Thursday, July 26, 2012

Energy Efficiency - More Effort Needed

While not the best, Australia has done reasonably well in a recent world wide study on energy efficiency rankings, with the US not doing too well.  BUT......the authors conclude all could do better!

I am surprised at how poorly Canada seems to have done, while all should note the achievements of China.

The United Kingdom topped an energy efficiency ranking of the world’s 12 largest economies, while the United States placed a disappointing ninth overall, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The International Energy Efficiency Scorecard, the first-ever of its kind, analyzed nations collectively representing 78 percent of global gross domestic product, 63 percent of global energy consumption, and 62 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Countries could have scored a total of 100 points spread across four categories: buildings, industry, transportation, and national efficiency.

ACEEE from the US, awarded the U.K. 67 points for its energy efficiency efforts, ranking the country first among all nations with 18 of 24 possible industry points and 14 of 23 possible transportation points. Germany ranked a close overall second with 66 points, followed by Italy with 63 points, and Japan with 62 points.

France led the second tier with 60 points, while Australia, China, and the European Union rounded out the group tied at 56 points.

The U.S. sat atop the bottom tier with 47 points, followed only by Brazil with 41, Canada with 37, and Russia with 36 points. ACEEE pulled no punches when it came to America’s poor rank, focusing on low scores in public transportation, vehicle fuel-efficiency, national energy efficiency goals, and industrial efficiency. Beyond higher energy bills and greater emissions, this overall inefficiency could drag down the national economy.

“Across most metrics analyzed, in the past decade the United States has made limited or little progress toward greater efficiency at the national level…(other) countries may have an economic advantage over the United States because using less energy to produce and transport the same economic output costs less. Their efforts toward efficiency likely make their economies more nimble and resilient.”

The entire energy efficiency story for America wasn’t negative, however. ACEEE did credit some areas of improvement, namely in building codes, appliance standards, government-industry partnerships, and recent vehicle fuel economy standards.

One overall message stands out from ACEEE’s scorecard – every nation should be taking steps to improve their overall energy efficiency efforts. The average score for analyzed countries was only 54 points and “every country has serious weaknesses,” even though the conditions required for a perfect score are currently achievable and in practice, found the report’s authors.

More at -

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Effective Turf Irrigation

Water costs money.  Wind also costs money - because it wastes water.  So does hot weather - irrigation is less effective when the day is hot, too easily evaporated.

It is critical to get water into the ground where it can be most effective.  Plenty of leaflets, web pages and word of mouth have been produced about making irrigation more effective, but most advice comes back to just a few key areas:
  • water when there is little or no wind - that way there is less evaporation of the water during the time it is in the air and with low wind the application of the water from sprinklers is more evenly distributed and is delivered to the target area, not somewhere else.
  • avoid watering when it is hot - there is more evaporation of the water in the air before reaching the target, the grass surface is usually hot, meaning some greater losses from evaporation and transpiration on the grass and the ground near the surface is also hot adding to water losses
Data from Australia [Perth in summer] indicated losses of as high as 85% of applied water on hot windy days.  Put the other way - the most water you can expect to get onto the grass is 15% of what goes along the pipe!  That is very low.

Another variable worth considering is water droplet size, with smaller droplets likley to be more easily lost  and never contribute to irrigating the turf.  Pressure and sprinkler head design are some of the issues to consider, and also think of this in conjunction with the first two points.  There is an ideal size range of droplets, but larger rather than smaller drops is generally better.  Easily seen on a windy day as you watch the fine droplets being blown away. [ see above in the photo]

Some of these can be rectified to some degree, and there are alternates in irrigation design and system approaches.

System design - consderation in switching to something such as KISSS is worth considering.  This is a sub surface textile wrapped concept in which the water is delivered underground at the bottom of the root zone.  A little more expensive to install it can repay costs in a short period with much lower water use.  Reductions of 50 -70% in water use have been achieved.  And the turf area is available at all times, even while irrigating.  See - it is an Australian concept and has been used for over 12 years.

But most opt to better manage sprinklers by better timing eg evening, when conditions are better for irrigation - lower temperatures, less wind especially.

BUT....low pressure  sprinklers with superior nozzle design that creates superior droplets can also be effective in doing even better.  For example with sprinklers designed for 200kpa [ in essence drip systems] with low volume sprinklers operating at low pressures.  Examples of this include using sprinklers similar to those used in tree crop growing, but with an even spread of irrigation water across the whole of the wetted diameter, or newer specific turf type sprinklers.  Our own experience is that water use can be reduced at least 25 -40% over ordinary higher pressure pop up sprinkler systems.  Also adaptable to use with timing systems.

Maintenance of your own system is critical to efficiency.  Avoid watering the concrete or road, keep nozzles clean and avoid overwatering with better frequency and timing management.  Overwatering usually results in sedges and nutgrass weeds, ultimately severly compromising the turf quality. 

Water is NOT a substitute for adequate nutrition, and remember that mostly when you mow, you remove the clippings - and nutrients go with them; so at least try to reuse the clippings on gardens or for mulching.

Irrigation in the dry tropics here in Darwin is really needed for a good turf .  Irrigate wisely for a better lawn, at less cost.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Landsat is Forty Years Old

If you use Google Earth, or any of the other images generated from satellites there is a strong chance that some of these come from the Landsat group of imaging satellites.

A standard procedure for many in the agricultural and environmental fields is use of these images for a wide range of purposes.  There are other systems eg SPOT which is French, but Landsat was the first and still is a major source of images.

The first Landsat satellite went into orbit 40 years ago on July 23, and during the past four decades, a series of seven different "birds" have trained a watchful eye on Earth from just about the most wicked vantage point around.

The program's youngest eye in the sky, Landsat 7, has been flying since 1999 and will be joined next year by the next-generation Landsat Data Continuity Mission satellite, or LDCM. The LDCM features up-to-date thermal infrared sensors and land-imaging equipment that will make it a full-blown orbiting observatory.

The Earth observation program was created at the urging of US Interior Secretary Stewart Udall during the Johnson administration -- Udall had seen a photo from space of pollution spewing from power plants in his home state of Arizona and saw the potential for learning about our own planet that seeing it from a distance held.

There are some classic images on the site here -

We tend to take satellite imagery for granted now, but it is only forty years since any existed.  And the image quality has improved very dramatically over this period.  Some amazing photos are around.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Are Australian Retail Beef Prices Fair to Producers?

With the dominance of the two major supermarket chains in Australia unlikely to change much anytime soon, the latest claim about rip offs involves the sale of beef.

Producers are claiming that these two major customers get about 50% of the monies from beef with the producer getting at most 30%, the balance being chain costs such as freight and killing costs. Worse, most of the retail price increases over a few years have gone to the supermarkets with producer returns going down.

This is in contrast to the US where producers seem to get about 50% of the retail prices.

Many beef producers are not happy with this and wonder how they will ultimately be able to continue to produce more food with their costs going up and producers seeming to get less and less of the returns, based on a proportion of final retail prices, and the retailers getting more.

Is this another instance of unwelcome price gouging by the supermarkets? I believe that consumers do not resent a fair price especially where a fair and reasonable part of that price is returned to producers. BUT…….is that so?

Several farm lobby groups have been investigating and it does seem that comparisons might just indicate that producers have a point.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Zoysia - Is it the Best Lawn for Australia?

The following article has been taken from the web site and used with permission.  Thanks!  It complements a lot of zoysia material already available on this blog, and is worth having available to read.

We are strong advocates of zoysia as a turf in Australia, especially in warmer areas, based on over thirty years of research and development in the tropics.  The slower growth, less pest and disease issues and shade tolerance make it a great lawn.  But anywhere north of Sydney on the coast and in the Perth area and into the northwest areas - Broome and Karratha for example, are also suitable.  Try it yourself!

Zoysia is a well respected turf in Asian countries for golf courses, where it is slowly achieving a more positive use profile in lieu of couch.  It is widely used on soccer football grounds in Thailand, Laos, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China.  Zoysia has for many years been the median strip grass of choice in Thailand and adjoining countries, and is of increasing use as a domestic lawn.  Singapore Kranji Racetrack also has horse races on zoysia turf, and most of the better golf courses in Singapore and Malaysia have zoysia fairways, with some already moving to replace couch grass on the greens.

Shade tolerance is a critical issue, with couch especially often dying in areas of shade, and that includes on sporting fields in the shadow of the grandstand.  For home and commercial areas, most want to establish shrubs and often trees around a turfed area.  Once they grow - there is shade!  Zoysia can handle that well.

In the Darwin area there are quite a lot of examples of zoysia growing in deep shade below a large African mahogany tree, as well as in council park areas with trees.  Couch turf cannot survive in shade.  There are other shade tolerant turf species, but none with as good a turf performance as zoysia, overall.

We have seed available of Compadre zoysia and will deliver across Australia.

Why We Believe Zoysia Is The Best Lawn For Australia

The Lawn Guide is putting massive new focus onto Zoysia grass as the best lawn type for use in all the warmer regions of Australia. Here are all the reasons why we believe in Zoysia to become the future dominant grass type in the country.

Compadre zoysia seed sown  - Darwin
We also recognise that Zoysia will not be the preferred lawn for many people, and we always encourage everyone to carefully look into the lawns they are considering, which may also include having a look at a Zoysia lawn prior to choosing this or any other lawn type for possible purchase. Because at the end of the day, the homeowner should be both fully informed and happy that they not only like the new grass they are purchasing for their home, but that it is also most highly suitable for their needs.

Zoysia Is Soft

Coming in first place is the softness of the Zoysia lawn. Zoysia is a lovely soft lawn to both walk across barefoot, or for children to play on. Zoysia has no irritating qualities to children, adults or pets.

Slow Growth Rates

One of the very best traits in favour of Zoysia is it's slow growth rate. Slow growth equates to far less lawn mowing than other grasses. Less lawn mowing means far less time spent mowing the lawn, or a saving in lawn mowing fees when using a contractor for lawn care. Finally, less lawn mowing means far less carbon emissions from using the lawn mower.

Darwin waterfront area - Compadre zoysia

This slower growth will also mean far less invading of the lawn into surrounding garden beds, which means less garden edging, and almost none of those big garden cleanups which require us to pull up or poison large amounts of grass from our gardens.

Slow growth rates also make Zoysia a very low risk to the Australian environment, where the grass almost never escapes into the wild, and if it ever does, it is very easy and quick to control.

Zoysia also has very low levels of thatch, requiring almost no de-thatching whatsoever through it's life.

Zoysia Is A Tough Guy

Zoysia is tough, it tolerates wear and tear very well, and can even tolerate the rigours of some sporting fields. This trait means Zoysia will not damage as quickly from rigorous activity as some other grasses can.

However, this resistance to wear and tear is balanced out by it's slow growth rate. Once Zoysia does become damaged, it will be slower to repair than a more aggressive lawn type.

So for most Aussie homes and businesses, Zoysia will suit perfectly and tolerate the wear and tear from these environments with ease.

Shade Tolerance

Zoysia has good tolerance to shade. Shade tolerance will be less than Buffalo and Durban Grass, but has greater shade tolerance than Couch and Kikuyu. So if shade is of moderate concern then Zoysia is a worthwhile consideration.

Low Fertiliser Use

Zoysia is also renowned for it very low need for fertiliser throughout the year. For the average homeowner who wants a the lowest maintenance lawn possible, fertilising once a year is often enough to keep the lawn looking good.

For those people who want a more manicured style lawn, then fertilising rates can be bumped up slightly to achieve this desired outcome. Even with this increase, Zoysia will still need less fertiliser than other grasses.

Less fertiliser usage makes Zoysia a great choice for an environmentally responsible lawn.

Low Water Use

Zoysia is a famed low water use grass. In fact, the best way to water Zoysia is to turn off all reticulation and only ever give Zoysia a drink of water when it shows signs of deteriorating from water loss. It's at this time we can give Zoysia a nice deep drink of water until next time it tells us it needs a drink.

Drought Tolerance

Along with most warm season grasses, Zoysia tolerates and recovers from drought very well.

Zoysia appears to brown off quicker than other warm season grasses when drought conditions arrive, but has equally excellent recovery from drought when compared to other grasses.

Studies in this area often show Zoysia to recover more slowly than other grasses, and that's OK. This simply shows Zoysia as a slower growing grass - which it is, and as such it will not grow and repair at the enormous speeds that a highly aggressive grass like Couch will. While drought repair may be slower, the chances of full repair are equal to other grasses, and after drought - Zoysia will continue to provide a far lower maintenance lawn over the years.

Weed Pest and Disease Resistant

The Zoysia family of grasses are highly resistant to many common weeds, pests and diseases. However, this does not mean Zoysia is immune to these problems, just less prone when compared to other lawn types.

When it does become necessary to treat lawn problems, Zoysia has excellent tolerance to all weed, pest and disease treatments, which is on par with Couch grass tolerance to these products.

For these reasons, Zoysia is both low maintenance, and is environmentally friendly.


Zoysia has a very thick, dense and tightly woven layer of stolons (above ground runners) which will effectively choke out any new growth of invading weeds. This mat of stolons will continue to thicken over the first 3 years of the lawn being established.

Zoysia is not completely immune to weeds or invading grasses, but instead has very high resistance to being invaded. As a result, Zoysia will require far less weeding maintenance, including the use of weed sprays than most other lawn types.

Lawn Pests

Zoysia has brilliant natural resistance to lawn pests such as grubs and armyworm. Studies have shown that many lawn pests will often avoid a Zoysia lawn whenever there is an alternative lawn type such as Couch nearby, which the pests will invade in preference over the Zoysia, the same studies have shown that some lawn pests can sometimes die after feeding on Zoysia.

Zoysia is not immune to lawn pests, but they are significantly less prone to experiencing these problems.

Less lawn pest problems means less maintenance work and less use of chemical pesticides to treat pests. This makes Zoysia low maintenance and environmentally friendly.

Lawn Disease

Zoysia is also less prone to lawn diseases than other grass types, which also reduces the use of chemical sprays and homeowner maintenance. Making Zoysia an easy care lawn which is environmentally friendly due to the highly reduced use of lawn chemicals.

Zoysia The Way You Like It

The last great Zoysia characteristic is it's ability to be the lawn we all want - and with less effort.

Zoysia can be neglected with almost no watering whatsoever, no fertilising, and no mowing for months, and it will never become out of control or grow to the heights and weediness and thatch levels of grasses like Couch and Kikuyu. You simply give the grass another mow, and it all looks pretty good again.

For almost all lawn owners in Australia who want a nice looking lawn with minimum effort, minimum lawn mowing, least lawn problems, lowered costs, and is most environmentally friendly, then Zoysia is the perfect grass. Fertilise and water the lawn minimally, and mowing when required is all that's required to keep Zoysia up to a very high standard for most homes in Australia.

For those of us who like a manicured lawn, it's simply a case of increasing fertilising, increasing water, and increasing mowing frequency, and Zoysia will develop into a beautifully crafted lawn. And even with all of this, Zoysia will still maintain at this high standard with less work, and at less cost than other grasses.

This Is Why We Love Zoysia

And these are all the reasons we believe Zoysia should become the standard grass for use in all the warmer regions of Australia from now on.

In our opinion, Zoysia is the lowest maintenance lawn available, requiring the least watering, least pesticide use, least fertiliser use, experiences the least problems and requires the least lawn mowing. On top of this, Zoysia is tough and hard wearing, drought tolerant, and looks good under almost all conditions.

Zoysia has the lowest maintenance costs, with the least effort, and with the lowest negative impacts to the environment, and this is why we love Zoysia.

© Copyright ~ The Lawn Guide

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Organic Food - A Social Crutch for the Wealthy?

Organic food and organic agriculture will never feed the world, yet adherents in western countries continue to expand.  Or are they?

Recent studies show a connection between organic agriculture and food devotees and altruistic behaviour which may indicate some social and psychological conditions.

Many of the claims made about organic food just do not stack up, especially in relation to freedom from pesticides in comparison to conventionally produced foods.

While the tenor of this recent article is provocative, and probably meant to be that way, it does debunk many claims related to organic production systems, and alludes to the social issues around users of the materials.

Read it yourself, and do not be too indulgent with your food.  A good diet is essential!!