Winners of WSU’s Cattle-Raising Competition Revealed

Winners of WSU’s Cattle-Raising Competition Revealed

Windsor’s Bede Polding College has been crowned the Champion School for the 2018 UniSchools Steer Challenge.

Organised by the Western Sydney University, the competition saw students from 12 schools across New South Wales raise cattle for three months to be judged in various categories, including steer weight gain, best presented steer, and more.

Bede Polding College was announced as the year’s overall winner at the closing ceremony earlier this month, making it the school’s sixth win since the competition was established in 2001. McCarthy Catholic College and Caroline Chisholm College won the most categories, snagging the top spot in categories such as champion carcase school and junior champion parade.

Mount Annan Christian College, Sydney won the champion junior judge category and also emerged as the best combined beef appraisal team.

See the full list of winners here.

Event: Wild Wild Inner West: Wattle we do about your garden?, Sydney

Event: Wild Wild Inner West: Wattle we do about your garden?, Sydney

If you’re a millennial living in Sydney, chances are you may not have a lot of experience in gardening. Growing up in the city and being busy with school and work might not really leave a lot of time to get your hands dirty in the backyard. However, if you want to expand beyond succulents, a workshop designed for you is coming this weekend.

Wild Wild Inner West: Wattle we do about your garden? is a workshop for young people of Inner West and City of Sydney aged 18 to 35, where you can learn about local native plants of the bushland that can fit right into home gardens. Limited gardening space, which often comes with living in this city, is not an issue either – the workshop will focus on species that thrive in pots and containers as well as backyards and balconies.

The instructors – Rosie King and Alex Birker, who boast 4+ years’ experience in horticulture and ecology – will also teach you how to care and maintain your plants, create potting mix, and deal with noxious weeds.

With just $5 fee, you can take home all the relevant knowledge AND a few native plants for you to grow right away. For booking and more information, visit the Eventbrite page.

Saturday, September 15, 11am-1pm | Hut 1, Addison Road Community Centre, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville

Attracting Birds to Your Garden

Attracting Birds to Your Garden

Birds are a wonder of nature for your garden – they assist in pollination and seed dispersion, keep pests under control, and bring moments of delight with their mellifluous voice and beautiful flocks. Australia is endowed with a wide variety of native wildlife birds, but attracting them to your garden is not so simple. Here are a few tips to encourage a visit from your feathered friends…

Do Some Research

Different birds have different needs. Before preparing the habitat for bird visits, it is a good idea to know the kinds of birds to expect in your area. Do a quick lookup of your suburb on the Internet or reach out to your local birdwatching group to find out the common species of birds to look out for.

 

Design Accordingly

Once you know and decide which birds you want to attract, it’s time to set your garden. Tall trees are perfect to encourage high flyers like kookaburras and parrots to perch, while low-lying shrubs and grasses will be suitable for the low lying such as finches and wrens. Nectar-feeding birds will love flowers, especially the red and yellow ones, while insect-feeding and carnivore birds will enjoy pesticide-free gardens that let preys roam free. If you’re looking to attract multiple types of birds, the following plants could help serve all their needs: acacia, banksia, eucalypts and and melaleuca.

 

Water over Food

Water allows birds to drink, swim and clean their feathers – under a few conditions. Make sure your bird bath is shallow enough to let birds stand and elevated enough to protect birds from predators. Keep the water supply consistently filled throughout the year, as birds remember water sources and rely on them.

Providing bird food in your garden is a more controversial subject. Store-bought and/or artificial food might make native birds unwell, and dependence on feeding stations might make them more vulnerable to attacks by predators such as other birds, cats and foxes.

 

Good luck and have fun birdwatching in your own backyard!

Gardening Myths, Busted

Gardening Myths, Busted

When it comes to gardening, there are a lot of myths and misinformation. Here are a few popular ones, debunked.

Myth: Adding sand to clay soil will lighten it

Truth: The sand will make the soil hard and heavy, as it draws in a lot of water. This can also increase the risk of drowning your plants. Try loosening your clay soil with organic matters, or make a raised bed so that the water can flow somewhere else.

 

Myth: Young or newly planted trees should be staked

Truth: Staked trees might grow to be weaker, thinner and less stable than their un-staked counterparts. There are two possible solutions: place the trees in areas that are not too windy, or stake the tree on the same side as where the wind blows from. Use a soft fabric or material that won’t give the trees a permanent damage.

 

Myth: Organic is better

Truth: Just because something is “organic” or “natural”, it doesn’t mean that it’s better or safer for your garden. Natural pesticides can still kill beneficial insects such as ladybirds and bumblebees. Organic methods such as tilling can lead to more erosion and nutrient runoff.

 

Myth: Watering on a hot day will cause plant sunburn

Truth: In general, plants don’t get sunburn. However, it is still advisable to avoid watering when the sun is at its brightest to reduce the amount of evaporation. Mornings or after sunsets would be a great time to water your plants.

 

Event: Mindful Succulent Potting for Beginners, Sydney

Event: Mindful Succulent Potting for Beginners, Sydney

Succulents might be one of the most popular starter plants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest to take care of. This workshop will teach you the basics, from potting to treatments.

Nat Tsirimokos from Environmental Rights Organisation will present the workshop and teach you how to recycle items for planting, identify various types of succulents, propagate for growth, create a potting mix and use different techniques to care for your plants. All you need to bring is yourself, a pair of gardening gloves and objects to plant your succulents in (optional).

Tickets are $10, excluding processing fee. For more information, visit the Eventbrite page.

Saturday, September 1, 10am-12pm | New Moon, Yanada Room, 22 Hudson Street, Lewisham

Best Flowers to Grow in the Winter

Best Flowers to Grow in the Winter

Need some colourful blooms to brighten your chilly winter days? Try grabbing these flowers or their seeds in your next garden shop visit…

Pansy

Coming in every colour of the rainbow, pansies will be a great addition to your winter garden. They grow well in cool areas and bloom larger, more brightly-coloured flowers during the winter. Make sure your pansies are well-watered, planted in slightly acidic, well-drained soil, and have at least half a day of full sun exposure.

 

Hellebore

Hellebores don’t require a lot of maintenance – they grow well in shady, low-light areas. For optimum growth, plant them in rich, moist and drainable soil. Grow hellebores close to the surface to promote healthy flower production.

 

Apple Blossom

When in bloom, apple blossom produces an abundance of flowers and can grow to 80-100cm in height at its maturity. Apple blossom can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Make sure you use clay, sandy, well-drained soils with neutral pH.

 

Cyclamen

Thriving in cold and wet conditions, cyclamens should be grown in a shaded area with free drainage. Plant the tubers on or near the surface.

 

Forget-Me-Not

This flower is excellent for shady and damp areas, as they allow moisture retention. Other than that, it doesn’t require a lot of attention. Make sure to keep the soil moist, and add fertiliser once every season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event: The Winter Garden + Prepping for Spring, Sydney

Event: The Winter Garden + Prepping for Spring, Sydney

Winter isn’t exactly the easiest season for gardening – but that doesn’t mean you have to sit still and wait it out until spring.

The Winter Garden + Prepping for Spring workshop will allow you to learn the best ways to foster a healthy winter garden and prep it for spring herbs, fruits and vegs, no matter what size or shape your space comes in.

Teacher Jon Kingston, who boasts 25 years of experience in garden design, bush regeneration and horticulture retail and production, will divulge his knowledge on the best seeds and seedlings to cultivate during the winter as well as tips of how to plan for and plant at the right time for your spring crops. You’ll also receive seeds to plant at home – all you need to bring is a notepad, pen and a hat.

Tickets are $75, excluding processing fee. For more information and booking, visit the Eventbrite page.

Saturday, July 21, 10am-1pm | Pocket City Farms, 31A Mallett Street, Camperdown

Event: Build Your Own Terrarium Bar, Sydney

Event: Build Your Own Terrarium Bar, Sydney

In search of a terrarium to grace your desk? Don’t go to the shop just yet – try making your own at this workshop.

Little Succers’ pop-up shop in Chippendale is bringing a workshop where you can build your own terrarium. Materials such as soil, pebbles, plants and decorations will be provided, and you will only have to pay for what you use. With succulents, pricks, air plants, crystals, flamingos and a wide variety of vases, you will have all you need to make your dream terrarium.

The long-weekend June sessions are sold out, but you can still sign up for next month with morning, afternoon and night options. Spot holding fee is $20, and redeemable at the day for all your terrarium materials.

For more information, visit Little Succers’ website.

June 8-11, July 13-15 | 10 Bartley Street, Chippendale

The Hidden Carbon Cost of Everyday Products

The Hidden Carbon Cost of Everyday Products

Kai Whiting, Universidade de Lisboa and Luis Gabriel Carmona, Universidade de Lisboa

The targets set in the Paris Agreement on climate change are ambitious but necessary. Failure to meet them will lead to widespread drought, disease and desperation in some of the world’s poorest regions. Under such conditions mass migration by stranded climate refugees is almost inevitable.

Yet if richer nations are to be serious in their commitment to the Paris target, then they must begin to account for the carbon emissions contained within products they import.

Heavy industry and the constant demand for consumer goods are key contributors to climate change. In fact, 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced through the process of converting metal ores and fossil fuels into the cars, washing machines and electronic devices that help prop up the economy and make life a little more comfortable.

As one might expect, the wealthier parts of the world with their higher purchasing power do more than their fair share of consuming and polluting. For every item bought or sold there is a rise in GDP, and with each 1% increase in GDP there is a corresponding 0.5 to 0.7% rise in carbon emissions. The growing demand for day-to-day conveniences exacerbates this problem. For metal ores alone, the extraction rate more than doubled between 1980 and 2008, and it shows no sign of slowing.

Every time you buy a new car, for instance, you effectively mine 3-7g of “platinum group metals” to coat the catalytic converter. The six elements in the platinum group have the greatest environmental impact of all metals, and producing just one kilo requires the emission of thousands of kilos of CO₂.

That car also consumes one tonne of steel and you can add to that some aluminium, a whole host of plastics and, in the case of electric cars, rare earth elements.

Often, no one is held accountable for the carbon emissions connected to these materials, because they are produced in countries where “dirty” industry is still politically acceptable or seen as the only way to escape poverty. In fact, of the carbon emissions that European consumers are personally responsible for, around 22% are allocated elsewhere under conventional carbon accounting practices. For consumers in the US, the figure is around 15%.

From mine to dump

Carbon emissions from the exhaust pipe tell only part of the story. To get a full sense of the carbon footprint of a car, you have to consider those emissions that go into producing the raw materials and digging a hole in the ground twice – once to extract the metals contained in the car, once to dump them when they can no longer be recycled.

Buying a new car and dumping the old one might be justifiable if the change was made because the new vehicle is more fuel efficient, but it is certainly not when it’s a question of personal taste or corporate-level planned obsolescence. The same is true for any number of high tech items, including smartphones that run on software that renders them unusable in the medium term. The environmental consequences of replacing a smartphone, in terms of carbon emissions alone, are considerable. Apple found that 83% of the carbon dioxide associated with the iPhone X was directly linked to manufacture, shipping and recycling. With these kinds of figures, it is hard to argue a sustainable case for upgrades – regardless of how many solar panels Apple sticks on the roof of its offices.

Governments of richer countries that import products but not their emissions must stop pointing the finger at China or other manufacturing or mining giants and start taking responsibility. This means going further than they have been willing to go so far, and implementing sustainable material strategies that address a product’s entire lifecycle from mining to manufacturing, use, and eventually to disposal.

The ConversationOn an individual level people must vote with their money. It’s time to leave behind the laggards who hide the cost of the carbon contained within their products and who design them to fail in order to put profits before people and the environment.

Kai Whiting, Sustainability and Stoicism Researcher, Universidade de Lisboa and Luis Gabriel Carmona, Researcher in Sustainable Systems, Universidade de Lisboa

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Farmer Wants a Hive: Inside the World of Renting Bees

The Farmer Wants a Hive: Inside the World of Renting Bees

Manu Saunders, University of New England

Almonds, blueberries, apples, melons – all of these fruits, and many more, rely on insect pollination. Some crops rely more on pollinators than others. Insect pollination isn’t just about the number of fruits produced – it can also improve the quality of the yield. For example, self-pollinated flowers may produce a fruit, but it might be very small or misshapen.

So how do farmers make sure their crops will produce enough fruit to make a profit? Crops in most parts of Australia have one main blooming period, usually in spring or early summer. The window for pollination usually lasts two to four weeks, depending on the crop. During that time, insects need to be flying around visiting flowers to feed on pollen and nectar to ensure that pollination happens.

To optimise yields, most growers rent European honeybee hives during crop flowering season. Honeybees were first introduced to Australia from Europe in the early 1800s. Today, the beekeeping industry includes around 600,000 managed hives and is worth around A$100 million to Australia’s economy. But it’s not just about honey and beeswax products.


Read more:
Not just bees: the buzz on our other vital insect helpers


Managed crop pollination services have become big business in many parts of the world, including Australia. Although most beekeepers do still keep bee hives to produce honey or wax products, paid pollination services are becoming increasingly important to the industry.

In Australia, the almond industry is one of the biggest renters of honeybee hives for pollination. Almonds bloom for a few weeks at the end of August and rely almost completely on insect pollination to produce harvestable almond fruits. The many plantations across northwestern Victoria rent more than 150,000 hives each year, costing millions of dollars in rental fees. Costs per hive vary depending on the crop, covering costs to the beekeeper such as how far they have to travel, the time of year (early season pollination can be more stressful for honey bees and require more feeding costs for beekeepers to maintain hive health), and the risks (e.g. chemicals) bees might face in the crop. For almond pollination, one hive can cost around $70-100 to rent.

The journey

Some growers rent hives by contacting individual beekeepers directly. But many corporate growers will hire a pollination broker as a go-between to organise the complex logistics of trucking thousands of beehives from interstate to be there at just the right time. Delivering bees too early or too late can impact the health of the honeybee colonies, or result in lower crop yields.

The beekeeper and grower usually sign a pollination agreement, in case there are any problems. For example, a beekeeper can specify that the grower should not spray pesticides that can damage the colony’s health while the hives are in place.

Honeybees naturally return to their colony at night, as they rely on daylight and warmth to forage. This makes it easier for beekeepers to transport hives when needed. At night, when all the bees are at home, hive entrances can be shut off to stop them escaping during the journey.

Beekeepers load their hives onto a truck and drive thousands of kilometres to the plantations. They leave their hives dotted throughout the plantation just as bloom is starting, and return to collect them at the end of flowering.

Because beekeepers collect their hives at night, it’s unlikely that many bees are left behind. If an individual does get lost, it won’t survive long on its own, as individual honeybees rely on the colony to stay alive.

Alternatively, crop growers can buy their own hives and set them up permanently, eliminating the cost of rental and reducing the pressure on honeybees used for pollination services. However, this comes at its own cost. Growers need to maintain the beehives themselves or hire a beekeeper to do it.

Many small-scale growers do this really well, and diversify their business with another product (honey). But the practice is less economical for larger-scale growers.

Native stingless bee species are another option for some growers. These bees live in colonies and make honey, just like the introduced honeybee, and can also be managed as pollinators.

There is a growing stingless bee pollination industry in eastern Australia supplying rented stingless bee colonies to crops. However, these bees aren’t naturally found throughout much of the southern and inland parts of Australia, where conditions are less suitable for them. There is lots more research to do to understand the full potential of using stingless bees on a larger scale. For example, we need more data on how these native bees improve fruit set in a variety of commercial crops, and we need greater understanding of how transporting stingless bees to regions outside their natural range for pollination services might affect colony health.


Read more:
Losing bees will sting more than just our taste for honey


There are also thousands of native pollinators in Australia, including around 2,000 native bee species and thousands of flies, wasps, butterflies and other insects. We already know many of these are capable of pollinating our major crops, including almonds. This means they are providing pollination services for free. Some can be more effective crop pollinators than honeybees.

But we still know very little about these wild pollinators. In particular, some of the ways we manage our agricultural landscapes, such as broad-scale monocultures, habitat clearing and overuse of pesticides, can have damaging effects on pollinator populations.

The ConversationMost crops benefit from a variety of insect pollinators, not one single type. It’s financially and environmentally risky to rely on a single bee species for all our food production. Ideally, we need to build understanding of how to manage landscapes sustainably to support multiple pollinators.

Manu Saunders, Research fellow, University of New England

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.