Friday, January 30, 2015

Sanitation Pays Off - BIG TIME for Development in Asia

Globally, the sanitation Millennium Development Goal target is well off track. 

However, many countries in Southeast Asia have made substantial progress, although a number of them will not reach the sanitation MDG target by 2015.

 Many countries have recently revised their sanitation strategies in order to rapidly scale up sanitation and aim for universal access by 2030.

According to a new study from the Water Global Practices Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), sanitation has been shown to have significant economic and social returns in the six countries studied (Cambodia, Yunnan province of China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, and Vietnam) and benefits in both urban and rural settings exceed costs in almost all cases. 

The Economic Assessment of Sanitation Interventions in Southeast Asia found that all sanitation interventions examined have benefits that exceed costs, when compared with “no sanitation facility.” Economic benefits of sanitation are at least five times higher than economic costs in rural areas and at least three times higher for urban areas. 

Other key findings include:
- In rural areas, the most basic sanitation type, the pit latrine, had returns of at least five times its costs in all but one country, Cambodia. Across both wet and dry pit latrines, the returns are highest in Lao PDR at over eight times.
- In urban areas, pit latrines remain a feasible, affordable, and efficient sanitation option in some settings where density is low. Septic tanks were also found to be economically viable in all countries, with economic returns of around two or more per unit spent.

In all countries and for most sanitation technologies, health benefits and time savings accounted for the majority of the overall benefits. 

Some intangible benefits not quantifiable  from the above estimates were also shown to be important to households, including dignity, comfort, prestige, security, gender equality, household cleanliness, and aesthetics of the community environment. Because of inter-personal variation in responses, it was difficult to present population level averages for these intangible benefits. 

The benefits of reduced water pollution from improved fecal sludge or sewage management were not fully counted for those interventions that reduced release of fecal matter into the environment because of the methodological difficulties and data constraints involved in such valuations.

The report, which is part of the second phase of the Economics of Sanitation Initiative (ESI) launched initially in East Asia in 2007, provides sanitation decision makers with compelling evidence that directly compares the costs and benefits of alternative sanitation options across multiple contexts and countries.

Read the blog from Guy Hutton: "Why choosing the preferred sanitation solution should be more like grocery shopping."

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Zoysia Seed To Develop a New Sports Oval - Part 2 - Seedlings at Four Weeks from Sowing and Weed Management

While early seedling growth was very good, the dreaded weeds then started to appear!

While herbicides for use on seeded zoysia have been a bit tricky in being able to choose one that had minimum collateral damage to the small zoysia seedling yet was efficacious in removing weedy plants, we decided to use quinclorac [trade name Drive], which will deal with some weedy annual grasses and many broadleaved and leguminous weeds, selectively, without damaging the zoysia seedlings.

Timing is still important...............very important.  It is important to apply Drive in the period of 14 - 28 days after emergence, and in our situation we had major emergence about 8 - 9 days after sowing and we sprayed 25 days after sowing, about 16-17 days after emergence.

Results have been good, with strong control of leguminous and broadleaved weeds, and some weedy seedling grasses.  More work will be needed over the next four weeks to deal with some of the weeds remaining which includes some broadleaved weeds as well as sedges and grasses.

About 4 weeks after sowing we also applied additional fertiliser [ Yara Hydrocomplex ] at a rate equivalent to about 30kg/ha of N.  Included was another approx 10 kg/ha P and 35kg/ha of K and more trace elements and sulfur.

With other species, more fertiliser is used eg couch, but trials have shown there is little additional growth benefit by applying more at this stage to seed sown zoysia, either Zenith or Compadre.  We expect to apply more fertiliser in about another four weeks.

Seedlings are growing well, weeds are mostly dying and the oval is developing steadily.  Yes, there is some uneven seedling distribution, but we did have a very high intensity rainfall event soon after sowing which resulted in washouts, which would have been much worse without the hydroseeding and use of mulch.

Over the past four weeks an early morning irrigation was applied almost every day, along with two very short daytime irrigation periods to boost dampness near the soil surface.  Some might have thought this irrelevant, as there has been quite a reasonable amount of rain - almost daily [ a few days break here and there] but it is essential to keep the surface damp in this initial period, especially as we often had hot sunny days.  Irrigation is now being reduced to three or four times a week, even though we are still receiving an occasional amount of  effective rain. Irrigation will be likely further reduced in coming days, if rain continues.

The next major exercise will be to start light mowing to enhance lateral growth of zoysia and help control any remnant weeds, and to continue with several other herbicide options for ongoing weed management.

weeds dying amid zoysia seedlings after selective herbicide application

close up of zoysia seedlings

overview of oval development at 29 days from sowing- some unevenness, but most areas with high seedling density

close up of dying weeds among zoysia seedlings  - note leaf twisting and colouration

overview of weeds dying at one corner with plenty of zoysia seedlings developing

All photos taken 29 days from sowing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

God and Lawn Care

It is most important to not take yourself too seriously............

Afterall, when you are close to a work area, you can fail to look outside all.

A bit of a light hearted approach to turf management............


God and Lawn Care


Frank,   ...  You know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet?  What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago?   I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

   It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

   Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

   Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

   The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

   Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice or more a week, for some areas of grass called golf courses and sportsfields.

   They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

   Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

   They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

   No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
   Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

   Yes, Sir.

   These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

   You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

   What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

   You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

   No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

   After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

   And where do they get this mulch?

   They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

   Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

   'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....
   Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.....................

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

NEW Nickel Accumulating Tropical Plants Discovered

​New nickel accumulating plants uncovered
Researchers have uncovered dozens of new nickel hyperaccumulator plants in a study in Borneo.

Anthony van der Ent, working with the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (CMLR) with the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute has discovered the new plants species in Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu world heritage site.

The researchers found local trees contain some of the world’s highest concentrations of nickel in plants.

Mid last year scientists also uncovered a similar plant in the Philippines, Rinorea niccolifera, which can accumulate up to 18 000 ppm of nickel without being affected.  "Hyperacccumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, 'phytoremediation' and 'phytomining'," Dr. Augustine Doronila, from University of Melbourne said 

“From magnets to mobile phones and car motors, the world’s population uses a huge amount of nickel and the availability of mineable deposits, and the costs and complexity of recovery, are potentially limiting future supplies van der Ent said.  "Hyperacccumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, 'phytoremediation' and 'phytomining'," Dr. Augustine Doronila, from the University of Melbourne said.

The trees uncovered in Boreneo contain up to three per cent nickel “so there is the real potential to develop large nickel ‘farms’ in the Tropics, which would be of benefit to the environment and local communities who have previously dealt with the impacts of mining.”

CMLR Director Professor David Mulligan added: “By studying intact landscapes such as Kinabalu Park, researchers are gaining insights into plant development and growth and an understanding of the relationships between the biotic and abiotic environments – knowledge that is enormously useful for informing strategies relating to mine site rehabilitation.”

The use of hyperaccumlators has a long and storied history in mining.

Previously plants known thrive in soils with heavy metals were used to uncover metal deposits.

The technique has been recorded as being used in China since the 5th century BC, and in fact Sweden's former Viscaria copper mine was actually named after the Viscaria aplina flower which prospectors used to discover the deposit, as the flower is known to grow in soils with heavy copper concentrations.

Australian natives such as Stackhouse tyronii and ­Hybanthus floribundus can also be used as lead and nickel indicators due to their hyper-accumulator ability, according to The Lead Group and to research carried out by CQ University professor Nanjappa Ashwatha and Dr. Poonam Bhatia.

In fact "Stackhousia try­onii is a serpentine-endemic, rare, native Australian plant and is reported to hyperaccumulate nickel up to 55,500 mg g-1 on a dry weight basis," the group explained.

In 2013 it was also reported that native eucalypts were thriving around the highly acidic decommissioned Mt Morgan gold mine, near Rockhampton, and highlighted the potential for the plants to be used in mine site remediation.  "Seedlings were growing in highly acidic soil where the pH shouldn't support them, and they are thriving," local councillor Neil Fisher said.  "On the very edge of the water, 300-400 eucalypt seedlings are growing where plants normally would have died."

[ originally reported by Cole Latimer on 14 January 2015 ]

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Zoysia Seed to Develop a New Sports Oval - Part 1 - Hydroseeding

Hydroseeding works very well when you have tough conditions.

A monsoonal burst of more than a week,  over 100mm of rain in less than 2 hours  initially, continued ongoing heavy rain during the week [ more than 250mm], relatively short sunny breaks and lots of heavy cloud..........

Yes, a small amount of washout, but very small areas affected.

And at nine days from sowing when seedlings first appeared ..........was .looking very promising.

A true minimal cultivation operation based around a spray with glyphosate [ Roundup], a quick respray to kill off a few small missed spots after 4 days, hydroseeding with fibre mulch and zoysia seed after 7 days, when all plants were dead.

The recommended option of a short period of irrigation several times each day during sunlight hours was used [3 x 10 mins each time] to keep the surface damp - raining or not, with a slightly longer period early each morning to ensure adequate moisture at the surface - both VERY critical.  This irrigation started once sown, and monsoonal conditions did not start for several days after sowing.  Conditions at sowing were very hot - days around 34-35C, nights at 27-29C.

By day nine it was establishing very well. Yes, a few legume weeds were emerging which can be hand weeded, but will most likely be spot sprayed in a week or so.

There will be more of the story to come in the next two months as it develops.

So far it is a very promising early establishment.

hydroseeding with seed, fertiliser  and mulch 

Completed hydroseeding of oval - green from fibre mulch

seedlings at 11 days from sowing

yes - a few weeds too among seedlings  at 11 days
A bit of washout but still plenty of seedlings - at 11 days
general view at 11 days from seeding -- plenty of seedlings emerged - sun needed to boost growth

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Expansion Forecast for Buffalo Meat Markets - India to Dominate

The sustained increase over the past three years in Indian buffalo (carabeef) exports is projected to continue, according to a report recently commissioned by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) analysing the industry and its impact on the world beef market over the next five years.

Shipments of approximately 2.2 million tonnes carcass weight equivalent (cwe) Indian carabeef are forecast for 2020.

This assertion is based on the projected growth of India’s dairy sector, of which carabeef is a by-product, continued demand in international markets, and the abundant supply of water buffalo throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Beef consumption is shunned on religious grounds by Hindus, who account for approximately 80 per cent of the Indian population, leaving a substantial surplus from the routine culling of unproductive and dry buffalo cows for export.

Carabeef exporters have established a strong foothold in markets that are expected to expand under the combined power of population growth and higher per capita incomes, like China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

According to the report, Indian carabeef is currently trading below Australian beef in global markets, yet it is apparent that carabeef prices are rising to follow trends for Australian and Brazilian product.

Forecasts for growth in the Muslim and Christian segments of the Indian population are expected to underpin an increase in domestic disappearance by around 900,000 tonnes cwe, which would mean approximately 14 kilograms per capita consumption among that cohort by 2020.

Additionally, assuming no changes in the status of the current grey channel trade via Vietnam and Thailand, exports to China are expected to reach 1.375 million tonnes cwe, and account for about 60pc of India’s carabeef exports.

Importantly, the report indicates that India is unlikely to supply Australia’s traditional markets within the short to medium term.

Furthermore, the modelling suggests that while increased supply of carabeef will put downward pressure on world beef prices, the current market is sufficiently flexible to redistribute product to different markets in response to relatively small changes in price.

This demand for buffalo and buffalo meat should also have a positive effect on Australian export of buffalo for live export markets, as well as some modest potential for improved export of boxed carabeef meat into some markets.
  1. Australian buffalo
Australia cannot match the supply from Indian sub continent sources, but with some markets requiring foot and mouth disease freedom assurances there is a place for our export products.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Energy Efficiency - Where Do YOU Rank?

Guess Which Countries Rank the Highest in Energy Efficiency

Quite interesting reading and most do not quite believe the high level achieved by China [BTW - also very significant user of wind energy].

Australia is okay, but could be better.

From: JonesOil

Monday, January 05, 2015

Ebola Rapid Detection Kits

STMicroelectronics and partners create early Ebola detector
ST MICROELECTRONICS has worked with Clonit and Italy's National Institute for Infectious Diseases to create a portable analyser that detects Ebola in less than 75 minutes.

While not yet in production early testing is very promising, and could lead to rapid development of commercial test kits.

Early detection would be a major step forward for those many subject to infection as well as the people caring for them in so many different countries and capacities.

The portable analyser, currently in prototype stages, is based on the Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) molecular biology technique.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) amplifies a target biological material, such as the Ebola virus, contained in a tiny sample of blood so it can be detected. It is a common technique for many uses both medical and scientific where DNA is used a s a conformation technique.  The key procedure in PCR is the accurately controlled cycle of repetitive heating and cooling of the biological material that is subsequently evaluated against biological markers loaded on the microchip.

The next step will be to optimise the point-of-care Ebola-detection solution for large-scale deployment, including innovations to minimise the threat of infection when handling the biological sample. 

ST Microelectronics and its partners will also aim to lower the costs of the device.

The prototype analyzer kit has been successfully tested for compliance with applicable international standards by the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Spallanzani, one of the two Italian institutions designated by the Italian Ministry of Health as a reference center for care and treatment of Ebola.

The kit detects the presence of the Ebola virus with extreme accuracy in just a few microliters of human-blood samples and the accuracy of the result has been confirmed with a blood sample diluted up to a million times. The high sensitivity of the test allows the detection of the virus at a very early stage, which can significantly help limit the spread of the deadly disease.

An extractor extracts the virus RNA from a loaded blood sample. A stamp-sized silicon microchip from STMicroelectronics then acts as a miniaturised reactor and reproduces, in micrometer scale, the entire process of amplification and screening of the extracted genetic material on which the extracted RNA is loaded, to be then reverse-transcribed into DNA and amplified according to the RT-PCR methodology.

Silicon’s low thermal capacity and the minute volumes of tested samples significantly reduce reaction times and allow the fast temperature cycling that enables quick amplification of complex biological materials without compromising accuracy and reliability.

Clonit reagents then perform a Quantitative Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (viral load) in compliance with all standards and controls required by the international quality-control regulations.

In the final step, a STMicroelectronics-developed portable optical reader detects the presence of viral DNA in the sample, and sends the data to a PC which then processes and presents the information in graphical form.

The device is not just accurate, but small enough and fast enough to be of extreme application in urgent situations and for use in the field.

[ reported originally on December 16 2014 - but important enough to be reproduced here.]

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Uptake in Seed Use for Zoysia Turf Development - Need to Manage Weeds in Established Areas Not Just Mow

Both Compadre and its close cousin Zenith varieties  have seen a significant expansion of usage in domestic turf areas this Australian warm season, with Zenith sometimes being used because of tight seed supply for Compadre, still seen as the preferred variety.

While northern Australia continues with increasing use domestically, there has been some commercial use including where zoysia [ often Compadre as first choice] has been mandated as part of the commercial specifications.

As well, expansion has continued with Compadre especially being now very widely used as sod in commercial developments and areas of sod production have also increased, with Compadre now commonly the specified turf sod of first choice around much of north Australia.

The lateral growth [ rather than increased vertical growth], stolon density and potentially reduced mowing and maintenance plus overall good aesthetic appearance all contribute to this acceptance commercially.

That said, commercial users also need to understand that mowing is now not the absolute only maintenance required.

With many mowing contractors operating across many types of turf, vigilance and control to prevent entry of other turf species is needed [ often by adherence of seed and plant pieces on mowers], and specially to understand  that there are specific herbicide options to consider to keep the zoysia free of other turf species - with prompt maintenance a necessary practice to remove other, now weedy, turf types, to stop their spread.  Use of glyphosate [ Roundup(trademarked)] is not the only nor first option., although use of wick wiping with glyphosate to remove weedy grasses by killing via their seed heads may be an option for some species.......and yes it works well!  There are also very effective solutions for control of sedges in over watered or wetter areas of the turf area.

Mullumbimby sedge - serious sedge weed 

We can offer agronomic services to assist with weed control in zoysia, based on around 35 years of experience with the species in Australia, USA and Asia.

Where a considerable effort has been placed into higher quality turf, then it is important to also devote some effort and money to manage the areas more effectively for long term performance.  Do not ignore the turf weeds!!