Rural round-up

Helicopter pilot Simon Spencer-Bower sets high farming and flying standards – Tim Cronshaw:

As a boy Simon Spencer-Bower would crane his neck to the sky to watch the crop dusters flying over his family farm at Eyrewell.

The deep impression their aerial feats made on the youngster was to set him on a lifetime of flying with a healthy mix of farming.

As soon as he left school he gained his fixed-wing pilot license in 1967, aged 18. . .

Anti-dairying rhetoric is out-dated :

Farmers don’t want weaker environmental policies. Ten years ago we were fair game for the ‘dirty dairying’ remarks by Fish & Game, today not so much.

Bryce Johnson recently said his organisation has moved on – that they are not anti-dairying, but rather they are anti-dairying that is harming the environment. But the question remains, why is the focus on dairying, as opposed to any other activity that harms the environment?

Environmental compliance and reducing farming’s impact is now an everyday part of a dairy farmer’s business.  We know there are a few ratbags out there – every industry has them – but while some regional councils try to clean up the tail-end of our industry they overlook their cousins in their own backyards. . .

Otago Regional Council blindsides ratepayers:

Federated Farmers is calling on the Otago Regional Council to properly inform and explain themselves to their ratepayer farmers who are facing huge increases in rates and consent costs this year.

“The Otago Regional Council needs to be held to account on their Long Term Plan consultation document, which is severely lacking in reasoning for their major increase in farmer rates,” Says Stephen Korteweg, Federated Farmers Otago provincial president.

“The Council is proposing a heap of big changes such as new water quality targeted rates for water monitoring, a new dairy monitoring targeted rate, and significant increases in the consent fees they charge all of which will mean increased costs for farmers. For many this will run into the thousands of dollars.” . .

No bull in proper effluent management – Chris Lewis:

I never thought when I entered farming politics that there would be so much talk about the stuff that comes out of the back end of a cow.  The polite term is ‘effluent’ of course; not polite are its effects and the costs of managing it.

Waikato Federated Farmers has the task of holding our regional council to account when warranted, and effluent is a big bone of contention. But they have a job to do, as we do, so it’s sometimes important we celebrate them. Just as farmers often feel criticised by the media, I imagine councils do too, giving the public an ill-informed perspective. . .

  Top farm business an industry leader:

An Omarama couple who run a traditional high country combination of merino ewes and cattle with hydroelectricity generation for good measure have won the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Richard and Annabelle Subtil were the supreme winners announced at a ceremony on Thursday after amassing section awards for innovation, integrated management, soil management and water quality.

They run the 12,000 hectare Omarama Station, a family-owned property previously farmed by Annabelle’s parents Dick and Beth Wardell.

South of Omarama village, the Mackenzie Country property winters 23,000 stock units, including 7500 merino ewes and 310 angus-hereford cows. . .

Earth greening despite deforestation – Albert Van Dijk & Pep Canadell:

WHILE the news coming out of forests is often dominated by deforestation and habitat loss, research published in Nature Climate Change shows that the world has actually got greener over the past decade.

Despite ongoing deforestation in South America and South East Asia, we found that the decline in these regions has been offset by recovering forests outside the tropics, and new growth in the drier savannas and shrublands of Africa and Australia.

Plants absorb around a quarter of the carbon dioxide that people release into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. With a greening globe, more plants may mean more absorption of carbon dioxide. If so, this will slow but not stop climate change. . .

29 Responses to Rural round-up

  1. Andrei says:

    Plants absorb around a quarter of the carbon dioxide that people release into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.

    Sounds like a sweeping statement to me.

    Most of the CO2 involved in the carbon cycle is processed in the oceans, rather than by terrestrial plants. And most of the oxygen we breath will have been released by plankton.

    Some atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the ocean is lost in the formation of sea shells, Calcium carbonate

    And this process has been responsible for the gradual depletion of CO2 from our atmosphere over the eons because despite the rhetoric our atmosphere today is much, much poorer in CO2 than in past epochs, some bound in fossil fuels of course but probably much more as bound as calcium carbonate i.e Chalk.

    The South of England and Northwestern Europe sits on the remains of past “sea shells” e.g. The White Cliffs of Dover formed during the Cretaceous (From the Latin for Chalk)

    Here endith the lecture (from your neighbourhood creationist 🙂 )


  2. farmerbraun says:

    Phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth.
    Phytoplankton are plants.


  3. Andrei says:

    Phytoplankton are plants

    I know they are Farmerbraun – and I also know they are the most important componant of the carbon cycle, which also includes grasslands and forests.

    The truth is it is beyond the ken of science to provide an accurate accounting of atmospheric CO2 and its ultimate long term fate,

    The sources and sinks for CO2 are just to numerous and chaotic¹ in behaviour to make this a viable exercise beyond semi educated speculation.

    Chaotic used in its technical sense from non linear dynamics


  4. farmerbraun says:

    You are right; it is impossible to say that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic , because we cannot quantify the carbon cycle with sufficient accuracy to attribute the rise to anything.


  5. TraceyS says:

    “…it is impossible to say that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic,”

    It would perhaps be more accurate to say that; it is impossible to say how much of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is definitely anthropogenic.

    I posted a link referencing the article on earth greening a few days ago (as a good-news story which I believe it is). The authors provide the following reference:, among others, for the assertion that; “[o]ver the past two decades, the terrestrial biosphere has acted as a sink for atmospheric CO2, removing on average approximately 2.5 petagrams of carbon per year (PgC yr−1): equivalent to 25% of fossil fuel emissions.”

    From the article referenced above; “CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel combustion and cement production (EFF) are based on energy statistics, while emissions from land-use change (ELUC), mainly deforestation, are based on combined evidence from land-cover change data, fire activity associated with deforestation, and models.”

    Andrei said of the 25% terrestrial sink “[s]ounds like a sweeping statement…”. Maybe not sweeping, but definitely an estimate.


  6. Andrei says:

    No Tracey it is a sweeping statement.

    In trying to calculate these numbers there are almost an infinite number of variables most of which are governed by non linear differential equations.

    What people do is pick a small number of these variables, approximate the equations that govern their behaviour and with a lot of “handwaving” present their results with a flourishing a ah

    Heres a classic example of a a fallacy just using basic allegbra

    Let a=b.
    then a² = ab
    so a² + a² = a² + ab
    becomes 2a² = a² + ab
    subtracting 2ab from each side gives
    2a²- 2ab = a²+ ab – 2ab
    factorize and simplyfy
    2(a² – ab) = a²- ab
    and canceling gives us

    Spot the error? It must be there because the result is nonsense but can you find it 🙂

    And when you have pages and pages of calculations and assumptions some acknowledged but most not then working your way through it becomes a herculean task

    And thus anything can be proved by someone with an axe to grind, indeed the authors often fool themselves with their cleverness

    Peer revue is supposed to fix this but if the reveiwers are predisposed and have the same prejudices as the authors……

    It does work well if the results can be subject to independant experimental verification, if there is a prediction that can be tested

    And if the results are valuable in some way then many sharp minds will go through the math and correct the errors and document the assumptions and a step forward in human knowledge will be taken

    But most scientific papers are tosh, published and forgotten errors and all.


  7. farmerbraun says:

    Zeroed out 🙂


  8. JC says:

    The one thats puzzling me these days is the Moana Loa CO2 graph. Its been trundling upwards since 1960 at a steady (smoothed) 2.1 ppm per annum yet I hear figures suggesting man made CO2 has increased 3.5 times since 2000 but this doesn’t show up in the record at Moana Loa.

    It looks suspiciously like anthropogenic CO2 is pretty small in the size of things and/or the Earth has countervailing systems that we know little about.



  9. farmerbraun says:

    Anthropogenic CO2 is VERY small compared to the gigantic carbon fluxes, which is why it is impossible to say that rising atmospheric CO2 is caused by humans.
    Our efforts are in the order of the margin of error.


  10. TraceyS says:

    Line 4.


  11. Andrei says:

    (1) Let a=b.

    (2) then a² = ab

    (3) so a² + a² = a² + ab

    (4) becomes 2a² = a² + ab

    (5) subtracting 2ab from each side gives
    2a²- 2ab = a²+ ab – 2ab

    (6) factorize and simplfy
    2(a² – ab) = a²- ab

    (7) and canceling gives us

    No Tracey line 4 is valid algebra

    farmerbraun has seen the violation of algebraic rules and expressed it in a most wonderfully cryptic manner 🙂

    This is much more fun than global warming but I am trying to illustrate a serious point with it


  12. TraceyS says:

    Andrei, if people weren’t capable of finding errors in lines of data then the computer industry wouldn’t have developed as it has.


  13. Andrei says:

    Andrei, if people weren’t capable of finding errors in lines of data then the computer industry wouldn’t have developed as it has.

    Computer code is full of bugs (errors) Tracey – that is why you are always getting software updates for Windows, and all the apps you have on your phone 🙂

    These updates are fix the bugs that have shown up since the last update, some of which will have been introduced by the last update.

    Eventually the patches and fixes get so messy that the software company introduces a whole new release with it all tidied up

    And eventually as has just happened with internet explorer after 20 years they just junk the product and start all over again


  14. Andrei says:

    Who will ever forget the Novopay debacle Tracey?


  15. TraceyS says:

    Errors, sure, but basically it works.

    I don’t avoid using computers just because there are bugs in the software.

    Nor should scientific research be disregarded (eg. as “tosh”) because there are likely to be errors lurking therein.

    An open mind is necessary, but I see this is difficult for you, Andrei.


  16. Andrei says:

    Nor should scientific research be disregarded (eg. as “tosh”) because there are likely to be errors lurking therein.

    That’s not what I said Tracey

    I said that most published scientific papers are tosh, which they are

    Sturgeons law in operation

    We have to sift through the dross to find the nuggets

    Your linking of the paper you did is an example of “confirmation bias” – Ele had a post on that a week or so ago

    But it is scientific double talk no more meaningful than the chart of the most downloaded songs on Itunes this week

    There is a market for that crap because of the political implications but it is an intellectual dead end


  17. TraceyS says:

    “Your linking of the paper you did is an example of “confirmation bias”

    I only followed, and linked to, a reference given by the authors of the “greening” paper. This is simply following a line of inquiry, which I often do, with an attempt to find out more information.

    Tell me, Andrei, did you bother to obtain and read the full article by Van Dijk, Canadell et al?


  18. Andrei says:

    I did look at it Tracey – I have also read books on astrology, they are intellectually equivalent

    Queen Elizabeth the first took notice of astrolgers and our politicians take notice of their 21st century equivalents

    Failed third rate scientists go into this area of enquiry


  19. TraceyS says:

    For Andrei:

    I wonder, during his career, how many times he published? How many times he was cited?

    There is only one thing I disagree with him on. That increasing CO2 will be beneficial overall. This contradicts what he says about not understanding enough about the variables. It’s not that different to those who support doomsday predictions without evidence.


  20. Andrei says:

    Tracey once upon a time hippopotami swam in the Thames river past where the houses of Parliament now stand. No more

    The world is constantly changing – because we are here we affect how some of those changes transpire. If we were not here the world would still be changing and perhaps it would evolve in a different direction, But it would still change

    And the hippopotami who still swim in the Zambesi river they also an impact on the environment and have involvment in the way the world will evolve from where it is today to what it will be like in 100 years and 1000 years…….,

    We are part of the environment, so is every other living thing

    If life hadn’t evolved the atmosphere of the earth would not be oxygen rich – it would be a “reducing atmosphere”

    For early life forms oxygen was toxic – a polutant and when plants photosynthesis evolved there was a mass die off and the ecosystem that existed completely replaced

    There have been several such events in the earths history and there will be many more

    Get over it

    Yes the forests are regenerating in Europe and North America and slightly declining in South America while the Sahara is growing in North Africa and has been since Roman times.

    Some of this is interesting stuff – but when you put the politcal bullshit of “global warming” around it, it just reveals a total lack of intellectual insight and shows you are a reef fish following the latest fads.

    And if you really believe deadshit, self serving, politicians can change anything to do with the earths climate you are dumber than I thought

    For me personally I am extremely releived that it is beyond their capabilities to manipulate the climate given the way they fuck up everything they touch.

    God help us all they haven’t been able to fix Kosovo, a region smaller than Southland that Bill “the butcher of the Balkans” wrecked nearly two decades ago in between sexually abusing young women in the oval office


  21. TraceyS says:

    Get over what exactly? The items I referred to were free from political “bullsh*t” as you call it.

    It was you who brought up the political. Surely not every time we have a discussion about climate matters does it have to get political. Can’t some good news just be shared and taken at face-value?


  22. Andrei says:

    Tracey science is a work in progress as we try to make sense of a complex world

    The Earth’s climate is a complex system which makes the behaviour of the balls in the lotto machine seem simple.

    And despite the fact that the balls in the lotto machine almost exactly follow the laws of Newtonian mechanics, laws that are relatively straight forward and that have been understood for several centuries it remains well beyond our capabilities to predict next Saturday’s lotto draw.

    The future is unpredictable Tracey except in extremely limitied circumstances , the universe is set up that way


  23. Mr E says:

    “I said that most published scientific papers are tosh, which they are

    Sturgeons law in operation”

    Oh Sturgeons law – originally written by the science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, when he was talking about critics of science fiction. That must be true – when applied to scientific papers.

    How ridiculous Andrei. Really.

    There is no question, some science papers contains errors, and some science can be revelled as untrue, when understandings improve, but referring to most scientific papers as “tosh” – is ridiculous. Scientific papers require a process that is rigorous to ensure “tosh” is minimised. As an author I know this.


  24. Andrei says:

    Scientific papers require a process that is rigorous to ensure “tosh” is minimised. As an author I know this.

    Go down to your University Library pick a scientific journal that is five years old

    Look at what was published in it and ask yourself if the papers contained therein have actually anything of significance to say.

    You might strike gold but the chances are you will be confronted with banality some of which will be outright wrong.

    The good stuff leads to real improvements in peoples lives and greater insights into the world we inhabit

    But it is rare


  25. farmerbraun says:

    But Mr E , an awful lot of what passes for science today is in fact “commercial science”, which as you know , bears only a passing resemblance to the real thing.


  26. Mr E says:

    “Go down to your University Library pick a scientific journal that is five years old”

    I do this regularly Andrei. There is no university library here. But I have association memberships that allow me online browsing of Journals.

    I am looking at a book shelf full of Journals, right now, some of which are my own creation. Some of which are older than me.

    Is some of it wrong – sure, but much of it represents the best understanding at the time. And if I was to use your phrasing – I would say most of it is not ‘tosh’. It is still relevant today.

    I just picked a random Journal (2004), and a random article actually on Phosphate and N losses from irrigation. It is still very accurate, in my view. This is a common occurrence for me.

    I think most science is timeless.

    Does the commercialisation of science concern me. Yes.
    I have visited my old science testing grounds, where pure science was once the norm. Now it is ALL commercial science. All product creation. Largely one product.

    But commercial science rarely makes it to Scientific Journals. And most people can read through commercial bias. Usually the commercial bias is exposed in the few top lines of the article.

    Or the final few lines in the acknowledgements.


  27. farmerbraun says:

    Farmers are constantly bombarded with commercial “science”.
    It arrives in the rural mailbox free of charge: two or three publications per week.
    Then there are the seed catalogues where some of the most commercial “scientifically proven” results are available.
    The most wonderful pasture mixes are described in glowing terms, but nowhere does it say that five years down the track,(if it lasts that long) the composition will bear little or no resemblance to the proportions in the original mix.
    It used to be a given that pasture composition was a function of “hoof and tooth ( and blade perhaps)”, but urea changed all that.
    “Pastures and pasture plants” by Langer seems to have been forgotten.


  28. farmerbraun says:

    Some scientists became a little bit precious also Mr E.
    A few farmers remember the efforts of a certain Dr N T ( ivory comes to mind) and his reluctance to accept the evidence of the role of zinc in protecting against sporodesmin poisoning.


  29. farmerbraun says:

    An area of agronomy that is greatly in need of some hard science at present is the process of weaning a dairy farm off artificial nitrogen.
    The likelihood of such research being funded seems somewhat remote.
    The first step is easy: sack the consultant who got you into the predicament in the first place.
    But what then? How long will it take? And what is the economic cost of returning to clover based pastures? Can the farm survive the transition?
    Certainly Dairy NZ will not be funding this.


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