Drought threatens

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It is now more than two months since I had any useful rain. It was one of the warmest (if not the warmest) winters on record. We have had hot days (30C) already and it is not two weeks into spring. Out west on the plains they are wondering if there will be any winter-planted crops. There were bushfires in Sydney this week. The local fire burglars have been out, with the dust kicked up by wind and the rising pollen count I have been almost house bound. Not a good start. The BOM says ENSO indicators are neutral. We can hope.
But (due to irrigation) the fruit trees are blooming and the asparagus is up! Yay!
David
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David Hare-Scott wrote:

BOM (burro of meaterology? :) ) local fire burglars?

i'll do a rain-wiggle for ya and hope it comes through.
songbird
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songbird wrote:

yes

Those who set fires, either because they think it improves their pasture (it doesn't) or for fun, or both.
D
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David Hare-Scott wrote:

good luck on the rains. we want all the critters to be fat and happy in the pastures down (or up :) ) there.

we have similar types around here, but the fire hazard is much less most of the time.
at first i thought you were talking about people who would set fires and then use that as a distraction while they broke into houses.
songbird
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Why do you say it doesn't improve pastures? From observation, I'd say it probably did improve pastures even if just because it cleans out things like tussocks and other weeds etc and doesn't add anything.
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Farm1 wrote:

Yes it does reduce some obvious weeds and gives a nice green flush if you get a shower of rain afterwards. It is cheap compared with slashing.
But....
If not a hot fire it selectively reduces more tender grasses to the benefit of tougher ones (eg blady grass), if a hot fire it also tends to destroy the stolons of the grass along with the weeds so favouring seed-propagated grasses over perennials. I think a mixed pasture with both is desireable.
It reduces organic matter which helps to hold soil moisture and nutrients, I want to build organic content not burn it.
It reduces volatile nutrients, eg nitrogen compounds, which then have to be replaced with chicken litter, urea etc.
It pollutes the air.
If heavy rain falls or strong wind blows after burning it can result in erosion.
To me it a practice of yesteryear along with set stocking in big paddocks, random (in)breeding and 'when in doubt add more super(phosphate)'. I *might* consider doing it once to begin the rehabilitation of a badly weed infested paddock but as an annual ritual I think it is very misguided.
have a look at this:
http://www.northern.cma.nsw.gov.au/downloads/publications/soils-and-landuse/pub-resourcekit-rurallandholders-northernrivers.pdf
David
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wrote in message

I finally found time to read parts of that cite.
I noted the obligatory full page Aboriginal recognition (yawn!) and later a whole 2 paragraphs devoted to regular burning (underline that) and one of paras referring to north coast (underline that) blady grass impacts.
Not a lot of use nor ornament. No doubt that publication was designed to be handed out like a free lollie at small farm field days. (And yes, I do acknowledge that I am a cynic).
A number of points that occured as I read your post:
You're talking about regular burning whereas I wasn't thinking specificially about regular burning. We don't burn our pasture regularly (or ever), don't know anyone who does or ever has done, so I am more interested in the impacts following a sometimes burn such as what happens after, say, a grass fire.
Stolons aren't a feature of all pasture grasses, are somewhat rare aren't round here and I've never even heard of blady grass. But if a fire can manage to kill the stolons of white clover, then I might just set fire to my rose bed where the sodding clover is growing like Topsy. It's where I grab handfuls to feed the cows mouthfuls when they decide to hang over the gate between the veg garden and the paddock.
Erosion following fire may or may not happen. It's never a given.
Palatability of regrowth is worth a consideration. I don't like tough old lettuces and I've no doubt that pasture grazers prefer lush growth to dry standing forage.
Nutrients in burned grasses can't all be lost. Some of it must return to the soil in the form of ash.
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Farm1 wrote:

Irrelevant

That is my context.

Well find something that deals with your region, you can search DPI, landcare etc sites as well as I can.

Regular burning is common here, I don't know why. That was the context I that introduced the subject, the annual spring burning.

I wish I could name all the grasses I have and which have stolons but I can't. I was under the impression that many (maybe all) do. I would still rather not select in favour of some. But if don't burn regularly it isn't an issue.

true

Of course but there are other ways of getting fresh growth than burning.

True, metals (K and trace elements) and P are not volatile which is why I mentioned volatility. OTOH I have been told that burning *increases* nutrients because of the ash that remains, as ash contains nutrients (the last is true). Those of this opinion have missed the point that that any nutrients in the ash were already there in the plants or soil, nothing is created. I am not putting you in that category.
D
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David Hare-Scott wrote:

it has a lot of references, some of which may be useful.
...

if you have any bare soil then it is not a good thing to burn as bare soil is a sign that you do not have full cover to collect and hold the ashes.
one heavy rain or blow and the ashes are washed away or blown away.
for a spring, where there is rain, it is much better to cut and leave it lay on the surface for the worms to have at it. this way the nutrients are not lost as much to rains and winds and the mulch acts as a protection for the soil.

right, it just makes them more immediately available. the same nutrients are available longer term if slashed and left on top for the worms and fungi to break down.

when i read Farm1 saying that she had a burn it struck me as unusual and i took at as a fire control requirement for the property not as a normal or yearly event.
songbird
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This is a discussion group. It was jsut a part of my discussion so it possibly is irrelevant to you.

But not my context. I've noted improvements in pasture after the odd burn so am interested in the issue.
My location is my context but does my context being different to your context mean that you have nothing to say or evidence to support your claim? And especially given that your context is now said to include 'annual' burning which you haven't previously mentioned till this post.

Yes I've done that. I've not found anything that either supports or denies your claim that burning pasture improves or doesn't improve pasture as a one off. Of course I hadn't looked with your previously unmentioned context of 'annual' burns. I just thought you'd know or have hard evidence given how you usually make a point of making statements based on evidence.

'Annual spring burning' may have been in your mind but it wasn't mentioned by you till this past post.
There have already been 40 fires across the State so it'd be impossible to recognise that your 'context' related to an annual event rather than just the fire trucks having been out, in your locale, at a one off event at this time of year.

But it relates to your generalised claim and that is why I mentioned it. It's about learning. Perhaps you had some specific knowledge to support your general comment.

Yes indeed. Slashing being one but then that is another atmospherically unfriendly way.

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Farm1 wrote:

every bit of carbon lost to the air in burning is that much less available to be turned into humus.
songbird
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Photosynthesis uses atmospheric carbon to create biomass.
A lot of Photosynthetic action takes place in pastures that will not readily burn.
Dry standing pasture which don't have lots of lush green active photosynthesising plants burns very well, lush new growth doesn't.
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Farm1 wrote:

yes, that's my point, your field gained carbon via photosynthesis and some of that was in the dry grasses and stalks. burning it releases that carbon back to the atmosphere. slashing it and leaving it as mulch will also release some of it back to the atmosphere, but the rate is much reduced and spread out and the slash has a much better chance of being recycled by the worms/fungi than lost to the air.

sure, some of it is transported to the roots and soil community. it depends upon how dry the pasture is when burned and how deeply various fragments are buried.

all true. my point was aimed at those who burn dry materials thinking that it improves the soil. it may give a sudden flush of growth from some of the released nutrients, but whatever goes into the air is lost and has to be regained by further photosynthesis. if slashed and left that carbon is not lost but largely retained and recycled or turned into humus (over the long haul).
songbird
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I'll have to throw in with bird. Organic material holds water. Just the thing that drought affected areas need. It is probably simpler to just set a match to it, instead of spreading it around. Burning will also encourage erosion on sloping land. The problem begins with clearing the trees, so it seems that trying to re-establish a few trees should also help.
Are you saying that your animals won't browse on tussocks? I am unfamiliar with spinifex (tussock), but perhaps when they are young they are more manageable. One of the stated goals in grazing, as is practiced by Joel Salatin, is to not knock plants in a paddock back more than 2/3s, which will leave them the vigor to regrow quickly. He would move them from paddock to paddock so as to not over graze the pastures. Salatin says he's a big fan of using native plants for fodder.
We do a lot of burning locally in the spring. For vineyards it is mostly burning pruned grape canes. Again, it is probably easier to burn the canes than to chip them and return them to the vineyards. The assistant wine-maker where I work is a "Bio" type, I'll ask him "why not?" tomorrow. I haven't a clue as to what other agriculturalists are burning, but it isn't complete fields, that's for sure.
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Billy wrote: ...

i'll be interested in what he says, but i would not be surprised if it isn't aimed at reducing fungal diseases (if you don't have organic material on the surface of the soil then the spores have fewer places to hide from the sun's uv rays).
my own recent experiences has told me that this is a false approach. instead i had very good results from using leaves and wood chips to help greatly reduce a spotted disease that has been getting at the lillies in the spring. the past few years it was pretty bad on almost every leave, and then this year it was just one or two spots here or there for the entire plant. if next spring is similar then i'll be very happy with the result.
songbird
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How is it that you are using them? Surface mulch or something else?
I had my cucumbers largely taken out by mildew this year (among other things, they were too close together), so I'm keeping an eye out for things that tip the balance on fungus.

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My understanding is that (how shocking!) it depends.
The usual logic for burning cuttings is to directly remove any disease specific to the plant that's already in the cuttings, and indirectly remove highly-compatible host material for diseases of the plant.
Contrariwise, covering the soil surface cuts down on (primarily viral, so far as I recall) soil-borne diseases spread by foliage contact with rain-splashed soil particles. Tomatoes are a classic in this line.
So, you'd probably be fine chipping (except they are a bear to chip, actually - unclogging a chipper gets rather tedious) grape vine prunings and putting them around your tomatoes, if those were far from your grapes. Not so much putting them around your grapes. Since vinyards mostly just grow grapes, burning makes sense for both disease control and returning non-volatile nutrients, but probably more the former.
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In article

The assessment of the value of mulch in a vineyard is still a work in progress. Canes, when burned, are removed from the vineyard first. The ash isn't returned. In general, organic material holds water, and encourages a diverse soil ecology. The diversity of the ecology in turn will block pathogenic microbes. Vineyards do encourage wild mustard to grow in the vineyard before bud break, but then the mustard is controlled with Roundup, and the vineyards are basically bare dirt most of the year. Whether this is just inertia, or whether it is considered best practices, I don't know. Is the financial savings of using gylphosate sufficient to over come its drawbacks as listed by Dr. Don Huber, recently retired from Purdue University, i.e. 1) Glyphosate binds with and inactivates EPSPS, the critical enzyme in the shikimate pathway required for the synthesis of aromatic plant metabolites including essential amino acids phenylalanine, tryptophan and tyrosine, as well as downstream products such as plant growth promoter, indoylacetic acid and plant defence compounds, phytoalexins. But glyphosate has multiple adverse effects that act synergistically on crop health and productivity that extends well beyond the plant into the soil ecosystem and the wider environment.
2) The Glyphosate Tolerant (GT) trait depends on incorporating an EPSPS from the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens that is insensitive to glyphosate, hence glyphosate is taken up by GT plants and translocated to the growing parts of roots and shoots, and even exuded into the rhizosphere (soil surrounding the roots) so it can affect the soil community of microorganisms and also subsequent crops planted in the soil.
3) Glyphosate stimulates the growth of fungi and enhances the virulence of pathogens such as Fusarium, and can have serious consequences for sustainable production of a wide range of susceptible crops. They warn that Ignoring potential non-target detrimental side effects of any chemical, especially used as heavily as glyphosate, may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious.
4) In an interview [5] with the Organic & Non-GMO Report, Huber said he has been researching glyphosate for 20 years, and began noticing problems when he saw a consistent increase in take-all, a fungal disease of wheat, when glyphosate had been applied in a previous year to control weeds. He found glyphosate reduced manganese in plants, which is essential to many plant defence reactions against disease and environmental stress. Glyphosate can immobilize plant nutrients such as manganese, copper, potassium iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc, so they are no longer nutritionally functional. Basically, glyphosate completely weakens the plant, making it susceptible to soil-borne fungal pathogens. That is one reason why we see an increase in plant diseases, he said.
5) There has been a general increase in the number of plant diseases in the past 15 to 18 years. Four primary soil fungi, Fusarium, Phythium, Rhizoccccctonia, and Phytophthora, have become more active with the use of glyphosate; and concomitantly, diseases caused by these fungi have increased, such as head scab in corn, or root rot in soybeans, crown rot in sugar beets. Fusarium head blight, which affects cereal crops, is a disease that produces a mycotoxin that could enter the food chain.
There are more than 40 diseases reported with the use of glyphosate, and the number keeps growing as people recognize the association, Huber said.
==== In conversation, I have found that there is some concern about the effects of Roundup on the soil ecology.
I realize that this is ranging far from the subject of drought, and I'll try to bring it back home.
In the meantime I've been expecting Farm1 to take me to task for my last comments about organic material in the ground, and trees to fight drought. I'm sure she has considered them, and what efforts she has made in this direction, or why not.
You out there Farm1?
Anyone, anyone?
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In article

Soil viruses? <http://www.noble.org/ag/research/microbes/
I'm thinking of tobacco mosaic virus, but that would be direct contact, normally insects such as aphids and leaf hoppers.

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Drew Lawson wrote: ...

surface mulch only.

i would not expect any results for powerdery mildew as it spreads too easily.
the plants that get powdery mildew around here are perennial ornamentals that i'm not that concerned about (they come back each year no matter what the mildew does). we don't grow many other veggies/fruits that seem to be affected by it or by the time they are we're sick of them anyways so no big loss. it's like nature's sign that variety is the spice of life. :)
songbird
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