Friday, October 31, 2014

Caring For Your Zoysia Lawn in Hot Weather

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has today announced the next three months across the East and North of Australia will be drier and warmer than normal.

That means a strong likelihood of your turf areas needing more irrigation than usual.  Your turf might be stressed.  How can you best handle the issues that arise?

Adequate potassium fertiliser is a wise option.  Potassium boosts stress response in plants as it helps develop better structural tissues, including cell walls, and aids plants in overcoming or being resistant to water stress, as well as the related heat stresses, even in those varieties with superior heat adaptation.

Use a fertiliser mix with adequate potassium, applied soon, or add up to 1-2 kg / 100 sq  m of potassium sulfate or even potassium nitrate as the fertiliser. You may need to look more widely for these but they are around. Slow release NPK mixes tend to use one or other of these products, but you want a potash content of around 10-15% in the mix.  Avoid muriate of potash which is potassium chloride, as it can add saltiness to your turf area.  Muriate of potash is readily available, and can be cheap, but it a short term gain that can add to long term problems.

And what about the perennial issue of mowing?

There is a tendency to mow the lawn shorter in warm weather…… if you might be able to avoid an extra cut by doing that.

Reality is you are best to actually cut the lawn less frequently and slightly higher, when there is hot, dry, stressing weather!  Long leaf that is uncut means less water loss from the cut edges and better soil cover from the leaves that helps control soil temperature and lower water loss from both evaporation and transpiration.  When weather turns and some decent rain arrives, then you could mow at a lower height………but not too low unless you have a very strong need for a “golf green” appearance, and the mower is suitable.

Zoysia is well adapted to hot weather, and can easily adapt to mowing heights between 15 – 60mm.  It is suggested that heights of 35 – 45mm [possibly slightly more] are suitable when the weather is hot and dry.  Switch to a lower cut height [around 20-25mm] once more regular rain is imminent.  Always remember that you do not want to remove more than one third of the sward height at any one mowing.

It is better to manage your turf and even avoid too much mowing.  You can achieve a good quality zoysia turf with maybe 50% of the water demand [ currently up to 50% of the 6-8mm a day of evapo-transpiration in Darwin] applied on every second or third day] especially if the turf has good soil cover.  Would you prefer mowing weekly or every three or four weeks?  It can be done to manage water, fertiliser and mow frequency to achieve a good turf that is functional and looks good, and is mown at 4 week intervals [ but check for weeds too].

You want your turf to develop a deep strong root system that can access water from up to around 150mm [ or more] deep in the soil profile, and not the shallow 25mm deep roots promoted by short watering that only superficially wets the profile to 25 – 40mm.  

Infrequently mown zoysia as a median strip in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Longer, less frequent irrigation is definitely superior and aids developing a robust root system that can be functionally efficient in scavenging water.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Biosecurity - Fruit Flies - Taxonomy Improves- Species Combined

Media release: What’s in a name? Everything - if you’re a fruit fly

29 October, 2014

A global research effort has finally resolved a major biosecurity issue: four of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests are actually one and the same.

For twenty years some of the world’s most damaging pest fruit flies have been almost impossible to distinguish from each other. The ability to identify pests is central to quarantine, trade, pest management and basic research.

Fruit flyIn 2009 a coordinated research effort got underway to definitively answer this question by resolving the differences, if any, between five of the most destructive fruit flies: the Oriental fruit fly, the Philippine fruit fly, the Invasive fruit fly, the Carambola fruit fly, and the Asian Papaya fruit fly. These species cause incalculable damage to horticultural industries and food security across Asia, Africa, the Pacific and parts of South America.

The Philippine fruit fly was formally recognised as the same species as the Asian Papaya fruit fly in 2013. The latest study goes further, conclusively demonstrating that they are also the same biological species as the Oriental and Invasive fruit flies. 

These four species have now been combined under the single name: Bactrocera dorsalis, the Oriental fruit fly. The closely-related Carambola fruit fly remains distinct.

Professor Tony Clarke, Chair of Fruit Fly Biology and Management from the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (PBCRC) and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), believes the integrated multidisciplinary nature of the project leaves little doubt the species are identical.

“More than 40 researchers from 20 countries examined evidence across a range of disciplines, using morphological, molecular, cytogenetic, behavioural and chemoecological data to present a compelling case for this taxonomic change,” he said. “This outcome has major implications for global plant biosecurity, especially for developing countries in Africa and Asia,” said Professor Clarke. “For example, Invasive (now Oriental) fruit fly has devastated African fruit production with crop losses exceeding 80 per cent, widespread trade restrictions with refusal of shipments into Europe and Japan, and significant economic and social impacts to farming communities.”

Fruit fly map

Keeping exotic fruit fly out is a major concern for Australian biosecurity agencies. While an outbreak of Papaya fruit fly near Cairns in the mid-1990s inflicted $A100 million in eradication and industry costs, current estimates rate the Oriental fruit fly as the biggest threat to Australian plant biosecurity, with the total cost to the nation of an invasion estimated at $A1 billion. 

Combining the four species will mean a major reassessment of Australia’s exotic fruit fly risk.

Fruit fly map

“Globally, accepting these four pests as a single species will lead to improved international cooperation in pest management, more effective quarantine measures, reduced barriers to international trade, the wider application of established post-harvest treatments, improved fundamental research and, most importantly, enhanced food security for some of the world’s poorest nations,” said Professor Clarke.

The paper, B. papayae, B. invadens, and B. dorsalis synonymy, is published today in the journal Systematic Entomology: and is a collaboration between 33 research organisations in 20 countries, supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

More information and interviews: Tony Steeper, PBCRC Communications Manager, 0417 697 470,

Media release: What’s in a name? Everything - if you’re a fruit fly - Plant Biosecurity CRC

Media release: What’s in a name? Everything - if you’re a fruit fly - Plant Biosecurity CRC

Monday, October 27, 2014

More Factory Vegetable Production - from Toshiba now

Toshiba has converted one of its former semiconductor plants in Yokosuka, Japan into a vegetable farm with the aim of producing 3 million bags of vegetables a year.
Shipment of the first crop of vegetables from the clean room farm is scheduled for the end of October 2014.
Toshiba’s says its closed-type plant factory uses state-of-the-art technology to raise crops and operates under almost aseptic conditions. Crops being grown in the idle semiconductor factory include leaf lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach, mizuna and herbs.
The diversification into agriculture could bring in 300 million yen [ 3 million A$ approx] of income for Toshiba in vegetable sales.
Toshiba is utilising the existing cleanroom infrastructure in its plant factories to grow the vegetables in close to sterile conditions. By minimising the presence and thus the damage caused by germs, Toshiba says its crops have an extended period of freshness and shelf life.
The factory is equipped with a wide range of technologies and know-how from across the Toshiba Group, including fluorescent lighting with an output wavelength optimised for vegetable growth; air-conditioning systems that maintain constant temperature and moisture level; remote monitoring systems to track growth; and sterilisation systems for packing materials.

Toshiba is also using a production management system based on that used for its semiconductor device production.

While this is some new news, similar efforts are also underway in Singapore as well as other parts of Japan to grow vegetables indoors.

Will this approach to technology continue to be a major new direction for vegetable production particularly where and is more limited, or there are potential issues with a need for clean production?

Could this be used for a range of crops including melons and smaller fruited crops such as zucchinis?   An interesting conundrum given the current disease issues facing the crop in some parts of the world, including Australia? 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

US Drought - Cause Explained

There seems to now be an explanation about the cause of the drought that has affected the western states of the USA over the past year or so.

The phenomenon was also present in some earlier droughts in the area including all the big ones recorded by western civilisation in the region.

The same atmospheric phenomenon that emerged during the winter of 1933 to 1934 [ the biggest drought ever recorded] is also present today. This high-pressure ridge over the West Coast deflects storms holding much-needed rain to the north, and may be causing the current drought crippling California, the researchers said.

More information is here -;_ylt=A0LEV0M9f0RU5UAAXqtXNyoA

This does not solve the drought but may provide some ideas in prediction for future events.  It does not seem to be going away - at all.

The drought has had some devastating effects on irrigated and dryland agriculture in the whole western region, with implications extending across the world as well.  So much of the specialist crops grown in the west of the USA flow into world food and commodity supplies - almonds, pistachios, pecans, dates, cotton, melons, onions, even lucerne / alfalfa.  Even causing major effects on urban communities [ although many do use a lot of water and could reduce use a lot].  A sort of reminder to Australians who suffered through a 10 year drought across southern Australia.

It is still a significant issue in the USA, with more in the story below here.  Much of the SW is expected to get worse over the next period.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Beef Exported than Used in Australia - McDonalds

FAST food giant, McDonald’s, now exports more Australian beef than it uses in its 930 local restaurants.  quite amazing if you think about it

Andrew Gregory, chief executive officer of McDonald's Australia, said the company now exported 41 million kilograms of Australian beef a year, mainly for company use in the United States, South Korea and Japan.

On Tuesday McDonald’s released its new Rump Steak Range which uses rump strips in its ranges of wraps and salads.  Mr Gregory said high-quality, locally-sourced produce was one of the key ingredients in the company’s Australian success story.

He told the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) Congress in Canberra that the company had listened to its customers who wanted more transparency about what was in McDonald’s food and where and how it was produced - and they were interested in animal welfare and sustainability. Mr Gregory said the company wanted to buy its beef from sustainable production systems but was committed to working with producers to accurately define what “sustainable” meant.

McDonald’s had now set out to dispel some of the myths about its foods, including fears its milk shakes contained pig fat and the apple filling in its pies contained chokos.  McDonald’s had opened new online and digital communication channels including the mobile app, Track My Macca’s, and the online tool, Our Food, Your Questions, so customers could ask tough questions about the food they were eating and get information about where it was grown.

Mr Gregory said the company was continuing to innovate, including a new concept in the Sydney suburb of Castle Hill where customers could custom make their own hamburgers using 19 ingredients.

McDonald’s employs 100,000 people across Australia, many of them young workers, as well as many in the mature age group. 

[ adapted from an article in Qld Countrylife on line] 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Waste Tyres - Not Necessarily Anymore

We have been associated with some technology to use end of life tyres in civil construction.  It works very well and is described at .

But more is happening in this space with a lot of success using tyres in steel making.

UNSW collaborated with industry partner OneSteel to develop ‘green steel’ technology, wherein old tyres and plastics provide a source of carbon to replace a significant proportion of the non-renewable coke used to make steel in electric arc furnaces.
The ‘green steel’ technology invented at UNSW has now achieved a major milestone, with its use in Australia preventing more than two million waste rubber tyres from ending up in landfill. The discarded tyres were used by OneSteel, an Arrium company to manufacture steel at its Sydney and Melbourne facilities.
UNSW Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla collaborated closely with OneSteel to develop the polymer injection technology.
Professor Sahajwalla, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT@UNSW) in the Faculty of Science said they were thrilled to have surpassed the two-million tyre milestone. The achievement demonstrates the benefits of collaborations between researchers and industry.
Under an agreement with UNSW’s commercialisation company, NewSouth Innovations, OneSteel has sub-licensed the technology to companies in Thailand, South Korea and the United Kingdom and has plans to further commercialise it around the globe.
Daniel Miles, Manager Steelmaking Solutions at OneSteel observes that close collaboration between OneSteel and UNSW has turned an innovative idea into a manufacturing reality. He explains that polymer injection technology is not only good for the environment, but also offers financial benefits for the steel manufacturer in terms of reduced electricity consumption, lower carbon injectant costs as well as yield and productivity improvements.
Professor Sahajwalla is now working towards her goal of a 100 per cent recyclable car, developing high-temperature technology that can turn waste glass and plastic into valuable metallic alloys – an approach that could also be used to transform electronic waste.
Professor Sahajwalla was awarded $2.2 million earlier this year by the Federal Government to establish a ‘green manufacturing’ research hub at UNSW, with industry partners including Arrium, Brickworks Building Products, Jaylon Industries and Tersum Energy.
In August, Professor Sahajwalla was awarded a prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowship worth $2.37 million.

This work is absolutely awesome and demonstrates how innovative thinking can solve BIG problems!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Home of Bauxite .......and Aluminium

One of the locations seen while on holiday was the second most beautiful village in France.  Mont St Michel in Normandy is No1, and this les Baux en Provence, in southern France, No2.

Quite nice too...........but  lo and behold, it is also famous for another important reason.

Think of the name  - Les Baux.  Near this village in around 1821 a local found a new mineral rock - and it now bears the name bauxite.!!!

Especially relevant to a person from north Australia - with both Gove in the NT and Weipa in Queensland on opposite sides of the Gulf of Carpentaria, between them producing a large chunk of the world's bauxite today.

Read the inscription - pretty easy, even though in French.
Story of Bauxite

Bauxite from near Les Baux

Village narrow laneway

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Long Holiday

Everyone needs one at times........and yes, your regular blogger has been on holidays on the other side of the world where regular blogging was just a tad tricky.

Back online now..........