Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Potential Antidote for Box Jelly Fish Stings Discovered

Each box jellyfish carries enough venom to kill more than 60 humans.
A single sting to a human will cause necrosis of the skin, excruciating pain and, if the dose of venom is large enough, cardiac arrest and death within minutes.


Photo of Associate Professor Greg Neely
Associate Professor Greg Neely.

Associate Professor Greg Neely and Dr Raymond (Man-Tat) Lau and their team of pain researchers at the Charles Perkins Centre were studying how the box jellyfish venom works when they made the discovery.
They uncovered a medicine that blocks the symptoms of a box jellyfish sting if administered to the skin within 15 minutes after contact.
The antidote was shown to work on human cells outside the body and then tested effectively on live mice. Researchers now hope to develop a topical application for humans.
“We were looking at how the venom works, to try to better understand how it causes pain. Using new CRISPR genome editing techniques we could quickly identify how this venom kills human cells. Luckily, there was already a drug that could act on the pathway the venom uses to kill cells, and when we tried this drug as a venom antidote on mice, we found it could block the tissue scarring and pain related to jellyfish stings,” said Associate Professor Neely. “It is super exciting.”
Published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, the study used CRISPR whole genome editing to identify how the venom works. Genome editing is a technology that allows scientists to add, remove or alter genetic material in an organism’s DNA.
In the study, the researchers took a vat of millions of human cells and knocked out a different human gene in each one. Then they added the box jellyfish venom - which kills cells at high doses - and looked for cells that survived. From the whole genome screening, the researchers identified human factors that are required for the venom to work.
“The jellyfish venom pathway we identified in this study requires cholesterol, and since there are lots of drugs available that target cholesterol, we could try to block this pathway to see how this impacted venom activity. We took one of those drugs, which we know is safe for human use, and we used it against the venom, and it worked,” said Dr Lau, who is the lead author on the paper. “It’s a molecular antidote.”
“It’s the first molecular dissection of how this type of venom works, and possible how any venom works,” Dr Lau said. “I haven’t seen a study like this for any other venom.”
“We know the drug will stop the necrosis, skin scarring and the pain completely when applied to the skin,” said Associate Professor Neely, who is the senior author on the paper. “We don’t know yet if it will stop a heart attack. That will need more research and we are applying for funding to continue this work.”
While it will be some time yet before this is actually available it is enormously useful progress.  I know - as have been stung and it is not nice, and loss of life is possible, especially in children.

Many people are stung each year in north Australia, including a lot in the marine industries as well as recreational water users.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

New Type of Milk Treatment for Disease Prevention

This link will take you to the article published on 1 May 2019.  It is a major new development in milk processing and now patented.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-05-01/fresh-milk-breakthrough-offers-60-day-fridge-shelf-life/11062284

A new method of ensuring milk is disease free has been developed and is touted as the biggest development in milk processing since pasteurisation.

Pasteurisation is if you think about it, the gold standard to ensure disease free milk is available for users.  Heated to around 72C for a short time the milk is then bottled / packaged and sealed, and delivered to customers in a cold chain for use.  Shelf life maybe is 2 weeks, if kept well refrigerated.

Or go for UHT milk - refrigeration not needed but shelf life is quite long, although does have a slightly different taste.

This new process is equal to or better than pasteurizing, and while requiring some cold storage gives a shelf life of 60 days.  An enormous improvement.

AND an Australian development at that.

Opens up some major new opportunities in various areas including milk processing for speciality non pasteurised cheese manufacture using sea or road transport for the milk to make the downstream value added product.  Especially relevant for export of fresh milk and cheese.   

Suitable for most if not all milk - cow, sheep, goat, camel, buffalo all included.

Read the article - a massive step into some new industries over time. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Yara Australia to Support Sustainable Management of Packaging Waste


Fertiliser manufacturer Yara Australia has partnered with the Farm Waste Recovery program in a bid to sustainably manage their disposable packaging waste.

Now in its fourth year, the program works in partnership with manufacturers, associated industry and local councils to facilitate the collection, recycling or disposal of plastic waste generated on farms in Australia each year.

It is estimated that more than 80,000 tones of polypropylene and polyethylene bags are delivered to Australian farms each year. These include 10 million bulk bags and 200 million sacks used in the fertiliser and stockfeed sectors. The majority of these bags are illegally burned on-farm or end up in landfill.

Working in partnership with manufacturers, industry associations and local councils, Farm Waste Recovery aims to recover as much of this waste as possible. This year’s target is 600,000 bulk bags, which is the equivalent of 2,000 tonnes of plastic and 5,000 cubic metres of landfill space.

This represents a potential saving of $1.25 million in landfill costs, which has flow-on benefits for local government, the community and the environment.

Rhaleigh Cereno, Yara Australia supply-chain manager, said the company is delighted to support this important initiative. “Yara is a leading supplier of fertiliser to the horticulture and broadacre sectors and a large portion of this is sold in bags,” Cereno said.  “Our overriding concern is to ensure these bags are removed from the environment and ideally, to have them recycled. This is an opportunity to demonstrate our genuine commitment to environmental sustainability.”

This is a early April press release on this topic from Yara.  It is unclear where and how it will operate, and doubt it will in the NT.

But be aware - and ask if your Yara packaging will be collected!  The numbers on fertiliser bag waste are certainly staggering!!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Can Soil Microbes Slow Climate Change?


One scientist has tantalizing results, but others are not convinced.

This article was in Scientific American online but is worthy of being more widely dispersed into the wider agricultural and soil science community.  Worth a read!


By John J. Berger on March 26, 2019
Can Soil Microbes Slow Climate Change?

With global carbon emissions hitting an all-time high in 2018, the world is on a trajectory that climate experts believe will lead to catastrophic warming by 2100 or before. Some of those experts say that to combat the threat, it is now imperative for society to use carbon farming techniques that extract carbon dioxide from the air and store it in soils. Because so much exposed soil across the planet is used for farming, the critical question is whether scientists can find ways to store more carbon while also increasing agricultural yields.

David Johnson of New Mexico State University thinks they can. The recipe, he says, is to tip the soil’s fungal-to-bacterial ratio strongly toward the fungi. He has shown how that can be done. Yet it is not clear if techniques can be scaled up economically on large commercial farms everywhere.

Johnson, a trim 67-year-old microbiologist who is as comfortable using the latest metagenomics technology as he is shovelling cow manure into a composter, thinks society can only maximize carbon storage, increase soil’s water-holding capacity and grow plentiful crops if it restores the soil microbiome. “We currently have very degraded soils physically, chemically, but mostly biologically,” he says. “Microbes restore this balance.”

Johnson conducts precise soil-biology experiments into how to increase the capacity of agricultural systems to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. In a recently completed four-and-a-half-year field trial, Johnson planted fast-growing cover crops and applied a microbe-rich solution derived from a vermiculture (worm) compost produced in a low-tech composter of his own design. The bacteria, fungi and protozoa fed a soil food web of nematodes, microarthropods and other beneficial organisms.

Through photosynthesis, the cover crops pulled CO2 from the air, sank roots deep into the earth, and towered over the land. The results were unusual—and highly controversial. Johnson reported a net annual increase of almost 11 metric tons of soil carbon per hectare on his cropland. That’s equivalent to removing about 16 metric tons of carbon dioxide per acre from the atmosphere annually—roughly 10 times the increase that other scientists have reported in many different soils and climates.

Johnson ascribes these improvements, along with large increases in crop yields, to improved soil health stemming from the application of the microbes from his vermiculture, leading to an increase in the soil’s fungal-to-bacterial ratio.

Professor Rattan Lal of Ohio State University, widely regarded as a leading authority on soil carbon sequestration, says he was “intrigued” by Johnson’s outcome. “I want to understand why he’s getting such exceptional results.” Lal thinks that further, larger-scale trials are needed to validate Johnson’s work, of course.

Johnson is also conducting meticulous laboratory studies. They focus on the correlations among fungal-to-bacterial ratios and soil health, fertility and crop productivity. He reports finding increases in fungal-to-bacterial ratio, plus large increases in soil carbon and other nutrients as a result of his management practices.

In all this work, Johnson maintains that as the ratio of fungi to bacteria increases, the soil biome becomes more efficient in utilizing carbon and other nutrients and that the soil therefore releases less CO2 to the atmosphere. The jury is still out, however. Although peer-reviewed soil science literature contains some confirmation, other findings in submerged, forested and subarctic soils—admittedly different circumstances—failed to confirm the relation.

Keith Paustian, a professor of soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, says he has seen some “quite high rates of carbon accrual” in degraded croplands that were converted to productive perennial grass systems. But he has not seen strong evidence that the same outcome can be produced by adding microbes.

EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS
Johnson asserts that if his approach were used across agriculture internationally, the entire world’s carbon output from 2016 could be stored on just 22 percent of the globe’s arable land. He says that would provide net benefits of $500 to $600 per acre rather than net costs, if credits are provided for carbon capture and related benefits are counted, such as reduced irrigation and increased soil fertility.

To arrive at his global carbon-capture numbers, Johnson projected results from cropland plots of three to 75 acres of various soil types in five states. That is still a fairly limited sample. Henry Janzen, a research scientist at Lethbridge Research and Development Center in Alberta and a professor at the University of Manitoba, cautions that such a projection is risky. “Every ecosystem is unique,” he says. “A practice that elicits soil carbon gain at one site may not be effective at another. And always, the rate of carbon gain will depend on a host of interactive factors, including soil properties, previous management practices, climatic conditions and the vagaries of human whims.”

Janzen also points out that soils do not absorb carbon indefinitely. After some years or decades, they inevitably approach a new steady state. For that reason, he says, soil carbon sequestration is rarely seen as a long-term solution to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

Johnson acknowledges those factors but says managing soil to improve the health of its microbial life can provide strong carbon gains before the soil’s capacity levels off. He is in the process of scaling up his experiments to try to replicate his results on even larger plots in different geographies with a variety of cover and commodity crops, “to assess the impact for the rest of the world.”

A NEW PARADIGM?
Johnson’s work is based on a somewhat different paradigm from that of most conventional soil scientists. They often seek to boost agricultural productivity in traditional ways by adding fertilizer and using pesticides and herbicides as needed. This approach is anathema to Johnson. He decries almost every conventional farming practice—ploughing, bare fallowing, and the application of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. All these, he says, “assault soil microbiota.” He claims that glyphosate (sold in commercial products such as Roundup) will kill Aspergillus fungal species in soil. Aspergillus is often regarded as a marker of fungal presence and is important in carbon and nitrogen cycling.

As for fertilizer, Johnson believes he has demonstrated that microbially inoculated soil enriched with tilled cover crops naturally accumulates more than enough nitrogen for vigorous plant growth. (Nitrogen is the limiting nutrient in most agricultural situations.) In one of his plots where he reports having increased net primary productivity five times, the soil accumulated 770 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year.

Much of this fixation is done by free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Because a normal crop only requires about 180 pounds of nitrogen per acre, Johnson says it would be unnecessary to add artificial fertilizer to a system like this.

As with all of Johnson’s work to date, this result has appeared only in the form of reports and other “grey literature.” Harold van Es, professor of soil and water management at Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science, is one of Johnson’s severest critics.

“In science, we strongly believe that research should be subjected to peer evaluation,” van Es says. “His ideas should not be at all presented as scientific facts.”

The fungal-to-bacterial ratio is indeed important, van Es says. “But there are many ways to increase that ratio,” not just Johnson’s approach. “Reducing tillage has similar effects and this has been much more widely documented.”

Although Johnson has irked some soil scientists and even aroused some ire, as climate change intensifies in speed and fury, many scientists believe it is important to leave no stone unturned in the search for ways to limit carbon emissions quickly. Perhaps the soil’s microbiome can be a powerful tool.

Rights & Permissions
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
John J. Berger
John J. Berger is an environmental science and policy specialist who has written numerous articles and books about the environment and climate change. He is the author of Climate Peril, The Intelligent Reader’s Guide to the Climate Crisis.

Recent Articles
Crisis in the Cryosphere, Part 2
Crisis in the Cryosphere, Part 1


Published online here on Blogger with acknowledgments to the author and Scientific American online

Friday, March 08, 2019

Future Farming in Singapore. Can it Be Done in Darwin Too?

SINGAPORE - With global warming heralding new threats, resource scarcity will be the new normal.
So the Government is throwing its weight behind efforts to protect and provide for the country's survival - in the areas of water, making the most of waste, food and climate change research - Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Thursday (March 7).
"Climate change is bringing new and wicked problems," he said in Parliament.
And just like the country's water success story, the same can be done in other areas, through long-term planning decades before a problem surfaces, he said, pointing out that Newater was more than two decades in the making.
"Faced with a challenge, we start small, learn from others, harness technology, invest in R&D. Keep on trying, until we get it right.
"Then we take our solutions and scale up to benefit the whole nation."
In terms of food, this means decreasing the dependence on the global food market, which accounts for over 90 per cent of Singapore's current food supply.
Announcing an ambitious target of producing 30 per cent of the country's food needs by 2030 - or 30 by 30 - Mr Masagos said that this would call for new paradigms in the sector, with a focus on state-of-the-art indoor farms.
They would incorporate climate control and automation, for instance, and in terms of fish - closed containment systems that keep algae blooms and oil spills at bay.
"Farmers of the future will operate computerised control systems in a pleasant environment."
It was time to break away from the "take, make, use and toss" mentality and embrace the circular economy instead, Mr Masagos added.
Promising technologies dealing with waste include Singapore Polytechnic's green chemistry technology to recover precious metals in e-waste, and Nanyang Technological University's method of turning food waste into high-grade fertilisers.
In addition, the National Environment Agency is working on turning incineration ash into construction material, called NEWSand, and has developed draft standards for using treated ash for building roads, for example.
When it comes to climate change, science will be key in guiding policies, he added, with the opportunity for Singapore to be a leader in the tropics, since there is limited knowledge on its effects there.
To this end, there will be more investment to build capability in the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, set up in 2013, and the local scientific community. This year, the centre will embark on the National Sea Level Programme to better understand sea levels around Singapore, so that robust projections and plans can be made for the long term.
Solar power will be stepped up. It could be harnessed at reservoirs, coastal areas and building facades to potentially power 40,000 four-room flats each year, an area half the size of Tampines.
At the same time, the water story is also not over.
The Research Innovation and Enterprise Council has allocated $200 million to national water agency PUB for research, and the Government has posed "Big Hairy Audacious Goals" to the scientists, he said, such as producing desalinated water with much less energy than currently needed.
Already, new technology which could potentially halve the energy required for desalination is set to be scaled up and deployed in the Tuas Desalination plant from 2020.
At the same time, people are saving more water, with domestic consumption falling from 148 litres per person per day in 2016 to 141 litres in 2018, with a target of further shaving it to 130 litres by 2030.
In all, the Government will spend almost $400 million on research and innovation in water, the circular economy, climate change and food, under the Research, Innovation, Enterprise Plan 2020 (RIE2020).
The challenges also bring with them opportunities, Mr Masagos stressed.
Pointing to Singapore's thriving water industry - with over 200 companies and more than 25 R&D centres, he said that investments in the sector in the past decade had created 14,400 good jobs and economic value-add of over $2.2 billion annually.
And plans for the water, food and environmental sectors would open up a variety of exciting opportunities for enterprises and jobs.
"We must do as our forefathers did, stay alert and nimble, and continue to plan and prepare for the long term," he said.
"We have ambitious plans for our water, waste and food sectors, but the road ahead is long and winding. We will persevere, for we are not done building a sustainable Singapore."

Thursday, March 07, 2019

NEW - Requirements to Spray 2,4-D: Reduce the Risk of Damage.


Spray application and spray drift management is critical in using herbicide and pesticide products effectively and safely – for you as operator,  and both target areas being sprayed and non-target areas.   

As well, awareness of current or new label instructions for some products really mean users must up their performance to use best practice to reduce the risk of off-target spray drift and to incorporate the new label instructions for the use of 2,4-D.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) suspended the labels of all products containing the active ingredient 2,4-D from October 4, 2018, replacing them with a permit.

Key changes for using 2,4-D under the permit include: applicators must now use at least a Very Coarse (VC) spray quality; when using a boom sprayer, boom heights must be 0.5 metres (or lower) above the target canopy; and downwind buffers now apply (typically less than 50 metres, subject to rate and product being applied) between application sites, and downwind of sensitive crops and environmentally sensitive aquatic areas.

While new procedures are focused on 2,4-D, common sense would indicate that related products also may need more appropriate care during spraying.   It might also lead to better overall outcomes and improved success for the target plants.

Six videos have been developed and are worth looking at to help users adapt to the changes.
Presented by respected spray consultant Bill Gordon, the new series of six videos cover the topics :
             2,4-D label changes
             A spray contractor’s experience
             Nozzle selection for larger droplets
             Weather conditions and the 2,4-D label
             Maximising spray coverage
             Maximising spray efficiency 

More information and links to the media are on a few web sites; this link should find the videos –

they are listed sequentially.

Useful for growers and spray users across many field crop species, horticulture, pastures and turf to help effective spraying and prevent problems – which could come back to hit you!

While specific to 2,4-D the principles really have wider ramifications and should improve overall herbicide spray operations.  Good sensible operational practice pays off with better outcomes.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

How Do Trees Fare in Major Cyclones / Hurricanes?

If you are in those areas both a little north and south of the equator you probably experience major tropical storms variously called cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons, depending on where you are located.

In Australia we get cyclones while in the USA they are named hurricanes, and typhoons in much of East Asia.  All are powerful, destructive storms and it seems, getting stronger.

Loss of the local vegetation is common - with lots of leaves shredded as an initial effect of the wind damage and often massive loss of tree cover, plus broken branches and destroyed and fallen trees.

The question is asked.....how do trees cope in these massive storms?  What happens to them, and why are some much better survivors?  Following Cyclone Marcus in 2018, the Darwin local government council, no stranger to these massive storms, sought to try and detail what trees fared best and why and to develop an improved list of suitable resilient trees, and to detail those of  much lesser stability and resilience.  Earlier work detailed outcomes of the major Cyclone Tracy in December 1974 in relation to tree resilience.

More recently, the February 2019 edition of The Scientist journal has explored this much more, even experimenting with "pseudo hurricane" damage to explore redevelopment of natural forest cover.

explore the link - some good graphics and information as well.  Hyper link below.

https://www.the-scientist.com/features/how-trees-fare-in-big-hurricanes-65335 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Soil Moisture Monitoring by Drone

Australian stuff from Monash University.  Very neat and very useful.


Autonomous Drones for Soil Moisture Mapping Help Farmers Use Water More Efficiently (Video)

Monash ​University ​engineers are ​working with ​Australian ​farmers to help ​them improve ​irrigation ​practices, ​reduce water ​use and ​maximise crop ​harvest by ​using ​autonomous ​drone ​technology. ​
As severe ​drought ​continues to ​devastate ​farmland and ​impact food ​supply across ​Australia, a ​Monash ​University ​research team, ​led by ​Professor Jeff ​Walker, has ​spent the past ​two years ​developing a ​drone-based ​autonomous soil ​moisture ​mapping system ​for irrigated ​paddocks. ​
5t5GBkm.jpg
Monash ​University ​engineers are ​working with ​Australian ​farmers to help ​them improve ​irrigation ​practices by ​using ​autonomous ​drone ​technology. (​Image source: ​Monash )
The team has ​recently ​completed field ​experiments ​using optical ​mapping which ​can determine ​soil moisture ​levels in the ​near-surface. ​The data taken ​from the drone ​can be ​downloaded and ​used to produce ​a map of ground ​soil moisture ​levels to ​inform the ​farmer on how ​best to ​irrigate the ​paddock. ​
While equipped ​with optical ​mapping as a ​proof-of-​concept, the ​drone has now ​advanced to ​passive ​microwave ​sensing ​technology ​using L-Band ​waves, with ​further ​research being ​conducted on ​the potential ​for using P-​band waves. P-​Band waves are ​expected to be ​able to measure ​up to 15cm into ​the soil ​unimpeded by ​vegetation and ​tillage ​features. ​
Drones have ​the capacity to ​analyse soil ​moisture at ​metre-level ​scales within a ​paddock, ​allowing ​farmers to ​focus on ​specific crop ​irrigation, and ​overcomes the ​challenges of ​aircraft or ​satellite ​mapping. ​
Testing has ​taken place ​across two ​farms in ​regional ​Victoria and ​Tasmania. One ​was at a dairy ​farm using a ​centre pivot ​irrigator and ​the other was a ​crop farm using ​a linear shift ​irrigator. ​
“We need ​to produce 60% ​more food with ​the same amount ​of land and ​water, and we ​can only ​achieve this by ​being more ​efficient with ​the water we ​use through ​irrigation,​” ​Professor ​Walker, Head of ​Civil ​Engineering at ​Monash ​University, ​said. ​
“We need ​to know how ​much the crop ​needs, how much ​moisture is ​already there ​and apply just ​the right ​amounts of ​water in the ​correct places ​to avoid ​wastage while ​keeping the ​crop at its ​peak growth.​” ​
Good soil ​moisture allows ​for the optimal ​growth and ​yield of crops, ​while at ​broader spatial ​scales also ​regulates ​weather, ​climate and ​flooding. The ​water levels in ​the soil ​controls ​evaporation ​over land and ​thus the energy ​fluxes into the ​atmosphere. ​This drives the ​atmospheric ​circulation, ​which drives ​climate. ​
“If the ​soil is too dry,​ crops can fail ​due to a lack ​of water. But ​if the soil is ​too wet, crops ​can not only ​fail but pests ​and diseases ​can flourish,​” ​Professor ​Walker said. ​
Professor ​Walker said the ​farming ​industry has ​welcomed ​smarter and ​more automated ​practices, but ​there are few ​tools available ​to make the ​already ​difficult ​workloads of ​farmers more ​manageable. ​
“At best,​ farmers might ​have a single ​soil moisture ​sensor in a ​paddock, but ​this doesn’​t allow for the ​optimal ​application of ​water, ​especially as ​this resource ​becomes scarcer.​ Plus it ​won’t ​take into ​account ​moisture ​variation ​levels across ​the individual ​paddocks,”​ Professor ​Walker said. ​
As crop ​failures due to ​a lack of water ​have enormous ​human and ​financial ​consequences, ​Professor ​Walker said ​Australian ​farmers need to ​become more ​efficient in ​soil moisture ​mapping by ​using ‘​precision ​agriculture’​ methods such ​as autonomous ​soil moisture ​mapping using ​drones. ​
“Farmers ​also need to ​cooperate; ​water ​conservation ​and efficiency ​is a collective ​responsibility. ​Everyone needs ​to do their ​part to use ​water more ​effectively or ​we’re at ​risk of running ​out completely,​” ​Professor ​Walker said. ​
“As the ​world’s ​driest ​continent ​facing climate ​change, a ​growing ​population and ​a greater ​demand for food,​ water ​conservation ​should be one ​of Australia’​s top ​priorities.​” ​
This project ​is part of ​Monash ​University’​s expanding ​interdisciplinary​ ​focus on the ​use of data and ​technology to ​solve real-​world problems ​for today and ​in the future. ​
The Autonomous ​Drones for Soil ​Moisture ​Mapping project ​was funded by ​Monash ​Infrastructure ​through a seed ​funding scheme. ​This project ​forms part of ​Professor ​Walker’s ​wider research ​into soil ​moisture ​mapping and ​autonomous ​farming.  ​
News source: Monash University  
Video source:​ Posterboy ​Media on Vimeo 

To download, click ‘Download’ button on the right (on a computer) and download ‘Original’ format - this is the best format for redistribution…

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Sulfate Boosts Ability of Plants to Handle Dry Conditions

Plants absorb the mineral sulfate from soil water. An international research team led by scientists from Heidelberg University has uncovered how sulfate controls the production of the drought stress hormone ABA in plants and thus contributes to their drought-resistance. These findings improve scientists' understanding of how the drought-stress signal travels from the roots to the leaves. The studies in Heidelberg were carried out at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS).
Plants take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis through pores in their leaves. When rainfall is low, however, these openings spell disaster for the plants because strong sunlight and active photosynthesis draw a lot of water through the open pores. Without fresh water from the roots, the plants wither and ultimately die. The hormone ABA [abscisic acid] controls how far the pores open in order to regulate the water loss of the plant.
Last year the researchers uncovered that the nutrient sulfate accumulates in the water transport pathways of the plants when the soil begins to dry out. Now the team led by Dr Markus Wirtz and Prof. Dr RĂ¼diger Hell has shown that the mineral actually known as sulfate plays a critical signalling role in supplying water to the plant. “Even we were surprised how efficiently sulfate triggers the synthesis of ABA and thus controls closure of the pores,” states Prof. Hell.
“The extremely dry European summer of 2018 was a preview of the imminent effects of global warming on the growth of plants and nutrient production,” stresses Dr Wirtz. “To be able to cultivate food crops that are more resilient during periods of water scarcity and drought, we need to understand how environmental factors regulate the formation of the hormone ABA”.
The results of the study were published in the journals “The Plant Cell” and “Plant Physiology” in late 2018.
The implications for turf could be most intriguing too and if your also add in the known effects of potassium on cell wall strengthening under dry conditions, could this explain or partially suggest an improved role for use of potassium sulfate as a summer fertiliser, or use of more complex mixes including slow release nitrogen?
Potassium sulfate is an often favoured means of supplying potassium and considered much superior to some alternate and cheaper forms, but is the real benefit the potassium or the sulfate in boosting drought resilience in many summer growing warm season turf grasses, especially in water deficit and /or hot stress conditions?  Do similar issues arise if using potassium sulfate in hydroponics in hot conditions [ it is commonly used in hydroponic cultivation] ?
It is an intriguing outcome of the research.......with no doubt more to come.

[ some material used from a press release by COS]


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

SURPRISE - the Earth is Getting Greener!!


It seems there is always doom and gloom environment news - so here is some good news, as reported by CNN.

NASA satellite imagery reveals that China and India are leading the world in adding volumes of green foliage. 

Also, since 2000, the Earth's overall green acreage has grown by 5%, an area equivalent to the Amazon's rainforests.

So.......maybe some positive news.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Banana Streak Disease May be Disabled

Bananas continue to be a target plant for breeding using new technologies.

The latest is a development that eliminates banana streak virus disease from the plant as well as preventing reinfection, using various gene editing options.  This disease is a major problem in parts of west Africa.

Read the full story here - https://www.newscientist.com/article/2192461-virus-lurking-inside-banana-genome-has-been-destroyed-with-crispr/

Developments like this continue to be implemented and offer significant potential for food crops especially in areas where some crops are staple foods.......and lowered production can be devasting to the local population.

Yes, there are some scientific and policy issues to be considered but there seems to be a better understanding that maybe these approaches with genetic engineering [as a broad approach] offer a real way forward in better plant production.

We are likely to see expanded use of the CRISPR gene technology across many crops or even less well developed or unexploited species to develop newer varieties for modern agriculture and improve overall crop productivity.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Trichoderma for Disease Control in Zoysia Turf



Disease control in turf can be a tricky process and is often commenced well before the disease appears or is expected to arrive – on a seasonal basis, as is often the situation.

That might be okay for major sport areas – from golf and bowling greens to major sport stadia and similar larger venues.  But what about the backyard lawn?   Or the neighbourhood oval?

Cost and lack of information often mean these types of programs never are used.  It also often means no disease management occurs at all with resulting significant loss of amenity, and significant remedial cost – after the disease event.

There are other options that might be worth considering.

A recent paper on disease issues in high quality new turf ovals using zoysia has highlighted a role for root colonizing fungi that can elicit a plant immune response in the roots and may have significant potential for bio-control of a few different turf diseases.

The concept is not a “flash in the pan” radical new idea at all and has been investigated and researched for some years.  There are commercial materials now sold that even use the materials and so they can be bought commercially in some countries, including Australia. Details available on request.

One advantage they have is that the “good” fungal material can be applied once disease is noticed [also used before if required] and that it can develop and spread and be active in the soil in effect becoming a possible long term solution to the suppression of turf diseases by effectively moving the balance back towards a positive fungal colony in the soil, not a disease causing collection of fungal species – these are suppressed.

I thought the recent scientific paper based on work on Zoysia japonica turf in Guangzhou [ southern China] to be most interesting even if conducted in a greenhouse.

The pathogenic fungi [ which included a range of known disease vectors] were all significantly inhibited by an isolate of Trichoderma viride and this organism had positive effects on zoysia turf growth.

The reference is: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening Volume 37, January 2019, Pages 168-172
Root zone mixture affects the population of root-invading fungi in zoysia grass - by Tianzeng Liu, Jialing Li and Juming Zhang from -

College of Forestry and Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510642, China Guangdong Engineering Research Center for Grassland Science, China