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2014 V1 January

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Good bugs vs. Bad bugs

Biocontrol is simple, in concept that is.  Implementation of a successful bug-eat-bug program is more complicated in the real world.  Everyone has heard a failed biocontrol story, so let’s analyse a failure and a success and see what we can glean from those experiences.  Perhaps there’s an opportunity in your farming system to try it out, gain the expertise required, and become a leader in the field… (more)

Combing out weeds – innovation in arable and pasture weeding

It is rare for a truly new type of machine to appear in agriculture, but I think the CombCut is not only novel, but fills a major gap in weeding machinery for arable and pasture production.  It fits between crop establishment weeders, such as spring tine harrows and spoon weeders, and weed-seed-rain management tools such as the ‘Weed Surfer’ while complimenting interrow hoes as the CombCut can reach the intrarow weeds hoes can’t touch… (more)

The end of cockies cocaine? Biological nitrogen fixation for any crop without genetic engineering

Synthetic nitrogen fertilisers have been the keystone of the transformation of agriculture over the last century.  However, they are increasingly being shown to be a double edged sword, causing significant environmental pollution and contributing to climate change.  Since the discovery of biological nitrogen fixation well over a century ago, people have tried in vain to get other crop plants to fix nitrogen like the legumes.  This makes the discovery by Professor Cocking of a bacteria that can intracellularly colonise a wide range of crop plants, via a simple seed dressing, and supply a good proportion of a crops N supply in real-world situations, Nobel Prize material… (more)

The future of phosphorus

After nitrogen, phosphorus is the second most important plant nutrient / fertiliser, but unlike N for which their is an inexhaustible supply through atmospheric cycling, phosphorus is a fossil nutrient, which is increasingly in short supply.  Unless the current system of digging P out of the ground, putting it on farms and flushing it (literally) out to sea, is stopped, and creating a closed cycle, then agriculture, and thus society are in serious trouble.  However, turning the current P stream into a cycle is going to require massive re-engineering of many of societies fundamental infrastructure and ways of life… (more)

Key points for NZ agriculture from The UNEP 2013 Emissions Gap Report. Win-win for farmers and the climate

The 2013 Emissions Gap Report from the UNEP makes for sobering reading.  Politicians and societies are a long way from making the changes that will keep global warming under the mission critical 2°C increase, with agriculture continuing to be the elephant in the room. However, the good news is there are some very well established farming technologies, including no and min till, and agroforestry, that not only could make a massive impact on climate change if widely adopted, in agricultural systems, such as those in NZ, they could also significantly increase farm profitability.  A great win-win if ever there was one… (more)

White tip disease of thistle: Short update

Thanks to the sharp eyes of kiwi farmers and growers, a number of white tipped Californian thistles have been spotted, causing great excitement among Scientists in both NZ and Canada.  These samples are now being isolated in the lab to confirm the causal agent, but, more samples would still be a major help, so, keep your eyes peeled and if you see suspect plants please do get in touch… (more)

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