Friday, December 19, 2014

Zoysia Turf from Seed Is Worth the Wait

Sometimes a lawn takes time to develop to the stage where you think it is okay.

We often say that a zoysia lawn from seed will take 10- 12 weeks to develop a lawn appearance and be suitable for light use, or even up to 16 weeks, depending on the weather and time of year it is sown, and the degree of agronomic intervention.  We try to have an effective usable grass surface for light to modest use in about this 10 -12 week period, and it is important to actively manage the turf development to achieve this goal - good stand density, adequate fertiliser, weed control, light mowing to encourage spread etc.  
Compadre zoysia in a shaded area sown from seed at approx 20 weeks - north Australia

It is certainly hard to force a zoysia turf to grow a lot faster - more nitrogen fertiliser just does not work, although using slow release nitrogen is the better option.  Do not forget adequate potassium either.  After all, that aspect, of slower and maybe even less growth is one of the benefits of a zoysia turf area once established, and these turf areas can be used for many years.  My own zoysia lawn at home is now about 35 years young........and still doing quite okay, and it receives minimal fertiliser, and mowing.  

In the world of contracting, a period of 16 - 20 weeks is considered a common period for the development of a large turf area eg a playing field, from seed, suitable for sport use.  It is often also the same time as allowed for full development of a sportsfield from laying of the turf to full sod suitable for use - it can be quicker - and often is - but this tends to be the time allowed contractually. 

This is a useful concept to understand.........a turf area from seed will not happen instantaneously to be ready for use [not even if you use full sod at much increased cost - many times the cost of seed establishment!].  Also remember that most golf fairways are sown from seed, although the much smaller greens areas tend to be sod sown.

And there can be a few trials and false starts along the way.

Our common recommendation is to mow off the weeds, especially before they set seed.  The zoysia continues to grow laterally close to the ground, filling in the space, even when a bit shaded by the weeds, and will normally choke out most weeds over time.  In warm regions, summer growing grasses are vigorous and will grow above the zoysia, and sometimes using  a wick wiper treatment of glyphosate carefully can kill them off - but avoid getting herbicide on the zoysia - it is susceptible to glyphosate.

Where broad leaved weeds are the main problem, there are a few herbicide options for use after the zoysia seedlings are well established [ say 3-4 weeks after sowing], both post emergent and some pre-emergent.  Wick wiping can also be useful on taller broad leaved weeds, but a quick mow is often the better option especially if unsure about the correct or suitable herbicide.  

You might have a look at a suite of these you tube videos if not already seen.

All of these are worth watching – Compadre zoysia seed sown - Maryland, USA

There is one other in the series which will show up  if you click on any of these.

I thought after the initial sowing it would be a total disaster............but it is successful, albeit not instantaneously.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weed Control in Zoysia Turf - Seed Sown or Sod

Weeds in zoysia are mostly fixable.  

We suggest mowing followed by even more mowing as an option, allowing the strong density of zoysia to eventually win out.  There are two classic You Tube videos from the USA showing Compadre  zoysia in two successive years - year one is awful [ and I thought - what a disaster], but in year two it is a magnificent Compadre zoysia lawn.  Mowing and a strong zoysia species - Compadre zoysia - helped fix that problem.

Most broadleaved weeds in Compadre or Zenith seed sown zoysias are controllable with Kamba - M,  a commercially available dicamba / MCPA mix.  Approx price $30 for 1L.  A small quantity will last several years and is NOT residual.  Several repeat sprays may be needed. Use at recommended rates, and small areas can be sprayed with small hand spray bottles.  A few drops of detergent in the mix [ just a few drops!!] may help hold spray on plant leaves.

Or use one of the slow release fertilisers with pendimethalin in the blend as a seedling grass control - while it will not control emerged seedlings it will stop more summer growing grass weeds establishing for up to 10 - 12 weeks.  You must use at the recommended rate, which is on the bag.

You can also wick wipe weeds with glyphosate - BUT you must avoid the zoysia seedlings as they can be easily damaged if herbicide gets onto their leaves.  This can be useful if weeds are taller than the seedlings, as is often the situation.  Multiple applications may be needed. Commercial outlets sell wick wipers or see  who make excellent small units [ any of the 4 smaller rope wick units] and supply by post.

Sedges may also be a problem.  First issue with sedges if they appear usually means overwatering.  Use less applications and make each one longer, if that much water is really needed.  If the soil dries out between waterings, sedges are less of an issue. Or reduce overall watering - the lawn is likely to be okay with less water  Small 25g packs of Sempra are now available through commercial outlets - this is a very specific sedge herbicide [halosulfuron].  Use as directed, and we suggest also continuing to use as a spot spray where needed, after that.  One or two applications usually removes well over 90% of the sedges, but often a few odd plants reappear - so spot spray them as needed.

There are other possible herbicides but some are not available to home owners, and cannot be recommended for use except by commercial operators.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Healthy Soils - Healthy Planet - Healthy Life

The article below was written by Robb Fraley of Monsanto.  Yes, by someone from one of those apparently dreadful multinationals involved in agriculture.  It is not all doom and gloom!

Also - remember that December 5 was World Soil Day.

This article talks up soil and the benefits of productive healthy soils for life on earth.

Get with it...............add more carbon to your soil.  Carbon comes with the organic matter added to soils.......and why add carbon?  Carbon is a basic fuel for many many types of soil microbes and helps boost their numbers.  Farming is truly carbon farming!

compost for carbon - in soils


You may not quite realize it, but the dirt beneath your feet is teeming with life. In any given tablespoon of soil, there may be more than 50 billion microbes - bacteria, fungi, nematodes, mites, and more. Ninety percent of all the organisms on earth live underground. In a handful of healthy soil, there is more biodiversity than there is among all the above-ground animals in the Amazon Basin.

Until fairly recently, the human race has been largely uninformed about this vast ocean of uncatalogued life. Although farmers have always valued their soil and understood the importance of maintaining it, science offered little detail about the organic material within it, let alone how that material interacts with crops to give us our food.

Now, however, advances in biotechnology have begun to exponentially advance our understanding. As a result, we are on the cusp of making major strides in sustainable agriculture that will benefit both humanity and our ecosystems.

These advances are clearly coming just in time. By the year 2050 we will have 2 billion more people to feed on this planet, and global food demand will be about 70 percent higher than it is today.
Meanwhile, our key resources are threatened. Fresh water - our single most precious resource - is finite in supply and fast being depleted. Topsoil - which is literally the foundation of our food supply - is being stripped or degraded faster than Nature can replenish it (new topsoil is made at the rate of 0.025 mm to 0.125 mm per year).

And now climate change - to which agriculture itself is making a contribution - is threatening crops and livestock with a variety of new challenges, including withering heat, drought, and new pressures from bugs and diseases.

For these and other reasons, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) explained recently, the world needs a "paradigm shift" to more sustainable methods. It's no exaggeration to say that if we don't think more holistically about agriculture, the 21st century could be grimmer than any of us want to imagine.

The good news is we can do this. We can enable a more sustainable and productive agriculture. And in part we can do that through the development of new frontiers that, not surprisingly, coalesce around soil.

In 2003 Craig Venter and a team of scientists set out to demonstrate that advances in genomics and computing power could enable the mapping of microbial life all over the planet. Beginning in the Sargasso Sea and then circumnavigating the globe, Dr. Venter and his team were able to uncover the secrets of microbial life and diversity throughout the oceans. Over the last few years many other scientists have followed, leading to the description of the microbial life in the soils, permafrost, deep-sea vents, and even geysers.

As a result, humanity is now finally learning about what lies below. At the same time, we're learning how different crop plants interact with the biological communities, or micro-biomes, in the soil. We're learning how some organisms help a given plant and some hinder it, not unlike the ways of micro-organisms in our own bodies.

For example, just as the "good" microbes in our gut help us digest our food and maintain our immune system, "good" microbes in the soil form symbiotic relationships with plants and help them absorb nutrients through their roots as well as resist bugs and diseases. "Bad" ones do things like triggering the outbreak of plant diseases. There is growing evidence that "good" microbes added to the soil can provide health benefits to crops just like "probiotics."

All of this is leading to a day when farmers will be able to use the tools of genomics and precision agriculture to analyze their fields in an unprecedentedly detailed way. They'll then be able to introduce or reintroduce the kinds of beneficial microbes found in the most productive soils. We may even be able to restore fertility to some of the lands - for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, or even areas of our own rich bread basket in the United States - where management practices driven by a variety of forces have rendered the land less productive.

By doing below ground what we've done above in reintroducing endangered species, we'll achieve great benefits. Specifically, healthier organic life in the soil will bring us:
Healthier, more resilient plants - Crops will have less need for some of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides we now rely on for production. They'll need less irrigation too, because the soil will retain water better and the plants will absorb it more efficiently.
Climate change mitigation - Healthier soils lead to lower rates of greenhouse gas emissions, as I'll discuss in a moment.
Increased biodiversity - the more beneficial microbial life in the soil, the more life there will be of all kinds.
Better ecosystem "services" - By many calculations, the living soil is the Earth's most valuable ecosystem. Besides mitigating climate change, it protects against soil erosion, filters our water, and performs other functions worth trillions of dollars each year.

To make this future work best, however, it will also be important for farmers to keep adopting better soil management practices, such as conservation tillage and cover cropping. Conservation tillage is a broad term to describe any method of cultivation that leaves the previous year's crop residue - corn stalks or wheat stubble, for example - on fields before and after planting the next crop. Cover cropping involves planting a secondary crop after the main one is harvested, to stop erosion or replenish nutrients in the soil.

These practices, which have indeed been gaining popularity, stand in contrast to tilling - the process of breaking and turning over the soil while plowing under the residue for the purpose of hampering weed growth. Tilling is a time-honored practice, but it disrupts the soil's sponge-like structure and disturbs the balance of its microbial life, decreasing the land's capacity to absorb water as well as nitrogen and phosphorus from artificial fertilizers. The result is excessive runoff of water and nutrients, leading to the infamous dead zones that afflict places like Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico and larger releases of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

By rebalancing the microbial community in the soil toward air-loving organisms, tilling also leads to the more rapid decomposition of the organic matter buried in the soil - and thus to the release of the carbon sequestered within it. And astonishingly, there is more carbon in the soil than in all the plants and the atmosphere combined. Only the oceans contain more.

Biotechnology - herbicide-tolerant crops, in particular - has helped farmers move away from till farming by giving them another way to control weeds. This USDA report is only the latest of many to make that point. In other words, biotechnology has proved to be a foundational technology for the new advances we anticipate in improving the soil biome.

Even more advances in soil management are on the way. Right now, for example, our company is partnering with the National Corn Growers Association and partners in conservation and academic science to gain a more systematic understanding of the economic and environmental benefits of different soil management strategies on a region-specific and crop-specific basis. The Soil Health Partnership, as it's called, has already established demonstration farms in the Midwest where innovative management practices are aimed at improving soil health. The partnership aims eventually to publish its findings and to encourage farmers to adopt them as appropriate.

Much more such research needs to be conducted. Success will take partnerships and collaborations among all of us -public and privately funded research groups, farmers, ecologists, and many others. My own company has partnered with Novozymes, a world leader in the use of microorganisms. We expect that marrying their insights into microbes with our knowledge of agriculture can accelerate much needed solutions to the problems we face in feeding a growing population.

The soil clearly must be protected, and to do that, we need to understand it. But we're making great strides now, and they're going to make agriculture more productive and sustainable - better for us and the earth.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Plastics in the Oceans

The oceans continue to be a dumping ground for waste.

As well as the plastics discussed here, it was also revealed this week,that about 21000 tonnes of sewerage are dumped weekly by the world's cruise liners.  And that quantity is going up, not down!

Plastics are the big issue though.  Nearly 269,000 tons of plastic pollution may be floating in the world's oceans, according to a study published December 10, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Marcus Eriksen from Five Gyres Institute and colleagues.

Microplastic pollution is found in varying concentrations throughout the oceans, but estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics, both micro and macroplastic, lack sufficient data to support them. 

To better estimate the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans, scientists from six countries contributed data from 24 expeditions collected over a six-year period from 2007-2013 across all five sub-tropical gyres, coastal Australia, Bay of Bengal, and the Mediterranean Sea. 

The data included information about microplastics collected using nets and large plastic debris from visual surveys, which were then used to calibrate an ocean model of plastic distribution.  Most of the plastic weight comes from lost fishing buoys, though, not broken plastics.  Rubber and plastic thongs also contribute a significant amount of the total!

Based on the data and model, the authors of the study estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing nearly 269,000 tons in the world's oceans. Large plastics appear to be abundant near coastlines, degrading into microplastics in the 5 subtropical gyres, and that the smallest microplastics were present in more remote regions, such as the subpolar gyres, which the authors did not expect. 

The distribution of the smallest microplastics in remote regions of the ocean may suggest that gyres act as 'shredders' of large plastic items into microplastics, after which they eject them across the ocean.  "Our findings show that the garbage patches in the middle of the five subtropical gyres are not the final resting places for the world's floating plastic trash. The endgame for micro-plastic is interactions with entire ocean ecosystems," says Marcus Eriksen, PhD, Director of Research for the 5 Gyres Institute.

Read the paper at PLOS ONE.  here.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

New Style Desert Crops Attract Investment Dollars

Sundrop Farms has received a $100 million injection from private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) to aggressively expand its operations growing tomatoes on desert land north of Port Augusta in South Australia using cutting edge solar thermal energy and desalination for heating and cooling greenhouses.

A new 10-year contract, in which supermarket giant Coles buys Sundrop produced tomatoes, was a crucial element in cementing the investment.

Combined with $6 million in funds being tipped in by the South Australian government, as announced by Premier Jay Weatherill on Thursday, Sundrop Farms is set to expand, with up to 300 jobs being created.

The expanded output means Sundrop will be pro­ducing up to 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes, capsicums and other vegetables each year after 2016.

Leighton Holdings will also be a ­beneficiary, because its John Holland subsidiary has been awarded a contract worth $150 million to design and construct a 20-hectare greenhouse facility.

The work will start now and is scheduled for completion in late 2016.

Hundreds of jobs

Mr Weatherill said the State government had provided $6 million from a Regional Development Fund towards the expansion. He said the project would create 100 jobs during construction and about 200 when the expanded operation was up and running.

The Sundrop operation has been successfully trialling its technology on a smaller scale, and is now ready to go ahead with expansion plans.

Mr Weatherill said the contract with Coles to purchase Sundrop's truss tomatoes for the next 10 years and sell them across its national network was vital in securing financing. "The project is the first in SA to in­tegrate, at a commercial scale, leading technologies across solar thermal energy, solar seawater desalination and freshwater neutrality (through) 20 hectares of energy-efficient greenhouses."

The Sundrop operations are about 300 kilometres north of Adelaide, near Port Augusta. The dry climate and the close proximity of the seawaters of the Upper Spencer Gulf are viewed as ideal for the use of the solar thermal technology, which works most efficiently in flat, arid regions close to the ocean and in an area of low humidity.

Leighton chief executive Marcelino Fernandez Verdes said his company had the multidisciplinary skills for the "unique requirements" of the arid environment project.

Coles was a takeover target of KKR in 2006, kicking off a bidding war that was eventually won by Wesfarmers in 2007 for $19 billion.

More ideas on expanding the modern concepts for new style agriculture and horticulture.  Will it work?  no one really knows, but they have done the trials and testing, and it seems a solid base.

In agriculture today, technology rules!!  So all you knockers, get with it and introduce some technology ideas if you want to thrive.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Agricultural Production and Climate Chage

04 Dec, 2014 03:00 AM
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14 world has not yet fully understood the food dimensions of climate change
Science author and former rural journalist Julian Cribb.

TODAY'S broadacre farmers may not like the idea, but the human diet is on course to shift from a focus on meat and grain products to seafood and vegetables in the next 50 years.

Farming is also likely to increase in high-rise buildings (or 'agritecture') within the world's emerging mega cities, and even on giant floating horticulture and aquaculture greenhouse platforms dotted around our coastline.

We won't have much choice, according to science author and former rural journalist Julian Cribb.
The planet is running out of fresh water, farmland, fertiliser and fossil fuels, and mankind will need to get much better at recycling agricultural inputs and growing food more efficiently.
"By the latter part of this century there may be 11 billion mouths to feed, but rainfall in the world's great grain bowls is becoming less reliable and lakes rivers and aquifers are drying up," he said.

Global warming by just two degrees in average temperatures would cut grain yields as much as 45 per cent in India alone. Five degrees could halve current global food production capacity.
"The world has not yet fully understood the food dimensions of climate change," Mr Cribb said.
"It will drive geopolitics, migration and warfare and gradually shift our diet away from one that is predominantly meat and grains to predominantly seafood and vegetables."

At last month's Rabobank sponsored F20 Summit on food security solutions in Sydney, Mr Cribb told attendees that mega cities and energy industries were also devouring more and more of the farmer's water resources, yet farms were expected to double their output from half as much water.

On average, humans used 1240 tonnes of water a year.

About 75pc of this use was in the form of food, much of which was discarded by western consumers or wasted in the paddock, or became part of an "industrialised diet" responsible for diet-related diseases claiming about two thirds of all ailment-related deaths.

To feed emerging mega city populations like the 120 million filling China's sprawling Guangzhou-Shenzen apartment towers by 2050 - and to make life more livable for the 7 billion people forecast to be occupying the world's cities - urban agriculture and horticulture was taking on a new importance.

Global impact on cities

Plans on drawing boards already ranged from high-tech glass skyscrapers producing horticulture crops, fish and even poultry, through to a renaissance in balcony and community gardens.

Vertical greenhouse 'farms' and city office or hospital roof-top gardens (pictured, below) would bring new green life, food, birds and biodiversity and help moderate temperature extremes in the "soulless concrete and glass 'urbanscapes' of today".

Metropolitan waste and water would be recycled to grow these city crops, utilising valuable nutrients currently being flushed away, while easing the demand on limited fertiliser and water resources.

"With the right investment, urban horticulture and farms can supply half the world's food by 2050, bringing immense relief to the stress now imposed on our farming soils, water, biodiversity and rural communities," said Canberra-based Mr Cribb.

Aquaponic farms producing crops and fish fed on recycled nutrients, algae and vegetable matter were already "sprouting" in Norway, Iceland, North America and even New Zealand and Australia.

A 4000-hectare vertical farm was proposed right in the heart of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, one already operated in Singapore, and an "aeroponic" farm planned to grow hundred of tonnes of leafy greens in New Jersey, US.

At Cobbitty south-west of Sydney, Blue Farms was producing fresh fish and herb crops in controlled glasshouse environments, using fish waste to feed plants grown in aquaponic conditions on giant conveyor belts.

In Norway, seven hectares of greenhouses produced 2200 tonnes of organic tomatoes and capsicums every seven months.

To meet the fresh food needs of seaboard mega cities like Shanghai, Tokyo and Mumbai, Mr Cribb said giant floating greenhouses were also being designed.

By 2050 aquaculture production would grow three-fold from the current 67m tonnes of fish and water plants (including algae) produced annually to help feed the 550m tonnes of animal and fish protein likely to be demanded.

Jellyfish, seaweed, sea cucumbers and a host of edible Australian native plants (6100 are known to exist) could become part of our diet, just as tomatoes and potatoes from the Americas had created profound culinary changes in the past 400 years.

"The food we eat a century from now and how we produce and consume it will be as strange to us today as the foods our ancestors grew centuries ago."

The algae revolution

Feeding the world with more meat, grain, seafood and horticultural crops won't be possible without a revolutionary change in the energy resources used to power extra agricultural production.

That revolutionary ingredient is likely to be algae, according to Julian Cribb.

"In future huge algae farms on land, at sea and in salt lakes will produce food for people, feed for fish and other livestock, fuel for transport, pharmaceuticals, plastics, textiles and chemicals," he forecast.

Nourished by the flood of organic waste from the world's increasing urban populations, algae production plants, such as South Australia's Muradel site at Whyalla, offered a green renewable solution to the problem of global oil scarcity.

Last month Muradel launched a $11 million demonstration plant in its first step towards a commercial site with potential to produce 80m litres of 'green' crude oil a year.

Theoretically, algal-type water plants were capable of supplying the world's entire fuel needs from an area covering just 57 million hectares, said Mr Cribb, whose science and technology writing career has spanned National Farmer magazine, metropolitan newspapers and six years as a media director with the CSIRO.

He said 30 countries were already investing in what could becomes the world's biggest crop.

Algae was resilient to climate change and could be farmed in tanks, on wasteland ponds, or in floating rafts at sea where it did not compete for space with other crops.

The world's 72,000 species of water plants included many which also contained nutrients for a healthy human or livestock diet, including omega three oils and beta-carotene.

"Algae can be made into delicious, healthy and sustainable foods as readily as any land-based crop and would also insure our food system never ran short of energy," Mr Cribb said.

He also wants Australia to move fast to accelerate research algal biofuels, coupled with a national investment plan to take advantage of the opportunity.

The world's food supply was not just currently dangerously dependent on fossil fuels to grow crops and livestock, but also to transport, chill and cook the food our farmers produce.

"Each year we're eating the diesel from 66 barrels of oil, but the number of new cars is also growing at seven times the rate of new oil reserves being discovered," he said.

"There will be huge impacts on the price and supply of food as fresh energy shocks occur."

On the other hand, algae culture had the potential to make sunlight-rich Australia self sufficient in energy production, generating an extra $50m annually in new revenue and jobs - particularly in the bush.

reproduced from

This is a critical issue and we all should be aware of how this is developing.

But getting support for new concepts is a frustrating business, with governments and support organisations not supporting funding of the development of these new concepts, especially here in Australia.  And we have first hand knowledge of that lack of support.

The comments on the original story are amazing - read them yourself.  Some very strong vehement almost anti-progress stuff with a personal attack bias.  Quite amazing!!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Crops - Critical Role in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Each year, the planet balances its budget. 

The carbon dioxide absorbed by plants in the spring and summer as they convert solar energy into food is released back to the atmosphere in autumn and winter, in the northern hemisphere. Levels of the greenhouse gas fall, only to rise again, as summer crops in the south take up more CO2.

But the budget has gotten bigger. Over the last five decades, the magnitude of this rise and fall has grown nearly 50 percent in the Northern Hemisphere, as the amount of the greenhouse gas taken in and released has increased. Now, new research shows that humans and their crops have a lot to do with it, highlighting the profound impact people have on the Earth’s atmosphere.

In a study published Wednesday, Nov. 19, in Nature, scientists at Boston University, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and McGill University show that a steep rise in the productivity of crops grown for food accounts for as much as 25 percent of the increase in this carbon dioxide (CO2) seasonality.

It’s not that crops are adding more CO2 to the atmosphere; rather, if crops are like a sponge for CO2, the sponge has simply gotten bigger and can hold and release more of the gas.

With global food productivity expected to double over the next 50 years, the researchers say the findings should be used to improve climate models and better understand the atmospheric CO2 buffering capacity of ecosystems, particularly as climate change may continue to perturb the greenhouse gas budget.

We need to remember that plants are a critical feature in the CO2 balance.  Grow more of them!!

There is more here - [ where this info came from] -
Sunflowers - an iconic crop

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Use e-Invoicing for Improved Efficiency

E-Invoicing is more than the sending and/or receipt of tax compliant invoices in an electronic format. It can deliver plenty of benefits for you and your customers.

One significant pain point that I often come across in manufacturing organisations is the use of paper based invoicing. Paper invoices are a barrier to efficient Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR).

As an example, how often do invoices arrive as part of the delivery paperwork into a busy store or goods receiving department and are then expected to magically make its way through various departments depending on a business workflow and arrive on an AP team members' desk for processing.

Frequently this does not happen and so valuable time is wasted by both AP and AR chasing payments, replacing invoices, managing late payment cash flow issues and generally having a negative impact on an otherwise healthy and productive supplier/customer relationship.

It's not just manufacturing. Of the current estimated 500 billion Invoices being transmitted currently worldwide there is estimation that only 8% of them are electronic or e-invoices. However, this ration is changing rapidly and the number is estimated to grow at a level of about 20% per annum over the next few years. This can vary country to country dependant on the development status.

The growth we have seen to date in the utilisation of E-invoicing and Automated AP has really been driven by Government and big business where the traditional cost of the running AP automation and demanding e-invoicing has kept it out of the reach of all but the largest organisations.

This is beginning to change and the functionality and benefits are coming into the reach of the small and medium market in all business types with a range and type of providers growing!

One of the key drivers of demand for this growth is the considerable cost benefit. The cost of issuing and receiving E-Invoices and utilising automated Accounts Payable processes can be 60-80% less than those of manual and paper based processes.


E-Invoicing, at its most simple, is the sending and/or receipt of tax compliant invoices in an electronic format. In a more complex requirement it is the sending and/or receiving of invoices in a format manageable by another process. i.e. a company has an automated Account Payable process and requires their vendor invoicing to be issued in a very specific format for automatically reading the data within. This is not new to some industries.

Taking a look at the schematic it is at once obvious to appreciate the operational and cost benefit to be gained by both the supplier and their customers. Consider the conventional paper based invoice issuing process compared to e-invoicing.

The actual non-value-add touch points of each invoice become practically zero and the speed of interaction becomes almost immediate.

Accounts payable efficiency

Aside from improving relationships with your vendors and freeing up the team for value add activities, for buyers there are a great many advantages to be gained through e-invoicing. Costs are reduced and efficiency improved by eliminating sorting, registering and manual data entry cutting down on process time and errors. Payment cycles are better controlled allowing for on-time payment, avoidance of late payment fees and ensuring the opportunity to capture contractually negotiated discounts.

Accounts receivable efficiency

In manufacturing cash flow is king and while not all customers can be made to pay on time, as a supplier you need to make it easy for them and remove all roadblocks.

E-Invoicing eliminates the delays that result from mailing, routing, sorting and re-keying paper documents. Your invoice arrives at the right place immediately ready for processing. On top of the time saving and direct communication, invoice delivery costs are reduced through savings in print, postage, materials processing and storage.

There is a reduction in lost invoices which remove duplicate invoice requirements and difficult customer management calls. With accuracy increased for your customer there will be a reduction in errors and rejected invoices.

Over hundreds and thousands of invoices each year there is substantial time to be regained for value add activity. Every business has different requirements on size, scope and complexity but on a fun­damental level and as a starting point I believe every business should look to issue and ask to receive their invoices in electronic format even it is just a system generated and emailed pdf.
This was originally written by Scott Harkin of ProcNet, but has a lot of sensible considerations and should be applicable to many businesses. Even our small business now sends all invoices as pdf format invoices and the NT government insists on e-invoices from all contractors, coupled with total electronic payments direct to accounts, once invoices are processed.
Why not your business too?


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Deep Carbon Cuts - Pathway to US Lower Greenhouse Emissions

Recently the Yale Environment 360 blog recently reported that the United States can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, using existing or near-commercial technologies, according to researchers with the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project.

The study analyzed scenarios with four types of decarbonised electricity: renewable energy, nuclear energy, fossil fuel with carbon capture and storage, and a mixed case. The scenarios achieved reductions of 83 percent below 2005 levels and 80 percent below 1990 levels, according to the study, which was released ahead of next month’s climate talks in Lima, Peru, and negotiations in Paris in December 2015.

The energy efficiency of buildings, transportation, and industry would need to increase through the use of smart materials and energy-efficient designs, and vehicles will need to be fueled with electricity generated from wind, solar, or nuclear, as opposed to coal, the researchers said. They project the net costs would be on the order of 1 percent of gross domestic product per year.

The 80-percent reduction by 2050 is a long-standing goal of the Obama administration, in line with the global commitment to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. “One important conclusion is that investment opportunities in clean technologies will arise during the natural rollover and replacement of infrastructure,” said lead author Jim Williams. “The plan calls for non-disruptive, sustained infrastructure transitions that can deeply decarbonise the U.S. by 2050, and enhance its competitive position in the process.”

This is a significant move and one that seems a highly logical pathway to successful outcomes.  

There is more emphasis on energy efficiency, especially retro fitting to buildings, an area that has not greatly been explored in Australia.

While the study outcomes have not yet been included in US government policy, it does seem to point to a solid and logical route for progressing the gains required.

What is the program for Australia?  We seem to be stuck on 5% reduction by 2020, yet more is possible.  It also seems that individuals are also doing more outside of government policies - notably with the development of household PV systems around Australia. The transport fuel issue is a big problem in Australia with vast distances and a small population, but gas would seem to be part of the mix in this case.

I do not yet see a lot of confidence among people with the current direct action program of the federal government, that it could achieve the scale of reductions needed to get to 80% below 2005 levels, especially while most electricity seems to be generated by coal.  However, if these plants were replaced [ even if through old age] by gas or new thorium nuclear plants then much greater reductions might be achievable.  With both India and China developing thorium reactors - that could be an option within 15 years or so.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

World Toilet Day - 2014

It seems simple for those in western society...........the use of a decent toilet.  It is NOT that way for many in developing countries, and particularly in India.  Simple sanitation and hand washing associated with it is a critical issue in developing areas and reducing simple illnesses.

Today marks the second annual UN World Toilet Day, an important opportunity to promote global efforts to achieve universal access to sanitation by 2030. 

With a focus on equality and dignity, this year, World Toilet Day aims to highlight sanitation as a global development priority, especially for women and girls who must compromise their dignity and put their safety at risk when lack of access to sanitation forces them to defecate in the open.

Sanitation impacts multiple sectors of development, but the connection with gender equality is particularly important.

As outlined in a blog by World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender Caren Grown and Senior Director for Water Junaid Ahmad, advancing equality for women in developing countries is not only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense. 

The relationship between gender equality and sanitation and water services is reciprocal. Just as investing in sanitation and water services benefits gender equity, improvements in gender equity can meanwhile advance improved sanitation and water services.

Ending poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity - the World Bank Group’s twin corporate goals - is possible only if we continue pressing to fully understand such obstacles to gender equity and service delivery.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Irrigating A New Area of Zoysia Sown by Seed

It is absolutely critical to adequately irrigate a newly sown area of zoysia seed.  Because the seed needs light to germinate, it is sown close to the surface.

The problem with that in warm weather is that the surface normally dries out quickly. You need to use a few tips and tricks to ensure that adequate moisture is available to keep the germination process ticking along, then there is the need for water to sustain the small seedlings, once the seed germinates.

Warmer weather tends to promote faster germination, with 7-10 days often enough to see seedlings in warm conditions, but up to 21 days if cooler.  Remember, a ground temperature of 18 - 20C is about the bottom of the range to even get reasonable germination.  If below this........wait a little longer.

In the sub tropics and tropics, it is possible to sow year round but growth will be slow in cooler months and waiting until the cooler weather is past is often the best idea, as growth really picks up once the days are longer, soil is warmer and night temperatures rise to around 18 -20C.

But the water regime and surface management are very important.

Adding a very light [ I stress light cover] of thin mulch such as sugar cane bagasse or a thin even cover of compost to the soil surface will both help hold moisture close to the surface as well as preventing rapid loss of moisture and acting as a protection barrier if there is heavy rain.  The latter is almost inevitable in the tropics........and you need to plan for it.

Generally it is necessary to also irrigate several times during daylight hours to keep the surface moist....not wringing wet, just moist.  You can use pop up sprinklers -run for a few minutes only.  Unfortunately the output from sprinklers covers quite a range so time cannot be given.  Remember a moist surface, not wringing wet.

Some systems allow many starts each day, but many only allow two or three.  Ideally you need a good irrigation early in the morning and 2 or 3 short bursts during the day, with a modest spray later in the early evening.  Many areas have evaporation rates of 7- 10mm each day if the weather is hot.  Most of that needs to be replaced each day while the area is in the early stages.

Better than using pop up sprinklers is to use small, low pressure, low volume sprinklers used in horticulture  and landscape applications.  These operate on 12mm or 19mm pvc lines and deliver 1-2mm per hour, depending on the pressure.  You also need a pressure reduction valve and inline filter to be most effective.  Several brands are available, with Challenger mk2 a recommended type supplied through Philmac resellers..  These sprinklers have the water distributed evenly across the wetted diameter of the sprinkler, and the droplet impact is low.  They come in a range of diameters [ up to about 12m].  Also, droplets are larger and less prone to wind influence.  Costs for each sprinkler is less than $5 approximately.

These can be operated for an hour or so several times during the day [ through a normal irrigation controller and solenoid valve] to add a modest amount to the surface, refreshing the dampness on the surface.  If operated for longer periods, they are suitable to fully irrigate the area, as they tend to be very efficient sprinklers as well.

Once the area is about 3-4 weeks old, irrigation can be reduced and adjusted to using several days per week [ rather than every day]  and also altering the duration of each irrigation to adequately wet the area, to help create a deep root system.  That bit of drying out between waterings helps promote roots searching for water deeper in the profile to develop a resilient turf area.

Once established, zoysia turf is quite water efficient and tends to be drought tolerant, requiring less water than many other turf grasses of high quality.

Overwatering promotes weeds, especially sedges eg nutgrass and Mullumbimby couch.  Best to be a bit light on with the water on established areas of zoysia!

From the left - dripline, pressure reduction valve, filter , connection to water supply
Enjoy your zoysia turf.  Remember......the payoff is less mowing!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Water Use Drops in USA to Level of 45 Years Ago

The latest figures on water use in the United States show that conservation efforts are having an impact.

A new report published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reveals that the volume of water used across the country has reached its lowest recorded level in nearly 45 years.

About 355 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the entire United States during 2010. That's a decrease of 13 percent from 2005 when about 410 Bgal/d were withdrawn.

The news was welcomed by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

"Reaching this 45-year low shows the positive trends in conservation that stem from improvements in water-use technologies and management," commented Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior.
Connor pointed out the reduction comes at a time when the U.S. population is continuing to grow, and demonstrates that people are learning to be more water conscious and helping to sustain the limited freshwater resources in the country.

Water withdrawn for thermoelectric power represented the largest use nationally in 2010. The other leading uses were irrigation, public supply and self-supplied industrial water. Withdrawals declined in each of these categories, USGS said.

Thermoelectric power recorded a 20 percent decrease from five years earlier as a result of more efficient cooling-system technologies, declines in withdrawals to protect aquatic habitat and environments, power plant closures and a reduction in the use of coal to fuel power plants.

Looking at industrial withdrawals, the 12 percent decrease since 2005 was put down to factors such as greater efficiencies in industrial processes, more emphasis on water reuse and recycling, and the 2008 U.S. recession, which resulted in lower industrial production in major water-using industries.

Overall, more than half of the total water withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 states: California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Alabama and Ohio.

Some great developments in water management - but a long way to go still.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Cannot Stop the Advance of GM Technology

Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) chair Ken Matthews says some Australian governments are “gutless” when it comes to giving farmers access to genetically modified (GM) crops.

The former secretary of both the Australian agriculture and transport departments made the no-nonsense observation in a detailed outline of global and domestic attitudes on biotechnology at the National Farmers' Federation Congress in Canberra last week.  

Mr Matthews summed up by saying Australia suffers from not having a more objective, science-based discussion about agricultural biotechnology.  “It’s really important that Australia has practicing farmers speak up for agricultural biotechnology because it’s practicing farmers that will be persuasive.”  The ongoing anti-GM campaign is one of the “big risks” facing the technology’s development, he said.

“There is a great suspicion of science and scientists in public debate in Australia and there has been a very effective campaign by NGOs (non-government organisations) which has influenced public opinion.

“As a result, what worries me is that environmentally responsible farmers - who tend in many other areas to be leaders of farm opinion - can often be ambivalent about GM.  “The pro-GM constituency among farmers is therefore not as strong as it could be in Australia.”

Governments need to lead

Mr Matthews said attitudes held by the general public, consumers, environmentalists and media were also central problems in the GM debate.

But his strongest criticism was reserved for various governments that refuse to allow GM crops to be cultivated, despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

“Some governments in Australia are – and I use this word carefully – gutless,” he said.

“There are total bans on GM in South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT,” he said.

“There are moratoriums in WA and NSW but there are certainly exemptions for that. In my view they (total bans) aren’t rationally based; they aren’t properly founded in science.

“Those moratoria need to be ended and we need to avoid further mandatory labelling requirements, unless they can be justified.”

Hinting at the recent high profile legal case involving neighbouring organic and GM farmers, Steve Marsh and Mike Baxter in Kojonup WA, Mr Matthews said the problem with reconciling organic standards and GM crops also “needs to be tackled”.

He said there were three inescapable truths about biotechnology: the first being that it provides a critical opportunity to lift the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Australian agriculture over the next 20 years.

Secondly, he said biotechnology was critical to meeting rapidly rising global food needs. 

And thirdly, biotechnology will inevitably continue to attract “suspicion and opposition” in some community sectors, slowing its development.

Mr Matthews said that opposition was based on four key concerns: food safety; environmental damage; “agrochemical industry domination” and “a roundup of ethical and religious issues”.

However, he said science delivered a very clear message about the safety of GM technology.

GM safety scientifically proven

Mr Matthews said more than 100 of the world’s independent science oversight bodies, including “very authoritative and credible organisations” in the US and Europe, shared a consensus that GM crops are “as safe as conventional varieties - and often safer because of the extensive approval process they need to go through”.  “The scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of GM safety, assuming that we continue with the sound regulatory processes that we have,” he said.  “There have now been 3 trillion meals (consumed) involving or including GM and there’s been not one recorded case of harm.  “There have been 70 billion animals which have been feeding on GM feed of some sort, and not one recorded case of harm.”

Mr Matthews said a recent European review of over 1700 scientific studies around the world about environmental impacts of GM concluded that there was little or no evidence GM crops caused negative environmental impacts.

“To me, as a student of public policy, it’s really interesting that the environment movement is very keen for science to be heard in the climate change debate - but where the science is very clear, no one seems to want to know about biotechnology,” he said.

Mr Matthews faced a question from the floor at the NFF Congress from NSW Farmers executive councillor Gai Marshall, referring to the controversial Seralini rat study on GM corn, which purported to find the GM feed caused tumour growth. Ms Marshall said she wasn’t against growing GM but wanted to see greater traceability.

Mr Matthews said the Seralini piece of science had been retracted. “It has been rejected, it has been withdrawn,” he said.  “The peer review, the second time around, found it totally discredited.”

A solution to global food security?

Mr Matthews said the problems GM could solve were “unprecedented in history”.

He said there are huge farm business opportunities from potential GM products like self-fertilising plants that could “revolutionise agriculture and certainly would decouple agriculture from the oil industry”.

GM crops also had a key role to play in aiding the future food demand task as the world’s population grows from 7.2 billion now to 9.6 billion by 2050, with decreasing land and water to develop globally - 800 million people already go to bed hungry each night and 1 billion people are chronically undernourished, he said.

“In the meantime, if I can be a bit provocative, there are some pretty comfortable western based NGOs which continue to oppose and to slow down biotechnology, on non-scientific, without evidence grounds,” he said.

Mr Matthews said a striking example of that argument was the fact 250 million children are currently suffering from vitamin A deficiency but GM food crops with existing solutions “are having trouble getting mobilised”.  “Norman Borlaug, said to be the father of the green revolution, said once that if the naysayers do stop agricultural GM they might actually precipitate those famines and crises they’ve been predicting for years,” he said.

Mr Matthews said the technology’s uptake was unprecedented, with 79 per cent of global soybean area and 70pc of global cotton area now GM.  “Growers are certainly not changing their mind and going back after they trial GM,” he said.

“Over the last 200 years there have been several waves of innovation in agriculture such as mechanisation, conventional plant breeding, chemical fertilisers and chemical herbicides.

“But none of them has been adopted as rapidly as GM seeds and I can tell you that animal-based GM is coming up very fast behind them.  “One eighth of global farm land is now GM, so this is a sort of mega bus that will not be stoppable.”

Mr Matthews said GM offers varieties with production benefits like faster growth rates and yields, drought tolerance, pesticide reduction and nutrient efficiency.

He said exciting work is also happening to generate varieties with consumer and health benefits like foods with fewer saturated fats, zero allergens, increased dietary fibre, reduced natural toxins, higher protein levels, built in vaccines, cholesterol management, and vitamin A.

“Benefits do flow to big biotech companies but perversely the regulatory costs - as a consequence of pressure from the opponents of GM - now make approvals just out of reach for anyone but the big firms,” he said.  “As an example, a single new GM trait may now cost $139 million, including $35 million just for the approvals part of that, and around the world it takes five-and-a-half years on average to gain a single new approval.

“Are those costs and time problems squeezing out public good innovations such as environmental public health innovations or small market GM innovations?”

Need to build trust

Mr Matthews said Australia grew GM canola and GM cotton and had great strengths in the area, with a world class regulatory system and plant breeding expertise.

But he said a three-part plan was needed to help overcome the slow progress of biotechnology development.

He said a constituency of biotechnology supporters was needed to build understanding of the potential benefits to farmers, consumers, the environment and society as a whole.  “We need to build community confidence and trust in Australia’s regulatory arrangements,” he said.  “We do need to be respectful of ethical concerns about biotechnology, but at the same time we need to give voice to the beneficiaries, and I think of those kids in Africa.

“When people are talking grandly about ethical concerns about biotechnology I worry about starving kids in Africa.  “We need to focus research more on benefits to consumers, to the environment, to society and we need to find some champions.” 

[ based on an article in the online edition of Qld Country Life 4 Nov 2014]