is based almost entirely on the breeding process (technology involved) and does not differentiate between product categories based on the outcome of these processes.

The ruling puts forward a purely process-based approach after an EU specific point in time (2001; the time of adoption of the EU GMO Directive). Organisms obtained by means of mutagenesis which have “conventionally” been used and have a long safety record will continue to be exempt. This exemption would apply to the “classical”, random mutagenesis breeding methods using chemicals or radiation.

In Australia, the current review of the Gene Technology Regulations and the National Gene Technology Scheme will provide regulatory clarity on plants and animals derived from the latest breeding methods for Australian industry and public-sector researchers.

ABCA’s Statement of Principles on Regulatory Oversight of New Breeding Techniques is available on the ABCA website.


Further information:

The Court of Justice of the EU Ruling on Case  C-528/16 and associated Press Release.

Media releases from CropLife Australia, EuropaBio and the European Seed Association are also available.

Links to some of the media coverage overnight on the EU decision on gene editing techniques:

Probably unexpected, and does not reflect on the science, but rather a legal interpretation.

The media links above would say it all - most if not all are a bit stunned at the decision.

No doubt the anti GM urgers will  applaud the decision, but it will have wide implications - or will it?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Planting Zoysia in 2018? Early Start Possible!

It is the end of July 2018 and the BOM has released the next 3 month climate assessments.

And the consensus is - a strong chance of a warmer end to winter and a warm spring period in Australia.

That could mean an opportunity to get a slightly earlier start to developing a new sown area of zoysia turf from seed.  Normally, we work off long term averages in assessing a potential date to sow seed when ground temperatures and air temperatures are warm enough to allow seed to germinate promptly.

However the BOM is predicting a strong probability of warmer weather coming over the next 3 months so earlier planting could be an option.

You still need to check the weather as there may well be cool periods, but overall, an earlier warming seems likely.

Data maps are here, , but by drilling down, specific data is available for many towns.

Use this as a planning guide - with conditions of 20C and above as daytime temperature and above about 14 C at night being adequate, but higher is also better.  The other consideration is the quickening extension of the longer day length from August onwards which helps boost the growth of the turf over the short days of winter.

Zoysia seed is available, but note we are not available to supply seed for early to mid -September.  Can respond to queries, but no physical seed despatch at this time. Ask about seed supply by email to:     

Monday, July 16, 2018

Extreme Lawn Care - Not You??

There are certainly a few "odd" people around with regard to lawn care - some say even "nutters".  The following article from a recent Wall Street Journal is worth a read  to learn about extreme lawn care!

Is this your scene too?

Acknowledgement to for article below


Plucking Blades by Hand, Vacuuming the Grass: This Is Extreme Lawn Care

For some lawn fanatics, mowing is a labor of love. And it’s getting competitive.

For Oktay Mustafayev, who lives in Fair Lawn, N.J., lawn care is life. Video/Photo: Rob Alcaraz/The Wall Street Journal
Keith Trzynka’s neighbors on Cottonwood Street in Grand Forks, N.D., are no longer surprised to see him vacuuming his front lawn.
Mr. Trzynka, a retired farm-equipment dealer, worries about sand blown into the edges of his yard by ice-clearing crews in the winter. The sand threatens to blight his lovingly tended grass. So he occasionally hauls out his shop-vac to extract it.
Artist’s tool
Artist’s tool
Each morning, he tries to pick up any twigs or leaves that may have fallen on his grass overnight. Sometimes he sweeps sticks and debris from the street in front of his house to keep the landscape tidy.
“The lawn is his little farm,” said Mr. Trzynka’s wife, Ginger.
For most people, lawn care is a tiresome chore or something they pay somebody else to do. For others, it’s a challenge. They tend to want their lawns to be a dark, emerald green and preferably striped like a baseball field, an effect achieved by attaching a roller behind the mower. Edges must be perfectly squared. The job isn’t finished until the last weed is plucked and the final blade of grass blasted off the sidewalk.
Brad Ferguson, a self-described lawn-care fanatic, with his wife, Heather, and 10-month-old son, Grant, at home in Columbia, Mo.
Brad Ferguson, a self-described lawn-care fanatic, with his wife, Heather, and 10-month-old son, Grant, at home in Columbia, Mo. PHOTO: FERGUSON FAMILY
“Yes, I am a fanatic,” said Brad Ferguson, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Missouri’s medical school in Columbia, Mo. He admits to having slipped outside with a flashlight at 2 or 3 a.m. to check whether recently planted grass seeds were starting to sprout.
Dr. Ferguson’s routine includes sharpening blades, pressure washing and tuning up his John Deere lawn tractor. “I do all the maintenance myself,” he said. “I don’t let anyone else touch it.”
Many of these yard masters are disciples of Allyn Hane, an internet guru who dubs himself the Lawn Care Nut. Mr. Hane, whose video “How to Dominate Your Neighbor’s Lawn” has had more than two million views on YouTube, exhorts his followers to “mow taller” than their neighbors, leaving their grass about an inch above the competition. “It’s the same reason why tall people stand out in a crowd,” he says in the video.
Geoffrey Lokuta, a biologist who lives in Lakeland, Fla., values Mr. Hane’s mowing tips but said he isn’t on a quest for neighborhood domination. In any case, there isn’t much competition. “People around me have what you would call salad bars,” 50% grass and 50% weeds, he said. “I just let them do their thing.”
Danny Freemyer's lawn won Yard of the Month for June in Forney, Texas.
Danny Freemyer's lawn won Yard of the Month for June in Forney, Texas. PHOTO: FREEMYER FAMILY
Not so for Danny Freemyer, who in June won the Yard of the Month award in Forney, Texas. “I was super-excited about it,” said Mr. Freemyer, an electrician who moved to the Dallas suburb five years ago. “That was my plan when I first moved in, to get Yard of the Month, and I don’t think they were even doing Yard of the Month at that time.”
Dominick Segro, a police officer who lives in Springfield, N.J., often mows two or three times a week. “I think it’s great,” said his wife, Tara. “We definitely have the best lawn in town.” Officer Segro is protective of his handiwork and “a little neurotic,” his wife said.
For instance, the couple’s children are allowed to play in the yard but “they have to move around” rather than standing in one place, Ms. Segro said. Blowup pools are forbidden because they would mat the grass. The dog is allowed to relieve itself only in a designated spot at one side of the house.
Blow-up swimming pools are banned from Dominick Segro’s lawn in Springfield, N.J., because they would matt the grass. Mr. Segro often mows two or three times a week.
Blow-up swimming pools are banned from Dominick Segro’s lawn in Springfield, N.J., because they would matt the grass. Mr. Segro often mows two or three times a week. PHOTO: SEGRO FAMILY
When the Segros had a Father’s Day party, some of the guests taunted Mr. Segro by lingering a bit longer than necessary on his lawn for a group picture. Afterward, he used a leaf blower to fluff the grass back up.
Eric Cozart of Coldwater, Mich., who sells industrial plastics, opposes any trampling of his manicured front lawn but is willing to compromise: He lets his toddler son romp in the back. “I’ve ceded ground to my child in the backyard,” Mr. Cozart said.
How many hours he devotes to the lawn per week can be a sensitive topic. “My wife would probably tell you 100,” he said. “Realistically, it’s no more than 10 to 12.”
“I sit 8 to 10 hours a day at a computer and think back what did I accomplish today and sometimes it’s hard to think of anything,” said Mr. Ford. “When I get home it’s nice to use a different part of my brain and see measurable, tangible results.”Taylor Ford, a financial planner in Mesa, Ariz., considers himself only moderately obsessive about his lawn. Even so, while at work or on the road, he sometimes uses a cellphone app that connects with his home security cameras so he can make sure his lawn-irrigation system is working. His wife sometimes asks, “Why are you mowing? It’s already fine.”
Lawn care is “kind of like a stress-reduction thing,” said David Tirpak, a psychologist and career counselor who lives in Sykesville, Md. For lawn geeks like him, the attractions also include spending time outdoors and meeting their (often envious) neighbors.
Keith Trzynka tends his pristine lawn in Grand Forks, N.D. Hannah Tirpak, 4 years old, explores a lawn tended by her father, David Tirpak, in Sykesville, Md.PHOTOS: TRZYNKA FAMILY; TIRPAK FAMILY
Growing up in a Brooklyn apartment,  Oktay Mustafayev had little early exposure to lawn care. Then he moved to Fair Lawn, N.J. Mr. Mustafayev, a nurse whose family immigrated from Azerbaijan, soon decided that having merely a fair lawn wasn’t enough. He began taking YouTube tutorials and raising his game.
When he mows, Mr. Mustafayev passes over the entire surface twice to ensure an even cut. If one or two blades of grass exceed the desired height, he yanks them out like rogue eyebrow hairs. “I like uniformity,” Mr. Mustafayev said. He dreads autumn, the end of his growing season: “That last mow, that’s pretty heartbreaking.”
Write to James R. Hagerty at

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Will Your Next Tomato Be Grown Indoors by Robots?

If you were inventing the farm today, why would you put it outside, on a giant plot of land?
OK, there’s the sunlight thing, but then you get droughts and frosts and plant-munching insects that have to be battled with harmful pesticides. And because outdoor farms need so much acreage, they’re usually far from most of their customers — which means that by the time a tomato gets to you in a city, it tastes like a baseball.
But now, upstarts in the US such as Bowery Farming, AeroFarms, and Lettuce Networks are doing something different. They’re growing food indoors. They’re using data and artificial intelligence to operate more efficiently than traditional farms. And they’re staying small and close to population centers. The new generation of farming promises to feed more people while doing less environmental damage.
This kind of distributed farming fits with a larger 21st-century movement that venture capitalist Hemant Taneja and I call “unscaling.” We document the economic trend in our book, Unscaled: How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts Are Creating the Economy of the Future.
Massive scale was the goal throughout the 20th century. Mechanization and technologies such as the truck and telephone made it possible. Mass production, mass markets, and economies of scale ruled in every sector. So we ended up with giant companies, huge hospitals, big universities — and corporate mega-farms.
Today, industry after industry is unscaling. The cloud, mobile devices, big data, AI, and new technologies such as blockchain and 3D printing are making it possible to profitably customize products for smaller and smaller niches. Netflix is an unscaled version of mass-market cable networks like HBO, using data to make programs that appeal to specific types of viewers. Airbnb is a distributed hotel company. In an unscaled era, businesses can operate at smaller, more focused levels and beat giant enterprises.
So farms are unscaling, too. Bowery and AeroFarms both operate inside old industrial buildings in New Jersey and are a short drive from New York City. Inside these buildings, LED lights mimic natural sunlight. The crops grow in nutrient-rich water beds on trays stacked floor to ceiling. And sensors constantly monitor the plants and send data back to AI-driven software, which can learn what’s best for the plants and tweak lighting, water, and fertilizer to improve yields. Much of the “farming” is done by robots. “We get productivity hundreds of times greater than a traditional farm,” says AeroFarms CEO David Rosenberg. “And we use less water and no pesticides — because we’re indoors — and can grow 365 days a year.”
These unscaled farms can give consumers a better product than mega-farms, too. Food grown nearby doesn’t need to endure shipping — so it can ripen the way it’s supposed to. In the middle of winter, indoor-grown, local tomatoes will taste like tomatoes. As you can imagine, that’s what consumers prefer.
Since 2013, about US$2 billion has been invested in hundreds of agricultural technology startups, according to CB Insights senior analyst Zoe Leavitt, who spoke about the future of food at a recent Techonomy conference in New York. AeroFarms has raised more than $100 million and sells to Whole Foods and FreshDirect. Boston-based Freight Farms is growing food in container cargo vessels, often selling to restaurants, hotels, and college campus eateries. New York–based BrightFarms says it “finances, designs, builds, and operates” indoor farms close to food retailers and has raised $11 million in funding. Edenworks is operating rooftop greenhouses that grow produce fertilized by ground tilapia and prawns, which are also grown at the mini-farm.
Lettuce Networks is trying another approach. It is using cloud and mobile technology to create a network of urban farms. Founder Yogesh Sharma calls it an Airbnb for farming. The company contracts with owners of small plots throughout a city and installs sensors that can monitor crops and the surrounding environment. Nearby residents can subscribe to the Lettuce service to get food delivered. The system knows what’s being grown all around the city and, from that network, assembles a basket of local produce for delivery. Owners of the plots make some money off their harvest, while subscribers get an assortment of fresh food grown nearby.

Whether unscaled farming is a net economic benefit remains to be seen. It’s a new industry, with techniques and business models that are works in progress. Analyst firm Market Research Future
 notes that urban farms cost a lot to start (a warehouse in New Jersey is more expensive than a plot of land in Saskatchewan) and don’t yet work for a lot of crops, such as corn or bananas. Sunlight is free and sustainable; LED lights require energy. But proponents believe that because these indoor farms are far more productive and are closer to consumers, once there are a lot of them and the techniques and technology get honed, more people will be fed for less cost than ever before.Distributed, indoor, AI-assisted farming should be good news for the environment. Scaled-up farming was the right answer for the past century, feeding a burgeoning population while making food relatively cheap. The percentage of disposable income used for food is lower today than it was in the 1970s, according to Pew Research Center. But by 2050, the planet is projected to have 2.2 billion more people to feed, just as global warming is expected to make weather less predictable and dry up previously fertile regions. If food can be grown indoors, in a cost-effective way, in or near cities, climate will be less of a concern, and far less carbon will be burned moving food thousands of miles via trucks, trains, and ships.
As investment pours in and environmental conditions drive a need for new solutions, unscaled farming looks a lot more like the future of food than does a massive field baking under the sun.
Thoughtful or foolish?
from an article originally written by Kevin Maney in Strategy + Business