Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Australian Windturbine Design

Australia has done something right in the wind energy area.

An Australian company called Renewable Energy Solutions Australia Holdings Ltd. (RESA) has created what it says is a super quiet and efficient wind energy turbine.

Suggestively called Eco Whisper, the wind turbine employs 30 smaller ones capped with a specially designed cowl ring that keeps them silent in most meteorological conditions. A cone shape allows the blades to automatically rotate into the direction of the wind, with no need for a heavy tail structure.

Besides being more silent, the blades are more efficient, too. RESA says the turbines increase efficiency by 30 per cent at average wind speeds, and will keep rotating even when winds are very slow.

Main features:.20kW horizontal axis wind turbine.Virtually silent operation.6.5m blade diameter.21.1m height.30 blades extending outwards.Dynamic slew drive.Solid, lightweight structure.High performance in all wind conditions

The manufacturer says EcoWhisper is suitable for commercial, manufacturing and industrial sites, airports, ports, mining resource facilities, council sites and industrial development sites. It can also be installed on shopping centres, industrial parks, schools, universities and others. Off grid rural communities could also benefit.

It sounds like an exciting new development in wind turbine design!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

New World Record Export Shipment from Darwin

Larger shipments of live cattle [similar to the photo] seem to be the trend with Wellard's MV Ocean Shearer, once again setting a new world record for the largest shipment of live cattle on a single vessel. It sailed from Darwin on 3 December 2011 with 25,817 cattle, easily beating the ship's previous record of 24,683 head set in September earlier this year.

The vessel loaded in both Broome and Darwin, and was loaded by three different exporters, including Wellard. Wellard's consignment of cattle was sourced from a range of individual producers and the company's own floodplain blocks east of Darwin. About 9000 steers and heifers were loaded in Broome and 15,500 cattle were loaded in Darwin. The vessel will unload in the Indonesian ports of Jakarta and Panjang.

There is strong demand from Indonesian importers and consumers, as well as the exporters ability to put the shipment together, with appropriate sized animals, although the onset of the northern Australian wet season was starting to restrict supply. Wellard expects to continue to export cattle during the wet season.

Wellard can be flexible whether to use a larger vessel, or switch to one of the newer, smaller vessels. Previously exports have ground to a halt during the wet season, but the production and transport systems have evolved to ensure it is a year-round trade now. Cattle will be supplied to Indonesia and other South East Asian countries, providing an end market and price competition for cattle which are on either side of the Indonesian 350kg weight limit.

The MV Ocean Shearer, which is the largest livestock vessel in the world, was again loaded at about 80 per cent of her capacity when she sailed, allowing the on-board stockmen and crew to allocate each animal significantly more space than the Australian regulatory standards prescribe. Typically, animal losses on a short voyage to Indonesia from Darwin are extremely low, usually well below 0.5%

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Climate Change Reprise

Unfortunately the Australian Financial Review newspaper usually has a pay firewall. But they seem to have relented over this article now available here -

By Mark Lawson, and in the AFR on Friday November 25 2011 it is an excellent overview of the current state of climate debate and climate science as well as climate change issues, and worth reading.

There has been a lot of editorial comment about the article, mostly positive, over the past few days.

Take the chance and read it......... free.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Real Men Eat Beef

With world beef demand expected to increase over the next 25 years, maybe this is humorous enough to warrant a run on the blog!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Compadre zoysia - Turf in the Darwin CBD

Compadre zoysia used as full sod, has been a preferred option for use by the Darwin City Council on a number of projects within the city area.

One of these has been a significant upgrade to the frontage areas of businesses along one side of Smith Street, the main street of Darwin. This area in the centre of the CBD has many people walk beside, and over, the grass every day.

The Compadre zoysia has been in situ now for well over 12 months and is approaching the second wet season.

It looks great! Does not require frequent mowing , and according to many nearby business owners is a substantial improvement on the previous landscaping.

The turf has maintained a tight sward and has almost no foreign species in the grass areas, with the exception of a just a few small forbs, normally easily removed by hand or an occasional spot spray with an appropriate herbicide. Or by using a long term residual herbicide, to give complete control for many months. That is low cost and easy, even for councils!

Zoysia turf is also finding use in areas such as median strips, roundabouts and similar areas where both modest installation costs plus low maintenance costs are critical, yet it provides an excellent visual amenity, but low growing, so good line of sight vision is maintained , an important issue for road area use.Compadre zoysia..........a great choice for your landscaping!

Friday, November 11, 2011

National Recycling Week

Do you recycle?

Most Australians recycle paper especially newsprint, where about 75% or more is recycled. Office paper is also generally recycled or shredded, mostly, for security reasons, often after reuse for scribbling notepads.

And we do reasonably well with aluminium cans too.

South Australia has container deposit legislation and the NT is about to introduce the same broad system of container deposits. South Australia has very high rates of recycling of a wide range of containers, much higher than other states of Australia. Attributed almost entirely to the legislation, and there is a thriving industry around the system as well. Drum Muster handles recycling of agrochemical containers very well.

Organic or green waste recycling is well established around many areas of Australia with various degrees of success, with South Australia actually having a deficit in supply.......yes there is more demand than supply!! Horticulture is a big user, particularly the vineyard industries of the State, with the same industry in other states also a big user of mulch and composts.

Yet there are poor examples around Australia, with tyres [ see photo of a smart way to recycle tyres] and e-waste notable examples. Additional tyres are now shredded or chopped and exported for further processing, but generally we seem to generate a lot of waste tyres still. E-waste is a growth area, and so far the problem continues to grow, although some progress is being made locally on some modest areas.

November 7 -13 is Australia's National Recycling Week. Do your bit........every bit of recycling counts.

More information is here - http://recyclingweek.planetark.org/fff/ with the Friday File Fling a fun way to get into recycling.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Australia and Now California - Have a Carbon Reduction Plan

It has received almost no media attention in Australia, yet California, which is said to be the world's 8th largest economy, has late last week, passed the final draft of a "cap and trade" program to provide financial incentives for polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Some parts of the plan will commence in 2012, major parts including compliance for some of the worst polluters, including power plants, commence in 2013, and others to commence in 2015. The plan will cover 85% of the emissions in California.

The broad thrust of the Californian scheme is generally similar to that proposed for Australia, with the start of the market mechanism, after a few years of the mandated carbon price, planned for mid 2012.

With California's economy being considerably larger than Australia's, this is a big step for them, and some hope the rest of the USA might follow in time.

I am amazed that this move in California continues to receive such little attention from the media and pro carbon adherents in Australia to add weight to their arguments.

More media information from the US here - http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/business/energy-environment/california-adopts-cap-and-trade-system-to-limit-emissions.html

and here -

There are quite a few sceptics, believing it will not work, but many think it might.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stunning - Rapid Uptake in Indonesian Abattoirs

Pre slaughter stunning is rapidly being introduced into Indonesian abattoirs, with about 70 expected to have the operations in place by the end of the year, whereas only seven were using the technology earlier in the year.

Some delays have been caused by bureaucratic issues in Indonesia, and security requirements /concerns over the equipment, but the stun gun equipment is being deployed quite quickly.

By early next year [remember most of the live export trade to Indonesia slows dramatically between November and February] around 90% of animals will be stunned before slaughter.

Not surprisingly, there has also been a boost in positive responses from local workers involved in the abattoirs citing productivity improvements , superior animal processing speeds, and ease of animal handling.

More detailed information is here - http://qcl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/livestock/cattle/stunning-turnaround-in-cattle-welfare/2327943.aspx?storypage=0

While 2011 has been a real problem year for the northern beef industry and live exports, these improvements could see a better year ahead.

Sound common sense and a joint desire between Australian beef producers and Indonesian lot feeders and processors [ of which many involve Australian companies too] to see the trade continue may see this trade grow in 2012, and with superior animal welfare in place.

Totally banning the trade, which is the avowed aim of some, is still possible but is really a bit silly given the minuscule animal transport losses and improved animal welfare in Indonesia. Afterall, the animals are destined to be slaughtered for consumption. We just need to do it as sensibly as one can.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First Stage of Legislation for a Carbon Tax Passes Today.

The lower house of the Australian Federal Parliament has passed the 18 pieces of legislation that will constitute the carbon tax laws in Australia. the current opposition has vowed to rescind the laws if elected to government. It will be interesting, to say the least.

Following that, the legislation was then introduced into the upper house [ Senate] and is expected to pass through there next month.

Lots of media coverage online........and they have the space to have a lot of words too!

For example - here http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/carbon-plan/green-light-for-carbon-tax-red-flag-for-industry/story-fn99tjf2-1226164872713
and also here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-12/uhlmanns-interview-with-greg-combet/3555570 .

Will it make a difference to carbon emissions worldwide? Absolutely not!

But it places Australia on a path towards lowered carbon intensity, and it is believed it will generate jobs in newer low carbon industries, seen as industries of the future.

Time will tell who is correct.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A US Farmer's View on Biotech

Too often the urban public attack farmers and agriculture - as producing too much, too little, or poor food sources.

A farmer has hit back - quietly and with dignity.

Read more here - http://westernfarmpress.com/print/government/gmos-biotechnology-offer-agricultural-blessings?page=1

pointing out a few fundamental flaws in some of the arguments used to condemn farmers and the crops and livestock they grow.

Well worth a brief read.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fixing Salvinia Issues at Gunn, Palmerston, NT

Salvinia is a nasty, super spreading – even choking – weed.

Over the past few years an infestation has been developing at the lakes at Gunn, in Palmerston, and is now quite significant, covering the lakes [ see lowest lake below]. The lakes are designed as a stormwater buffer, so water levels can rise and fall quite a lot in the wet season.

Late last year Palmerston City Council instigated using their aquatic weed muncher to remove much of the debris across these lakes. Unfortunately, some salvinia remained.

A program which we ran, was used to spray and mop up the balance. That was the theory...... but then it rained and rained, with last wet season being extraordinarily wet, and consistently wet. Too wet for regular satisfactory spraying.

So the salvinia regrew.......and once again dominated the three lakes.

The weed eater is back in action , and the upper lake is now quite clear of salvinia, with the two lower ones likely to be cleaned up this week.

But there is a new activity........the salvinia weevil, a very potent biocontrol agent has today been released into the bottom lake with additional material to be added over the next few weeks in both the lowest and middle lakes, with some destined for the top lake as needed. Biocontrol of salvinia has been very successful at a number of locations around both Australia and in the Northern Territory.

To aid establishment a small amount of salvinia plants will be left behind during the weed munching, to provide a focus for the spread of the biocontrol agent, and these plants will be held in place with a floating boom. Over time, assuming the biocontrol agent establishes successfully, this plant mat will also disappear, and the weevil will spread out onto any remnant salvinia around the lakes.

The biocontrol agent will not necessarily totally eliminate the salvinia, but it will normally, over some time, reduce the salvinia to a small, almost negligible amount.

A monitoring, spray and clean up / collection program will also continue, but concentrating on the smaller scattered fronds that seem to congregate around the edges, readily blown by wind.

This combined program is hopeful of eliminating the salvinia over the next 12 months, and at worse, at least reducing the salvinia to a very minor issue.

The lakes may then bloom again with the stylish water lilies that are quite common, and salvinia will not be very noticeable.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Food Security Critical for China

A recent post highlights that Australia is selling off resources to China - land resources for agriculture especially.

[see - http://abovecapricorn.blogspot.com/2011/09/should-australia-be-selling-farm.html ]

Not all are happy over this issue.

China, as distinct from Australia has some clear policies around food security and imports of minerals, with a distinct focus on extra-terrritorial acquistion of the means of production - of both.

See more here - http://qcl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/finance/china-aims-for-selfsufficiency/2268434.aspx?storypage=0

In this article Prof Mike Berrell, Director WADEmatheson and Executive Dean, Holmes Institute, Australia, an expert on Chinese business practices says Australia’s lack of strategy and vision for a sustainable agricultural industry, was flagging in comparison to China’s global approach.

He said for the Chinese to be purchasing prime agricultural land outright entails risks for Australia due to loss of control in what is emerging as a global strategic industry.

This would be especially the case if the ventures were 100 percent Chinese invested, he said.

Despite China's recent efforts to reduce carbon emissions, China's current commitment to sustainability does not extend to agricultural practices, he said.

“Joint ventures in the area would be preferable to 100 percent Chinese foreign ownership - the latter of course suits China,” he said. “Australia must be absolutely clear about how such ventures are to move ahead and establish strict guidelines for ownership - perhaps make sustainable agriculture a strategic industry is the same way has China has its “strategic industries”, which fall outside normal investment guidelines.”

A significant issue in this is that most players from China are state owned, effectively an arm of the sovereign government of China. While other parts of the world have previously invested in Australian rural properties and industries, and many still do, [think the UK and the USA] they are almost always privately owned companies, or private individuals, and from countries where government intervention in industry is minimal.

This is a serious issue for Australia, a nett food exporter, with other sovereign countries owning our food production resources.

The image also shows that it is not just China - an example of the options that Singapore is pursuing in a similar fashion.

Should Australia be concerned over the whole theme of extra-territorial agriculture?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Using Livestock to Reduce Carbon Emissions - YES!

Cows have been pilloried as the great methane producer, and as the most potent greenhouse gas emitter of all. There are a lot of cows around the world!

Recent thinking now says that it is not cows as the culprit, but rather their management, particularly when fire is included in the system, as it commonly is.

Reduce the use of fire, often used to remove excess forage, while enhancing the consumption of forage by livestock in a way that encourages regrowth eg Savory grazing system option may offer a smart option to actually reduce greenhouse gas production, even if the forage is of poorer quality at times.

It is known that higher digestibility forage does reduce methane production in the livestock gut system, although not all plants have high digestibility, particularly in the tropics. But independent of that, livestock act as the great recyclers of carbon, by consumption and manuring, rather than seeing it lost in a fire.

It is a complex argument, with more detail here -

But the essence of it is that cows might actually be useful in the soil carbon story!

About time there was some enlightened thinking, for livestock is definitely NOT going away anytime soon

Friday, September 30, 2011

Carbon Science - There is More Phytosynthesis Occurring!

It is not all doom.....recent experiments and measurements have shown that current phytosynthesis - globally - is about 25% more than has previously been calculated.

The work is based on isotopic analysis of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but essentially follows flows of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out and through the atmosphere.

Plants take up CO2 and emit oxygen, and from that, using isotope analysis total phytosynthesis is estimated..........and it is a lot more than previously thought.

It will have considerable effect on the performance of the climate change models, but this nett phytosynthesis increase still has to be incorporated into the large and complex models used.

Read more details here in a CSIRO media release-

BUT.....is it possibly related to more CO2 in the atmosphere boosting plant utilisation, seen as a response to more CO2 in the atmosphere? That is not mentioned.

And there is more as well - http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/43340 with this story also reporting an increase in plant productivity via uptake of carbon - essentially the same data as above but reported in a different way, referring to productivity of land plants. Remember, they produce oxygen!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Should Australia Be Selling the Farm??

Not according to a leading American resources analyst, anyway. And many Australians probably agree.

Leading American investment analyst James Dines has criticised Australia for allowing China to buy large swathes of its natural resources in what he calls "resource imperialism".

Australia was in danger of squandering its "irreplaceable inheritance ... traded for easily printed paper", Mr Dines said.

Mr Dines, the keynote speaker this week at the RIU Victorian Resources Roundup conference, told an audience of mining executives, brokers and investors that the end of capitalism as we knew it had arrived and that we were in the second great economic depression.

His entertaining, if alarming, speech would have prompted mixed feelings among a crowd that included executives with a strong Chinese presence on their share registries.

State-owned Chinese companies are also becoming a major foreign investor in Australia.

Mr Dines, editor of the Dines Letter and author of numerous books, described natural resources, including farmland, as a source of real wealth that should be kept for "your descendants".

By pursuing resource imperialism, China was building stockpiles of commodities well above its immediate needs, such as rare earths - it already produces 97 per cent of the world total - and copper.

The Australian Foreign Investment Review Board blocked a $252 million bid by state-owned China Nonferrous Metal Mining to acquire Australian rare earth miner Lynas in 2009.

So, what is motivating China?

The world's most populous country wants to secure its resource needs for centuries to come.

More in the article here -

And it is not only Australia.......China [mostly through state owned enterprises - and that is the nub of concerns] is much more active in many less developed countries, especially in Africa and South America, even Afghanistan which seems to have some large mineral deposits that are largely unexplored, and which the Chinese are eyeing off.

Some say they have stuffed their own land for agriculture and horticulture with poor farming practices and pollution and they need to find other soils........to do the same???

Definitely resources imperialism!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Potential New Cacao Varieties

Do you like chocolate? Delicious not so sweet dark chocolate?

Over the past few years we have seen increases in interest in wine varieties, followed by new and different olive oil flavours. Coffee is going the same way, with new blends, varieties and types offered in the market place, to titillate and entrance consumers and coffee lovers.

Watch this space..........chocolate may be next!

Recently reports of work by USDA staff in conjunction with several other agencies as well as commercial choclate company partners have been chasing new and different types of cacao.......the source tree for chocolate.

While West Africa is the source of much of the world supply of cacao, the centre of diversity is actually in south America, and up into lower central america, areas now being investigated for additional genetic diversity in cacao.

The researchers found hundreds of new cacao tree samples during the trips. One of these, discovered by collaborators from
Maranon Chocolate, was Pure Nacional, an old, very rare, and highly coveted variety that has garnered a great deal of interest from makers of fine-flavoured chocolates. Chocolate is produced from cacao.

This industry covets new and unique flavour sources.

Usually, cacao trees are found along rivers, but these gems were found at a higher altitude than normal, and in Peru instead of Ecuador or Venezuela.

The industry flourished in Africa as commercial plantation trees in the new World succumbed to some nasty plant diseases. These new collections may offer some advantages for Peru to create a niche industry for the new cacao varieties.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cattle Slaughter in Indonesia - Issues of Truth

While resumption of trade of live cattle to Indonesia has resumed, the slaughter issues that led to the cessation of the trade are still making news.

There is a Senate inquiry running now in Australia and there have been significant doubts raised during hearings over the veracity of the video footage used / shown.

While the issues over veracity are both technical and animal behaviour related, they do pose some curious issues, issues that lead to more doubts about the origin and honesty of the video footage.

I do not know.......but some do believe the video footage may not be entirely truthful. If so........then the whole episode is a bit of a rort.

Whether that is the case does not necessarily indicate that slaughter could or could not be improved.......it could be and probably should be. And remember that good slaughter practices lead to better outcomes for the animal and the meat quality after slaughter.

This whole saga has a long way to run yet.

But while the live cattle trade has recommenced, it will not recover the prior volumes quickly. All those animals have grown and many now exceed the 350kg limit. More to read here:


There are many other articles available too.

The cost to Australia is very large, and damage to relations with Indonesia cannot be easily costed in monetary terms. NT cattle producers have, however, lost a lot of money, money that will not be reappearing any time soon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fake Agrochemicals - Farmers BEWARE

It had to happen........the rural and related agrochemical and fertiliser industries are worth many millions of dollars and both agrochemical and fertiliser sales annually are also worth millions of dollars, even in a relatively smallish market such as Australia.

A recent scam involved sales of dirt.......yes common soil.......as a marketed and manufactured fertiliser from an overseas source, with the material actually making it to a rural location before detection. That also was a major biosecurity concern, as well as a straight out scam.

With input costs a major factor in producing crops, shaving these by a few dollars can be important. But the new scam is to produce suspect agrochemicals for sale. They do not perform as expected and often on investigation, formulations are just plainly wrong, or they even are made using dodgy liquid ingredients including tainted and dangerous wastewaters, or may not even contain the active technical ingredient, or contain by product chemicals that could damage crops.

Yes, there are successful low cost reputable formulators, capable of offering suitable agrochemicals at discounted prices, and supplying to Australia. But it is very necessary to be sure about who you are dealing with and their reputation, both technically and financially.

Needless to say, China seems to be a source, but some eastern European operators are also involved.

The old maxim applies .......if it seems to good to be true, it probably is too good to be true!!

This is expanded further in a recent on line article:

It should also be remembered that any agricultural chemical used in Australia should have been assessed and given the okay by the relevant Australian authorising agency, the APVMA.

If in doubt have a look at their web site, www.apvma.gov.au and this statement is off the web site -
'Before an agricultural or veterinary chemical product can be legally imported, supplied, sold, used, promoted or advertised in Australia, the APVMA must register it. Part of the APVMA's role and responsibility is to monitor and enforce compliance of agricultural and veterinary chemical products in the market place."


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carbon Farming and Cattle - Can Co-exist

It is not all gloom and doom in the cattle and carbon equation. There seems to have been a position developing that would exclude any mutual benefit. This need not be so.

When cattle are grass grown, then these two issues can be developed alongside one another, according to some advocates. There is a new and potentially exciting market developing for grass grown livestock. This is a niche position that the north of Australia should be aiming to occupy.

Is this a line of production that could be developed for the new AA processing facility in the Darwin region? Afterall, it is possible to develop and finish cattle with high growth and liveweight gains using a leucaena / grass mix.......a mixed pasture possible to use in the region.

A recent article adds to this issue.

It is worth reading some of the articles within the link to the carbon ranch below.
Life down on the carbon farm
20 Sep, 2011 04:00 AM

"Personally," says American conservationist Courtney White, "I think an answer to the climate crisis is to eat more meat—from a carbon ranch".

Mr White's concept of the "carbon ranch" is an opportunity to unite a range of solutions to various challenges, including climate change, farm productivity and regional economic decline.

Currently, Mr White said, "the carbon landscape is broken into pieces, and we often pit each carbon use against each other".

Mr White will tell Australian audiences that carbon can be managed and exploited in ways that unite these uses into a single theme of regeneration of landscapes, communities and economies.

The executive director of the Quivera Coalition in the American South-West, Mr White has been instrumental in developing a rancher-conservationist alliance that has successfully sidestepped the toxic wrangling of landholder-environmentalist relations to produce results satisfactory to all.

He will be talking about the Coalition and the carbon ranch at the Carbon Farming Conference, to be held in Dubbo, NSW, on 27-29 September.

Mr White has developed a "carbon map" to show that rather than a series of separate issues, carbon is common factor across all landscapes and endeavours, from wilderness to city and everywhere in between. "We have to start with the idea that we can put this puzzle together," Mr White said.
He believes that uniting carbon-related issues within the overall framework of climate change can bring exponential benefits to landholders and the regions they live in.

Some progressive ranchers have already begun drawing those pieces together, Mr White said. They are using rotational grazing to boost grass productivity, moving to grassfed beef production versus the lotfed beef more common in the US, selling direct to local urban consumers, and paying attention to ecosystem services.

Some landholders are also engaging with the energy question, including a young New Hampshire farmer he recently met who is growing 100 per cent of his farm's energy needs on 10 per cent of his land.

Sequestering more carbon in the landscape is only half the equation, Mr White said. The other half is lowering farming's emissions footprint.

Lowering emissions through changed energy use, restoring ecological functions and overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is relatively straightforward, in Mr White's view.

More challenging is the question of ruminant methane, an issue that as led to the "eat less red meat" theme now common in discussions of climate change. "For the purposes of a carbon ranch, the methane emission issue is just one part of the overall 'footprint" assessment," Mr White said.

The real challenge is not necessarily to reduce methane production - although that can help with productivity - but to reduce overall farm emissions to the point of becoming carbon-neutral or carbon-negative. At this point, methane emissions become less relevant, leading to Mr White's observation about eating meat from a "carbon ranch".

Along with its direct contribution to addressing climate change, Mr White's vision of the carbon ranch also includes a range of "co-benefits" from uniting the carbon landscape. They include improved ecosystem services, habitat protection, rural economic development, maintenance of culture and diversity, and greater opportunities for succeeding generations.

* More details of Courtney White's "carbon ranch" concept can by found at www.awestthatworks.com/carbonranch.html

* Details of the Carbon Farming Conference can be found here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More Energy from Wind Turbines - Focus the Wind

Wind turbines are a common enough device today, and produce significant amounts of energy world wide.

The Japanese are claiming a new modification can increase output energy by 2x to 3x with some modest modifications.

Essentially a wind lens that focuses the wind to improve performance. Read more here:

It consists of a focusing ring around the outside of the turbine blades, which creates a low pressure area and subtly then pushes more air over the turbine blades. The youtube video at the link is a positive endorsement, and if able to be scaled up, the technology would be a very significant enhancement.

It might be that more effort could be directed at the smaller domestic to mid scale turbines used in cities and small rural areas eg farms. These models have notoriously performed well below nominal output ratings as stated by the manufacturer, although the "cleanliness" of the wind flow can be a big issue in urban areas. It has been turbid flow, so the wind turbine performs badly.

I can see more rapid development in these smaller units with this design option, allowing development of larger ones over time.

If it works at a larger size, it would be a very big move in increasing turbine efficiency.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sediment Socks Work Better with Compost

Compost socks

Using a sand filled coil as an environmental salvation tool is quite common. Seen round the streets and building sites these long thin “socks” are a common tool for erosion and sediment management in almost any site where sediment movement could be expected.

Traditionally, it was sand that went into these socks.

But performance can be enhanced, by the simple change from sand to compost or fine pasteurised mulch products. That is a simple and easy change to make, and it may cost nothing different.

An even better option can be to add some of the bioremediation type products available that have oil and hydrocarbon remediation attributes. There are a few brands available, but an easy one available in Australia is Enretech -1 , a powdered product that can be added to the sand or even the mulch mix.

Fine hydrocarbon materials, metals and rubber , commonly moved off roads in wet weather will be trapped by the socks and the hydrocarbons bioremediated, avoiding their movement into waterways.

The mulch is superior to sand in capturing the hydrocarbons, and as good or better in slowing sediments in general.

And costs about the same as sand filled socks.

So.........think about the issue and make the switch to a better sediment sock!

and are applicable almost anywhere around the world.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Problems with Glyphosate??

This article appeared in a recent on-line edition of Queensland Country Life. It is an important issue and needs a wide readership as the use of glyphosate is of considerable importance for weed control, plant health and overall yield performance.

While the issue is aimed at broad acre farming it is probably of as much or more relevance for the urban use of glyphosate, especially by local councils, where the indiscriminate use is seen as great waste areas around the local posts and trees, often resprayed every year, even though there is NOTHING growing, and the bare areas are getting larger!!

Glyphosate is a very good agrochemical.........more careful use is needed.

There has also been a series of articles I have seen suggesting that glyphosate has even more sinister effects, including effects on people. Some of these have been a bit outrageous, but often there can be some truth hidden within the rants.

However, the issues with more general nutrition effects have a degreee of documentation. But it is about over use........and not sensible usage, including various rotation systems.

Maybe the Otto von Liebig's and the scientists at Rotheamstead of the 1800s were right afterall about sensible sustainable farming!!

Glyphosate: friend or foe?
05 Sep, 2011 04:00 AM

Glyphosate, the chemical underpinning the world's most productive farming systems, may becoming an agent of harm, a visiting US scientist believes.

"Glyphosate has been a very powerful tool for us in weed control, but it's been seriously abused by continued overuse," said veteran American plant pathologist, Dr Don Huber. "I feel that's one of the main reasons that we're seeing a lot of other factors come to threaten the sustainability of our production."

Dr Huber links glyphosate to the increasing severity of diseases like fusarium and take-all, and the explosion of Goss's wilt of corn and Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) in soybeans in America's mid-west.

Now retired from his career as a plant pathologist at Purdue University, but retaining the title of Professor Emeritus, Dr Huber is in Australia to air those concerns at the invitation of Owen McCarron, director of the IPM Masterclass series.

If it is allowed to accumulate in the soil, glyphosate doesn't just kill weeds, Dr Huber told Rural Press.
The chemical is a strong chelator, meaning that it can bind positively-charged mineral ions in the soil to its own molecules, making the mineral unavailable to plants. It is known to have an affinity for copper, zinc, manganese and molybedenum, among others.

"Glyphosate can make a number of elements unavailable for the plant to use, so there are many of the physiological functions of the plant that are compromised," Dr Huber said "In that compromise period that plant becomes very susceptible to diseases, fungal diseases especially."

Glyphosate also affects important soil organisms in different ways, according to Dr Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service and adjunct professor at the University of Missouri.

In the soil, where it is carried by spray, rainfall or plant roots, the chemical is an energy source for some microbes - including those responsible for its degradation in the soil - but a killer of others.
Among the organisms that flourish in the presence of glyphosate appear to be certain strains of fusarium, which in European studies were shown to multiply in the presence of the compound, Dr Kremer told Rural Press.

That appears to line up with old Canadian research which found that wheat sown in fields that had been fallowed with glyphosate was more susceptible to fusarium head blight than control wheat plantings.

"(The researchers) hypothesised as the susceptible weeds died, it built up the fusarium populations and then when the wheat was planted later, there was a higher instance of fusarium head blight compared to fields that did not receive glyphosate treatment," Dr Kremer said.

Other organisms are suppressed by glyphosate, including the rhizobium bacteria reponsible for nodulation in legumes and the the algaes that are an important soil glue.

But Dr Kremer said the research needed to clarify these effects isn't being done. When he wants to interpret some of his own observations, he often has to look at research done decades ago.
And yet, he acknowledged, some of these processes, and glyphosate's chelation effect, have the potential to be highly damaging to crop profitability.

Dr Huber became interested in glyphosate when, after a long career in plant pathology, he and his colleagues saw crop diseases that had been adequately managed for decades suddenly burgeon out of control. Goss's wilt of corn, for instance, was first discovered in the US in 1969, but only in the past few seasons it has emerged as a major pest of the Mid-West corn belt.

Dr Huber believes that genetic modification for glyphosate resistance contributes to disease vulnerability.

"Just the presence of the glyphosate resistance gene reduces the efficiency of the plant for many of the micronutrients - like manganese, iron - up to 30 or as much as 70 per cent, depending on the original variety," he said. "When glyphosate is applied there will be an additional reduction in uptake and efficiency of micronutrients that are immobilised by the chemistry."

He is calling for "much more prudent use, and certainly much greater research to establish glyphosate's safety".

"There are a lot of indicators that it's not nearly as benign a product as we thought. With the growing residues that we're finding in our soils and crops and feedstocks, there's a very serious concern for the health and safety aspects of the products."

* Dr Huber will be talking in Bendigo, Vic. on September 5 and Corowa, NSW, on September 7. For more information call Oen McCarron on 0419 006 100 or email owen@ipmmasterclass.com

[ from online edition of Qld Country Life]

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Wagyu Cattle Oil - for Cooking!!

If you like beef you probably have heard of Wagyu cattle. The fabled highly marbled cattle originally from Japan with superb meat quality.

An Australian company has developed a boutique world class cooking oil - yes, cooking oil - from wagyu cattle with some pretty interesting properties.


is the link to a recent article about the product.

While I do not see it suddenly overtaking olive oil as a preferred option for most culinary purposes, it might offer some superior options for use with meat in roasts or grilling, or maybe in meat dishes where butter may have been the fat material preferrred for use in casseroles or similar dishes.

Chefs do seem to think it might be useful.

It is new, it is Australian and it does sound interesting.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Watching Tropical Weather

For those in Australia's tropics another wet season is approaching quickly, and weather conditions seem to have recently changed to being warmer and more humid, a foretaste of the approaching build up weather.

Hurricanes, Typhoons and Cyclones are different names for similar major tropical weather events - depending where you are located.

Keeping watch on these systems is becoming more sophisticated, with more information also readily available to the public via web sites. I remember observing Cyclone Thelma as it barrelled around the north coast of Australia a few years ago, wondering if our home in Darwin would be impacted.........all from a laptop computer in an upmarket hotel room in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, SE Asia. More tools are now available.

One data tool I had not seen previously is demonstrated for Hurricane Irene, truly a very large diameter system of current note.

http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/43182 will take you to the introductory area with a further link to NASA in the USA.

This shows a combined mapping of wind and rain data for hurricane Irene, and some hints of real time data on cloud heights being linked to intensifying wind patterns, while they were happening.

Will this be available for Australia as well this cyclone season??

Friday, August 26, 2011

Carbon Farming Coming Soon to Australia

CFI bill passes: On-farm carbon mitigation to be rewarded
24 Aug, 2011 10:11 AM

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has acknowledged the passage of the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) through the Parliament, enabling farmers to be rewarded for carbon mitigation practices undertaken on-farm.

“The NFF has been broadly supportive of the concept and intent of the CFI from the outset as positive recognition of the major role agriculture can play in mitigating carbon emissions through on-farm management,” said NFF President Jock Laurie.

“We have long said that voluntary, market based mechanisms, using a carrot rather than a stick approach to carbon abatement, is the best way to engage with farmers in this challenge. The CFI fits this description.

“The NFF has also been consistent in saying that Australian farmers are under no illusions that the CFI will transform farm income, especially not in the short- to medium-term.

“However, with a continued focus on productivity-based research and the development of methodologies underpinning abatement projects, we hope that the CFI can mature to draw a meaningful contribution to Australia’s carbon mitigation effort,” Mr Laurie said.

“It is positive that the CFI legislation passed late yesterday has addressed a number of the key concerns raised by the NFF, particularly surrounding the potential for shifting regional land use away from agriculture and towards forestation. “We know that this Bill has undergone extensive debate and scrutiny and for this reason we feel confident that many of the potential pitfalls in this relatively new and complex area of carbon abatement have now been ironed out. “However, we will continue to closely monitor outcomes under the CFI to ensure that no unintended consequences emerge in regional Australia to the detriment of our farmers. “It is now vital that the Government intensifies its education process to ensure that farmers who decide to engage with the CFI do so with complete and unbiased information about the responsibilities that come with the program,” Mr Laurie concluded.
NFF Source:

While a positive move, there is much to be done especially around determining soil carbon and its movements.

A new process currently under final development at the University of Sydney does seem to offer some possibilities on the measurement aspects. But......will it apply around Australia?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Indian Sandalwood Thriving in NW Australia

For a long time now many have said that investing in tree crops will not be profitable, nor will it be sensible - you might just lose all your investment.

Work that we investigated in the early to mid 1990s seemed to indicate that there might be a place for some serious investment in tree crops in northern Australia - expensive, high quality cabinet timber trees and sandalwood were the two most promising we believed based on the research work, but were not short term money making investments.

Both appeared to have excellent mid to longer term prospects, for investment, based on continuing demand, in fact likely increasing demand, and declining production in many natural areas as well as potential for growth in the warmer north and north west of Australia. It was relatively untested, apart from some small areas of African mahogany being grown, some as ornamentals, and a few sandalwood trees around the areas. At that time sandalwood oil was around $US 400 a litre. We envisaged these trees being part of a complex rural enterprise, involving livestock as well. But it has mostly developed as a larger enterprise, and without the livestock most commonly.

Yes, African mahogany trees have been harvested and sent off for processing. Quaintly though, the ones in Darwin - and many are very large, although not always ideal for long furniture timbers, still get cut down and chipped, and are used for mulch.

[It is a bit crazy these resources are not used more effectively. A few parts get made into some local furniture, but really not much is used].

Initial trials have been successful on the mahoganies - these are really thinnings from tree plots still expected to grow for another 10 years plus.

A recent announcement has also indicated that sandalwood can also perform well. They are not large majestic trees, are somewhat complex to grow as they are a hemiparasite, a bit insignificant to look at really, and the photo shows that of a tree in Indonesia. Fairly typical looking tree.

[press release 2 August 2011 from TFS below]

The world's largest producer of Indian sandalwood says yield results from a trial harvest have proven the industry will be more than profitable in Western Australia's Ord Valley.

The harvest, from the Department of Agriculture's research station near Kununurra, found trees between 19 and 23 years of age were averaging 1.2 litres of sandalwood oil.

The oil (Santalum album) is currently fetching a record price of $2,100 per litre.

TFS executive chairman Frank Wilson, says the results are pleasing and will hopefully silence some critics.

"When we first came to the Ord, there were a lot of devil's advocates suggesting Kununurra trees wouldn't produce any oil, and they were also suggesting the only trees that would produce oil were those trees which were very small and stunted because they had been stressed," he said.

"Both of those myths have been scotched by these results and what we're showing is that Kununurra trees are producing large quantities of high quality oil."

Tropical Forestry Services (TFS) began planting Indian sandalwood in 1999, and now owns and manages around 5,000 hectares in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The trees produce an oil used in products such as incense, perfumes and soap.

Mr Wilson says his company is hoping to conduct its first commercial harvest in 2013, with trees that
are 14-15 years of age.

He says the company is predicting those trees will produce 0.85 litres of oil, but is confident yields and tree size will continue to improve as the industry develops.

"Ever since sandalwood was first trialled in Kununurra, there have been major improvements in silvicultural techniques, soil selection and host selection, so better yields are a natural consequence of those improvements over time."

It is interesting to note that the trees at the Department of Agriculture certainly had a hard time in their early growing years, effectively being neglected and ignored for quite a few years. It was always a big question - can trees in Kununurra produce and yield well enough to be successfully grown??

Afterall, trees are cut down / removed entirely at harvest, and that trees can can take 20 - 30 years or more to grow to maturity. It is a long time to wait and see what happens!!!

Some core samples a few years ago from the Department trees seemed to partially indicate positive yields, but it is really encouraging to see how sucessful these sandalwood yields are.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Live Cattle Exports from Australia Recommence

Yes, it is true!

This week live cattle exports to Indonesia resumed. Elders was the first company to move cattle, about 3000, followed by a shipment from another operator.

While there have been changes to procedures to allow traceability, the actual processes in the shipping, feedlot and in the abattoir were already satisfactory. No changes needed.

This whole exercise has been a crazy affair.

The latest twist has been implications that an Indonesian abattoir worker in the cruelty videos, was actually paid to be cruel to the animals. This accusation was made in a Senate hearing this week, but it is still a definite foggy area.

If you know Indonesia, then one would not be surprised if it was true. Payment, small to large, to achieve an outcome is VERY common. It would not be a surprise at all. No doubt the whole issue will be muddy, but the story at the Senate hearing did seem plausible. The people involved in the video are indignant about the accusation, saying it is not true........this has some time to run yet!

Whatever happens, it is highly unlikely that numbers of stock exported will be anywhere near the predicted numbers in early 2011, possibly less than 25% of the numbers expected. But really, it is almost an unknown!

The latest theme has been Senator Xenophen [who is vehemently opposed to live export of cattle] writing to major supermarkets urging them to buy braham cattle meat for their hamburgers. Still a problem, Senator........they have to move stock around 3 -4000kms to market at high cost, and possibly could lose money doing so.

This issue will no doubt move off the media agenda, but the issue is still a live problem, impacting horribly on most if not all in the northern cattle pastoral industry. And will do so for some years.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Climate Change - Are Renewables Going to Make a Difference

The Dane, Bjorn Lomborg is a well known, and respected climate sceptic.......or he was. I recall reading that he was now accepting of climate change, but the following article does call into question the economic pathways most suitable to achieve a lot' with using renewable energy. Especially the economic policies used to achieve take up of the concepts.

He seriously questions the role that renewable energy systems can play in reducing fossil fuel use, and ultimately carbon emissions. Particularly the economic costs of using renewable energy such as wind and solar. Many others might agree directly with this view, and others strongly support the same general view by suggesting that carbon capture and storage must be made to function, as coal will need to play a role in stationary energy production, including electricity, for many years yet.

Here in Australia, a monster user and producer of coal, there has been a degree of support for the develpment of the zero emissions stationary energy plans developed over the past several years and formalised in a document available here -http://beyondzeroemissions.org/zero-carbon-australia-2020

I would agree they do seem economically and conceptually feasible, but significant changes must be implemented in regard to distribution networks for example. And more investment is now going into that area, but not necessarily to meet this concept plan. Lack of vision is a serious impediment to implementation of this concept. Spain has been investing in base load solar systems successfully, as shown in the photo.

Many would argue that nuclear energy will be needed around the world to meent energy needs. And that is low carbon emissions. Recent events eg Fukishima in Japan, will affect ideas on that too.

The Chinese are moving to develop thorium nuclear reactors. They have several notable features that could lead to wider interest. They do not generally have self sustaining fission- ie need some nuclear fuel to keep them going, and they produce very modest radioactive level and relatively short half life waste products [a strong point]. Curiously, Australia has a lot of thorium resources, and even more curiously it can occur with rare earth minerals and Chinese are investing in some of the mines with rare earth/ thorium resources too. Is this coincidence??

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Genetics and You

Lets have a slighlty more light hearted look at the world of agriculture today. No more live cattle trade issues today!

Modern genetics traces back to the work of Gregor Mendel in the mid 1800s on the heritable colour traits in peas.

Modern plant breeding has achieved a huge improvement in plant performance of our major food crops. We all benefit from that work of agricultural scientists and allied scientists, and food today is a much smaller cost percentage in our budget.

Even Google must think this is something worthwhile........see their "adjusted" logo celebrating Mendel's 189th birthday on July 20.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Live Cattle Trade to Indonesia - One Month After THE Ban

The article on the ABC web site is absolutely a terrible coverage of the real issues and facts. While I think the article is quite cleverly written it is long on Australian political rhetoric and short on real coverage. Some clever words that add little to the issue.

Many of the comments cover the real issues - driven by the need for more beef by the Indonesian consumer. This will NOT come from Indonesian cattle for quite some time [ as identified very correctly with a bit of maths on the breeding herd of Indonesia by several comments].

See here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-07/team-australias-cattle-concessions/2785988

Australia's northern cattle producers are on notice to improve slaughter methods in Indonesia. There is a strong commercial imperative for this, if meat quality is to be improved, and a higher proportion of unbruised meat to be available. This is in addition to any issues of animal cruelty.

BUT.......it is Indonesia, not Australia and through all the rhetoric it is obvious that Indonesia is far, far from happy over how the whole issue was handled. It will bite back.......possibly in an unexpected way, with consequences for Australia.

The whole issue is a disaster for beef production in the north, while at best a topic of conversation over a latte for a few days, for the urban dwellers of the south of Australia. It has not gone away.

And it will take quite some time to fix. Even with best intentions.

It does seem though that relations between the local producers and Indonesian feedlot operators is still strong. They do have a common cause..........retaining the live cattle trade. It is a plus for both, and they will strive to see it continue.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Australia Will Have a Carbon Price - It's Official!

As of about four hours ago Australia will have a carbon price of $23 a tonne, and it will commence in July 2012.

Has been an open secret all week, but it is now confirmed. No doubt there will be more details to come, both in the near term as well as before next year.

Read a brief overview here:

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Indonesia Issues Import Permits for Australian Live Cattle

It was going to happen........eventually. The need in Indonesia for these live cattle to meet the demand for meat is considerable and their recent absence has seen meat prices rise significantly in Jakarta.

It will still take some weeks though for the trade to actually recommence. Vessels have gone elsewhere, cattle are no longer readily available to ship and possibly of equal importance, some may even have put on weight here in Australia and now be overweight for the trade [remember max weight is 350kg live weight].

Indonesia is claiming that the national herd is rising in numbers and that 2014 will see them self sufficient in cattle numbers, according to a recent cattle census. Given rising beef demand, I am not so sure. And I am fairly certain that many Australians close to the trade would agree with my views. Investment by both Australia and Indonesia in the industry is likely to increase.

BUT......it is good news. And maybe a bit of jolt - there is a need for more markets to be developed and other options for handling the northern cattle herd.

More detail here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/07/08/3265184.htm

What a giant stuff up by the Australian Agriculture minister. A performance well suited to a dummy spitting kindergarden pupil, not a minister of the crown. Diplomatically inept is being polite.

No one wants or condones the animal cruelty shown on TV. Given other news today about journalistic horribleness in the UK, let us hope this is not a slide to the bottom of the gutter in reporting, as there have been questions over the methods of obtaining and reporting on the video footage used in the Australian TV program. Indonesian abattoirs were awful operations last time I was in one, a few years ago. But nothing like the cruelty shown on TV.

If this new era can improve slaughter performance - that has to be positive for less animal cruelty.

On an economic basis, efficient rapid slaughter improves carcase quality, with less damage and better meat.

It should be a win - win outcome.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Renewable Energy Gets a Boost in Australia

Announced today, Australia is to get a new major renewable energy entity. The Australian Renewable Energy Authority, ARENA. See the major news channels for more details.

see here - http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/07/08/3264589.htm

There has also been some very interesting comments on the whole approach, by experienced commentators.

see here - http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2787108.html
and here - http://www.electronicsnews.com.au/news/engineer-s-perspective--what-limits-distributed-re?utm_source=20110708&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletters

These are very early days, but with a carbon price set to be announced in a few days, maybe the wheel is turning a few more cogs.

There are a lot of renewable energy technologies - going far past the wind and solar thinking, to wave and tidal power, into algal biomass for fuels, weed and waste plant biomass for energy, anaerobic digestion, composting and many more.

Watch the performance of the new ARENA with interest. It has a clear mandate - renewable energy.