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At a press conference this morning a new location has been announced where citrus canker has been detected - the Marrakai area SE of Darwin.

The Press release is here - http://mediareleases.nt.gov.au/mediaRelease/26747
As noted, once again as for all others, it is present on nursery stock supplied from a single nursery in the Darwin area.

While there seems to be no detection of the disease on commercial citrus producers so far, the question that is absolutely pertinent has not been openly explored.........what is the origin of the infection in the nursery?  Everyone seems to be skirting around this issue, or at least can the identification of possible sources be explained, and also how long it may have been present.

So far the traceback is extending to 12 months before first confirmation, so presumably, it may have been around in the nursery for that period, or up to that period.

While getting on with methodical work locating the movement of material from the nursery continues [ and there seems to be evidence quite a lot have gone interstate], the method of infection is not openly discussed, or argued.

Maybe it was windborne spores .......technically possible, if insects can move into the region from airborne travel in monsoonal weather [ blue tongue insect vectors for example].
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Delta T is used by the agricultural industry. It is an important indicator for acceptable spraying conditions. It is indicative of evaporation rate and droplet lifetime. Delta T is calculated by subtracting the wet bulb temperature from the dry bulb temperature. When applying pesticides, Delta T should ideally be between 2 and 8, and not greater than 10. Select the right Delta T to determine the best weather conditions for spraying(PDF 593 Kb).

The diagram below relates air temperature and relative humidity to values of Delta T.


This detail comes from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and Delta T values are generally available on many site pages, especially where regular automatic data collection is occurring.

Considered a very useful tool if you are spraying agrochemicals, with a guide being that if in the range of 3-7, it is okay to be spraying [ a 2-8 range is about the safe limit as above hence a small safety margin for security].

You can check for previous conditions as a check for likely conditions the next day in many areas where weather is reasonably stable.

In the Top End, evening and early morning are generally safest, with the Delta -T value within a suitable range, but......not always.

If you can, plan ahead and check just before spraying.  Warm temperatures will drive it up, but there is often a guide for many chemicals to use below 30C, sometimes a bit difficult to achieve, so less effectiveness might be expected.

It may be possible to adjust spray parameters - pressure, droplet size and spray direction for example to compensate for poor conditions if spray events are critical, but often it may be prudent to wait a little time for better conditions eg early am or evening. 

In the dry, but cooler dry season in the north, it is quite common for the Delta T to be well above 10 in the afternoon, when both above 30C is common and RH is very low [less than 30%] - obviously avoid this time for spraying!!

There are commercial services available from a number of agribusiness firms, some of which do add some additional options.  However, with the Delta T values and graph available, you can quickly check yourself too for no real cost, except your time to check.  It is simple, but a desirable check before spraying.
  

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Two biosecurity issues have emerged recently in the Darwin area, both with potentially catastrophic outcomes for Australian agriculture if not solved.

A few weeks ago citrus canker was detected in a nursery near Darwin, and subsequently found on six properties in the near Darwin area.  Today it has been announced now also found in the Kununurra /Wyndham area of WA with the source apparently from an NT nursery.

This is potentially a  major issue for the Australian citrus industry.  Early days, but eradicating it will be a big task.  Yet, in Florida where outbreaks occur with some monotony, it is also regularly eradicated from large orchards but using a cut and burn approach.  Serious stuff requiring a serious approach.

The other is a detection of Asian honey bees in Karama, a Darwin suburb.  The swarm has been eliminated, but they are seeking any nests and these require checking for varroa mite, the main problem.  This is some distance from the Darwin port, and with ports seen as a likely point of entry, the distance away from the port is perplexing.  Will be more to come on this one too.

If detected there are larger implications for the whole Australian honey and queen bee industry [ yes, Australia exports queen bees!].

Both early days, and there is more on this web site, and the ABC Rural has had stories on both subjects recently.

See - https://dpir.nt.gov.au/citrus-canker 

A word of advice - check your citrus tree or trees for citrus canker!! 
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This is a very clever idea that is sustainable and could replace expanded polystyrene which tends to be single use packaging.

Friday, 04 May, 2018 | Supplied by: WoolCool
Woolcool Australia has been acknowledged at the 2018 WorldStar Packaging Awards for its innovative insulated packaging solution, made from a product that is both sustainable and effective — sheep’s wool.
The Packaging Awards were presented at the Australian Institute of Packaging National Conference, held on 2 May in Surfers Paradise. Woolcool won bronze in the Packaging that Saves Food category for the development of its packaging solution, made from sheep’s waste wool combined with a recyclable, food grade liner.
Wool is a good insulation material as it is extremely effective at absorbing moisture from the air, which creates stable temperatures through minimising humidity and condensation. Woolcool’s technology combines a complex blend of wool fibres from different breeds of sheep to provide consistent optimal insulative properties. This wool is felted into a liner and sealed within a recyclable food grade film.
The result is a packaging product that keeps cold products cold and hot products hot, with the added benefit of a protective cushion to safeguard products in transit. These thermal qualities enable the product to ‘save food’ by reducing the wastage often experienced using traditional insulated packaging in the transport and delivery of temperature-sensitive food.
Sustainable, renewable, biodegradable, compostable, recyclable and re-usable, the product has been shown to outperform synthetic packaging materials, including polystyrene. It also has the potential to open new markets for cool chain supply companies, as it is allowing frozen and chilled products to be transported much greater distances and still arrive in the same fresh condition.
Woolcool is proudly endorsed by Planet Ark, with the latter stating that the increasing use of expanded polystyrene (EPS) boxes for home grocery delivery services and pre-prepared meals is resulting in a range of negative environmental impacts.
“Latest statistics indicate that only 29.4% of EPS is currently recycled and the remainder either goes to landfill or ends up polluting our environment and waterways,” said Planet Ark Partner Relations Manager Kristie Baker.
“Woolcool offers a real alternative to traditional insulated packaging like EPS and we encourage businesses to shift their reliance from petrochemical-based products like EPS to renewable alternatives like Woolcool.”
Howarth says that since Woolcool was launched in Australia and New Zealand, an estimated 2.5 million boxes of polystyrene have been removed from the environment.
“That’s just a tiny fraction of the total number of petrochemical-based boxes used once and discarded across Australia and New Zealand every year,” she said. “Imagine the difference we could make if we eliminated polystyrene insulated boxes from our environment altogether — it’s now possible!”
Image credit: Woolcool.
Online: www.woolcool.com.au 
Phone: 02 9665 2665
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At Beef Week in Rockhampton in early May 2018, the  Queensland Senator Matt Canavan launched the Blackfella Beef concept.

Quite a few news articles on line and worth a read.


The idea of Blackfella Beef was developed by the Wangan Jagalingou and Western Kangoulu Indigenous groups and has garnered financial support from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the University of Southern Queensland.  The image below is of Jonathan Malone and Kelvin Dunrobin launching  Blackfella Beef at Beef Week  with Stairmaster the champion Senepol bull.
The next step is to identify how many Indigenous-owned cattle enterprises there are in Queensland that could market their beef products under the brand.
With a significant number of beef properties owned and /or operated by indigenous Australians, predominantly across north Australia, the concept has a lot of marketing potential.  There seems to be a degree of support among indigenous people in the industry, at least in Queensland so far.  Certainly there are many large cattle properties in the NT and the NW of WA that are owned and operated by local indigenous groups that could be part of such a group.  

But it has to do more than just be an indigenous brand - if it does not offer quality beef it will be wasted.  It has to offer advantage or it will be meaningless.

Quality beef includes genetics, stock handling, quality as well as seasonal issues, especially across the north, and management - on and off the property and through to customer quality and branding.  Certainly a lot to consider.

Will it be organic beef?  With organic beef a fast growing commodity, many of the northern properties could be set up to qualify for this category, but often handling through the slaughter process can be problematical to maintain authenticity.

There is a long way to go yet.




image copyright  to ABC Capricornia: Inga Stünzner
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We are being advised by the BOM of a week of very cold weather that is coming next week - say 13 - 21 May 2018.

Some in the BOM are saying some of the coldest weather for many years is expected across southern and eastern areas of Australia next week.

Cold weather will turn almost all zoysia turf areas a golden tan or yellow colour.  Little can be done to avoid it.

A very common and totally normal issue in China and Korea in winter [ both have extensive naturalised zoysia grass regions] as well as in some parts of the USA where zoysia is used.  It is well known here in Australia eg parts of Melbourne in cold winters, but not necessarily every year.

So be aware - your zoysia lawn is unlikely to die, but is also likely to not be green in the cooler weather if heavily affected.

Recovery is expected in warmer weather in spring.

First plot - dormant zoysia turf in winter -fescues green behind [US photo] 
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So far there has been a relatively modest need for safe disposal of solar panels - most are going onto the roof and not off the roof!

Elsewhere in the world though some areas are now discussing how this disposal of the solar panels at "end of life" can be managed effectively.


The growth in solar energy use over the past 25 years has been exponential, at times being called a "sunrush". In addition to increasing global capacity from 100 MW to over 300 GW in that time, costs in 2017 were an impressive 86% less than in 2009!
A solar array in rural area
One emerging concern, however, results from the fact that the effective life cycle of a typical solar panel is about 25 years. The glass and metal material from retired photovoltaic (PV) panels will begin to add up to millions of metric tons in the near term, and current recycling infrastructure may not be sufficient for dealing with such a large quantity of these materials.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the process of recycling solar panels is fairly complicated, involving heat systems that burn up the adhesives as well as other methods used to separate out the crystalline silicon and the precious metals in the panels. The wide variety of materials used—from glass, aluminum, and synthetic sealing materials to metals like lead, copper, and gallium—makes it difficult to efficiently process and recycle them. Mark Robards, director of special projects for ECS Refining in the USA, says, “Nearly 75% of the material that gets separated out is glass, which is easy to recycle into new products but also has a very low resale value” (quoted on the website Ensia.com). 
If they aren’t recycled, PV panels in many jurisdictions around the world cannot be sent to landfills since they are made with heavy metals and other toxic substances that can contaminate the surrounding soil, air, and water.  And not a lot to effectively solve the problem is occurring in Australia [maybe okay in South Australia].
Along with the current difficulties of recycling solar panels, the changing makeup of the panels themselves presents a challenge. As manufacturers continue to improve their technology, they search for more cost-effective ways to construct panels. These methods often involve using alternative components—like a material called perovskite—rather than more easily recyclable materials like silver and copper. While solar panel costs are dropping and enabling the technology to become more widespread, the need for better recycling infrastructure is growing every year as more and more panels reach the end of their life span.
Large commercial solar plant
The solar energy industry in the US may take inspiration from a recycling association in Europe called PV Cycle which has developed a process for PV module recycling that is both environmentally and economically conscious. In 2016, they achieved a 96% recycling rate, a new record for silicon-based solar panel recycling. The head of Treatment & Operations at PV Cycle, Olmina Della Monica, remarks that their success “is the result of both continuous improvement and intensive research and development along the value chain.” Here in Australia there has been so far, little recognition of the emerging and potential problem, and with solar energy development widespread across remote areas, safe disposal is looming as expensive and difficult.
In contrast to the US, Europe’s PV panel disposal management is regulated by the EU’s WEEE (Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive. Manufacturers of solar cells must obey legal requirements and specific recycling standards, operating with the mindset that these panels will need to be recycled at the end of their life span. There is no similarly strict control in the US, but California has initiated legislation on solar panel disposal that supports the PV module industry in making end-of-life management of PV modules convenient for both consumers and the public. 
As the “sunrush” continues, legislation like this will hopefully become ubiquitous across some of the major adoptors including China, Australia and the USA.  If solutions are not explored and widely developed the disposal of these panels will be a serious and very significant waste problem.  Designing for easy separation of components and metals would be a sensible start to better disposal and recycling options.
[some material based on an article by Jessica Read in Forrester Daily News April 30 2018]
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It is time to put away the thoughts about planting zoysia seed in Australia - at least for some months.  Possible exception might be for northern Australia, but even there, it might be prudent to wait for a while, which I shall discuss a bit more.

As I write this blog today, the BOM is predicting some seriously cool weather approaching Australia from the south and west - with the coming weekend of 12 and 13 May expected to be very cool [more northern areas] to very cold in the south.  But.......not before time really.

However, while planting is not wise for some months, it does allow adequate planting and preparation time, with an emphasis on absolutely minimising or eliminating weeds in the projected sowing areas.  ideally, use the germinate - grow a little - kill technique for weeds, using herbicides with glypghosate a prime choice [ but not the only option], or even tillage.  While it may now be too cool for spring and summer growing plants to emerge, they will come with the warmer weather from August onwards.  So be prepared!

In northern areas we prefer to see areas established from mid to late August or a little later.  But it is not so much temperature issues, although it is lower although technically suitable, from now on for a while, as the effects of shorter days and cool nights impacting growth,plus with dry season weather, it is often easier to delay, to avoid excessive irrigation needs of several months that can be avoided by a delay to the start until August or about then, but before the weather becomes too hot requiring much greater irrigation requirements.  Zoysia growth certainly improves from August with warmer weather around, and longer days.

The other good news is that it is likely that adequate Compadre zoysia seed will be available in that period, based on known stock levels now.  This is in stark contrast to the past several years in Australia when seed stock levels were negligible, and with poor chances of getting more.

If considering a new zoysia lawn using seed later in 2018, plan ahead and we are happy to discuss seed supply and site planning with potential customers.  

Best contact is by email to: office@abovecapricorn.com.au  .
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I have made remarks here on my blog about CRISPR gene technology as well as a few posts on gene editing and its relevance to modern agriculture and science in general.  I think it is a marvellous technology tool with enormous potential for variety improvement in agriculture.

A recent post highlighted the fact that the USDA has concluded that using CRISPR gene editing is not the same as creating GMO varieties - as no transgenic change occurs.  This allows a less ardous pathway to commercial use for new products developed through this technology, as they are not GMOs.

The comment below by Bill Gates [the one from Microsoft!] might have more clout than me, but he is a strong supporter of genetic improvements across a wide field and now has close contact with eminent researchers  through heading the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which supports international research and development.  And he supports CRISPR work generally.

It is worth reading..........

link below:

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-04-10/gene-editing-good?cid=nlc-emc-paywall-free-reading-bill-gates-a-20180411
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The US has made much of the loss of intellectual property to China in recent years.  And in agriculture this includes new varieties and the seeds of those new varieties.

A recent court case has highlighted a new variety that seems to have been on its way to China.......but was detected at the US border.

Sobering reading.

----------------------------------------------------

Chinese Scientist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Rice-Smuggling Plot
The researcher stole genetically modified seeds and planned to give them to a crop research institute in China, the US Justice Department says.
By Ashley Yeager | April 5, 2018
FLICKR, BLOGTREPRENEURChinese scientist Weiqiang Zang was sentenced yesterday (April 4) to 121 months in federal prison for conspiring to steal genetically modified rice seeds from Ventria Bioscience while working at its Kansas-based facility. Zhang planned to give the seeds to a research institute in China, according to a statementfrom the US Justice Department.
“Weiqiang Zhang betrayed his employer by unlawfully providing its proprietary rice seeds to representatives of a Chinese crop institute,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan says in the statement. The “sentence demonstrates the significant consequences awaiting those who would steal trade secrets from American companies.”
Zhang, who has a master’s degree in agriculture from Shengyang Agricultural University in China and a doctorate from Louisiana State University, worked as a rice breeder at Ventria Bioscience. The company develops rice seeds that are genetically reprogrammed to produce human serum albumin, a protein found in blood, or lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein found in human milk. The proteins are then extracted for use as therapeutics.  
According to trial evidence, Zhang stole hundreds of the company’s rice seeds and stored them at his home in Manhattan, Kansas. In the summer of 2013, visitors from a crop research institute in China came to Zhang’s home, and Zhang also took them to tour research facilities in Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio. When the visitors returned home in August 2013, US Customs and Border Protection officers found seeds, including ones belonging to Ventria, in their luggage. Last February, Zhang was convicted of one count of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property, and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property.
“Ventria invested years of research and tens of millions of dollars to create a new and beneficial product,” says US Attorney McAllister in statement. “It is vital that we protect such intellectual property from theft and exploitation by foreign interests.”

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