21 April, 2017

Australian Cotton Industry

 I have long contended that in all respects the Australian Cotton Industry is a model that all agricultural industries in Australia, if not the world, should follow.

The following extract from a Cotton Australia submission to Government is just one example of the the quality of the science and attitude that pervades the industry.

"Improvement in Water Use Efficiency (WUE) is one of the most important drivers for the Australian cotton industry. It is not unusual for the water to account for 60% to 80% of a cotton producer’s combined land/water assets.

The submission says it is essential to understand that there are no “Silver Bullets” for WUE. There is no “One Size Fits All Solutions”, as irrigators utilise a suite of technologies and services to maximise
their water use efficiency.

These can range from simply estimating crop water requirements by digging a hole in a field with a
shovel, and assessing the water capacity of the soil by look and feel, to employing highly
sophisticated soil moisture readers, linked to satellite derived weather and plant water use data.

It can be an optimised furrow, gravity irrigation system, or pressurised drip or lateral move type
systems, or by improvement in yield from new varieties and better management techniques
deriving from world class research.

It can result from minimising evaporation by maximising storage depth and minimising surface
area, or by upskilling of labour from the most humble irrigators tasked with manually starting,
managing and stopping thousands of syphons, to university trained irrigation managers analysing
data from a whole range of sources, and making timely decisions that optimise plant growth.

Or most likely a combination of all of the above."

17 April, 2017


A new word has entered the fashionable lexicon. The global warming alarmists and the "dark green" advocates of the Murray Darling Basin Plan had better get used to it and learn how it impacts their advocacy arguments.

I have long contended that the massive variability of our river flows makes the use of statistical averages quite meaningless, when the spreads around the average are so enormous. Asking CSIRO to come up with Average Volumetric Limits (AVL's) for each of the major rivers in the MDB is a stupid question from people who clearly don't understand the the key characteristic of our inland rivers-massive variability.

Likewise the promoters of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, talk about single figure targets without acknowledging the dependence on the wind blowing and the sun shining to achieve them. If energy sources are to be dependable then the "intermittent" sources need to have back-up or significant storage capacity, to achieve the reliability requirement. Without subsidies this makes them quite uneconomic! 

Hydro is a notable exception, because you can store the water and achieve immediate generation with the turn 'of a tap', making hydro ideal for peak electricity generation. A fact that Snowy Hydro has exploited brilliantly. I remain to be convinced that "pumped hydro" will prove economic, where water has first to be pumped to higher altitudes and then run back down to drive the generators.

But, take my word for it, we are going to hear a lot about "intermittency".