Rural round-up

July 6, 2017

Farmers’ social licence fast expiring – warning – Nigel Malthus:

Dairying has a lot at stake as the world enters the fourth industrial revolution, says former DairyNZ chairman John Luxton.

A dairy farmer, businessman and former National minister of agriculture, Luxton gave the opening keynote address at the 2017 South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) conference at Lincoln University.

He says farmers’ social license to operate as in the past was now fast expiring. Rules and regulations requiring farmers to improve farm systems were becoming more and more complex. . . 

Military cameras help red meat – Sudesh Kissun:

Cameras used by the military are helping the New Zealand red meat sector produce premium lamb products.

One camera, installed in a South Island meat plant, scans eight lambs a minute, collecting from 45 data points per lamb in a round-the-clock operation. The technology is not available anywhere else in the world; AgResearch needed special approval to get the military-grade camera into NZ.

Chief executive Tom Richardson says the technology has the potential to help farmers double their income. . .

NZ support for agriculture innovation

Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced an $11 million boost to global agricultural research.

“New Zealand is a world leader in international agriculture research and we want to help meet global food needs in ways that are positive for the environment,” Mr Brownlee says.

“New Zealand is committing $11 million over two years to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a network of research institutes around the world that focus on agriculture, forestry and fishing. . .

Feds’ commend Government on investment in global agriscience:

Federated Farmers commends the Government on investment of $11 million towards global agricultural research.

The announcement today, made by Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee, is a progressive step that will drive science and innovation in the agriculture sector.

“There is a great deal of work that governments and farmers worldwide should be collaborating on in the pre-competitive space to not only lift livelihoods in rural sectors, but also improve environmental outcomes,” says Federated Farmers’ National Vice President Andrew Hoggard. . .

Horticulture ripe for investment:

World-wide consumer interest in healthy food, growers being early-adopters of innovation, and rapid growth make horticulture in New Zealand ripe for further investment, says Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman.World-wide consumer interest in healthy food, growers being early-adopters of innovation, and rapid growth make horticulture in New Zealand ripe for further investment, says Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman.

“Today, the government has released a business-focused overview in The Investor’s Guide to the New Zealand Produce Industry 2017 which shows potential investors how well fruit and vegetable production in New Zealand is going,” Mr Chapman says.  . .

Healthy humans, lusty lambs:

Managing the diets of sheep to boost human health and keep stock in prime condition will be on the menu when NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) researchers present their latest findings at a Graham Centre sheep forum in Wagga Wagga on Friday July 7.

NSW DPI livestock researcher, Edward Clayton, has investigated ways to lift omega-3 fatty acid levels in lamb to deliver human health benefits, which could decrease risks of cardiovascular disease and treat inflammatory conditions, including eczema and arthritis.

“Omega-3 fatty acid, found in high concentrations in oily fish, is also a component of red meat and levels can be altered considerably through the animal’s diet,” Dr Clayton said. . .

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Rural round-up

May 22, 2017

Rain severely cuts crop planting – Annette Scott:

Waterlogged South Canterbury farmland will lie idle over winter as farmers wait for spring opportunities to plant crops.

Twice the normal rainfall in March followed by four times the normal rainfall in April left farmers battling with sodden ground and unable to meet autumn planting commitments.

South Canterbury Federated Farmers arable industry chairman Michael Porter said to date only about 50% of farmers had managed to get the crops they planned into the ground. . . 

Report shows plenty to work on – Hugh Stringleman:

Lack of progress on mitigating nitrogen losses from dairy farms was evident in an otherwise mainly positive scorecard for the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord (SD:WA) in year three.

The national average nitrogen leaching loss in 2015-16 was 39kg/ha a year — the same as the year before.

N-loss calculations in Canterbury and Otago (64 and 39 respectively) revealed higher figures than the rolling average of the two previous years of accord measurements (50 and 33).

This was because irrigation effects were included for the first time after a change in the Overseer computer model used to generate the leaching loss numbers. . . 

Dairy farm water report factual, independently audited:

Kiwis can be confident that dairy farmers are ‘walking their environmental talk’, says the chair of the Dairy Environment Leaders’ Group, Alister Body.

Commenting on the latest Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord report, Mr Body says the work being carried out by farmers to help achieve swimmable rural waterways is each year independently audited by Telarc SAI.

The Crown Entity subsidiary is the leading certifier of quality, environmental, food, and occupational health and safety management systems. . . 

Fairton closure unfortunate but inevitable – Allan Barber:

Silver Fern Farms decision to close its Fairton plant did not have much to do with Shanghai Maling’s investment, but was only a matter of time. Even the workforce had apparently come to accept the inevitable after seeing lamb numbers through the plant decline sharply from more than 1 million in 2010 to less than 500,000 last season and 325,000 in the latest six months.

This demonstrated graphically the unsustainability of keeping the facility open when the company’s modernised multi species operation at Pareora is only an hour down the road. In its notice of proposal to close, subject to a two week consultation period, SFF cited declining sheep numbers in the surrounding catchment area as a result of land use change to more profitable forms of agriculture. However not surprisingly the company didn’t mention its substantial loss of market share at the same time, 14% share loss over a six year spell since 2010. . . 

North Canterbury cattle stud makes it through drought and out the other side – Pat Deavoll:

Three years of drought and an earthquake that destroyed three farm buildings and badly damaged another has failed to deter Kaiwara Angus Stud of Culverden, in north Canterbury, from preparing for its annual bull sale in a month’s time.

Stud owner George Johns is in the process of producing the catalogue. “You think you have taken great photos through the year, but where are they when you need them,” he says with a laugh.

The stud was formed in 1971 by George’s father Bruce Johns. At the time the family farmed a property in Waiau but moved to Culverden and Kaiwara Farm 25 years ago. . . 

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement Ministerial Statement:

Ministers and Vice Ministers from Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Viet Nam met today to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade.

The Ministers reaffirmed the balanced outcome and the strategic and economic significance of the TPP highlighting its principles and high standards as a way to promote regional economic integration, contribute positively to the economic growth prospects of its member countries, and create new opportunities for workers, families, farmers, businesses and consumers. . . 

Get to the heart of decision making:

Heartland Bank and NZX subsidiary AgriHQ have launched a free online livestock finisher tool, AgriHQ Finisher, to assist sheep and beef farmers to calculate the potential trading margin after finishing any livestock they are considering buying.

Heartland Bank’s head of rural, Ben Russell, said the old adage “information is power” is particularly true in this instance.

“With store livestock prices at historically high levels, the arrival of AgriHQ Finisher couldn’t be better timed. . . 

The strange sheep that baffled scientists – Eloise Gibson:

When a farmer in Otago, New Zealand, saw a bizarre-looking lamb in his flock, he first assumed a wild goat had snuck in and impregnated one of his ewes. The newborn had a lamb-shaped body yet was coated with straight, lustrous wool, more like the hair of an angora goat than a typical sheep.

News of the “geep” (or sheep-goat hybrid) soon reached the local papers but, when scientists saw photos, they immediately suspected the baby animal was something else. For decades they had been hoping to study a rare woolly mutant called a “Felting Lustre” mutant: a sheep which has straight, fine wool instead of the usual crimped stuff.

“You can see it when the lambs are born, they have a different sheen,” says Jeff Plowman, a wool researcher at New Zealand’s AgResearch science company. “It doesn’t have a dull look, it’s shiny and bright.”. . 

 


Puckering up is life preserving

May 15, 2017

From Barking Up the Wrong Tree:

. . . A ten-year psychology study undertaken in Germany during the 1980s found that men who kissed their wives before leaving for work lived, on average, five years longer, earning 20 to 30 percent more than peers who left without a peck good-bye. The researchers also reported that not kissing one’s wife before leaving in the morning increased the possibility of a car accident by 50 percent. Psychologists do not believe it’s the kiss itself that accounts for the difference but rather that kissers were likely to begin the day with a positive attitude, leading to a healthier lifestyle. . . 

There you have it: permission granted to pucker up each morning, it might extend or even save your life.


Book readers better people

May 12, 2017

Reading could make people kinder and more empathetic.

Readers were more likely to act in a socially acceptable manner while those who preferred watching television came across as less friendly and less understanding of others’ views, British researchers said. . .

Researchers told the British Psychological Society conference in Brighton that fiction fans showed more positive social behaviour.

Readers of drama and romance novels were also empathic, while lovers of experimental books showed the ability to see things from different perspectives.

Comedy fans scored the highest for relating to others.

The study suggested reading allows people to see different points of view, enabling them to understand others better. . .

But there’s a but:

However, the authors warned the study did not prove cause-and-effect.

So it could be that reading causes positive behaviour, or it could be that thoughtful, well-mannered people are more likely to prefer reading.

Is it that better people read books or readers are better people?

Either way, book readers are better people.


Grass is ‘green’ but . . .

April 13, 2016

New Zealand’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are small on a global scale and, unusually for a developed country, a high proportion come from animals.

Millions of dollars is going into research which is showing promise but there is a road block to circumvent:

AgResearch scientists have developed a genetically modified ryegrass that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% but biotechnology experts warn regulations could delay its use.

Though it has several environmental benefits and could boost production it faces regulatory hurdles here because it has been genetically engineered.

The scientists have shown in the laboratory the ryegrass, called High Metabolisable Energy (HME), can reduce methane emissions from animals by 15% to 30% while modelling suggests a reduction in nitrous oxide of up to 20%.

It has also shown resilience to dry weather and can increase milk production by up to 12%.

Environmentalists have berated agriculture for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions but if laboratory results are replicated in the field, HME could reignite the GM debate.

This reminds me of the question – what would an enviromentalists do if they saw an endangered bird eating an endangered plant? – but this isn’t a joke.

Research has produced grass which could reduce emissions and boost production but many of the people who are demanding urgent action on climate change are also likely to be opposed to this because it’s genetically modified.

AgResearch Grasslands principal plant biotechnology scientist Greg Bryan said HME could transform NZ farming by reducing its environmental footprint and improving animal productivity.

“The potential value to GDP based on modelling we have done is in the range of $2 billion to $5b a year in additional revenue depending on the adoption rate by farmers.”

But New Zealand’s regulations mean HME field trials would have to be done overseas then repeated here.

Earlier last week scientists and science leaders attending a NZ BIO symposium at Massey University warned NZ’s GM laws had not kept pace with technology such as gene editing.

Much of the developed world was embracing GM and while NZ scientists were leaders in this science, regulations might prevent its use.

New Zealand leads the world in many areas of agriculture but the blind opposition to GM is handicapping our scientists.

Approval for field trials was technically possible but realistically difficult, with restrictions that no reproductive material left the site, thus preventing plant breeding studies. 

In an interview after the symposium, Bryan said international science companies were not interested in a small, temperate, pastoral farming system, making HME a NZ solution to a NZ farming system problem.

The 15-year HME project cost AgResearch $24 million with another $24m expected to be spent before it was ready for commercialisation. . . 

Seed multiplication in containment glasshouses was under way ahead of field trials planned for 2018-19 and animal nutrition trials in 2020. Depending on those results approval would be sought for NZ trials.

Bryan said GM organisms had been used for over 20 years in agriculture and the growing number of products on the market had not caused health issues for humans or animals eating them. . . 

On the contrary, developments like golden rice have proven health benefits.

This grass is “green” but what’s the bet the people who consider themselves greenest will oppose further trials the most.

Caution with new technology is sensible, blind opposition is not.

 


Rural round-up

October 14, 2015

Shareholders seek board changes for leaner, fitter Fonterra:

Two Fonterra shareholders and former Fonterra board members are calling on Fonterra shareholders to reduce the number of directors in a move to improve the company’s performance.

The two, Greg Gent and Colin Armer, have put forward a notice of proposal to the company’s annual meeting in late November seeking shareholder support for a reduction of board members from 13 to nine.

“We all want our cooperative to be more globally competitive and successful with a clear strategy to achieve that. Our farming businesses and livelihoods depend on that,” says Greg Gent who was formerly deputy chairman of the company. . . 

Forest & Bird congratulates New Zealand police on 1080 arrest:

Forest & Bird congratulates the New Zealand police for making an arrest as part of their investigation into a 1080 threat to infant formula late last year.

“This threat wasn’t just a challenge for our dairy industry and exports, it also had the potential to damage our ability to control introduced predators that are killing our native wildlife” explained Kevin Hackwell, Group Manager of Campaigns and Advocacy at Forest & Bird.

“We absolutely support the continued use of 1080 in New Zealand’s forests. It’s the most sensible, cost-effective way to reduce pest numbers and allow native forests and wildlife to thrive” said Mr Hackwell. . .

Alliance Group to offer farmers loyalty payments – Gerard Hutching:

Alliance Group will offer loyalty payments this season to farmer shareholders in what some observers are saying are the first shots in a procurement war.

The offer comes with the caveat that farmers have to supply 100 per cent of all their livestock or 100 per cent of one species.

The reward for farmers supplying 100 per cent of their lambs is an additional 10c per kilogram per animal.

Chief executive David Surveyor said the co-operative was forecasting $100 for an 18kg lamb for the 2015-2016 season. . . 

Farmers and growers hope to avoid another drought – Gerard Hutching:

Some South Canterbury farmers and growers are shying away from being dependent on Lake Opuha water and are putting in their own bores.

Jo and Steve Malone, who own Redwood Cherries and Berries on the Pleasant Point Highway, lost thousands of dollars during this year’s disastrous drought.

“We are going to drill for water because we don’t want to be reliant on the lake. We are waiting for the council to give us consent,” Jo Malone said.

They were not as big users of water as dairy farms. Their cherries had not received irrigated water for the last five years, but it was vital for the strawberries. . . 

Grain payments spell risky business – Alisha Fogden:

MAKING seven-day payment terms standard was a contentious topic in the managing market risk session at the recent Australian Grain Industry Conference in Melbourne.

Grain Trade Australia chief executive officer Geoff Honey, who was guest speaker, said that could potentially reduce competition.

“There are organisations that buy grain from you that sell it to an end-user that is on a 30-day end-of-week delivery,” he said.

“If it became seven-days EOW standard across everybody, you could be removing a layer of competition. . . 

A cure for vitamin B6 deficiency :

In many tropical countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, cassava is one of the most important staple foods. People eat the starchy storage roots but also the leaves as a vegetable. Both have to be cooked first to remove the toxic cyanide compounds that cassava produces.

But the roots have a disadvantage: although rich in calories, in general they contain only few vitamins. Vitamin B6 in particular is present in only small amounts, and a person for whom cassava is a staple food would have to eat about 1.3 kg of it every day for a sufficient amount of this vital vitamin.

Serious deficiency in Africa

Vitamin B6 deficiency is prevalent in several African regions where cassava is often the only staple food people’s diet. Diseases of the cardiovascular and nervous systems as well as are associated with vitamin B6 deficiency.

Plant scientists at ETH Zurich and the University of Geneva have therefore set out to find a way to increase vitamin B6 production in the roots and leaves of the cassava plant. This could prevent vitamin B6 deficiency among people who consume mostly cassava. . . 


2015 Ig Nobels

September 21, 2015

The Ig Nobels are awarded for achievements that first make people laugh then make them think.

This year’s winners are:

CHEMISTRY PRIZE — Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston [AUSTRALIA], and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss [USA], for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg. . .

PHYSICS PRIZE — Patricia Yang [USA and TAIWAN], David Hu [USA and TAIWAN], and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo [USA], for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds). . . 

LITERATURE PRIZE — Mark Dingemanse [THE NETHERLANDS, USA], Francisco Torreira [THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM, USA], and Nick J. Enfield [AUSTRALIA, THE NETHERLANDS], for discovering that the word “huh?” (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language — and for not being quite sure why. . . 

MANAGEMENT PRIZE — Gennaro Bernile [ITALY, SINGAPORE, USA], Vineet Bhagwat [USA], and P. Raghavendra Rau [UK, INDIA, FRANCE, LUXEMBOURG, GERMANY, JAPAN], for discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that — for them — had no dire personal consequences. . . 

 

ECONOMICS PRIZE — The Bangkok Metropolitan Police [THAILAND], for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes. . .

MEDICINE PRIZE — Awarded jointly to two groups: Hajime Kimata [JAPAN, CHINA]; and to Jaroslava Durdiaková [SLOVAKIA, US, UK], Peter Celec [SLOVAKIA, GERMANY], Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik [SLOVAKIA], for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities). . .

 

 

 

MATHEMATICS PRIZE — Elisabeth Oberzaucher [AUSTRIA, GERMANY, UK] and Karl Grammer [AUSTRIA, GERMANY], for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children. . . 

BIOLOGY PRIZE — Bruno Grossi, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vásquez [CHILE], José Iriarte-Díaz [CHILE, USA], for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked. . . 

DIAGNOSTIC MEDICINE PRIZE — Diallah Karim [CANADA, UK], Anthony Harnden [NEW ZEALAND, UK, US], Nigel D’Souza [BAHRAIN, BELGIUM, DUBAI, INDIA, SOUTH AFRICA, US, UK], Andrew Huang [CHINA, UK], Abdel Kader Allouni [SYRIA, UK], Helen Ashdown [UK], Richard J. Stevens [UK], and Simon Kreckler [UK], for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps. . . 

PHYSIOLOGY and ENTOMOLOGY PRIZE — Awarded jointly to two individuals: Justin Schmidt [USA, CANADA], for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and to Michael L. Smith [USA, UK, THE NETHERLANDS], for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft). . . 

 

 


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