Friday, September 16, 2016

Establishing a New Turf Area - What About the Weather - Australia 2016?

For those along the east and south east coast [even as far west as Adelaide] it has been a resurgence of cooler weather in mid September.  While many might have been thinking about preparing a new area for seed or turf sod, it is a bit of a setback - more cool, wet and poor sunshine weather for September.

But looking at longer term averages it does seem to indicate that October is about the earliest safe time to get motivated to develop your new summer growing turf area in much of the east and south east of Australia.

Planting too early can be a total disaster - with low temperatures meaning slow, uneven, poor germination and emergence as seed reacts to the tough conditions with slow and irregular development and growth.  Also relevant is the amount of cloudy conditions providing inadequate sunshine for decent seedling growth.  These struggling seedlings can then be exposed to plant diseases and ..........it is a failure, as seedlings die.

Prudence dictates.........wait a little longer into October.

As an example, [ using data from Essendon]

September - mean min temp - 6.7C  and mean max temp - 16.8C
October  - mean min temp - 8.3C and mean max temp - 19.3C.

More recently, daily weather data for Melbourne for September is distinctly cooler than average- http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/dwo/IDCJDW3033.latest.shtml   - shows recent weather for Olympic Park in Melbourne clarifying that cool weather still is common in September 2016.

While Melbourne provides an example, checking BOM data for your location should help you to more effectively plan a successful planting.  Avoid being too early and suffering from poor weather! 

The other notable factor is the amount of sunshine with October much higher than September, with both daylength and solar energy higher in October, which normally boosts growth of seedlings.

It may also be prudent to delay fertiliser application, for a few weeks , with the high recent rainfall likely to cause leaching of nutrients.  Longer term weather forecasting seems to indicate more wet, cool,weather possible over the next few weeks.

While it is normal to expect weather to warm from September, the issue is that this year this is expected to be slower due to ongoing cool and damp weather, with lower insolation.

Outcome - be careful and keep a more vigilant watch on the weather and plan for any turf planting or turf seed sowing to be delayed until maybe mid October.  And be prepared for change.

We would like to sell clients zoysia seed to be ready for sowing - but do strongly urge zoysia seed users to carefully check both long term data averages, and recent monthly data to aid your decision making.  We want to see a successful seed sowing, and can help with data checking if concerned.  Our current view for much of temperate areas in Australia is - wait a few more weeks before sowing summer turf seed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cattle Methane Emissions in Australia - Lower Than We Thought!!

Rs6083 margaretta fahey


Methane emissions from Australian cattle are 24% lower than previously estimated, according to data based on eight years of research into ways to reduce emissions in livestock. 

The new method has been published late in 2015 in the journal Animal Production Science and resulted in an update of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI).

CSIRO’s Ed Charmley said the work was conducted because of concerns about the large differential between NGGI and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methane emission figures for Australian cattle, as well as doubt surrounding the accuracy of previous calculation methodologies used for cattle — particularly northern Australian cattle.  “Different methods used to calculate emissions from livestock in temperate and tropical regions were based on studies done in the 1960s and 1990s, mainly with dairy cattle,” Dr Charmley said.  “Both of these past methods were found to be likely overestimating the emissions from cattle.”

Dr Charmley said the revised method is based on improved ways of estimating ruminant methane emissions from forage-fed beef and dairy cattle, and has been tested against international defaults provided by the IPCC. The method has also brought the NGGI in line with the estimates of the IPCC, much to the delight of Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

“This revelation clearly shows livestock-based emissions are nowhere near what they were thought to be and will help improve the accuracy of Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions estimates,” said MLA General Manager, On-farm Innovation Dr Matthew McDonagh.  “This is positive news for the Australian livestock sector as it seeks to continually improve its production efficiencies and demonstrate its environmental credentials.”

MLA Manager, Sustainable Feedbase,  Tom Davison added that the latest research findings from the National Livestock Methane Program (NLMP) show there are a number of simple management measures producers can implement to substantially reduce methane emissions while increasing productivity.  “Some of these are as simple as integrating leucaena into grazing systems, improving growth rates or herd reproductive performance, while other future techniques may include feeding red-algae to livestock and have been prioritised for further research,” Dr Davison said.  

We look forward to continuing to make further gains in this field for the mutual benefit of both our livestock industries and environmental sustainability.”

Read more: http://sustainabilitymatters.net.au/content/energy/news/cattle-methane-emissions-are-lower-than-we-thought-45757300#ixzz4KD4QqLEp

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New GM Potato in Australia??

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for submissions on a potato that has been genetically modified to reduce both bruising and the amount of acrylamide formed during cooking.

FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Steve McCutcheon said the potato had been modified by inserting genetic sequences from this potato and wild potato varieties.  “Acrylamide is a chemical that can form when certain starchy foods, like potatoes, are cooked or processed,” McCutcheon said. “Bruising of potatoes during processing and production can lead to food waste and economic consequences for growers.

“FSANZ has not identified any public health and safety concerns in its assessment of the potato.”

All FSANZ decisions on applications are notified to ministers responsible for food regulation who can decide to adopt, amend, or reject standards or they can ask for a review.

The closing date for submissions is Friday 30 September 2016.

This approach to insert gene slices into existing plant varieties is a modern development and may technically not even be a true GM variety, when you consider that the gene sequences actually come from existing potatoes.  Most seem to equate GM varieties with gene sequences from dissimilar organisms, even different species or different classes of organisms eg bacterial genes into plants.

Recently some overseas authorities have not classed this approach to variety development as genetic modification, for example some plant varieties where the CRISPR technology has been used to add beneficial genes.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wheat Seeds Photosynthesise! - Startling NEW Discovery



A new photosynthesis discovery at The University of Queensland may help breed faster-growing wheat crops that are better adapted to hotter, drier climates.

A research team led by Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation researcher Professor Robert Henry has today published a paper in Scientific Reports, showing that photosynthesis occurs in wheat seeds as well as in plant leaves.  "This discovery turns half a century of plant biology on its head," Professor Henry said.

"Wheat covers more of the earth than any other crop, so the ramifications of this discovery could be huge. It may lead to better, faster-growing, better-yielding wheat crops in geographical areas where wheat currently cannot be grown."  Professor Henry said the work built on a biological discovery in the 1960s at the old Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Brisbane.  "Many said that discovery should have won a Nobel Prize," he said.  "The Brisbane researchers at that time demonstrated that sugarcane and some other tropically adapted plants had evolved a different photosynthesis pathway than that seen in around 85 per cent of plants."

The classic photosynthesis pathway was known as C3, and plants with the alternative photosynthesising chemistry came to be known as C4 plants, Professor Henry said.  "C4 plants capture carbon faster and have higher growth rates, particularly in subtropical and tropical environments," he said.  "Our research characterised a previously unknown photosynthetic C4 pathway in the seeds of wheat - which is not a C4 plant.  "Like most plants, wheat photosynthesises through its leaves, but we've discovered there is also photosynthesis in the seed.

"This has never been known before, yet the wheat seed is quite green when you peel it off and it is the last part of the plant to die."  Professor Henry said photosynthesis - the process by which plants converted sunlight into energy for growth and produce oxygen - was arguably the most important biological process on earth.  "Wheat has the classic C3 photosynthetic pathway in its leaves, however C3 plants, which include rice, are less efficient in hotter, drier climates," Professor Henry said.

"The holy grail of plant science has long been to bioengineer the photosynthetic pathways in C3 and C4 plants to grow larger, more productive crops that are better adapted to climate change and boost food security.

"The population of the world's tropical regions will soon exceed that of the rest of the world, and this discovery may be important in growing food to meet future demand."

Professor Henry said the discovery was quite unexpected.

"We were looking at the genes in wheat seeds and all the computer systems kept coming back with these C4 genes, which we thought must be wrong because wheat is not a C4 plant," he said.  "Eventually we discovered wheat does have all these C4 genes in different places, on different chromosomes. It's never been known in wheat."

Wheat had been cultivated for 10,000 years and it had always been a C3 plant, Professor Henry said.

"Wheat's photosynthetic pathway evolved 100 million years ago when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were up to 10 times higher than they are today," he said.  "One theory is that as carbon dioxide began to decline, the plant's seeds evolved a C4 pathway to capture more sunlight to convert to energy."

The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation is a UQ institute jointly supported by the Queensland Government.

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This is quite amazing stuff from an agricultural science and plant physiology perspective with longer term potential for more effective biochemical pathways in wheat and maybe other grass grain crops.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sowing Seed of Zoysia Turf - The Weather!

Timeliness is critical in many parts of the Australian mainland for successful sowing of zoysia seed for a turf area.

Not too hot, and not too cold is a good theme.

In northern areas above the Tropic of Capricorn, it is,  in a broad sense okay to sow most times of the year, except for cooler highland areas and inland where nights can be awfully cold in those winter months........avoid them!  We also caution about sowing in most years after April [last year was an exception as it was still very hot at that time] as with cooling and shortening days, while germination and establishment will be okay, it is almost impossible to easily develop a lawn due to cooler conditions with development often delayed until the weather warms after August.

As a best practice guide, sow from early to mid August onwards, when days are warm [above 25C] and nights around 18 -20C, or more.

The amount and quality of light is also important, with the much shorter days prior to August also slowing plant development, even slowing germination as zoysia is very light sensitive at germination.  As days lengthen noticeably from August it provides a boost to young zoysia growth, especially in combination with the arrival of warmer weather.

By October, storm rains are approaching and erosion can be an incredibly tricky issue on a bare site just ready for sowing, so some erosion management on the site is often needed, with a light soil mulch cover often a possible solution. However, it is warmer and germination is often a little quicker.

Ideally, a balance between August through September is mostly the best time to sow, striking a balance between warm enough but also when irrigation to establish the area is most effective and the weather is not so hot that applying water to a new area is often a problem.  It can be that there may even be water restrictions late in the dry season in some locations.

With suitable site management plans in place sowing through to December is certainly feasible, especially using hydroseeding that offers surface protection from the mulch placed on site with the seed.  Avoiding monsoonal weather months is sensible, unless there are very pressing needs, eg experienced landscape professionals.  Even then, more care is needed, and often inter monsoon periods may offer opportunities to get the planting done with less chance of failure.

Elsewhere around Australia in more temperate and sub tropical areas, later sowing is more sensible with September and October more likely to be the appropriate early sowing months.  Avoid late summer [March] and into autumn - there may not be enough time to fully develop the lawn before the cold weather arrives.  Remember that all sites do vary, even with some local minor quirks.

Help is available though,  to allow some strategic planning.........the BOM has excellent long term records for climate statistics for almost everywhere around Australia.  Get online and check your area.

You need daily average maxima to be near or above 20C and minima to be in the 10 - 15C range or more.  If your area is outside this range..........wait until it warms up more.  A prudent two week wait for warmer weather can pay off! 

While these are averages suitable for planning, daily records are also available for the past 24 months, giving a more accurate near term idea of temperature and rainfall trends.

If the weather is still cold........WAIT.  Zoysia is cold tolerant once established, but small young seedlings can be affected by cold weather.

Seed priming may help speed germination.  Read about it in a recent blog post.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Eliminate Food Waste - Repurpose Food!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/growing-population-needs-less-waste-not-more-food-experts_us_57a890b9e4b056bad21619af


The link above takes you to a series of stories about repurposing food to eliminate food waste and help the less fortunate.

Can you do something in your community to eliminate or at least reduce wanton, crazy food waste?

There has to be some smart ideas and worthwhile recipients / charities from your area you can work with or use!


Friday, August 05, 2016

Roadside Grass Slashing - Reimagined and Smarter

Aussie innovators on the road to world markets

article image
An Australian innovation is about to enter world markets to automate the hazardous, costly and never-ending task of slashing roadside grass around millions of poles, fences, safety barriers and signposts lining highways and byways.

Instead of whole teams of roadside workers laboriously manually trimming vegetation around the multitude of safety fence poles and advisory signs involved, the new SlasherTeck innovation uses one man on a tractor to do the job in a fraction of the time. It is also environmentally harmonious, because it drastically reduces the need for chemical spraying of grass and instead delivers a recyclable mulch.  “Not only does this make roadside work safer, but also cuts out a huge part of the hazard for passing traffic that currently has to suddenly slow down for men at work. The job is done much sooner and the hazard is removed much quicker,” says Nathan Boyle of SlasherTeck, which is marketing the machine throughout Australia during the first stage of its world launch.

The patented secret of the SlasherTeck innovation is a rotating triple-bladed mulching unit that can slash around posts. The strong and durable unit, incorporating a single slot to accommodate posts of different sizes, works by being located with a post at its centre and then rotated completely around the post using a hydraulically driven motor and 12 mulching blades. “The slasher cuts the rest of the verge as per normal, then once it approaches a post, the operator engages the post-slashing process, which rotates the blades a full 180 degrees in approximately 10 seconds,” says Nathan Boyle.

The clever cutter, linked with the recently patented Slasher Operation and Asset Management System (SOAMS) has the ability to remember the work it has done, using GPS and Cloud-based technology, so that when the grass grows back it knows where the posts are on a particular stretch of road and can repeat the job it did previously. This Asset Management programme saves further time and cost and further enhances road safety.

SlasherTeck’s innovation is the result of some radically different thinking from its developers Down Under, a consortium of practical-minded businessmen, manufacturing from the Hunter Valley region of NSW.

In their search for a better way to do the job, as requested by local authorities and State Governments, they turned conventional thinking inside out: instead of their machine nibbling at the verges from the outside edges towards the centre of the post, they placed the post at the centre of the cutting action and revolved the cutters around the axis of the post. “It is literally a revolutionary approach,” says consortium member Tom Woods, who with his brother Glenn directs T.W. Woods Construction, a national metal engineering company which has transformed the SlasherTeck from concept to manufactured reality.

The SlasherTeck Consortium – including New Holland Tractors and McConnel Equipment – has conducted extensive trials to ensure the concept works before stepping out into national and world markets. The new machine is built to the same virtually bulletproof standards that go into T.W. Woods’ giant multi-storey train loaders and coal materials handling equipment that the company produces for world leaders in the demanding resources sector.  “We make all our products tough because our markets demand the reliability and credibility of world-class producers. Local and State authorities also deal in big projects and large asset bases where time is money, so they need to know the product is as tough as they come,” said Tom Woods.

Asset Management
SlasherTeck products seamlessly integrate with their own asset management system, SOAMS (Slasher Operation and Asset Management System), a GPS based operation and asset management system that has been designed to accumulate valuable data from each maintenance run.

SOAMS uses a combination of the slasher location, point of engagement, some additional hardware and a custom-built cloud-based app to provide a work-as-executed profile and asset location, type and condition data set.

Components
Reach Arm Mower Head: For long strips of roadside barriers, SlasherTeck has a reach arm mower head that attaches onto a reach arm for the clearing of vegetation around and underneath the barriers, which can stretch on for kilometres at a time. The cutting width is 900mm and the slasher head has three sets of cutting and mulching blades that are driven by high quality hydraulic motors.

Front Mounted Slasher: The front-mounted slasher is the workhorse of the line-up, comprising of two models with cutting widths of 1200mm and 1800mm. This slasher is primarily used for the majority of accessible applications with the ability to clear the vegetation around posts in the same pass. This slasher has three sets of cutting and mulching blades that are driven by high quality hydraulic motors.

Side Shift Tilt Hitch: This unit maximises the effectiveness of the Front Mounted Slasher. It is positioned between the tractor and the Front Mounted Slasher and allows the slasher to be shifted up to 900mm to the off-side and rotates up to a 15 degree angle to meet the ground profile.

Read more at http://www.fatcow.com.au/articles/news/aussie-innovators-on-the-road-to-world-markets-n2525827#3brA8lJfcXq1hPVq.99

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I have not seen any reviews or roadtesting but it does seem to be a very smart idea, and would be a great improvement over existing grass slashing.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Are Take Away Coffee Cups REALLY Recyclable?



Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall standing in front of a bus made of cups

A waste mountain of coffee cups........

Every day hundreds of thousands of Britons put their coffee cup into a recycling bin. They're wrong - those cups aren't recyclable, and the UK throws away 2.5bn of them a year. It must stop, writes Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

One chilly morning last March - exactly the sort of morning when a warming cafe latte could seem appealing - I took to the streets of London in a double-decker bus adorned with 10,000 empty takeaway coffee cups.

It might have looked like a piece of dodgy conceptual art, but it was actually designed to illustrate the vast volume of takeout cups we throw away daily in the UK.

My bus didn't represent all of them, though - 10,000 is the number of cups the UK gets through in just two minutes.

The British - like the Americans and Italians - are a nation of caffeine addicts. Walk down any busy street and you'll see people clutching coffee-filled cardboard vessels.



Woman holding plastic cupsImage copyright iStock
That adds up to a huge number of used cups - more than seven million a day, or 2.5 billion a year. The sorry truth is, next to none of them are recycled - and the even sorrier fact is that no-one's taking responsibility for that, least of all the big coffee retailers who have created this takeout trash mountain.

During my War on Waste battle, I've looked at all kinds of issues related to food waste, such as the heinous "cosmetic standards" applied to supermarket fruit and veg that lead to mountains of perfectly good produce being dumped.




Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall standing with a megaphone in front of a bus covered cups
Hugh's War on Waste: The Battle Continues  -  on BBC One at 21:00 BST on Thursday 28 July or catch up later via iPlayer

The coffee cup crisis is somehow even more glaring - a wanton waste going on right under our noses.

Most consumers wrongly assume that paper cups are a "green" choice.

It's an assumption coffee companies are happy not to challenge. They know differently, but they're keeping that to themselves. They're not going to tell conscientious consumers that putting a used coffee cup in a recycling bin is pointless. But it is.

The takeout cups that are the stock-in-trade of High Street coffee giants such as Starbucks, Caffe Nero and Costa are currently almost impossible to recycle.



Caffe Nero, Costa and Starbucks cupsImage copyright Ben Pruchnie
To make these cups waterproof, the card is fused with polyethylene, a material that cannot be separated out again in a standard recycling mill.

What's more, the cups are not even made from recycled material in the first place - the way they are designed means one thin seam of card inside the cup comes into contact with the hot drink, so they have to be made from virgin paper pulp.

And of course, they have very brief lives - just the time it takes to down a macchiato. The millions of coffee cups we use every day are, in effect, virgin materials with a single use, thrown almost immediately into the bin - a horrendous waste, with a hefty carbon footprint.

These poly-lined cups are, technically, capable of being recycled - a fact that enables coffee companies to describe them as "recyclable".

However, the reality is this is only possible in a highly specialised recycling facility - of which there are only two in the UK. One of these sites has never actually dealt with a single paper cup - the other has processed a very tiny number.



Two takeaway coffee cupsImage copyright a-plus image bank / Alamy Stock Photo
In every meaningful sense, conventional paper coffee cups are not recyclable in Britain.

There is nothing, of course, on the average takeout cup to let you know this. 

Some cups even sport the little Mobius-loop symbol - the three arrows in a triangle - which communicates a pleasant whiff of eco-friendliness to the hard-pushed coffee consumer. But this symbol is not necessarily an indication that the object can be easily recycled.

If you go to the websites of the big coffee brands, you'd be forgiven for thinking they've got sustainability completely covered. But their claims are about as substantial as the froth on a poorly made cappuccino.

More from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall




Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall standing in front of a mountain of parsnips
"Watching 20 tonnes of freshly dug parsnips consigned to the rubbish heap in a Norfolk farmyard - purely because they didn't look pretty enough - is still one of the most shocking things I've ever seen," wrote Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
The rejected vegetables that aren't even wonky

On the Costa website, for example, under the misleading headline "great taste without the waste", the company has the sheer brass neck to describe its cups as "eco-friendly" - perhaps the least accurate use of the term I've ever heard.

By way of justification, Costa explains that the card for its cups comes from sustainable wood pulp, before claiming that said cups "are recyclable in a number of locations across the UK". The number of locations, as I've said, is two - max. And Costa sends less than 1% of its cups for this treatment.

Starbucks, meanwhile, is uselessly vague. "We're working on a solution to the challenges of paper cup waste," it says, before adding reassuringly that "paper cups make up a small proportion of the waste produced in our stores".



Woman holding cupImage copyright iStock
That's a statement that means little without hard figures - though it does suggest they are being ridiculously wasteful in other ways too.

These are just a couple of the companies keeping the UK awash with discarded coffee cups - there are, of course, many more. All of them are silently passing the responsibility for recycling cups on to their customers without fessing up to the fact that it is an all but impossible task.

What's the alternative to eco-unfriendly cups? Reusable ones are an option and Starbucks does offer customers a small incentive to choose these. But that incentive should be substantially increased and adopted by all the major coffee chains - reusable cups are not currently making any kind of dent in the problem.

A change in coffee cup design is the second obvious answer. And the frustrating fact is that a recyclable paper coffee cup already exists. I visited inventor Martin Myerscough who demonstrated his version of the takeout cup which can be made from recycled paper and recycled after use in standard paper recycling facilities.



Coffee cupImage copyright iStock
Starbucks have announced that they are interested in testing out these new cups - but why aren't other coffee retailers snapping at his heels for the blueprint?

When I challenged some of these retailers on camera, they earnestly expressed their commitment to "look into" the cup waste problem. That's not the same as doing something about it.

If we're to see genuine progress, not just kneejerk PR responses, these companies need to feel the heat from the only people who can actually hurt them - that's you, the coffee-drinking public.

Consumer pressure can make change happen very quickly. Following my War on Waste programmes last year, more than 300,000 people signed a letter to the UK's big retailers demanding they do something to reduce the waste they generate.



3 cupsImage copyright iStock
Since then, many supermarkets have begun stocking more of the "imperfect" vegetables they had previously rejected, and increasing the amount of surplus stock they donate to charities, rather than to landfill.

These are small steps, but encouraging and certainly cast-iron proof that the voices of customers ring in retailers' ears.

If enough people make a noise, these companies will have no choice but to step up and start dealing with their woeful waste issue.
  • Starbucks says: "Reusable cups are a key part of our overall waste reduction strategy - and we have been offering a money off incentive to anyone who brings in a reusable cup for over a decade. We don't include recycling symbols on our paper cups. We are... undertaking a trial with our waste management supplier Veolia on cup segregation and collection. We are also exploring potential solutions with cup suppliers, including testing Frugalpac on our standards for safety and quality."
  • Jason Cotta, managing director, Costa, says: "Costa's takeaway cups and lids are recyclable, as evident in our partnerships with Veolia and James Cropper, who recycle our cups. We do, however, agree that not enough takeaway cups are recovered and recycled and it is right that the industry as a whole is challenged to confront this issue. Until we are satisfied that more of our takeaway cups are being recycled we have removed the Möbius Loop symbol." The firm met FrugalPac early last year and ran similar tests to those announced by Starbucks last week but concluded that the cup on offer at the time would not work for them.




Coffee capsules in front of a coffee cupImage copyright iStock
The German city of Hamburg has banned coffee pods from state-run buildings as part of an environmental drive to reduce waste. Should others follow suit?
Is there a serious problem with coffee capsules?

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Original article appeared in   in late July 2016. 

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a well known UK based  TV personality in the food area with a number of TV series over the past few years around country style food, sustainable farming and living.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Zero Food Waste and the Circular Economy - the View From Asia


Achieving a circular economy with zero food waste is the collective responsibility of government, academia, private enterprises, non-government organizations and consumers. It is also a constantly evolving issue across the globe.

[original article by Dalson Chung - see below]

We live in a world of diminishing resources but growing appetites. In fact, about a third of the food produced for human consumption every year is lost or wasted, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).1 Singapore alone generated about 800,000 tons of food waste in 2015—equivalent to two bowls of food per person per day—an amount which has increased by 45 percent over the past 10 years.2

Given the place of pride that food holds in our collective identity and as a small island nation that imports most of our food, this might come as a surprise. But this is a statistic that Singaporeans should be aware of, and hopefully, endeavor to change by conserving, maximizing, re-using and recycling, as much as possible, to reduce food waste.

The Circular Economy and Food Waste
In a circular economy, the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible; to minimize waste and resource use, resources are kept within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, to be used again and again to create further value.

And that is where the challenge begins. Food wastage, unfortunately, occurs at various phases of its journey from farm to plate. This occurs mainly at the early stages of the food value chain for a variety of reasons, including inefficient harvesting techniques or inadequate storage facilities. On the other end of the spectrum, consumer behavior plays an important role in countries importing the food. For example, consumers tend to buy only the best looking produce of the same price range, leaving perfectly edible but unsold items to be discarded.

All of this wastage adds up. According to estimates by the FAO, almost 50 percent of all fruits and vegetables, 30 percent of cereals, 20 percent of meat and dairy and 35 percent of fish are wasted.3 

The Washington-based Food Tank says that up to 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S., and approximately 1.3 billion tons of food globally, is wasted every year.

At the same time, more than 800 million people worldwide are going hungry. Up to 100 million tons of food are wasted annually in the European Union, potentially increasing by a fifth to 120 million by 2020,4 while China generates more than US$32 billion worth of food waste every year.5

The long-term impact of this wastage goes beyond just food. Agriculture uses 70 percent of the global freshwater withdrawal and when food is wasted, so is water.6 Food wastage would also be the third biggest contributor to global carbon emissions, producing an estimated 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2eq (carbon dioxide equivalent), including methane emissions from landfills, a gas more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat.7 Failing to resolve the issue of global food waste would have far-reaching effects on global sustainable development and the creation of a circular economy.

Concerted Global Effort
These statistics have illustrated the impact of food wastage and triggered an urgency for world leaders to tackle the issue. Champions 12.3 was recently formed at the World Economic Forum in Davos to galvanize the international community to reduce food loss and waste. The group aims to accelerate the progress to meet Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goal—halve per capita food waste and reduce food losses by 2030. It is led by a coalition of 30 members, including high-level executives from Nestlé, Tesco, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International, to name a few.
At the national level, countries have introduced different initiatives to reduce food wastage, ranging from China’s “Clean Your Plate” movement, to France banning supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the country’s first-ever national food loss and waste goal—to cut food waste in half by 2030.8 As part of this scheme, a wide range of initiatives will be launched, including the development of innovative technologies that aim to increase the reduction, recovery and recycling of food waste. Consumer education about food loss and waste will also be a key focus, including an app to help consumers understand how to store food and read food date labels.

The Singapore Context
In Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) is taking an active role in reducing food wastage in every link of the food chain, by cultivating an understanding of food wastage among consumers, businesses and organizations, kick-starting initiatives to reduce food wastage and ensuring that food waste is given a second lease on life where possible. In January of this year, NEA launched a pilot to test the feasibility of recycling food waste onsite at hawker centers,9 and there is a second pilot coming up to explore the collection and transportation of food waste from multiple premises to a demonstration facility for co-digestion with used water sludge. In addition, it is also now mandatory for large malls and hotels to submit reports on their waste data and waste reduction plans to NEA.

With greater awareness, an increasing number of businesses in Singapore are taking a more proactive approach to reducing food waste. NTUC FairPrice, the largest supermarket chain in Singapore, developed a Food Waste Index10 that measures the annual total food waste against the total retail space of its stores in order to track its progress on various food waste reduction initiatives. To minimize wastage, McDonald’s Singapore uses a production management system that forecasts the quantity of products that needs to be prepared as well as a “cook in smaller quantities, but cook more often” approach, where food is prepared only after an order is received.11

It also makes business sense to reduce and recycle food waste. Hotels like Swissotel The Stamford, Singapore uses a composter to convert its food scraps into organic fertilizer for the hotel’s herb garden, which in turn supplies organically grown herbs, vegetables, fruit and edible flowers to all of the hotel’s F&B outlets. The Swissotel Merchant Court uses a digester system to transform its 350 tons of food waste produced per year into water, which can be used for washing floors and plant irrigation.12 Onsite food waste treatment systems, on top of producing resources from waste, also mean that organizations benefit by paying less for waste that needs to be hauled away for disposal—a win-win solution that benefits both businesses and the environment.

Changing Public Mindsets and Consumer Behaviors
The biggest challenge in reducing food waste will be to change longstanding perceptions and consumption patterns. One approach is through educating consumers on the potential savings from reducing food wastage or refraining from overbuying.

To do so, NEA’s food wastage reduction program encourages consumers to engage in smart food purchases, storage and preparation habits to extend the lifespan of groceries, helping households conserve valuable resources while saving on costs. Materials have also been developed to provide suggestions on meal planning, food storage, as well as recipes and innovative ideas on how to use leftover food to create tasty dishes.

Initiatives by supermarkets to repackage and sell unsold, cosmetically imperfect food also help to educate consumers about the quality of food for consumption, while reducing the amount of food that businesses throw away. This not only helps to change consumer behavior over the long term, but will also result in cost savings for businesses as well as consumers.

Leading the Food Waste Agenda in Asia
Achieving a circular economy with zero food waste is the collective responsibility of government, academia, private enterprises, non-government organizations and consumers. It is also a constantly evolving issue across the globe, with most countries now beginning to address the issue fully.

Dalson Chung is Managing Director of the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore as well as the Director in the Industry Development and Promotion Office and the Director in the Sustainability Office with the National Environment Agency (NEA). NEA, one of the two Statutory Boards of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), is the public organization responsible for improving and sustaining a clean and green environment in Singapore. For more information, visit www.cleanenvirosummit.sg.
Notes
  1. http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/
  2. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-needs-to/2413008.html
  3. http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/
  4. http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste/index_en.htm
  5. http://www.worldwatch.org/food-waste-and-recycling-china-growing-trend-1
  6. http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/nr/sustainability_pathways/docs/Factsheet_FOOD-WASTAGE.pdf
  7. http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/nr/sustainability_pathways/docs/Factsheet_FOOD-WASTAGE.pdf
  8. http://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm
  9. Open air food complexes
  10. http://bit.ly/1UQXvy7
  11. https://www.mcdonalds.com.sg/sustainability/
  12. http://www.swissotel-sustainability.com/Cms_Data/Contents/Swissotel/Media/Files/Swissotel-Sustainability-Report_2015.pdf
CleanEnviro Summit: Singapore 2016
Singapore, with her track record of balancing the needs of urban development with protecting the environment, along with innovative waste and cleaning management solutions, is keen to lead the conversation on food waste. In its third edition, the biennial CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2016 was a key platform for policy makers, academia and industry players to exchange ideas and insights on the latest environmental market trends including circular economy and effective management and reduction of food waste. These insights will be critical for the long-term sustainable development of not only this food-loving nation of ours, but for the world at large. A myriad of activities including the Clean Environment Convention and high level plenaries, business forums and Clean Environment Regulators Roundtable were held at the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2016. The inaugural City Solutions Singapore Expo and Innovation Pitch had also showcased the latest innovations in waste management, cleaning, environmental technology and recycling solutions. Dr Tony Tan, President of Singapore, on the expo tour following the opening ceremony of WCS-SIWW-CESS, watching the demostration of EcoWorth Tech’s Carbon Fibre Aerogel (CFA) technology.  Photo courtesy of the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore.
Singapore, with her track record of balancing the needs of urban development with protecting the environment, along with innovative waste and cleaning management solutions, is keen to lead the conversation on food waste. In its third edition, the biennial CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2016 was a key platform for policy makers, academia and industry players to exchange ideas and insights on the latest environmental market trends including circular economy and effective management and reduction of food waste. These insights will be critical for the long-term sustainable development of not only this food-loving nation of ours, but for the world at large.
A myriad of activities including the Clean Environment Convention and high level plenaries, business forums and Clean Environment Regulators Roundtable were held at the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2016. The inaugural City Solutions Singapore Expo and Innovation Pitch had also showcased the latest innovations in waste management, cleaning, environmental technology and recycling solutions.

Dr Tony Tan, President of Singapore, on the expo tour following the opening ceremony of WCS-SIWW-CESS, watching the demostration of EcoWorth Tech’s Carbon Fibre Aerogel (CFA) technology.
Photo courtesy of the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore.

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Worth reading and thinking through the ideas as they fit your country and city.  What can you do to lessen food waste?  At home?  At work?  In your town?

There are many other articles on managing food waste that provide a way forward........  remember the cliche from Nike ......just do it!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Sowing and Nutrition - for Seed Sown Zoysia



This question is a perennial one that is regularly asked by those developing a new turf area.  While there are some guides about how to sow seed, the nutrition aspects are not widely available particularly for conditions outside of the USA.  

Zoysia from seed is effectively established with modest nutrition – we suggest 2 applications each of 200g / 100 sq m of a good mixed NPK fertiliser with trace elements, applied evenly to dry soil before sowing and raked into the soil, and at 3-4 weeks after sowing which can be irrigated into the ground.  Suitable products include Yara Hydrocomplex NPK 12:15:10 [or similar as many blends are close to this] plus trace elements and iron.  Others potentially available include Crop King 55 and 88, Nitrophoska Blue and a range of other suitable all-purpose fertilisers used at sowing depending on availability at your local supplier.

Follow that by switching to a slow release fertiliser eg Scotts  - [ or other brands that may be available from many garden shops incl Bunnings and BigW in 2kg and 4 kg  bags, but do not use any with herbicide while the area is so young], applied at about 6-8 weeks  from sowing and thereafter at 12 week intervals in year 1 – you can use about one half of the recommended rate for zoysia – the recommended rate is broadly based for use on couch.  After that maybe 2-3 times a year is enough -August to October [depending on location], early March and [maybe in warm areas] May. for larger areas, sometimes a 25kg bag is a sensible buy - store it in a secure lidded plastic pail and it will be okay for several years. 

Slow release fertiliser is strongly recommended for all zoysia turf areas.  Avoid excess fertilising and non-slow release nitrogen fertiliser – that encourages thatch development.

If more green colour is needed for your turf – apply 0.5% - 1% iron sulfate solution [no stronger please] – great colour can be achieved but not too much growth! 

We strongly suggest additional potassium in September/October and March each year [ southern hemisphere areas] – use potassium sulfate [sulfate of potash] at 1kg / 100 sq m, and avoid muriate of potash.  This potash product is sold in 1.5 and 2.5 kg pails from many major garden stores and also is available in larger sizes [25kg] if required.

At sowing, a very light mulch cover can be helpful to manage and assist with holding moisture close to the surface during the vital early few weeks.  Light materials are best including sugar cane mulch and mature fine compost or similar, with a very thin cover helpful – no more than 1-2mm that holds moisture close to the surface where the seed is germinating.  

After sowing, irrigation during the day, for a few minutes each time, is needed to dampen the surface but not make it too wet.  As to the number needed - suggest 2-3 times each day at late morning and early afternoon as a start………but need to adjust as needed, and it will be temperature and wind dependent.  This can be reduced once seedlings emerge – some individual judgment is needed on this issue, as all sites and conditions are different.  The need is for SURFACE DAMP not SURFACE  DROWNING.

Seed emergence can be sped up with seed priming – soak seed for up to 36 -48hrs in warm [definitely not cold] water at around 20C eg and keep inside where it is warmer, then drain and lay out seed to surface dry in the sun next morning………..can speed emergence by a quite a few days [ see info from Pickseed].

Weeds can be troublesome at some, often older or renovated sites.  Make sure the weed is identified correctly before rushing to use any herbicide. Often repeated mowing will aid removal of the weeds as the turf species develops and strengthens often choking out the weeds. 

DO NOT use glyphosate / Roundup® or similar products on zoysia – it is quite sensitive to this type of product!  There are some products that may be useful; with an MCPA /dicamba mix often well suited for broadleaf weed control [one trade name is Kamba M – there are some others].  Try to avoid use of herbicides when the area is very young, unless you really understand what you are doing or have sought professional advice.  If in doubt ask us – there are often solutions available.

Prepare in advance, be organised at sowing and be prepared to invest time and effort then – it will be rewarded with a great lawn nearly always achievable [If in doubt, checkout the You Tube videos].  Most poor outcomes are traced back to problems at sowing and site preparation.

For larger zoysia seeded areas – eg over 1000 – 2000 sq m, often using hydroseeding may be a suitable option.  It works very well with the mulch used at sowing acting as a very good surface mulch and erosion management tool.  For smaller areas costs of cleaning equipment before hand  can make using hydroseeding too expensive, even though results are generally very good.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Solar Pumping for Farm Irrigation

Solar pumping: the economic & enviro rewards


Energy is one of the fastest growing on-farm costs. The CRDC-funded Improving energy efficiency on irrigated cotton farms project found in 2015 that the average direct energy cost was $298 per hectare, with diesel counting for at least 85 percent.

But not for cotton grower Andrew Gill of Narromine.

The installation of a solar diesel hybrid irrigation bore pump on his Central West NSW farm has led to big cuts in fuel costs, greater irrigation efficiencies and a massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Attracted by the drop in the price of solar panels in recent years and the prospect of the system paying for itself in less than four years, Andrew decided to install a solar diesel hybrid system at one of the pump sites on their Narromine farm at the end of last year.
The move has led to a cut in pumping costs from $76/megalitre to $41/ML and slashed diesel use by between 45,000 and 55,000 litres a year. Over 25 years, that equates to a saving of more than 1 million litres of fuel and a reduction of over 3000 tonnes in carbon emissions.


Learn more about Andrew's system in this CottonInfo case study and in this video. And find out more about how you can improve your on-farm energy efficiency here.
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While using solar energy for farm water pumping is not new, nor is this the first ever story on the subject it does highlight that this approach is now effectively MAINSTREAM.

And it can work in many many locations around Australia and the world.

Sure capital cost is an issue so a planned approach to financing is important........but it has a big payoff in cost savings and a feel good outcome too.  And it works........that has to be a critical issue as well in the present time of 2016!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Will the EU Ban Glyphosate?

Why Europe may ban the most popular weed killer in the world - It’s not just about cancer, is it?

Why Europe may ban the most popular weed killer in the world
Without ​glyphosate, ​fighting weeds ​will get more ​expensive and ​more complicated.​
Chafer ​Machinery/​Wikimedia ​Commons ​

Why Europe ​may ban the ​most popular ​weed killer in ​the world ​

By Erik Stokstad Jun. 17, 2016 , 10:00 AM
It's hard ​to find an ​herbicide like ​glyphosate. ​It’s ​cheap, highly ​effective, and ​is generally ​regarded as one ​of the safest ​and most ​environmentally ​benign ​herbicides ever ​discovered. But ​a report last ​year that ​glyphosate ​could cause ​cancer has ​thrown its ​future into ​jeopardy. Now ​the European ​Union faces a ​30 June ​deadline to ​reapprove its ​use, or ​glyphosate will ​not be allowed ​for sale. ​Here's a ​quick ​explanation of ​the issues. ​

Who uses glyphosate?

Just about ​everyone who ​hates weeds. ​The herbicide ​is widely ​sprayed to ​fight weeds ​along railroad ​tracks, in ​backyards, city ​streets, parks, ​and elsewhere. ​Many kinds of ​agriculture ​rely on ​glyphosate as ​well—and ​farmers are by ​far the biggest ​users. (Sales ​skyrocketed in ​the United ​States and ​Latin America ​after Monsanto ​and other ​companies ​genetically ​modified ​soybeans and ​other crops to ​withstand the ​effects of ​glyphosate. ​That means ​farmers can ​easily kill ​weeds without ​harming their ​crops.) The ​herbicide has ​done more than ​benefit ​farmers' ​profits; ​glyphosate has ​also curbed ​soil erosion by ​facilitating no-​till agriculture,​ the practice ​of spraying ​fields before ​planting ​instead of ​plowing up ​weeds. ​

Why is it controversial?

Environmental ​advocates have ​long worried ​about health ​effects of ​pesticides and ​herbicides, ​including ​glyphosate. The ​U.K. Soil ​Association, ​for example, ​wants a ban on ​pre-harvest ​spraying of ​wheat fields, a ​practice that ​kills green ​heads of wheat ​and allows an ​earlier harvest,​ but also ​leaves residues ​of glyphosate ​in the grain. ​Trace amounts ​have been found ​in bread and ​beer, causing ​anxiety among ​consumers. If ​you're a ​chemical ​company selling ​herbicides in ​Europe, it'​s very bad news ​to mess with ​the perceived ​purity of food. ​

What makes ​glyphosate a ​big issue in ​Europe right ​now?

A bombshell ​report. Like ​other ​regulatory ​agencies, the ​European Food ​Safety ​Authority (EFSA)​ reviews the ​science on ​pesticides and ​herbicides ​every decade or ​so. If the ​evidence still ​suggests that ​the chemical is ​safe enough, ​EFSA allows ​member nations ​to decide ​whether or how ​they want to ​make it ​available. EFSA ​was in the ​process of ​reviewing ​glyphosate, ​when the ​International ​Agency for ​Research on ​Cancer (IARC)​—which ​independently ​gathers health ​data for the ​World Health ​Organization—​ declared glyphosate   a “​probable human ​carcinogen”​  in 2015. Nongovernmental ​organizations ​began a ​vigorous ​campaign to ​prevent the ​reregistration ​of glyphosate. ​Meanwhile, ​chemical ​companies and ​agricultural ​trade groups ​defended its ​safety record, ​pointing out ​that every ​regulatory ​agency had ​given ​glyphosate a ​green light.​  ​

Wait, why ​didn't the ​health reviews ​of glyphosate ​come to the ​same conclusions?​

One reason is ​that they ask ​different ​questions. IARC ​evaluates the ​hazard of a ​chemical—​in this case, ​whether it ​could cause ​cancer. It does ​not ask how ​likely that is ​to happen, or ​in how many ​people. ​Regulatory ​agencies like ​EFSA also ​evaluate the ​risk of harm, ​depending on ​factors such as ​the toxicity ​and the way ​people are ​exposed to a ​chemical. Given ​the trace ​amounts of ​glyphosate that ​people ​typically ​ingest, EPA and ​other ​regulators have ​concluded that ​glyphosate is ​not likely to ​cause cancer or ​other harm. ​IARC noted ​“limited ​evidence” ​of a cancer ​risk to farm ​workers, but ​regulators have ​not been ​convinced that ​glyphosate is a ​danger there ​either. ​

Is that the ​only difference ​between IARC ​and the other ​reviews? ​

There's ​also an issue ​of transparency ​and trust. IARC ​only considers ​peer-reviewed ​scientific ​papers and ​government ​studies. ​Regulatory ​agencies also ​look at ​unpublished and ​confidential ​studies ​conducted by ​and for the ​herbicide ​manufacturers. ​Industry ​critics are ​highly ​skeptical of ​such data. ​

It’s ​not just about ​cancer, is it? ​

No. Many ​Europeans are ​worried about ​ the environmental impact as well. And ​glyphosate has ​come to ​symbolize ​industrial ​agriculture and ​corporate ​control of food ​and farming. ​Europeans who ​value locally-​owned ​agriculture and ​organic farms (​which can’​t use ​glyphosate and ​other synthetic ​agro-chemicals) ​are more likely ​to support a ​ban, regardless ​of whether ​glyphosate ​causes cancer ​or not. ​ But the only ​“​easy” ​legal mechanism ​to clamp down ​on glyphosate ​is because of ​its alleged ​human health ​risk. ​

What happens next?

So far ​there's ​been a deadlock.​ The decision ​was in the ​hands of the ​Standing ​Committee on ​Plants, Animals,​ Food and Feed (​PAFF), which is ​made up of ​representatives ​from the ​European ​Union's 28 ​member states. ​But PAFF has ​failed to reach ​a majority in ​several past ​meetings, even ​as the ​proposals were ​scaled back to ​ever-shorter ​reapproval ​periods for ​glyphosate. ​ On 23 June, ​an appeals ​committee will ​vote. It may ​decide to renew ​the approval ​for a short ​period, say 1 ​year, to keep ​glyphosate ​available while ​the debate ​continues. ​Without a ​qualified ​majority ​deciding to ​renew, the ​approval will ​expire on 30 ​June, and the ​compound will ​have to be ​taken off the ​market in all E.​U. countries. ​

And what would happen then?

Industry’​s Glyphosate ​Task Force ​warns of dire ​consequences, ​such as rising ​food prices, ​falling exports,​ and crop ​yields dropping ​by 5% (for ​oilseed rape) ​to 40% (for ​sugar beets). ​Environmental ​advocates point ​to alternative ​strategies for ​weed control, ​including ​mowing, plowing,​ and rotating ​crops. Other ​herbicides are ​available, but ​they're not ​as effective. ​Without ​glyphosate, ​fighting weeds ​will get more ​expensive and ​more complicated.​   ​