30 Aug

The Fight against Flystrike: Proactive Pain Relief Now Available for Sheep

Image: Crutching sheep involves removing some of the skin from the backend of sheep to reduce the chance of flystrike. Crutching1 by cGoodwin is licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0.

Injectable pain relief is now available for use sheep, but it is too late for the mulesing debate?

A newly available injectable pain relief product has recently been approved for use in sheep, giving Australian farmers another strategy to improve animal welfare standards.

Metacam 20 has been readily available for use in horses and pigs for some time and was recently approved for use in sheep over 14 days old by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). Unlike other pain relief options, Metacam 20 is the only known drug that can be administered to sheep prior to crutching.

In 2011, the Australian-developed product – Tri-Solfen – was released to the market for use after surgical mulesing of sheep. Data released by parent company Animal Ethics Pty Ltd showed that 58% of Australian lambs were treated with Tri-Solfen in 2014, with state figures ranging between 82% (South Australia) and 16% (Queensland).

What’s the potential?

Increasing use of Tri-Solfen has been driven by pressure from textile buyers seeking wool from sources where mulesing is either banned or carried out with sufficient pain relief. At between 40-50 cents per head, Tri-Solfen offered growers a cost effective way to stay on the right side of the market. At around $4 per head, Metacam 20 is significantly more expensive than Tri-Solfen.

While Metacam 20 does offer preventative pain relief, it is unclear whether animal welfare groups are willing to back down on a total ban of mulesing.

Guidelines set out by the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) appear to advocate for the complete absence of mulesing, rather than the use of adequate pain relief – a concern for the industry given more and more major retailers are publically supporting the RWS.

The RWS was set up by Textile Exchange – a not-for-profit organisation representing the textile industry – in response to growing calls from the industry to develop global standards for the ethical and sustainable production of wool garments.

Over the ditch

In 2007, the New Zealand government started ‘phasing out’ mulesing in response to growing criticism from animal rights groups and consumers.

Shifting attitudes towards the practice were seen quickly in the private sector, with the launch of ZQ – an opt-in accreditation program for wool growers that includes a no-mulesing policy. New Zealand Merino Company – the developer of ZQ – claim that the program has opened more doors for accredited growers, including the stabilisation of wool prices through the availability of forward contracts.

Did you know?

  • The practice of mulesing was named after John WH Mules, who accidentally cut the skin from the hind end of a ewe during shearing. Noticing the ewe did not suffer from flystrike, he started crutching all his sheep.
  • The fly responsible for fly strike – Lucilia cuprina – is thought to have been introduced to Australia from South Africa in the nineteenth century.
  • Mulesing was approved by the Australian Government for use in the 1930s. The practice was due to be phased out by 2010, but the wool industry voted against the ban due to a lack of effective alternatives.

 

Sources: Responsible Wool, Mulesing, Farm Weekly, ABC, Petceutics, APVMA

30 Aug

Save our River: The Case of The Disappearing Water

Image: The sustainability of the Barwon River is of significant concern given the level of over extraction being carried out by irrigators. Collarenebri by cGoodwin is licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0.

ABC’s Four Corners programme that aired last month raised serious question around the allocation, monitoring and policing of water allocations within the Murray Darling Basin.

The programme alleged that water bought from irrigators by the government to use as environmental water was being used to irrigate cotton farms. Several New South Wales irrigators were accused of offences including water theft by metre tampering, over extraction, and pumping water during irrigation bans or low flow periods.

Investigating Irrigators

The New South Wales State Government initially investigated several of these cases, gathering information that suggested a significant over extraction of water by irrigators. When the investigating officer applied for government consent to conduct an escalated inspection of water extraction methods of one farmer, the approval was denied.

This coincided with a sudden drop in allocated funds for the investigations unit, suggesting that forces within the department were trying to hamper the prosecution of non-compliant irrigators.

The programme also highlighted the ill effects of rule changes that effectively allow growers to draw high volumes of water out of the river during low flows and alleged backroom deals between irrigation lobbyists and the New South Wales State Government.

Industry Insight

The Lucas Group Director Geoff Lucas sees the lack of regulation, monitoring and compliance as a major issue for the ongoing management of the Murray Darling Basin.

‘Breeches in water use – including the manipulation of monitoring systems – is theft, just like scamming money from an ATM or robbing a bank,’ he said.

‘The system needs to be overhauled at every level, from reviewing water allocations through closer monitoring of water use, and it’s essential the authorities prosecute offenders so there is a deterrent for other irrigators’.

His suggestions include investing in better water flow modelling so that irrigators can be instructed on the amount of water they can draw in line with the needs of the environment and other water users down stream. He also proposed that New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria adopt the water allocation model of South Australia, so licensed water use is limited when water flows are scarce.

Mr Lucas – a former board member of Agribusiness Australia – sees technology as being key to the successful monitoring and compliance of water extracted through the basin.

‘The federal government needs to invest money so effective monitoring systems can record the extraction of water at every irrigation extraction point along the River system. This can be remote accessed, so the basin authority has real-time access to data on water use so any deviations can be quickly identified and managed. Given the promises of the NBN, a remote-accessed real time system should be possible.

He warns that without a significant overhaul of the system, the Murray Darling system will continue to decline at an alarming rate

‘A lack of proper process and governance around water use for irrigators is making a farce of the water market and devalues water licences. Effective implementation of the basin plan is critical to managing the water resources, which are available for all Australians.

Sources: ABC, Four Corners

25 Jul

Turn me on: The value of agtech in a digital age

Image: Agtechnologies including CropX and mOasis present opportunities for irrigators to grow more produce with less water.  Turkey Centre Pivot Irrigation System from Alibaba, labelled for reuse.

The impact of climate change combined with an increasing global population and a reduction in arable lands is pressuring technology for a solution – how to grow more food with fewer resources. Generating excitement within the tech world, the race to find the best agtech solution is also gathering interest from investors with large sums of money being offered up by venture capitalists.

While Australia hasn’t yet realised its full potential in the agtech world, America and Israel are successfully leading the way in the development of agricultural technologies. In this article, we take a look at three of the most exciting emerging products from agtech start-ups.

 

CropX SensorCropX

CropX – an Israeli developed system – aims to help irrigators to boost crop yields and save on water with a network of in-field sensors.

The CropX system is capable of scanning a paddock and determining distinct production zones and even identifies the best location for sensors to be installed within a paddock.

Once installed, the system automatically develops an irrigation plan and sends the farmer daily text messages providing an overview of soil moisture levels and suggested requirements on a per zone basis – meaning water applications can be more informed and precise processes.

At US$600 per sensor, installing multiple units into a paddock is not only feasible but also significantly cheaper than many other soil moisture probe brands. The farmer can install each sensor in minutes, reducing the need and expense of hiring a contractor.


mOasis

Another start up that promises to improve the efficiency of water use for irrigators is mOasis. This American company has developed and manufactured several soil additives that help retain water in the soil, meaning fewer irrigation applications and healthier crops.

mOasis products come in various formats including powders and granules, which are applied to paddocks with common farm machines such as a seeder or spray unit. The company claims that BountiGel P retains up to 250 times its weight in water helping to provide consistent moisture to plants, reducing stress and increasing yields and quality.

Initial trials have shown promising data for mOasis products. A study undertaken by the University of Fresno in California investigated the impact of BountiGel on irrigated tomatoes over three years. The trial resulted in a yield increase of 8.5% and return increase of $370 / acre, plus additional savings through reduced water use, compared to crops grown without the additive.

Arvegenix

The company’s core focus is the development of Field Pennycress into a viable cash crop to be used as both a renewable fuel and animal feed source. As a winter crop, Arvegenix is promoting Pennycress as an alternative to fallowed paddocks between soy and corn rotations, providing farmers with additional revenue and a source of valuable cover to reduce erosion and nutrient losses.

A member of the brassica (mustard) family, Pennycress seeds are very high in oil with the right properties to be used in biodiesel and aviation fuel. Initial research suggests that pennycress biodiesel is much more suitable for use in cold climates than other oil-based biodiesel products.

A by-product of the extraction of oil is Pennycress meal, which is being tested for its suitability as a source of nutrition for ruminant animals. Arvegenix claims that Pennycress meal could contain 33-35% protein, fatty acids and carbohydrates ‘that are expected to provide an excellent feed for ruminant animals’.

Arvegenix was set up by a team of ex-Monsanto Executives and has received funding through Monsanto’s venture capital arm – Monsanto Growth Ventures (MGV).

Sources: Forbes, CropX, mOasis, Arvergenix

25 Jul

Hey big Spender: The rise of agricultural land prices in Australia and beyond

Image: Jackson Land and Cattle was listed for US$175million in 2011. Photo courtesy of Business Insider.

The Shire of Cardinia in Victoria is home to the most expensive farmland in Australia, according to a report released earlier this year.

The Australian Farmland Values 2016 report shows that land in the area sold for a median price of $21,999 per hectare. The Shire of Cardinia borders the south-eastern side of Melbourne and major residential developments is a key driver in the value of agricultural land.

In contrast, the cheapest land in Victoria was in the Wimmera Mallee with a median price of $1,282 per hectare. In 2016, 51 parcels of land around the towns of Birchip, Donald and Wycheproof were traded, indicating strong interest from buyers in a traditionally tightly held region.

In New South Wales, the most costly land can be found in the Northern Rivers region, 50kms south of the Queensland border. Land in the Shire of Byron sold for a median price of $17,794 in 2016 with only nine recorded transactions. Fertile soils and favourable weather make the region ideal for a range of agricultural commodities including beef and dairy, vegetables, fruits and emerging crop varieties such as macadamias, bamboo and lychees. The cheapest land in New South Wales can be found in the Central Darling region, with a median price per hectare of $57.

Land in the Adelaide Hills has driven the median price of land to $18,278 per hectare. Reliable rainfall and the appeal of lifestyle properties continue to drive demand in the area, which has a three-year average median price of $19,407 per hectare. On the Eyre Peninsula, land around Cowell was sold for a median price of $358 per hectare.

You can still snap up a bargain in Queensland, with land selling for $41 per hectare at Croydon in the far north. Farmland between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast recorded the highest median price at $15,694 / hectare.

In Western Australia, Busselton boasted the highest price per hectare at $13,041, while Mukinbudin country sold for a mere $411.

Agricultural land prices around the world

A 2015 report by the Financial Times (London) revealed that Ireland has the most expensive agricultural land in the world, worth an average of $13,600 per acre. The second most expensive agricultural land is found in New Zealand ($8,532 per acre), followed by Denmark ($7,934) and the UK ($5,448).

The price of agricultural land in the UK doubled between 2010 and 2015, making it a better investment than high-end real estate and even gold.

In America, the most expensive farming land can be found in the Napa Valley, famed as the country’s premier wine growing region. In 2012, land was worth up to a staggering $378,000 per acre, with one transaction realising a $6.3 million asking price for a mere 3 acres of land.

In 2011, a 1750-acre ranch – Jackson Land and Cattle at Jackson Hole, Wyoming – was listed for $220 million – the most expensive ranch on the market at the time. The property boasted ‘an equestrian centre, ponds, a spring and breathtaking scenery’, as one would expect from a property worth $126,000 per acre.

‘Bigger than Israel’

The largest property in Australia and the world’s largest cattle station – Anna Creek station in South Australia – was sold for a comparatively bargain price of $16 million in 2016. The 6 million acre property is bigger than Israel, with the ability to carry up to 17,000 head of cattle.

The largest farm in the world is the Chinese super dairy – Mudanjiang City Mega Farm at Heilongjang. The 22,500,000 acre farm was expanded in 2011 in response to the Russian ban on EU dairy products and supports a herd of 100,000 dairy cows.

Sources: The Independent (Ireland), Business Insider, ABC, World Atlas, Napa Valley Register, The Guardian (UK), The Australian, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australian Farmland Values 2016

Note: Prices in this article are quoted per hectare for Australian farmland, and per acre for land overseas. All prices are quoted in AUD unless stated with currency rates as at 24th July 2017.

25 Jul

Possum Parmigiana and Chips: Could Australian native animals be a source of food?

Image: While Kangaroo is often seen on Australian restaurant menus, could other native creatures soon be part of our diet? Braised kangaroo, Swan Valley by Phillip Capper from Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Could looking at the past offer us a glimpse of what’s to come in the future? That’s a question Dr Jillian Garvey is trying to answer through her investigation of the role Australian native animals played in pre-colonial Australia.

With the aim of identifying what fauna could offer us a sustainable source of food, Dr Garvey has been examining the carcasses of native animals and analysing their nutritional values.

Feral grazing plate

Records show that Aboriginal people hunted a range of native animals for food – including kangaroos and wallabies, emus, wombats, possums, reptiles, small birds and shellfish. This information also shows that Aboriginal hunters preferred certain species to another and even favoured certain cuts of meat.

Dr Garvey’s research has come one step closer to understanding why hunters made such selective decisions. An analysis of wombat meat showed that they have a large amount of nutritious and fatty meat along their backs, providing a tasty, filling and healthy food source. This information matches archaeological records about the butchery habits of the Ice Age southwest Tasmanian hunters, who frequently targeted wombats and the medium-size Bennett’s wallaby for food.

Kerbing caveman cholesterol

While wombats offer plenty of easily accessible energy, it might not be a particularly healthy form. Wombat fat is high in saturated fat – not ideal for a caveman looking to control his cholesterol. The echidna would be a better option, with a highly nutritious layer of unsaturated fats located between its quills and skin.

Other healthy native fauna options include the Eastern great kangaroo, which has a large amount of lean meat around its pelvis and highly nutritious bone marrow. Smaller macropods (pademelon and potoroo) yield less meat but have nutritiously rich bone marrow. Splitting animal bones and eating bone marrow is one way hunters may have avoided protein poisoning – a fatal condition caused by a lack of fat in the diet.

While kangaroo is a relatively common feature on Australian menus, the most likely additions are emus and wombats. There are hurdles in introducing new native species to consumers including ethical rearing and slaughter, the development of supply chains and convincing consumers to try alternative protein sources. But in an age plagued by issues including global warming and obesity, native meat sources could offer a sustainable solution.

Sources: Thinkable, ABC

25 Jul

Profitable Pongamia: High value biofuel from an Australian native

Image: Pongamia Pinnata Seeds from Wikipedia under a Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0

An American company has adopted an Australian tree with the hope of growing high value crops whilst restoring depleted agricultural lands.

The low-maintenance Pongamia tree produces oilseeds that can be processed for biofuel as well as a host of other downstream products. Pongamia trees produce ten times more oil per acre compared to soy, three times more protein, but use 75% less water and chemical inputs. As a legume, Pongamia trees also fix their own nitrogen.

The project is being spear headed by Terviva, an investor-backed venture that has catalogued the genetics of Pongamia genetics to identify high-yielding varieties suitable for cultivation in America. As well as propagating young trees to supplying growers with, Terviva also offers processing, sales and marketing services to their clients.

Pongamia Down Under

Back in Australia, researchers have been working to determine the potential for the Pongamia tree to be grown on a commercial scale.

One project in Roma, Queensland, looked at the use of Pongamia trees as a biodiesel source, while offsetting excess water produced on local gas fields. Owned by Origin Energy, the 300-hectare block of land was planted with 170,000 trees in 2010, which are irrigated with treated water from the Spring Gully reverse osmosis plant.

While the trees have started to yield good quantities of seeds, an issue with occupational health and safety has held up wide scale harvesting.

“The risk of fire from machinery on a gas field has prevented any mechanical harvesting, “ said George Muirhead, Director of BioEnergy Plantations Australia – one of the collaborators involved in the trial.

Mr Muirhead says that many smaller players have started experimenting with Pongamia trees, but warns that volume is critical to develop a profitable economy of scale. “It’s crystal ball stuff, but I suspect that farmers will start to become more serious about growing Pongamia trees once the world oil price rises above $60 a barrel”.

Pongamia’s Potential

As well as interest from Japan, Mr Muirhead says many Councils have expressed interest in the technology as a sustainable, closed-loop energy system. “Potentially they could plant Pongamia trees, harvest and process the oil into a source of biofuel for Council vehicles”.

“There’s also potential for station owners to grow the trees and use a gasifier to convert the meal and shell into electricity. As the price of electricity increases and gasification technology improves, this could provide cheap and reliable power to the most remote locations”.

Sources: Origin Energy, Bioenergy Plantations, Biomass Producer, Terviva

30 Jun

A Diagnostic Eye in the Sky for Australian Farmers

Image: Merging the surveying capabilities of UAVs with diagnostic tools could provide farmers with a head start in treating poor performing crops. ‘Drone’ by David McBee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Over the last few years, agriculture has seen a dramatic rise in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as another tool in the farm toolbox. As well as being used to check stock water and fence lines, growers have been using this technology as a way to monitor their crops from a unique perspective.

While these aerial technologies present an opportunity to survey paddocks and even identify areas of concern, most systems fail to diagnose the cause or suggest an accurate remedial strategy. A new Australian venture aims to close this gap with the development of FluroSat – a system that monitors crops, diagnoses areas of stress and recommends relevant solutions.

How the technology works

Hyperspectural images are taken by a satellite, or a drone-mounted camera flown over the crops. The images are then processed and analysed to produce a paddock map highlighting areas of stress. FluroSat also provides information about potential causes – nutrient deficiencies, water and heat stress, weeds, pests and diseases. This information can then be ground truthed by a farmer or agronomist before being actioned.

Understanding the benefits

Technologies like FluroSat offer growers the ability to detect issues much earlier than the traditional boots-on-the-ground approach. A head start on diagnosing agronomic issues potentially allows for a quicker and more effective recovery, a reduction in inputs and an increase in yield. FluroSat have estimated that their technology could increase yields by 10-35%, reduce fertiliser by 30% and decrease water use by 25%.

FluroSat are also set to offer a ‘data fusion’ service where farmers can overlay existing precision agriculture information – such as yield maps – with data captured by drone or satellite to produce a more comprehensive understanding of influencing factors. Data fusion can also include information from hand held paddock testing devices such as plant nitrogen testers, and the combined information can be used to generate maps to guide variable rate applications.

As input costs, water security, herbicide resistance and climate change become prominent issues for Australian farmers, having a more proactive approach to crop management is an obvious way to mitigate financial loss. On a national scale, this represents a multi-million dollar boost to the Australian agriculture sector with potential flow on effects to agribusiness and international trade.

The proof is in the pudding

Knowing how promising these technologies will boil down to accuracy, usability, cost and accessibility. FluroSat developers are intending on offering the product as a fee-for-service basis or by connecting a farmer with an approved contractor. While pricing is still being determined, it’s likely that the service will be available on a subscription basis. Currently in final testing stages, FluroSat is due to be released commercially in 2018.

Sources: Telstra, FluroSat

30 Jun

Satellite Technology Making Station Life Safer

Image: Advances in GPS and satellite technologies promises a safer future for the most remote workers in Australia. ‘A stockman musters cattle on CSIROs Belmont Research Station in central Queensland’ by CSIRO is licensed under CC BY 3.0

 

The next generation in Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) is set to make station life safer for those working in some of the most remote locations in Australia.

Pocket-sized beacons are currently being trialled on stations in the Northern Territory and Western Queensland, with the aim of improving the safety of workers in mobile and radio black spots.

R U OK?

The system uses GPS and satellite technology to allow two-way communication with a station’s base. Pocket-based devices can be used to send pre-programmed messages to a station’s office via email, such as “I’m okay”. Office staff can use the system to send messages to staff as a daily check-in, especially important for those who work remotely for days at a time.

A distress function sends an alert directly to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) triggering an urgent search and rescue operation. Station management can also track the location of staff in the event that they need assistance.

Beyond the black stump

Australian Agriculture Company (AACo) is assessing the fit of the system on four stations, including Canobie in the southern gulf region of Queensland. Canobie station manager Jack Morris sees the system as a way to bridge the gaps left by other communication technologies.

“Mobile phone [coverage] is non-existent and there are UHF [radio] blackspots so we’ve taken these other steps to try and keep our people safe and to know where they are, “ he said.

“We’ve got them with loader drivers and grader drivers, because they’re camped out a lot, and bore men and blokes delivering licks to cattle, so if they are in trouble they can press the button”.

To date, the system has worked well according to AACo workplace health and safety manager, Joanna den Hertog.

“We haven’t had any problems with the satellite messages; we’ve found that the satellite is reliable, Ms den Hertog said.

“We have the option of sending pre-programmed messages like ‘I’m okay’ that get send to emails and we’ve had no problems receiving those.

With an encouraging response to date from both staff and management, the system is likely to be rolled out across all properties in AACo’s 7 million hectare holdings.

“We’re looking at application on all our properties where the manager identified there’s a risk that relates to a person who works in isolation, “ she said.

Alex Thomas, an independent consultant who specialises in agricultural health and safety, sees the technology as an essential component of station life.

“Reducing the risks associated with working in remote and isolated areas has always been a challenge for pastoralists, however with the birth of new technology, anxiety levels of spouses and employers alike can be alleviated”.

Source: ABC

30 Jun

No beef for you: India bans the slaughter of cattle

Image: The Indian government has cited animal welfare reasons for banning the slaughter of cattle and buffalo, a claim rebutted by many critics. “Sacred Cow” by Guy-Claude Portmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

One of the world’s largest exporters of beef has banned the slaughter of cattle, with the government citing animal welfare reasons for the change in policy.

The Indian government made the announcement in May 2017, including a complete ban on the trade of cattle and buffalo for slaughter.

Critics of the ban are claiming that India’s Hindu Nationalist Government is actually motivated by religious reasons. The cow is revered symbol for the nation’s 744 million Hindus.

The ban presents immediate and significant crisis for the country’s meat processing and leather value chains, worth an estimated $14 billion dollars a year for the Indian economy. In 2016, India was the second largest exporter of cattle, with Brazil taking the top spot.

Impact Downunder

News of the ban presents a potential opportunity for Australian exporters who have seen increasing competition from Indian buffalo exports to Indonesia.

“What we’ve seen in the last six to 10 months is turnoff from feedlots and slaughter numbers down 40 to 50 per cent, since the introduction of Indian buffalo,” said Stuart Kemp – CEO of the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association.

But with little information available from the Indian government, Mr Kemp recommends a cautious approach for the Australian industry.

“More demand for Australian product is always a good thing, but I wouldn’t be high-fiving myself just yet, there is a lot of water to go under the bridge,” he said.

Jakarta-based industry consultant Ross Ainsworth believes the ban on the slaughter of buffalo could soon be reversed.

“The cattle trade is very tiny in India because it has always been a restricted situation but the buffalo trade has risen to be the world’s largest meat trade. I would be very surprised if what appears to be a ban on buffalo is actually real when all the detail of the ban rolls out,” he said.

“It would cause the biggest disruption [to the world meat trade] since the Second World War, so I can’t see it happening.”

High-End Promises?

Global live cattle trade is becoming increasingly competitive, with countries as far away as Spain now supplying Indonesia. Bakso Balls – traditional meatballs and the most common source of meat protein for Indonesians – are being made from cheap sources of meat, including Indian buffalo.

The use of cheaper meats has forced Australian cattle to be sold to the smaller, high-end portion of the market. Although in it’s infancy, Java-based Robi Agustiar says this portion of the market does have potential for Australia.

“The industry needs to educate the consumer that if they want a cheap price, then buy the buffalo meat, but if you want great quality [beef], from a traceability system and a delicate taste, you can buy Australian meat” he said.

Sources: ABC, ABC, ABC, Census India, Aljazeera

30 Jun

Dry start to the season compounds mice woes for grain growers

After a record 2016 grain harvest, increasing numbers of mice are posing a major threat to this year’s crops.

An abundance of grain on the ground, good paddock cover and wet summer conditions have provided the ideal conditions for mice, with numbers exploding through many parts of the country.

In parts of Victoria, New South Wales and southern Queensland, frustrated farmers have seen entire paddocks of this season’s crops wiped out by mice, despite investing in costly baiting programs. Demand for off-the-shelf mouse bait products has increased the price from around $2/kg to more than $4/kg.

In South Australia, demand for bulk mouse bait from mixing stations is also at an all time high. With no similar program interstate, South Australian mixing stations have been taking orders from farmers in western Victoria.

Danger Mouse

Yorke Peninsula agronomist Chris Davey says the dry start to the season and damage from mice is making the 2017 season “one of the most frustrating I’ve seen in 20 years of being a consultant”.

In a tweet, Mr Davey posted photos showing the damage done to a client’s paddock on the Northern Yorke Peninsula where lentils were re-sown twice and even three times in certain patches, despite the farmer having applied up to eight applications of mice bait.

Tweet1

Hail knocked grain to the ground in November 2016, providing accessible feed for mice Tweet by Chris Davey, supplied.

“The hail storm that came through in November last year knocked a lot of grain onto the ground, so there’s been an abundance of food for mice for the last six or seven months”, he said.

Mr Davey estimates that the costs involved in baiting and re-sowing the paddock will cost the farmer between $110 and $140 / hectare on top of a yield penalty for this year’s harvest.

Dry times

A lack of rain during April and May is compounding the already difficult conditions faced by many growers. “There are guys around here who have been farming all their lives who tell me they’ve never seen such a dry April, May and early June before.

Even a small rainfall event could help to turn the season around, he explains. “We’ve got good subsoil moisture carried over from 2016 and we had good summer rains. Another 10mm would help to join the moisture bands up and give plants the boost they need to access moisture further down in the soil profile.

“Especially on heavier soil types – there are areas around here where sown crops haven’t germinated at all. There are also patches where seed has shot, but rotted and have needed to be reseeded”.

Tweet2

Dry conditions have caused cracks in the paddocks on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia. Tweet by Chris Davey, supplied.

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a drier than average winter for many cropping regions in Australia, influenced by temperature changes of the Pacific Sea and Indian Ocean.

Source: ABC