Friday, August 21, 2009

Recycled Effluent Safe - Public Health Study Finds

Recycling of water is now a major effort in Australia, a very dry continent.

Serious drought over about 10 years has driven urban water users and the various urban water authorities to invest in a range of water recycling schemes. Some are very sophisticated, others less so.

The Ministerial Council on the Environment has promulgated new Guidelines to Using Recycled Water and many jurisdictions have started to use these guidelines to develop recycled water schemes too.

The following is a media release that reports on a public health examination of recycled water use and abuse in a major scheme NW of Sydney, Australia.

It is generally good news..........treated recycled effluent was ok, even with some misuse and abuse of the water.

As purple taps become an increasingly common sight in new Australian suburbs, a study has found no corresponding jump in gastro cases linked to the recycled water they deliver.

Researchers checked two years' worth of patient records from GPs located in Australia's largest residential recycled water scheme, in Sydney's northwest, and they found nothing out of the ordinary.

More than 18,000 homes are in the Rouse Hill Recycled Water Scheme and residents are told the extra water they have on tap, coming from a nearby waste-water plant, is not for drinking.
Similar schemes have been rolled out in new suburbs across the country, but the Monash University study was the first to check for any related impact on public health.

"They have recommendations on how the water should be used but (authorities) obviously can't police that," says Associate Professor Karin Leder, of the university's School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine.

"But what we can say ... in practice, we were unable to identify any observable health risks."
Dr Leder says the recycled water was "very heavily treated" and "any health risk would be very unlikely" but there was still a chance, in the event of a treatment failure, that it could contain pathogens or bacteria capable of making people sick.

The study did uncover some well-meaning households which used recycled water to top up their swimming pool, against advice.

"Even if people are using the water exactly as recommended there is the potential for ingestion - drinking very small amounts of water - during activities like car washing," Dr Leder says.

Researchers reviewed 36,000 patient visits across 11 doctors' clinics to check for any spike in acute gastroenteritis, acute skin complaints or acute respiratory conditions. Rates of illness were no different to surrounding suburbs with no access to recycled water and, Dr Leder says, this was a positive sign for the water-saving scheme. "Australia should continue to pioneer ... these kinds of recycled water schemes," she says. "When properly managed, they are a safe option that can be considered among the many options that might be available for recycling water."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Modern Livestock Production - NOT

I am not so sure this particular methodology will work, and tend to believe the comments.

However, soft handling of livestock does pay off. Improved animal welfare epecially handling methods will usually translate into improved profits and better animal behaviour.

Are you using improved animal handling methods?

[ with recognition to the copyright holders]

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eureka Prize for Genetic Test to Breed Poll Braham Cattle

A team of scientists led by CSIRO’s Dr Kishore Prayaga was last night awarded a prestigious Australian Museum Eureka Prize for its work to develop a simple genetic test which has the potential to end the need to dehorn cattle. And in doing so the breakthrough has the potential to also avoid future clashes between the beef industry and animal rights activists.

While horn removal is a routine practice carried out by beef producers to reduce the incidence of cattle injuring other cattle and their handlers, there is a fear within the industry that the practice could one day provoke animal rights activists into campaigning against beef in the same way they have campaigned against the wool industry's practice of mulesing.

Notably the $10,000 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research that Contributes to Animal Protection was sponsored by animal rights group Voiceless.

About half of Australia’s 21 million beef cattle are born with horns, but dehorning causes short term pain and stress for the animal, is labour-intensive and time-consuming for producers, and can reduce animal weight gain for several weeks following the procedure.

The team, which is funded by the Beef CRC and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and involves scientists from CSIRO and Queensland Primary Industry and Fisheries (QPIF), has been researching alternatives to current dehorning practices. "We have discovered a DNA marker in Bos indicius (tropically adapted cattle e.g. Brahman) which identifies the cattle that will produce polled or naturally hornless offspring," Dr Prayaga said. "Our aim is to commercialise this work into a simple test, so that cattle producers in the extensive, rangeland conditions in Northern Australia will be able for the first time to increase the proportion of polled cattle in their herd."

While there are a number of naturally “polled”, or hornless bulls within the existing cattle population, selective breeding to eliminate horns would have taken decades. This new test is expected to strip years off this projected timescale. The proposed genetic test has now been validated twice in research.

"This breakthrough has the potential to alleviate and even eliminate the pain associated with the dehorning of millions of cattle every year," Frank Howarth, director of the Australian Museum, said. "It will revolutionise the breeding of Brahman cattle."

The team has also been working on effective pain reduction and alleviation strategies for producers to use in the meantime. According to QPIF’s Dr Carol Petherick short term strategies are needed because genetics can’t solve the problem overnight. "We have experimented with local anaesthetics and analgesics, and different animal management strategies to reduce and alleviate pain," Dr Petherick said. "Experiments are continuing to find the most effective short term solutions while producers focus on breeding entirely polled herds in the future."

The team found that the pain relief used in sheep mulesing, a topical anaesthetic and antiseptic solution, is the most promising for dehorning. In June, they began a follow-up study to see if these practices will reduce the pain, stress and blood loss associated with dehorning Brahman weaner bulls. The study will also test the effectiveness of wound cauterisation.

The winning team also includes Dr Max Mariasegaram, Post-Doctoral Fellow and PhD student Stephanie Sinclair from CSIRO.

Water Crisis Will Impact on Asia's Food

Water is fundemental to growing food crops. Even with climate change, many parts of Asia seemed to be well supplied with water. That may be so, but with significant population increases, all may not be very rosy with existing agricultural irrigation structures.

Most of these are relatively old, and not very water efficient. That may have to change!

The following media release seems to say it all..........

And this has been released at about the time Australia is debating intensfied agriculture in northern Australia. Is there a role for our region in north Australia to demonstrate modern, high quality good management practices in relation to water use?
[media release]

Scientists have warned Asian countries that they face chronic food shortages and likely social unrest if they do not improve water management. The water experts are meeting at a UN-sponsored conference in Sweden. They say countries in south and east Asia must spend billions of dollars to improve antiquated crop irrigation to cope with rapid population increases.

That estimate does not yet take into account the possible impact of global warming on water supplies, they said. Asia's population is forecast to increase by 1.5bn people over the next 40 years.

Going hungry

The findings are published in a new joint report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). They suggest that Asian countries will need to import more than a quarter of their rice and other staples to feed their populations.

"Asia's food and feed demand is expected to double by 2050," said IWMI director general Colin Chartres. "Relying on trade to meet a large part of this demand will impose a huge and politically untenable burden on the economies of many developing countries. "The best bet for Asia lies in revitalising its vast irrigation systems, which account for 70% of the world's total irrigated land," he said. “ Without water productivity gains, South Asia would need 57% more water for irrigated agriculture and East Asia 70% more. ” [Report by UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and the International Water Management Institute]

With new agricultural land in short supply, the solution, he said, is to intensify irrigation methods, modernising old systems built in the 1970s and 1980s. But that, he says will require billions of dollars of investment.

'Scary scenarios'

At the same time as needing to import more food, the prices of those cereals are likely to continue to rise due to increasingly volatile international markets. The report says millions of farmers have taken the responsibility for irrigation into their own hands, mainly using out-of-date and inefficient pump technology. This means they can extract as much water as they like from their land, draining a precious natural resource.

"Governments' inability to regulate this practice is giving rise to scary scenarios of groundwater over-exploitation, which could lead to regional food crises and widespread social unrest," said the IWMI's Tushaar Shah, a co-author of the report.

Asian governments must join with the private sector to invest in modern, and more efficient methods of using water, the study concluded. "Without water productivity gains, south Asia would need 57% more water for irrigated agriculture and east Asia 70% more," the study found. "Given the scarcity of land and water, and growing water needs for cities, such a scenario is untenable," it said.

The scenarios forecast do not factor in the impact of global warming, which will likely make rainfall more erratic and less plentiful in some agricultural regions over the coming decades.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/08/18 03:55:19 GMT© BBC MMIX

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fertilisers from Air Improve Food Crops

The Singapore Straits Times paper has an interesting article on August 3 2009 that looks at global food production. A recent recurring theme in Singapore is that suddenly they seem to have realised that they produce so little of their own food – about 5%or so overall, although in some sectors they are planning increases to around 15% over the next 5 years.

The article is by Thomas Hager, author of the recent and well received book The Alchemy of Air, an examination of the history and analysis of the Haber-Bosch reaction that produces nitrogen fertiliser from air nitrogen.

While credit is given to modern genetics and the agricultural scientists that were instrumental in developing and then widely disseminating – “the green revolution” with highly productive varieties of a range of crops, cheap nitrogen from air does have a lot to do with enhanced agricultural productivity, world wide.

And if food production is up around the world, is that why the world is getting fatter? The reason we are not all starving today could be adduced as the result of the combination of these two factors – with the cheap nitrogen factor a very key issue. Without that nitrogen, the productivity of modern crops and modern varieties would be much lower.

Naysayers decry use of inorganic fertilisers – we should all be producing organically grown food crops. But productivity would be much lower. Yields can be driven with nitrogen even in organic crops. But........nitrogen from the not that natural too? Even if helped along a bit.
Sure excess nitrogen can be a pollutant......but without that nitrogen in fertiliser we might all be starving.

The book has received excellent reviews, and no I have not read it so far. But have a read of the article and there are some excellent book reviews too. See more