Thursday, February 27, 2014

Australia Has the World's Oldest Rock

They reckon that Australia is the oldest continent.  Most Australia's have tended to agree with the statement, alluding to stromatilites off the West Australian coast, which were said to be pretty old.

Recent investigations now add a new dimension to the answer..........where are the oldest rocks?

It seems that yes, they are in Australia, with the secrets of early Earth lying in a bright red crystal no larger than a dust mite.

A group of scientists claim to have dated a 400-micrometer zircon crystal to about 4.4 billion years ago — a discovery that could help scientists understand the geological conditions of early Earth.

The crystal was found in a region north of Perth, Australia known as the Jack Hills in 2001, Reuters reported.

The scientists published their findings in the science journal Nature Geoscience on Feb. 23; in the publication, Valley and his team explained their use of a technique called atom-probe tomography to date the crystal. The technique allows scientists to image and assess single atoms of lead to determine the age of a rock with increased accuracy.

Earth is thought to be around 4.54 billion years old, but according to fossil records, no evidence of life has been found prior to 3.5 billion years ago. Even the oldest rocks before this discovery were about 3.8 million years old.

This gap in rock formations and life accounts for about 600 million years during which scientists knew very little about the state of early Earth. Still, it's often thought to have been "hell-like" with a magma ocean, according to John Valley, a professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the group of scientists.

Evidence like this zircon crystal suggests that the Earth cooled to form the planet's crust earlier than previous rock evidence has suggested, within the first 100 to 200 million years. In that cooling process, steam from the atmosphere would have condensed to create oceans.

If oceans were present, it could've been possible that microbial life also existed, Valley told Reuters — a wildly different portrait of our planet than a nightmarish, lava-covered Earth.

Wow............this could also mean that life  may have also evolved a whole lot earlier too, if these conditions with water and minerals were conducive to primitive life form development.

Friday, February 14, 2014

World's Largest Solar Power Station Officially Open

Solar power is taking some big steps with the official opening of the 400MW solar power station in the Mojave Desert in the USA.

Read more on the media reports here -

While operating for a few months already, this week was the formal opening.

There are  hundreds of thousands of mirrors into the largest solar power plant of its type in the world, a milestone for a growing industry that is testing the balance between wilderness conservation and the pursuit of green energy across the West.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, sprawling across roughly 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opened Thursday after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants.

The $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy, can produce nearly 400 megawatts - enough power for 140,000 homes. It began making electricity last year.

More large systems are now under development, and these newer ones, along with other large systems around the world will begin to allow a decent system evaluation as they feed electricity into large grids for domestic and industrial use.

Ivanpah Solar Power station

A portent of future energy systems or just a curiosity?

Some authors believe it will take 50 years to switch over, and away from fossil fuels.  These large systems may just show the way.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Compadre Zoysia Turf - Seed or Sod??

We have seed available of Compadre zoysia now [in fact, we keep stock of Compadre zoysia seed] and summertime is a great time to be considering sowing.

Zoysia seed needs soil temperatures above 20C for satisfactory germination and establishment.  In warm temperate areas think mid spring onwards.  In the Australian tropics sowing is possible year round, but drier conditions between about May and October mean a long time to irrigate to get good establishment and growth to build a dense lawn.

Compadre zoysia is a dense, laterally spreading japonica zoysia, with short leaf blades, well suited to warm temperate, tropical and sub tropical areas.  Generally, there are fewer disease and insect problems with zoysia in comparison to most other warm season grasses.

Email to:  for more information.

We have case studies, photos and information leaflets to get you started in developing your own area of what is probably Australia's best warm season lawn turf grass.  And of course, we can also sell you the seed and provide the know how, based on over 35 years professional agronomic experience with zoysia grasses in Australia and overseas, for you to get the job done.

Search on the LHS of the blog for more articles with information on zoysia.  It is a great lawn!

And does thrive with less care and management, including less fertiliser and mowing, and it will grow in the shade, something few turf grasses are capable of doing.

20 week old Compadre turf, seed sown, near Darwin

Compadre zoysia turf sod is also available in a few locations around Australia, although availability does sometimes change.  Contact us for more information.

UPDATE - January 2015 - Seed of Compadre generally unavailable from early January 2015 as stocks in Australia have been sold.  More coming later in 2015.

We are able to supply Zenith zoysia seed only at present, a very similar - in fact near identical  - variety developed by the same company. We are using this variety ourselves for commercial work across N Australia in place of Compadre at present.  Characteristics of Zenith are similar to Compadre, with only minor differences most users would not notice, especially in warmer regions.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Organic Beef - A Growth Story in Australia

While the number of producers applying for formal certification to the main organic certifying bodies is not huge, it is steadily increasing, with over 60 producers being added in the past year or so.

For many extensive graziers, who do not use huge external inputs into their beef cattle operation and graze natural pastures, the change is not necessarily a major one, on the production areas.

But where it really counts is the better price on offer for organic beef, often 16 - 25% more for the producer.

This additional return adds a considerable benefit in a somewhat depressed Australian domestic cattle market, and with virtually all organic beef being sold - either locally or overseas, a much better secure income.

Two groups are among the major players in Australia - Arcadian Organic Beef and OBE [ probably the significant player who got the market started].  The former sources cattle within both Queensland and NSW predominantly, while OBE tends to source livestock from the Channel country.

There are issues around handling, slaughter and processing to ensure the organic certification is maintained from paddock to plate, and where cattle need to move from extensive to more intensive pastured areas, they must go via organically certified properties, which is often a bit tricky.

But very doable.

While organic beef is an already established market commodity, the newcomer - certified pasture fed beef is also rapidly developing a market profile.

Some argue that grass fed beef is superior in quality to grain finished beef, and there is some evidence to support that in terms of fat quality and the presence of higher omega-3 levels in grass fed meats.  Certainly, grass fed beef is good eating!

But it is the organic meat story that is thriving - more power to the quality of Australian produced food.