Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Floren Bluegrass Comes of Age

Floren bluegrass was registered as a cultiver in 1995 in Australia through Plant Breeders Rights, and the IP in the variety is owned by Progressive Seeds.

This year it really seems to have made the big time with reports of the variety outyielding a number of species and varieties on the alkaline black clay soils around central Queensland. Reported yields of 25 large round hay
bales per hectare, outyielding a number of other species.

The exceptional performance of Floren bluegrass on Queensland's Isaac River frontage country inundated by the damaging January 2008 floods, has impressed a gathering of the Marlborough region's cattle producers.

Large tracts of highly productive river country throughout Central Queensland were impacted by the 2008 floods, resulting in prolonged inundation and water-logging that effectively killed off productive grasses.

Experience with Floren bluegrass, a Dicanthium aristatum cultivar first planted in April 2007 as a 25pc component of a shotgun mix of pasture seed sown under a centre pivot encouraged the opportunity for a field day and the 25 neighbouring landholders from along the Isaac and Mackenzie River systems were invited to inspect the resultant Floren bluegrass stand that has dominated and out-competed the post-flood flush of parthenium weed, a very serious weed in the region.

Floren bluegrass is now the dominant pasture species ahead of buffel and bambatsi panic, and despite some obvious denitrification of the grass following the flooding, the owner cut 200 round bales/ha from an 8ha stand in early April. A 24ha stand of forage sorghum baled at the same time after the flood inundation also cut 200 bales, an indication of the superior yield of the bluegrass. There is a bit of perennial v annual yield arguments in that equation too!

DPI&F principal experimentalist Maurie Conway said landholders who were considering introducing Floren bluegrass into non-irrigated river country should be looking at planting rates of 0.5kg/ha.
"The secret of good pasture establishment is to eliminate or reduce the competition and spraying is often the best option," Mr Conway said. "If the job is done right, then half as much seed will do the job but if it is not done properly, twice as much seed will not be enough. "Be sure to use good quality seed, plant when soil moisture is good and ensure good soil to seed contact by using a roller. Because it is highly palatable, stocking rates should be managed to allow the plants to flower and seed in autumn.

"Even with limited plant numbers, once this grass is established, it will seed prolifically and make a valuable contribution to livestock productivity," Mr Conway said.

Have a look at a few additional on line resources as listed below. It might be suitable for some areas in the NT and the NW as well.




Saturday, May 24, 2008

Aluminium Recycling Benefits the Community

Why Recycling Is Worth It

Pepsi Cans to Promote Recycling
Study Shows Airline Industry Could Save Thousands of Dollars by Recycling
8 Ways to Green Your Recycling
8 Ways to Practice Product Stewardship

Still wondering why you should bother recycling your aluminium cans? Just ask Greg Wittbecker. He's the director of Corporate Metal Recycling for Alcoa and a big proponent of boosting the paltry amount the U.S. recycles (52% of cans) to 75%.

What's the big deal? Greg says it's all about energy and waste disposal. "If we could recover and recycle 75% of the aluminium cans being currently tossed into landfills — 600,000 metric tons of aluminium — we could save 1286 megawatts of generated electricity. That’s the amount produced by two coal fired power plants, and consumed by two aluminium plants," says Greg. "Replacing this production with recycling would keep 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being generated and released into the atmosphere." It would also reduce the amount of mercury going into the environment, since power plants emit polluting mercury when they burn coal.

Why is recycling so efficient? According to Alcoa, recycling a ton of aluminium uses just 5% of the energy required to make virgin metal. Every tonne of recycled aluminium that Alcoa uses saves about 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the average American household consumes 920 kilowatts of electricity per month. Consequently, using 1 ton of recycled aluminium as opposed to 1 ton of virgin aluminium would make enough conserved energy available to power an American household for over 15 months.

Despite the compelling energy savings that accrue from recycling aluminuum, Americans are not recycling as much as other countries [how unusual!]. Compared to the 52% in the USA, consider how well the nations below are doing:” - Brazil 94.4%, Japan 90.9 % Germany 89 % and the Global Average is 63% and Western Europe 57.7%

Why the diff? On top of the "throw it away" mentality common among American households, many communities don't make it easy for citizens to do the right thing. More towns and cities need to offer curbside recycling programs or convenient recycling centres. Retailers that sell canned beverages could help, too, by setting up recycling centres on their premises. Eleven US states already put deposits on canned beverages to ensure that the cans are returned to the manufacturer. A number of Australian jurisdictions also offer container deposit schemes.

In Australia the packaging industry has vehemently opposed container deposit systems.

[partially sourced from www.enn.com ]

Friday, May 09, 2008

Perennial Pastures in Australia Shown to Sequester Carbon

The potential role for carbon sequestration in perennial pasture plants has received a boost with the release of some important research data that has put some quantified information into the public arena. The data is broadly supported by other information beginning to emerge from other parts of Australia.

Does this begin to really show that deep rooted perennial grass pastures can be effective in raising soil carbon levels? Is there a role for other grasses eg the very deep rooted Vetiver Grass used in mining reclamation for example. It does not address the issue of burning but there is some data about grazing.

Read the material below -----

Drought-tolerant perennial pastures could make a big dent in Australia's greenhouse emissions by helping soils to soak up carbon, says one researcher. But not everyone is convinced this approach really locks away as much carbon in the soil as claimed.

Tim Wiley, a pastures agronomist from Western Australia's Department of Agriculture and Food, says early findings from a trial of perennial pastures are "exciting". "They appear to have an exceptional ability to build up carbon in the soil," he says of the naturally drought-tolerant pastures. "If this preliminary data is right and you start extrapolating it over crop and pasture land in Australia, we could make a very big dent on Australia's emissions."

Soil carbon has decreased to between a half and a third its original levels since European agriculture was introduced. Today, 16% of Australia's annual greenhouse gases come from agriculture.

Wiley says trials of deep-rooted perennial sub-tropical grasses, such as Rhodes grass, on poor sandy soils in Western Australia show they can sequester much more carbon than traditional annual pastures.
He says results from a trial, which ran for more than three years on a farm in Lancelin, show Rhodes grass can capture and sequester nearly 7 tonnes per hectare of CO2 equivalents per year more than traditional pasture. CO2 equivalents are the units the Kyoto Protocol uses to measure greenhouse gases. The methane produced from the extra animals grazing on the perennial pastures only reduces this sequestration bonus by 10-20%, says Wiley.

Wiley says if these early findings are confirmed and the perennial pastures are grown on all suitable farmland in Western Australia, they could offset the state's entire annual greenhouse emissions.
He says the results are supported by data from farmers elsewhere in the area and trials across the country in Queensland.
This suggests the perennial pastures could have a similar effect in areas with very different rainfall and soils.

'Doesn't add up'

Dr Jeffrey Baldock, an expert in soil carbon sequestration from CSIRO Land and Water in Adelaide, agrees perennial pasture holds the best potential for increasing soil carbon and no one has ever tried to quantify its impact. But Baldock thinks the level of sequestration that Wiley reports doesn't add up. He says an increase of 7 tonnes of CO2 equivalents sequestered per hectare per year would require a massive increase in plant growth, measured as the amount of dried plant material. "For [Wiley's] carbon numbers to be correct he would have to be producing about 8 tonnes of extra dried Rhodes grass compared to the annual pasture," he says. "I'm not going to say it's impossible but it's a big ask."


Wiley says he has yet to complete a full measurement of dried plant material. But he says data gathered so far suggests the increase in dried material is not enough to explain the increase in carbon. He says the conventional assumptions that Baldock uses about how much carbon can be sequestered from plants into the soil could be wrong. He suspects the deep-rooted perennials are supporting a healthy crop of mycorrhiza, fungi living symbiotically on plant roots. Wiley says there is evidence that mycorrhiza are more effective than other soil microbes at producing humus and other stable carbon compounds in the soil, which Baldock disputes. But Baldock says more research of the kind that Wiley is involved in should be carried out.

Carbon trading

Wiley says he would not normally publicise such preliminary research but for discussions on whether to include soil carbon in Australia's greenhouse emissions trading scheme. He says soil carbon is already being traded in some parts of the world and while there are many uncertainties around how to measure soil carbon, findings such as his call for it to be included in a trading system.

Meanwhile, Baldock questions the economics of soil carbon trading, arguing that soil carbon should be increased simply because of the benefits it can bring productivity. "It increases water holding capacity, soil nutrition, provides carbon substrates for the soil microbial population to live on and enhances soil structural stability," he says.

[partially sourced from the ABC website]

All of the above about what carbon in the soil does is true. But we still need to get it there, and keep it there. For horticulture, the role of annual green manure crops is important, as a sensible means of building soil carbon and which has a direct and fairly immediate benefit to following horticulture crops. Can we both build and then keep adding to the soil carbon stores in other ways - with applied compost for example.

Both of these concepts are definitely NOT new. There is recent research data that indicates organic production can add to the soil carbon store. But that is really in most part, about the use of organic amendments, not necessarily the other factors in organic production.

legumes can be used as a green manure crop

Recycling organic waste, sequestering carbon, green manure crops, maintaining soil cover..........does one get a sense of deja vu? After all these were considered wise, prudent and profitable soil management considerations for most of the history of agriculture, especially since the Middle Ages, and most certainly taught in most agricultural science university courses world wide in the 19th and 20th centuries!

incorporating green manure crops on a large farm

Some more reading: