Queensland government deploying digital meters to reduce spread of banana disease


The Queensland government has announced it is deploying Ergon Energy internet-connected meters in the state's northern region as a "significant" step towards helping local farmers minimise the spread of Panama disease, a fungus that affects the tissues of the banana plant. Up to 600 meters will be installed in the Tully and Innisfail areas, where a majority of Australia's bananas are produced. Due to Panama TR4 biosecurity concerns and strict quarantine measures, Ergon -- a subsidiary of government-owned power company Energy Queensland Limited -- made the decision to stop all entry of their contract meter readers onto farms and install digital meters that could be read remotely, Energy Minister Mark Bailey has said. "Digital meters will avoid the need for meter readers to enter properties and therefore prevent the spread of the disease," the minister said in a statement. There will be no cost to banana farmers for switching to digital meters; however, all affected farmers will be required to accommodate the switchover in the upcoming months.

China vetoed from becoming second-biggest Australia farm owner

The Japan Times

CANBERRA – China would have become the second largest foreign owner of Australian farmland after the United Kingdom if the government had not vetoed the sale to Chinese interests of a major cattle empire, a report showed on Wednesday. The Australian government released the first ever audit of Australian farmland ownership in answer to public concerns that too much agricultural land was being sold off to foreign interests, particularly China. The report found that foreigners owned 13.6 percent of Australia's 385 million hectares (1.5 million square miles) of farmland. The largest foreign buyer of farms was Britain, followed by the United States, Netherlands, Singapore then China. But China would have been propelled to second place if the government had not prevented in May the sale of Australia's largest private landholding, S. Kidman & Co. Ltd., to China-based Dakang Australia Holdings.

Queensland amends legislation to allow drone use on farms


The Queensland government has announced amended legislation that now allows the state's farmers to use drones to spray their crops. Acting Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the changes to the Agricultural Chemicals Distribution Control Act 1966 and the regulations that underpin it will give Queensland farmers access to the most "innovative aerial spraying technology" available. "The government is keen to give our producers all the advantages made available by advances in technology," Byrne said. "The improvements to the legislation provide Queensland producers with cost effective options for crop protection." Byrne expects the technology to be especially useful for chemical application in areas with limited access or difficult terrain, noting that where conventional equipment cannot be used, spraying from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) represents a safe and effective option.

Australian election: The 'unlikely' group calling for climate action

BBC News

Australia has just experienced its hottest summer and a succession of extreme weather events - making climate policy a key issue in May's national election. Now one traditionally improbable group is increasingly calling for action: farmers. "Who better than capitalist conservative farmers to push the government on climate change?" asks Verity Morgan-Schmidt, who grew up on a farm and now heads lobby group Farmers for Climate Action. It's an issue that has rapidly shifted opinions in recent years and according to cattle producer Will Graham, farmers are emerging as somewhat unlikely campaigners in this space. "Five, 10 years ago, no farmers would've believed in climate change - they were saying these are just weather cycles," he says.

Few 'bright spots' may offer clues to protecting threatened coral reefs

The Japan Times

OSLO – Some coral reefs are thriving and scientists say they may guide efforts to curb threats such as overfishing and climate change, which are blamed for widespread global declines. A major study identified 15 "bright spots" among more than 2,500 coral reefs in 46 nations, including off Indonesia, the Solomon islands and Kiribati where given local stresses there were far more fish than predicted. And the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, the world's biggest, was performing in line with expectations given its remoteness and high level of protection, lead author Joshua Cinner, a professor at James Cook University in Australia, told Reuters of the study published on Wednesday in Nature. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, facing a tight re-election battle, on Monday pledged a 1 billion Australian dollar ( 740 million) fund for the reef, which scientists say is suffering widespread coral bleaching due to climate change. The report found that in many coral reef bright spots, local people depended heavily on reefs for food and took part in owning and managing fish stocks, while many also had deep waters near the reefs that fish could use as a refuge.