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Multi-Peril Crop Insurance Scheme

During recent meetings of farm leaders and farmers (Farm Weekly News, 23 September 2010), WAFarmers Corrigin-Lake Grace Zone president said farmers' financial problems were being aggravated by the absence of a MPCI scheme (Multi-Peril Crop Insurance). The current dry conditions and stressed crops has a lot of farmers very scared out there and its very serious he said. WAFarmers president put forward the importance of leadership on this issue. WAFarmers Dry Season Advisory Committee chairman said The State Government is committed to investigating the possibility of a MPCI scheme on a commercial footing (Countryman News, 30 September 2010).

A multi-peril crop insurance scheme would increase security for farmers, however the fundamental reasons which makes crops highly susceptible to dry spells or frosts will not be solved for next season unless crop-management changes are made. Without improvements to crop productivity management, the multi-peril crop insurance premiums are bound to increase. The problems arise from poor water-use efficiency of crops as a result of incomplete nutritional regimes, increasing vulnerability to dehydration during dry spells resulting in lowered yields and quality . Low 'BRIX' levels in stems and leaves correlates with susceptibility of crops to damage as a result of trace elements, potassium and magnesium deficiencies leading to low levels of soluble sugars, minerals, vitamins, amino acids and proteins in plant sap . High BRIX readings around this time means that the crop is doing well, and has an excellent chance of standing up to adverse weather. As immunity to a severe drought or a severe frost event can never be assured however, a MPCI which includes drought and frost damage is definitely needed to protect farmers.

Australian farmers have made great strides in many areas of crop husbandry, but have fallen short in keeping up with the complex nutritional needs of crops and pastures. New technologies introduced by foliar and liquid fertilizers containing a full spectrum of nutrients has been adopted only by few farmers, and generally, crops have been left to fend for themselves using older technology. Crops that perform badly during dry spells have insufficient root growth for accessing nutrients and soil moisture, as well as suffering stress from a whole range of nutrient deficiencies. Deficiencies can be identified by grain analysis before sowing the seed and deficient nutrients added to fertilizers, followed by seed-applied trace elements and foliar fertilizers to boost root growth. The critical connection between the viability of a MPCI scheme underpinned by productive nutrition as a necessary component should be clearly explained to farmers by the Department of Agriculture and Food. Because of decreasing rainfall from climate change, more emphasis on updating dry-land farming techniques to include use of sophisticated foliar fertilizers is urgently needed.

This brings us back to leadership and accountability. Australian farmers, rightly or wrongly, rely on farm industry leaders to show the way by quickly changing and updating technology themselves, i.e. lead by example. Starting from the Minister of Agriculture and Food, leaders are from the various farmer organizations and committees, officers of Department of Agriculture and Food, corporate CEOs and managers of big agribusiness, large-scale farmers, and owners and managers of small agribusiness; all from whom the majority of farmers expect qualities of leadership, innovation and improvements of technology for economic survival. Posted October 10, 2010.

Starter Liquid Fertilizers: Strategies for Growers

Farmers who traditionally use granular fertilizers only for small grain crops are now increasingly interested in starter liquid fertilizers. What constitutes a good starter liquid fertilizer, how do you use them, and how good are they in improving yields, are questions often asked. The Western Australian Department of Agriculture is currently focussing on improving yields for hard- pressed growers (a result of recent droughts and unreliable rainfall) through the Bridge the Yield Gap Project, and would probably be looking closely at the contribution starter liquid fertilizers make to yields and profitability.

Applied early to crops to give them a good start, starter liquid fertilizers have been in use for quite a while, but understanding how they work, and improvements in their chemistry and application methods are exciting developments for technology-savvy farmers. By definition, starter fertilizers include granulated starter NPK fertilizers applied in the traditional 2 x 2 sowing system (2 inches under and 2 inches to the side of the seed); but those who are making rapid gains in yields and profitability are those who use combinations of the granular 2 x 2 system and liquid starter fertilizers 2 x 2 banding. Australian farmers familiar with both systems have shown that the visible, easily monitored, surface applied (see Photo Album this website) and dribble liquid applications are essentially equal in effect to the 2 x 2 soil banding of starter liquids (see also: Fluid Fertilizer Foundation, Newsletter 2011: "Don't forget starter fertilizer - Especially now"; Fertilizer Technology, bulletin sf-021, 2011: "Starter fertilizers - Salvation for cost-squeezed corn growers").

The possibility is there for increasing the use of simpler, quicker and more efficient liquid fertilizer systems, whilst saving on the more expensive and complicated attachments to seeders. Liquid fertilizers are still more expensive compared to granular fertilizers (which have been on the scene for much longer), so can we offset the extra cost with the greater efficiency of soil applied liquid fertilizers and foliar fertilizers? Research on fertilizer responses has shown that foliar fertilizers utilize a high efficiency ratio of 7:1 and are more efficient for uptake than soil-applied or broadcast granulated fertilizers (Source: Michigan State University, USA). As discussed below, the answers all rely on the superior chemistry and agronomy possible by the use of starter liquid fertilizers in both soil-applied and foliar applications targeting favorable biological responses of crops and microbes.

A seed that is sown in the traditional 2 x 2 system can find itself looking for nutrients on germination. For a small seed, the presence of a nutrient band a few inches away is still a long way. This is a critical period for seeds if it germinates during cold or very wet conditions, and its food and nutrient reserves are fast running out. Some seeds with low reserves, harvested from crops grown in nutrient-deficient soils (e.g. low phosphorus, potassium, zinc, molybdenum etc.) find themselves in a precarious position. At this time too, the small seed needs to grow a good root system to access soil moisture, mobilize its food reserves of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins for energy to open its first leaf (leaves) and start manufacturing new food through photosynthesis. It is during this early period of meristematic growth that the most damage to potential yields from nutrient deficiencies occur. During early cell divisions which determines the number of tillers and health of reproductive tissue which ultimately give rise to seeds for the next generation, all nutrients including phosphorus, potassium, trace and ultra-trace elements are of critical importance. To determine the dose rates of trace elements, grain analysis before sowing is especially important to identify potential deficiencies, which can be prevented with applied fertilizers. Plants deficient in trace elements emerge as spindly, frail plants with a small mass of roots, and do not have the energy to withstand adverse weather (increasingly changeable), plant diseases and insect pests.

During the early growth stage, fast growing root tissues of mycorrhizal- hosting plants (e.g. wheat, barley, oats, corn, rice, sorghum, lupin,soybean, lucerne, chickpeas) are colonized to form plant/arbuscular mycorrhiza relationships which through the extra-radicle mycelia (fine root hairs) enhances the young plant's ability to access nitrogen, mineral nutrients (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, trace elements) and water. Treatment to the seed coat before seeding, with a seed dressing containing phosphorus and trace elements, attracts and enhances colonization by mycorrhizal fungi, as well as preventing deficiencies occurring during early growth. Seed treatment just before sowing is the earliest applied starter liquid fertilizer and an excellent investment for growers as the low dose rate/ha is highly economical.

As discussed elsewhere on this website, grain analysis helps to guide growers on the amounts of individual nutrients needed to achieve a targeted yield level. It can be seen that the amounts of the major elements needed to achieve, say 4 - 6 tons/ha of grain are quite substantial, and cannot be satisfied with a seed treatment. At seeding, the ideal, easily monitored way to apply the necessary amounts of liquid nutrients is with the use of a manifold distributor to dribble starter fertilizer on the soil surface, about 2 - 3 inches above the seed following the press wheels (if used). Desirable characteristics of starter liquid fertilizers are high analysis, solubility, balanced formulation and chelation of trace elements to prevent fixation on clay minerals, completeness of nutrients with compatibility and stability, and an acidic pH reaction of the liquid fertilizer which prevents urea applied at this time from releasing ammonia which could harm the seed. Phosphorus at early growth stages is particularly important for plants, and is in highly available and soluble forms as mineral ortho-phosphates which provide a constant buffer against pH changes. Organic components such as fish emulsion activates vital microbes.

Starter liquid fertilizers utilizing the economical Blend-Tech System can also be applied at the next highly desirable stage, the early 2-leaf stage when the seedling is just beginning rapid development. The possession of a substantial root system at this stage allows the young plant to make good use of the nutrients applied with a conventional boom sprayer ideal for easy application and even coverage of crops. More and more growers are now opting for this early 2-leaf stage of growth to apply substantial amounts of nutrients to prevent deficiencies and help insure high yield potentials. At this time, healthy growth of the young plant and rapid canopy development competes effectively against weeds through shading. Opportunities for highly efficient foliar application and uptake of nutrients occurs at the 5-leaf stage or at tillering (adjacent rows touching). Increasingly, starter liquid fertilizers are being used by growers to make up time for late starts due to late breaks or excessive rainfall. Posted July 5, 2011.


Grain Analysis: the 4 Rs

How to interpret your grain results: identify deficient nutrients and plan fertilizer inputs for productivity

Grain analysis is a user-friendly means to interpret the nutritional status of soils and to assist in making decisions on the types and amounts of fertilizer to use for the following season, for a particular, desired yield.

Recently, internationally leading organizations, the Fertilizer Institute, Canadian Fertilizer Institute, International Plant Nutrition Institute and International Fertilizer Industry Association has endorsed the use of grain analysis for improved Nutrient Stewardship (see.. "The role of grain nutrient analysis in fertility management"). They are promoting the implementation of the 4 Rs as a framework for nutrient stewardship to achieve cropping system goals such as increased production, increased farmer profitability, enhanced environmental protection and improved sustainability.

To achieve those goals, the 4R concept involves choosing the:

Right fertilizer source
Right fertilizer rate
Right time to apply
Right place to apply

Grain analysis allows farmers to choose the Right fertilizer rate for a particular targeted yield.

On the Western Fertiliser Technology website, under Publications and Nutrition Management pages, data is available to assess the nutrient status of wheat, barley, canola,and lupin grains.

The nutrient table for wheat gives the low, medium and high ranges for wheat grain samples received from the WA wheat-belt. For example, in 20 years, no sample was received with a copper level lower than 1.1 ppm or a copper level higher than 5.5 ppm: the average copper level over this long period of time, for thousands of wheat grain samples, was 3.9 ppm. So if your grain is showing an analysis level of 2.0 ppm, you could safely assume that you need to increase the copper supply to your crop to increase yields for your next crop.

Grain analysis data for a full range of crops is urgently needed, and would be highly valuable for growers; a way to collate data for other crops, e.g, rice, in a much shorter time frame of one year is discussed on the Technical Questions page of this website, under grain analysis.

As fertilizer decisions are important for your farm, send the grain sample to a reliable, modern laboratory for analysis. If in doubt, send the same sample to two independent laboratories to confirm the analyses on which you will base your fertilizer decisions for the coming season. A major portion of a farmer's budget comprises purchase costs on fertilizer. Any nutrient misinterpreted as being in the sufficiency range, when in fact it is deficient, would lead to serious loss of income and a waste of labor; especially for large areas cropped as in Australia.

Let us say your 2011 yield for wheat was 2.0 tons/ha and you wish to target a higher yield in 2012, firstly by identifying, and then increasing the application of fertilizers containing the deficient nutrients.

STEP 1
Calculate the amount of nutrients that 2 tons of wheat grain removed and was exported. By applying similar amounts of nutrients for the 2012 crop plus extra amounts for the deficient nutrients, you should be able to increase your yield in affordable steps each year.

By multiplying the yield and grain nutrient level, the removal rate of each nutrient in 2 tons/ha of wheat is obtained. For example, let us calculate the N, P, K and Zinc removed in 2 tons/ha.

N = 2.04 kg N/100 kg grain x 2000 kg grain/ha = 41 kg N/ha
P = 0.34 kg P/100 kg grain x 2000 kg grain/ha = 6.8 kg P/ha
K = 0.60 kg K/100 kg grain x 2000 kg grain/ha = 12 kg K/ha
Zn = 3 grams Zn/100 kg grain x 2000 kg grain/ha = 60 grams Zn/ha


Calculating the same way for all nutrients, gives us a table for the removal of nutrients in 2 tons of wheat grain:

N 41 kgs/ha Cu 8 gms/ha Co 0.12 gm/ha
P 6.8 kgs/ha Mn 124 gms/ha
K 12 kgs/ha Zn 60 gms/ha
Ca 1.0 kgs/ha Fe 62 gms/ha
Mg 2.9 kgs/ha B 11 gms/ha
S 2.9 kgs/ha Mo 1.3 gms/ha


STEP 2
Compare the grain analysis results obtained from the laboratory with the table for wheat (under Publications this website).

For example, mark as M (medium) for those nutrient results which fall in the medium range (e.g. 0.27 - 0.34% for Phosphorus).
In the same way, categorize each nutrient as M (medium), H (high) or L (low).

STEP 3
Make a list of those nutrients that show up as L (low), with the analysis result shown next to the low level. For example:

Phosphorus (P) L (0.20%)
Potassium (K) L (0.40%)
Copper (Cu) L (2.0 ppm)
Manganese (Mn) L (30 ppm)


STEP 4
From the above results, a decision is made to increase fertilizer investment in P, K, Cu and Mn fertilizer, above that needed for a 2-ton yield. We then choose the Right fertilizer source to increase yield, by increasing the input of the low nutrients proportionately.

Therefore we need approximately:

P = 0.34%/0.20% x 6.8 kg P/ha = 11.5 kg P/ha
K = 0.60%/0.40% x 12 kg K/ha = 18 kg K/ha
Cu = 3.9 ppm/2.0 ppm x 8 gms Cu/ha = 16 gms Cu/ha
Mn = 62 ppm/30 ppm x 124 gms Mn/ha = 256 gms Mn/ha


STEP 5
Make a decision for 2012 on the Right fertilizer source to choose for the deficient elements, keeping the other nutrients the same amounts as used in 2011 (e.g. nitrogen and sulphur).

For phosphorus, a number of sources can be considered and the total amount needed for each source is calculated. Superphosphate contains 9% P, DAP contains 24.2 % P etc. For example:

Superphosphate = 100 kg SP x 11.5 kg P/9.0 kg P = 125 kg SP/ha
DAP = 100 kg DAP x 11.5 kg P/24.2 kg P = 50 kg DAP/ha
MAP = 100 kg MAP x 11.5 kg P/27.8 kg P = 40 kg MAP/ha


For Potassium:

Muriate of Potash = 100 kg MOP x 18.0 kg K/52.3 kg K = 35 kg MOP/ha
Sulphate of Potash = 100 kg SOP x 18.0 kg K/44.8 kg K = 40 kg SOP/ha
Nitrate of Potash = 100 kg NOP x 18.0 kg K/38.6 kg K = 46.6 kg NOP/ha


For Copper:

Copper Sulphate = 100 g Copper Sulphate x 16 g Cu/25.4 g Cu = 60 grams Copper Sulphate/ha


For Manganese:

Manganese Sulphate = 100 g Manganese Sulphate x 256 g Mn/32.5 g Mn = 780 grams Manganese Sulphate/ha


Part of the deficient major nutrients, phosphate and potash could best be used as granular fertilizers, and partly as the BLEND-Tech products, BLEND- Mag, BLEND-Cal and BLEND-K. The deficient copper and manganese can be added during production of the BLEND-Tech products as their sulphate salts, which are then chelated by the chelating agent in Super Energy, thus improving uptake efficiency. By utilizing Super Energy product and the three foliar BLEND-Tech products, the goals of the Right time to apply for grain (Seed treatment, 2-leaf and early tillering stages respectively) and the Right place to apply (seed, leaf) are achieved.

STEP 6
Send representative samples of wheat grain from your 2012 crop, and compare the 2012 analyses obtained against the analyses of the nutrients in the 2011 crop. For this example, the nutrient elements in the 2011 crop that were deficient (P,K,Cu and Mn) should now be in the medium range and yields considerably improved if satisfactory rainfall was received.

Conclusions:
Grain analysis of samples from different areas of WA has shown that different soil types often has shortages of different trace elements. For example, in the southern WA areas of Kojonup and Katanning, manganese is usually a problem; in the southeast around Beverley and Brookton it is usually copper; whilst in the northern areas of Geraldton and Chapman Valley it is often zinc. However, the large numbers of nutrient elements involved in growing a crop - major elements, trace elements and ultra-trace elements, means that farmers will increasingly rely on chemical analysis to prevent production losses from deficiencies and remain sustainable. With unreliable rainfall expected to increase with climate change, improving water-use-efficiency (WUE) of crops by preventing nutrient deficiencies is increasingly important.

The discipline of analytical chemistry is as complex an area as nutrition and is a critical area for maintaining sustainability . Recent introduction of powerful analytical techniques ICP-OES and/or ICP-MS, Zeeman Graphite AAS, etc. means that farmers can now confidently rely on the accuracy of analytical results for interpretation of grain analysis results, and take action to avoid deficiencies; but choosing the right laboratory is important. If in doubt, send your samples to well-equipped laboratories such as the Chemistry Centre or CSBP laboratories.

Identifying deficient elements with grain analysis, and using the Right fertilizer source to avoid deficiencies in the next crop is the Right step for improving productivity and income for the farmer. Posted October 25, 2011.


Analysis: two-directional sowing of cereal and hay crops

In Australian broadacre agriculture, crops are traditionally sown in rows separated anywhere from between 10 inches to 24 inches or more. Observing established crops, there are considerable spaces between the rows where the soil is not being used to support plants. There is an increasing need to increase the area of agricultural land for crops, as well as the need to increase yields per hectare. Sowing crops in two-directions and thus evenly increasing the spatial density of plants per unit area would be profitable for farmers; but this step relies on preventing nutrient deficiencies by grain analysis before sowing.

What is it then that stops farmers from exploiting the considerable areas between the rows which can add up to anything between 30 - 40% of cropping area? In Australian broadacre agriculture, there is understandable concern of insufficient rainfall in any season limiting growth of crops, as well as concern of an early end of rainfall leading to a shortened growing season and resulting low yields. Concerns that densely sown crops (from increased seeding rates along the rows) would result in competition for water and lower yields under these conditions are understandable, given current best-practice of sowing broadacre crops with minimal risks. A close analysis of current cropping practices reveals that there is considerable scope for increasing productivity by two-directional sowing followed by fertilizing with granular and foliar fertilizers.

Crops suffering nutrient deficiencies tend to have shallower roots and reduced photosynthesis. Shallow roots makes the plant more prone to dehydration during dry spells as water present deeper in the soil profile is inaccessible, affecting potential yields. The amount of rain per hectare for each 25 mm (1 inch) of rainfall is however quite considerable, if calculated:

25/1000 metre water x 10,000 sq. metres/hectare = 250 tons water/hectare

If total rainfall during a growing season amounts to around 200 mm or more, 2000 tons water/hectare or more has been available to the crop. To exploit this amount of rainfall by a densely sown crop, there is a need to firstly increase its water-use efficiency, and secondly to increase root growth by preventing nutrient deficiencies.

Current best practices for growing broadacre crops has, unfortunately, ensured that crops growing in a row has little incentive for exploiting the bulk of soil between the rows. Tillage along the row has loosened the soil for easier root growth, as well as the availability of granular fertilizer applied under the seed rows invites root growth along the rows instead of between the rows. Water and N nutrient availability (incubatable soil nitrogen) is also enhanced along the tilled rows, where there is less soil compaction compared to the untilled areas between the rows.

Advantages of two-directional sowing of crops includes:
The disadvantage of growing a more compact, denser crop means a higher investment at sowing time for extra seed, fertilizer, fuel and machinery (wear and tear). However the efficiencies gained by two-directional sowing need not necessarily mean a doubling of investment in seed and fertilizer at sowing; if the total rates of seed and fertilizers used (granular and foliar) are adjusted according to targeted yield.

Increasing water-use efficiency and productivity by two-directional sowing of crops relies heavily on the prevention of nutrient deficiencies (see discussion of Liebig's law of limiting nutrients, etc., under Nutrition Management, this website). Analysis of grains to identify and correct for nutrients deficient in the soil is needed for productivity gains (see above, Grain Analysis: the 4 Rs; also under Publications page: Grain Analysis - a powerful method for predicting fertilizer requirements). Posted December 13, 2011.

Farmers and farmer organizations such as the National Farmers Federation (NFF) and the WA Farmers should ask the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), and the Departments of Agriculture and Food to promote the use of grain analysis for identifying limiting nutrients, thereby increasing grain yields plus quality. Protein production in wheat, for example, relies heavily not only on nitrogen fertilizer but requires a full range of trace elements as well. Several trace elements are missing in most granular fertilizers sold to Australian farmers. Concerns on lower quality of exported wheat were recently raised by customers to the NFF president (source: Farm Weekly, April 5, 2012 page 6). Posted April 17, 2012.


Soil is the capital, and produce is the interest

A few weeks ago I drove through the majestic Karri forests in the southwest of Western Australia, and wondered what made those trees grow so tall and strong. Obviously, it was the soil that nourished them, helped along by our beautiful mediterranean climate. As a chemist and fertiliser nutritionist, I thought about the amount of nitrogen and carbon there would be in each tree and thought that it would be impossible for the soil to supply the tree with so much nitrogen. Of course, it was the legume plants and microbes that live in close association which fixed the atmospheric nitrogen for the trees, as nitrogen fertilisers were not invented hundreds of years ago. Besides a small amount of nitrogen in rain water, the soil receives credit for supplying the legume plants with all the other nutrients comprising P, K, Ca, Mg, Na, Cl, S (partly from the air), and the myriad of trace elements needed for photosynthesis and C & N fixation. The soil is also responsible for feeding the huge diversity of plants and microbes that support the forest ecosystem in many ways.

As soil is our capital responsible for producing our food (the interest or reward), it makes sense to conserve our soils. As most farmers worldwide struggle now to barely make a profit for growing crops, awareness of the importance of maintaining soil fertility and productivity is growing, or should be... So what important parameters has changed in our soil resource that has seriously reduced productivity and quality for farmers? Surely it must be poor soil structure and increased acidity of soils (from plant growth and export of alkaline minerals) which in turn reduces the buffering capacity, followed closely by unrecognized and untreated nutrient deficiencies.

The buffering capacity of a soil is its capacity to resist rapid and significant changes in soil pH, especially important during root growth. Buffering capacity is provided by the activity in soil of the alkaline minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, balanced by the anions phosphate, carbonate, chloride and sulphate (H2PO4-, HPO4--, CO3--, Cl- and SO4-- respectively). Organic matter, through its chelating and charge-buffering properties needed for retaining trace elements and supply to plants, is a critically important component for the buffering property of soils. Ideally, soils providing good nutrient supply and harboring beneficial microbes for fertility are usually buffered in the pH range close to neutral (pH 6 - pH 8); however soils in the lower or higher pH range are still highly productive if the buffering capacity and nutrient supply is maintained.

To go back in time, let us look for some original, virgin soil on a typical farm, and compare it with the soil that has been tilled and cropped for many years. If the soil is turned over with a spade, it can be seen immediately that the original soil has a much better soil structure than the tilled soil which has lost some of its desirable crumb structure, making it prone to water and wind erosion. To compare the two soils chemically, send them to a suitable laboratory for analysis of pH, buffering capacity, and organic carbon. To preserve the crumb structure of soils, dry tillage and sowing in broadacre farming should only be used as a last resort. It often pays to be patient and wait for the rain. Lost time can be easily made up with good liquid fertilisers applied early.

The important question therefore, is how do we maintain good buffering capacity in soils, and also prevent severe nutrient deficiencies in order to conserve our soils as capital. Applying lime on its own is not the answer; as discussed above, other elements are needed to maintain good buffering capacity. The choice of liming materials and fertiliser to use for the amendment of soil structure and soil acidity can be complex. What type of materials should be used? Are the materials to be applied separately or pre-mixed before application? Are they compatible with each other (not form lumps)? What implements should be used to apply them? When should the amendment materials be applied, and how much?

A compatible soil amendment is obtained by mixing crushed limestone, or limesand, with dolomite (or alternatively epsom salts), muriate of potash, gypsum and a small amount of sea salt (for sodium and chloride). If the soil is affected with sodium salt, sea salt can be deleted. The amendment will help counter salinity effects. The ratios of amendment materials used in the mix will depend on the soil pH, and the level of availability of each nutrient in the soil to be amended. For example, if there are potassium and magnesium deficiencies present, more of these (quite expensive) materials should be used in the amendment. The best results are obtained if a spreading and tillage operation (manual or machinery) precedes planting. Whilst supply of pre-mixed amendment materials to large farms, from lime and dolomite suppliers should not be a problem, small farmers would need government technical help and subsidy to increase profitability and income.

The application of suitable fertilisers is another vital aspect of maintaining the capital of soil. Continuous cropping without nutrient replacement would erode the soil capital, and in turn reduce productivity. Crops suffering deficiencies are seen to have substantial spatial variability (patchy growth). As the spatial variability of growth is usually random and in small areas, variability is due to local deficiency and poor water-use efficiency, than due to soil type. Applying NPKS fertilisers through yield maps and VRT (variable rate technology) implements will only help if deficiencies of other elements (e.g. trace elements, calcium, magnesium, chloride) are alleviated at the same time. Trace element deficiencies are a particular cause of spatial variability and poor water-use efficiency in crops from inadequate root growth. Liquid fertilisers containing multi-elements applied early through the foliar route overcomes spatial variability in crops, improving yields and quality to a great extent.

Grain analysis to identify deficient nutrients, especially trace elements, is a much more sensitive and desirable technique than soil analysis. The analysis levels of trace elements in grain are much higher than in soil, making analysis and interpretation more accurate for grain. A grain sample is preferable as it represents soil supply of nutrients to the crop over time, and is also highly homogeneous for analysis. A soil sample is highly variable (can contain stones, sticks, straw, manure, insects, fertiliser residue etc.) which makes sample preparation before analysis very difficult (which fractions to discard and which to grind?). The results can also vary depending on the chemistry of the solution used to extract the nutrient in the soil before analysis. Reproducibility of analysis results between laboratories is often not as good for soil samples straight from the field, compared to grain samples taken at harvest.

The increasing frequency and severity of forest fires as the climate warms is now shaping to be serious problem. How to handle the build-up of organic matter on the forest floor without controlled burning could soon become an important issue. Forest soils, due to organic matter, are quite efficient in recycling of plant nutrients, but efficiency is not 100%, so over time, forest soils can increase in acidity and become deficient in some nutrients. Controlled burning of the organic residue to prevent hot fires reaching the canopy can weaken trees, loses nitrogen and sulphur to the atmosphere; liberates potassium, magnesium, sodium and trace elements usually tied to organic matter, and thus can cause leaching loss of these valuable nutrients needed by forest legumes and microbes for carbon and nitrogen fixation. Occasional fire is needed however for some types of forest seeds to germinate.

Aerial application of calcium hydroxide granulated after boosting with phosphorus, some sea salt (plants need some sodium and chloride too) and a range of trace element nutrients (identified from foliage analysis) should rapidly increase natural microbial composting of forest residues, as well as improving tree growth and plant diversity. I estimate an annual application rate of around 30 - 40 kilograms granules per hectare (or equal in value to the cost of controlled burning) should quite quickly improve the situation. Some long-term trials comparing controlled burning with composting would be extremely valuable for forest management. Posted September 1, 2012.


Versatile Blend-Tech systems

A unique system of liquid fertiliser blending units, the Blend-Tech system was introduced by Western Fertiliser Technology in 1992. It has generated strong interest from farmers keen to use effective and versatile liquid fertilisers which can be produced easily on-site at low cost; an important criteria for remotely situated broad-acre farms.

"The key liquid component of the Blend-Tech systems, the Super Energy trace element liquid concentrate, is produced at our factory in Perth together with the blending units" said managing director and chemist Mr Ron Elton-Bott. "All farmers have to do then is to blend Super Energy and water with bagged products such urea, magnesium sulphate, potassium sulphate or calcium nitrate etc. in the highly versatile blending tanks to produce up to five different multi-purpose formulations, Blend-NS, Blend-K, Blend-Cal, Blend-Mag and Blend- Pop up".

Blend-K foliar product for example contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulphur and trace elements at high density, saving the farmer around $2 a litre; a 4000-litre mix taking a few hours saving $8000 per mix. Up to 2 mixes a day can be easily made, he said. Blend-Cal, an equally high-analysis soil injectable or foliar product suitable for acid- type soils, encourages strong, rapid root growth in the narrow window of time available after sowing; increasing both yields and quality.

The trace elements in Super Energy activates enzymes in the plant to produce sugars and complex carbohydrates closely involved in providing frost-resistance to cereal, canola and lupin crops around the critical September - October period. The Super Energy concentrate itself can also be used as a seed treatment at sowing (5-litre/ton for cereals; 10-litre/ton for lupins), providing a much needed boost for seeds at germination and establishment.

The Blend-Tech system formulations are particularly useful when combined with the Grain Analysis system, also introduced to WA agriculture by Western Fertiliser Technology. If the analysis reveals any major (e.g. potassium, magnesium) or trace element nutrient (e.g. copper, molybdenum) being deficient in the grain, the deficient nutrient can be further increased during a blend, he said.

The fully portable 1000-litre and 4500-litre units combine sturdy corrosion and UV resistant fibre-glass tanks with rapid agitation and suction systems provided by 2 hp centrifugal pumps; the 4500-litre systems have in addition an overhead geared motor with stainless steel impellers for long life and easy serviceability. Included in the systems are easy-to- use camlocks, a 45-mesh stainless steel filtration system for pre-filtration of blended liquids, dust removal fan with quality tubing and delivery system to storage or to boom sprayer.

A 60,000-litre Blend-Tech solar-heated system is also available to produce the popular Blend-NS product (30%N, 6%S plus trace elements from Super Energy). Western Fertiliser Technology can be contacted on 0412 912 793 for prices and availability of its technologically and environmentally advanced Blend-Tech systems, or visit www.wftptyltd.com.au. Posted December 17, 2012.


Grain analysis and the law of the minimum

A close look at trace element nutrition from the perspective of the law of the minimum, made known a long time ago by chemists Carl Philipp Sprengel (1787 - 1859) and Justus von Liebig (1803 - 1873), states that nutrition and growth are first and foremost controlled by the level of the scarcest nutrient element available, and that productivity will be poor even if all the other nutrients are available in abundance. This leads us to the realization of the immense complexity of photosynthesis and nutrition in plants, making grain analysis (discussed under Publications, this website) a critical analytical method to identify deficient elements, and to support decisions on fertilizer investments especially for large-area farmers in Australia, US, Canada etc. Changes from the direct use of oceanic rock phosphate (some sources containing cadmium, fluoride, aluminum and other impurities) to widespread use of purified, high-analysis processed forms of phosphate fertilizers (e.g. DAP, MAP, MKP, TKPP, MAGAMP-K, phosphoric acid) has led to deficiencies of trace elements and ultra trace elements removed during clean-up of phosphoric acid. Trace element deficiencies adversely affect nutrition of plants and animals (including humans), reduces microbial activity in legume nodules together with slow and diminished microbial decomposition of organic matter to stable soil carbon. Storing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as soil carbon is now a safe and natural geo-engineering method of carbon sequestration in agricultural, forests and pastoral soils. With climate change and drought, heat waves, causing tinder-dry conditions in forests leading to widespread, very hot wildfires, promoting microbial composting of forest litter, and CO2 drawdown by forest legumes with lime, phosphate and trace elements may soon be a better, cheaper, and safer option than prescribed burning, which could lead to runaway fires in Australia this summer. Posted September 14, 2013


Limitations to income and productivity improvements for large-area grain and wool growers in Australia

The current problem of lower income, decreasing equity in farms and lower productivities for large-area grain and wool growers in Australia (1000 hectares - 20,000 hectares) is clearly unsustainable for a viable future. Government policy and action that effectively provides business support and information for farmers is urgently needed.

Large-area farms have advantages over small-area farms from the relationship:

INCOME = AREA x PRICE x YIELD - COSTS
(dollars) (hectares) (dollars/ton) (tons/hectare) (dollars)


Farm area is an income multiplier. Income is also increased if the other income multipliers, commodity prices and yields are high, while keeping input costs low from economies of scale. However, price of commodities, set by the market and overseas competition has been highly volatile, whilst at the same time there has been a marked slowdown in yield improvements and increases in the costs of production. Yield is a critical component in farm management for large-area Australian growers as they commit each year to large, borrowed, capital investments with few subsidies. Moreover, most farmers often do not account for their own personal inputs of labour (dollars per hour) in their budgets. If they did, their true income could be lower. Some of the farm-management constraints that are hampering increased yields and incomes, and their solutions, are discussed below and under Nutrition Management (see also: should I "get big or get out").

Adoption of new technology
It has been several years since grain analysis was introduced by Western Fertiliser Technology Pty Ltd, yet relatively few farmers have adopted this technology. As discussed in an above article (law of minimum), a serious deficiency of any of the major elements (e.g. potassium, magnesium) or micronutrients (e.g. boron, cobalt, molybdenum) would ensure that the grower loses most of his investment dollars. Fertilizer is the biggest investment a farmer makes, so deficiency of even a minor element costing hundreds of dollars can lead to a loss of millions of invested dollars for a large-area grower. The primary need for grain analysis is therefore for the crucial identification of deficient elements before seeding commences with expenditure on labour, machinery, fuel, herbicides and fertilizers. Once identified, a simple calculation is made for the amount of the deficient element needed to correct the deficiency. Grain analysis can also be used for the calculation of the precise amounts of other nutrients needed to achieve targeted yields. Information and education of farmers to use this valuable analytical tool is vitally important for productivity improvement.

Deficiencies of major and micronutrient elements in frequently used granular and liquid fertilisers
Before purchasing granular and liquid fertilizers to be used for crops and pastures, growers should closely inspect the labels. Are there any major elements missing in the granular fertilizers to be used (e.g. absence of potassium, calcium, magnesium or sulphur) and are there any secondary and micronutrients missing (e.g. manganese, chloride, sodium, boron, iron, cobalt, molybdenum). Are the elemental levels in the fertilizer, and the amounts to be applied, sufficient to grow a productive crop of wheat, barley, canola or lupin? Ask your fertilizer supplier to provide a fertilizer application program for both granular and foliar fertilizers which includes all the nutrients in sufficient amounts to enable a high yield at harvest. Once an input level (dollars/hectare) is decided, a balance in the levels of applied nutrients is essential for both major (e.g N to P, N to S, P to Mg ratios) and micronutrients (e.g Zn to Cu, Ca to B, Cu to Mo ratios). Increasing the rates of application of unbalanced fertilizers is wasteful as an early plateauing of yields versus application rates makes use of the deficient fertilizer costly and unproductive.

Low application rates of fertilizers due to large areas to be covered
The problem of missing elements in fertilizers is compounded by low and inadequate application rates due to lower productivity in the previous crop. An application rate of 100 kg/ha of DAP for wheat or barley (containing only N & P and missing other vital nutrients) equates to 10 grams DAP per square metre, or a spread of approximately 1 granule every 2 - 3 inches under the seed; a long distance for the roots of a germinated seedling to reach.

Improving productivity by ensuring that there are no nutrient deficiencies through seed treatment, granular under the seed and foliar nutrients at early crop establishment will increase productivity and enable investment of adequate fertilizer rates in the future.

Low quality seed used each year due to missing micronutrients in fertilizers used for the parent plant
This perennial problem can be overcome by using seed treatments of Super Energy, Super Trace, N trace, Tracesol or Super Biological to boost phosphate and micronutrients on the seed. Micronutrients present in seed tissue can be in the deficient range and slow to mineralize, being bound tightly by phytic acid, the principal storage form of phosphorus in most seeds.

It has been estimated from trials that up to 15% of potential yield is due to the quality of seed the farmer uses, reinforcing the importance of grain analysis before sowing. (see also Publications; 'the seed - life raft for the young plant').

Increasing reliance on bagged nitrogen instead of legume-fixed nitrogen
Legume-fixed nitrogen is superior to bagged nitrogen as it is slowly released. Rotation with legumes counters soil pathogens and improves soil structure and water-use efficiency. Lupins and lucerne are deep-rooted, and improves drought tolerance of following crops by improving soil structure and increasing soil carbon. Legumes have a higher demand for micronutrients (e.g. manganese, iron, boron, cobalt) which are supplied by using Super Energy foliar fertilizer; this topic is discussed in detail under Nutrition Management. Lower production volumes of lupins, chick peas, faba beans and field peas reflects lower rewards for farmers (low harvest index) due to more demanding nutritional requirements for micronutrients compared to cereals.

Declining soil structure and soil organic matter
A narrowing window for establishing crops due to climate change and unreliable rainfall has pressed large-area farmers to seed under dry conditions, with injurious effects on soil structure and oxidation of soil organic matter. A reason for the race to put crops in early is probably due to inadequate nutrition, where a longer growing season is needed for plants to try to accumulate needed nutrients before seed-set. However the predominantly sandy and gravelly soil types are becoming increasingly impoverished. It would be less risky overall for farmers to wait for opening rains, than having to re-seed because of late rains or patchy germinations. The key steps to improve this situation are seed treatments with nutrients and split applications of low-cost liquid fertilizers timed with rainfall (Blend-Tech System). Time lost in waiting for opening rains is quickly made up by use of liquid fertilizers containing complete nutrients.

Grain-only operations
Larger and more efficient farm machinery with less labour has resulted in a move to grain- only operations for some large farms, but risks has increased compared to mixed operations. Giving up a needed pasture phase has major drawbacks such as lower soil carbon from legumes and manure, lower soil nitrogen, reduced soil structure, lower water- holding capacity of soils and reduced microbial activities that increase availability of soil nitrogen and micronutrients. Lower soil carbon reduces the natural buffering capacity of a soil and can lead to fertilizer toxicity at sowing if fertilizer granules are placed in close contact with the seed. Applying buffered liquid fertilizers on-furrow (drip or injection) is safer.

Pasture improvement
Needless to say, pasture productivity is highly important for wool growers as well as preparing the land for profitable cropping and for the maintenance of soil structure and health. Continuous cropping without resting the soil in a pasture phase destroys soil structure and pore space which reduces water and oxygen infiltration, increases soil compaction and erosion, as well as reducing microbial mineralization of nutrients.

Legumes are needed to obtain nitrogen (an expensive input) cheaply for protein. The most reliable and cheap option to return neglected pastures to a productive state quickly is to re-seed with a hardy legume and feed it with dolomite (200 kg/ha), superphosphate (150 kg/ha), muriate of potash (50 kg/ha) and Super Energy micronutrients (10 litres/ha). The application rates can be reduced later for routine maintenance of productivity.

Nutrient-stress in weeds leading to higher rates of herbicides
Increasing rates of pre-emergent herbicides have markedly increased input costs. Increased rates has been attributed to the emergence of herbicide resistance in weeds, especially rye grass. Although the mechanism is not yet clear, farmers who use low rates of liquid fertilizers (nitrogen, sulphur and trace elements) together with pre-emergent herbicides have managed to improve herbicide efficiency and lower application rates for outstanding savings. Most farmers agree that weeds under stress, from water or nutrients deficiency, assumes a physiological condition which impedes herbicide uptake and action. Long-term, serious deficiencies of key micronutrients can affect DNA functions and can even cause DNA damage, not only in plants but also in animals. This is an increasing worry for plant and animal physiologists.

Increasing acidity of soils reducing productivity
The use of lime to counter soil acidity has had mixed results in Australia. The reasons include high costs (due to the large areas) from the high rates usually recommended (e.g. 1 ton/hectare). Lower rates (200 kg/ha) of limestone or limesand, applied annually, are effective if blended with a source of magnesium (e.g dolomite), potassium (e.g potassium sulphate or chloride) and a small amount of salt (sodium chloride) for balance. Correction of soil acidity is more than a simple neutralization of acid protons. Growth of plant roots need the buffering action of soil carbon, and microbial activities for chelation and nutrient availability. Regular use of balanced micronutrients in liquid fertilizers (see: Products page) helps to maintain microbial-enhanced fertility of both acid and alkaline type soils. Suppression of soil acids in high aluminum soils is needed for improved NPK availability (including calcium, magnesium and sulphur) in the narrow window after seeding (May - July). Liquid starter fertilizers use more water-soluble, plant-available forms of nutrients for early development of roots, stems and leaves of the seedling. There is an economical, effective and efficient way to use liquid lime for countering soil acidity with the Blend- Tech system and uniquely developed nozzles.

Damage to crops from frosts
This subject has been discussed earlier on this website under Nutrition Management and Technical Questions. The synthesis of soluble sugars in crops eventually leads to the synthesis of starch and complex carbohydrates which are initially stored in roots, stems and leaves; ultimately translocated to grain storage. Because soluble carbohydrate production depends on photosynthesis efficiency, a balanced supply of micronutrients to crops is needed to reduce or prevent frost damage to crops. Frost damage often comes without warning and can cause significant or complete damage to crops depending on its severity and vulnerability of crops. Preventing or minimizing frost damage should be a top priority for large-area growers in Australia.

Access of plant roots to stored soil moisture
This season has witnessed the importance of early root-growth on the ability of crops to access stored soil water from summer rains. Often, root tips of withered seedlings were only a few inches away from a life-giving band of water. The reasons for poor early root- growth has been discussed above and elsewhere on this website. Management systems needed to encourage early root growth and insuring against early moisture deficit include use of quality seeds, suppression of soil acids, seed treatment with nutrients, exploring optimum seeding depth, variety of crop, and use of quality granular and liquid fertilizers containing micronutrients.

Timing fertilizer applications to rainfall
Climate change has resulted in erratic rainfall which has affected productivity. Each inch of rainfall (25 mm) equates to 250 tons water/ha of water which makes growing season total rainfall adequate for most farms (a large 10,000 hectare farm receives 20 million tons of water/year from 8 inches of rain). Productivity of crops and pastures is now more reliant on timed applications of liquid fertilizers to rainfall with the Blend-Tech system. The old system of applying granular fertilizer once only at seeding is now totally inadequate due to unreliable rainfall. Timed applications of liquid fertilizers with rainfall improves water-use efficiency of crops and pastures.

Two-direction seeding
Two-direction seeding aims to grow a denser crop with a higher harvest index in a smaller area, and is therefore highly appropriate for farmers to consider net returns/hectare by running trials this season. Returning to the above relationship of income to area, price (quality), yields, and input costs, two-direction seeding has the potential to increase incomes by effectively increasing cropping area for smaller farms, increasing yields/ hectare, and reducing input costs (less herbicide, and less fuel at harvesting) . This subject has been discussed above in an earlier article in Current Topics. Posted October 28, 2013

Fertilizer Technology

Technology can be defined as the practical application of knowledge in a particular area to increase efficiency. In the context of fertilizer technology, efficiency is therefore the key word. The production of fertilizers globally makes huge demands on high-quality energy produced from fossil fuels. There is vast infrastructure and manufacturing capacity invested globally for each fertilizer nutrient element, needing prodigious amounts of energy (e.g. in production of ammonia, nitric acid, urea, phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid, DAP, MAP, potassium phosphates, potassium chloride, calcium nitrate, trace elements etc.). According to the IEA, global energy demand for the two decades from 2015 to 2035 will require investments of $48 trillion which will require application of credible policy frameworks. The goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees C is becoming more difficult and costly each year, and if credible policy actions are not taken before 2017, CO2 emissions would be locked-in by 2017 (IEA).

Food production accounts for 15% of total world energy consumption and increasing each year; Nearly 30% of greenhouse gas emissions originate from agricultural food production; significantly higher than energy demands for transportation globally. Energy efficiency is now a central issue for agriculture (source: European Fertilizer Manufacturers Association).

Solar energy, carbon dioxide and water are used in agriculture to convert the considerable amounts of energy and nutrients invested in fertilizers into food and biomass. Nitrogen is the main element, assisted by the other nutrients, to form proteins and carbohydrates through the photosynthesis process; providing energy as food for human beings and animals. Increasing fertilizer efficiency and preventing waste of large amounts of energy is therefore reliant on improving nitrogen use efficiency, solar energy use efficiency, carbon dioxide use efficiency and water use efficiency of crops. An increasing global focus on the use of biomass to capture and sequester excess CO2 has also focussed attention on fertilizer technologies.

Very low recoveries of energy invested in manufacturing fertilizers, from use of poorly formulated fertilizers could be seriously affecting global economies, causing considerable global losses in investments of energy and affecting investments in other parts of economies. Countries which rely largely on income from agriculture would be most affected. With lower prices for iron ore and oil, Australia is now more reliant on increased agricultural production and exports. Prevention of deficiencies and provision of complete nutrients, whenever feasible, leads to quality and yield improvements of crops. Quality of fertilizers used should always precede quantity used to improve net profitability.

Components of granulated and liquid fertilizers

N only (e.g. Urea).
N P (e.g. MAP, DAP).
N P S (e.g. MAP + Ammonium Sulphate).
N P K S (e.g. MAP + Potassium Sulphate).
N P K S Mg (e.g. MAP + Potassium Sulphate + Magnesium Sulphate).
N P K S Mg Ca Na Cl (e.g. MAP+ Potassium Sulphate + Magnesium Sulphate + Calcium Sulphate + Sodium Chloride).
N P K S Mg Ca Na Cl + trace elements Cu Mn Zn.
N P K S Mg Ca Na Cl + all chelated and non-chelated trace elements.
N P K S Mg Ca Na Cl + all chelated and non-chelated trace elements + biostimulants + humic and fulvic acids.


Fertilizer use efficiency is lowest if nitrogen alone is applied to crops. Fertilizer efficiency increases as nitrogen is accompanied by other compounds and trace elements. Chelation of trace elements is very important for fertilizer efficiency, and have been discussed under Nutrition Management and Technical Questions on this website, Chelating agents and chelated trace elements are used less often in granulated fertilizers than in liquid fertilizers, where they are more effective in solution. The solubility and buffering properties of phosphorus compounds of potassium, calcium and magnesium, and the heat generated during production is useful for the manufacture of liquid fertilizers. Vital components such as magnesium sulphate (magnesium is the central coordinating element in chlorophyll for photosynthesis), trace elements (enzymes), biostimulants, surfactants for non-wetting soils, humic and fulvic acids and minuscule amounts of the ultra trace elements are easily added to liquid fertilizers to improve efficient use of nitrogen.

Improving fertilizer efficiency will:

Posted March 6, 2015.


Nitrogen-use efficiency

"We have a 5000-acre farm in the wheatbelt of Western Australia. For the past 13 years we have produced our own urea-ammonium nitrate solution in a 10,000-litre mixing tank for foliar application to wheat and canola. Results were good at first but protein levels and yields have now tapered off. After reading your Current Topics article on Fertilizer Technology, we think we need other elements with the nitrogen. Could you advise us on the product we need with nitrogen?"

Nitrogen is the key element for both quality and yield improvement for crops, as it is a key component of proteins and for carbohydrates to fill grains. Nitrogen-use efficiency is what you have to aim for. Continuous use of nitrogen can cause loss of trace elements as soluble nitrates from your soils, which need replacing.

Elements important to improve nitrogen assimilation are phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium and trace elements. Together these elements work with nitrogen in the process of photosynthesis to improve solar energy use efficiency, carbon dioxide use efficiency and water use efficiency to improve quality and yields.

We sell a product called Super Energy liquid fertiliser which can supply these elements with nitrogen to improve nitrogen-use efficiency. By replacing ammonium nitrate with ammonium sulphate, you can provide extra sulphur which would be very useful for canola. Here is what you need to do:

To 4000-litres of water in your mixing tank, add 2000-litres of Super Energy liquid fertiliser through a suction pump and mix.

Add 2000-kg of spray-grade ammonium sulphate and mix until dissolved (1 - 2 hours depending on ambient temperature).

Add 2500-kg of spray-grade urea and mix until dissolved (1 - 2 hours).

Volume produced is approximately 8500-litres of urea-ammonium sulphate solution with analysis of N (20%), S (6.5%), P2O5 (6.5%), K2O (0.8%), Ca (0.05%) MgO (0.8%), Cl (0.20%), Na (0.30%), Fe (0.16%), Cu (0.14%), Mn (0.20%), Zn (0.22%), B (0.06%), Mo (0.01%) and Co (0.007%).

Apply 20 - 30 litres per hectare at tillering to wheat and canola with 100-litres per hectare of water, using a 50-mesh stainless steel filter. Posted April 23, 2015.


"Thank you for the guide to increase nitrogen-use efficiency with urea-ammonium sulphate and trace elements. Grain analysis on our wheat and canola grains has shown very low levels of calcium and magnesium, confirmed by pH analysis of our soils which were at acidic levels of pH 4.6 to 5.2. Can we produce calcium and magnesium liquid fertilizers in the 10,000-litre mixing tank with Super Energy?"

pH levels around 4.6 to 5.2 for your soils and very low levels of calcium and magnesium in grains shows that you need lime for your soils by spreading agricultural lime (CaCO3) blended with some dolomite (CaCO3.MgCO3). Acid soils have low levels of soluble calcium and magnesium in the soil solution for crops, as well as being low in other major elements and trace elements. Crops therefore respond quickly to NPK liquid fertilizers containing soluble calcium and magnesium with Super Energy trace elements by increasing root growth, allowing plants to access water at deeper levels during periods of low rainfall.

Below are the procedures for calcium and magnesium liquid fertilizers with NPK and Super Energy trace elements, for your 10,000-litre mixing tank. For smaller batches we produce the 1000-litre Blend-Tech System which can produce 4000-litres a day, storing the liquid fertilizers in 1000-litre IBC shuttles (can be stored for up to 10 years).

Liquid Calcium with NPK & Super Energy trace elements:

To the 10,000-litre mixing tank containing 4000-litres water, add, while mixing, 2000-kg technical-grade Calcium Chloride dihydrate, 2000-litres Super Energy through a suction pump, and 2000-kg Mono Potassium Phosphate (MKP). Total mixing time is 2 - 4 hours.

Volume produced is 8500-litres, with analysis of N(2.0%), P2O5(18.2%), K2O(8.8%), Ca(6.4%), MgO (0.7%), S(0.7%), Cl(11.2%), Na(0.3%), Fe(0.16%), Cu(0.14%), Mn(0.20%), Zn(0.22%), B(0.06%). Mo(0.01%), Co(0.007%)

Liquid Magnesium with NPK & Super Energy trace elements:

To the 10,000-litre mixing tank containing 4000-litres water, add, while mixing, 2000-litres Super Energy through a suction pump, 2000-kg Magnesium Sulphate heptahydrate (Epsom salt) and 2000-kg spray-grade Urea. Total mixing time is 2 - 4 hours.

Volume produced is 8500-litres, with analysis of N(14%), P2O5(5.5%), K2O(3.6%), Ca (0.05%), MgO(5.0%), S(4.5%), Cl(0.20%), Na(0.30%), Fe(0.16%), Cu(0.14%) Mn(0.20%), Zn(0.22%), B(0.06%), Mo(0.01%), Co(0.007%)

Application rates are 20 - 30 litres per hectare of liquid calcium or liquid magnesium at tillering to wheat, canola and lupins with 100 litres per hectare of water, using a 50-mesh stainless steel filter. For best results apply liquid calcium and liquid magnesium 2 weeks apart. Posted April 27, 2015.


Trace elements for sustainability

"Reading that trace element deficiencies are a leading cause for farm sustainability problems, I sent my wheat grain for grain analysis. Several trace elements were identified to be deficient, especially boron and manganese. Phosphorus and magnesium were also in the low range. My agronomist has recommended the amounts and types of trace elements, phosphorus and magnesium to apply for each hectare. Can I add trace elements to the urea-ammonium sulphate solution?"

Agricultural chemists have discovered that plants employ carboxylic acids such as citric acid and acetic acid at the root-soil interface to chelate and absorb trace elements and other elements from soils. Oxygen from water (hydrogen bonding), phosphates, sulphates, nitrogen from amino-acids and urea-type compounds, chloride, are also used by plants to absorb trace elements. Citric acid can be added to UAS solution as a chelating agent, at approximately 1% w/v. Citric acid also imparts a useful acidic reaction to the UAS solution, helping to prevent loss of ammonia to the atmosphere after application to soils, thus conserving applied nitrogen.

Adding more than one trace element to the citric acid treated UAS solution can cause compatibility problems leading to formation of precipitates. Check the best order of addition of trace elements to the citric acid treated UAS solution, as this is important to prevent precipitates forming in time. Use some sea salt (approximately 0.5% w/v) to provide chloride and sodium to the UAS. Before using trace elements, read the labels on the bags for safety instructions. Posted May 31, 2015.


Green Manuring of crops

The advent of modern organic-based mineral liquid fertilisers containing chelated trace elements has ushered in a rejuvenated era of green manuring crops for soil fertility. The key to increasing organic matter in soils and increasing fertility is bio-stimulation and growth of microbes, both heterotrophic bacteria, yeasts and moulds (decomposers), and free-living microbes such as Azotobacter. Microbes can fix atmospheric nitrogen and carbon efficiently if supplied with the ideal soil conditions, green manures and trace elements.

Microbes utilize trace elements in their metabolism as enzymes (e.g. protease, nitrogenase), which are large molecule protein catalysts able to decompose organic matter efficiently or fix atmospheric nitrogen. Different types of trace elements are needed at the active sites of enzymes to bind and orient molecules for reaction, as well as reduce thermodynamic activation energy thereby accelerating reactions. In soils deficient in trace elements and/or too acidic, aerobic decomposition of organic matter is slow and carbon and nitrogen can be lost as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. Therefore green manures provided with trace elements forms stable carbon in the soil from atmospheric CO2, mitigating climate change.

Revitalizing nutrient-exhausted soils and correcting degraded soils is now an issue for most farmers; green manuring with trace elements and minerals are now vital for sustainability. Important parameters for soil fertility, besides organic matter maintenance in soil at 4% to 5%, are optimum pH, EC and trace elements (see Fertiblend liquid lime-N-potash, home page). Acid soils with pH less than 5.0 can be amended quickly and economically with the corrosion-resistant Fertiblend liquid lime applicator which also helps to lower excessively high EC. The efficiency of liquid lime (MgO + Ca(OH)2 in water) is improved markedly in company of urea nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur and trace elements.

Advantages of green manure crops

Green manuring increases soluble, available phosphorus, important as an energy compound (ATP) for plants and microbes, as well as soluble potassium, magnesium and trace elements important for their metabolism. Fertilisers are seldom used for green manure crops, but using mineral and chelated trace elements fertilisers with green manures assists fast rate of microbial decomposition, improving soil tilth, aeration, fertility, and increasing yield and quality.

Green manuring is highly advantageous for large-acre farms which have switched to crop-only operations (wall-to-wall) without a vital pasture phase. Organic matter improves the buffering capacity of soil, allowing higher rates of mineral fertilisers to be used in the cash crop. Microbial activity is maintained by green manures for good soil structure and fertility, replacing sheep manure.

Use of legume crops such as lupins, lucerne, clover, vetch, beans, and peas adds nitrogen and carbon, lowering costs of nitrogen for the cash crop as well as helping to recycle nutrients from depth for the next crop. Non- legumes such as oats, barley, sorghum, canola adds more carbon than nitrogen to the soil.

Liquid fertilisers are ideal for green manure crops as they can be timed with rainfall for optimum effect. Useful time away from busy times of year is used more efficiently by utilizing green manures and fertilising with liquid fertilisers. Elements shown to be deficient from grain analysis data (see Publications) can be boosted during this stage, improving fertility ahead of sowing the following crop.

Quality of green manure crops is improved by combinations of oats and lupins, oats and vetch, canola and red clover (Trifolium pratense), canola and faba beans etc.

Organic matter from green manures increases water-holding capacity of soils and improves percolation of water to depth.

By providing a rotational break with a green manure crop, life cycles of diseases are disrupted, reducing disease in following crops.

Ploughing in of green manure crops with liquid lime and potash improves cation exchange capacity of soils, lowering water-repellency.

Through tillage, green manuring assists in controlling weeds in the next crop.

If a legume crop (lupins, faba beans or peas) is to follow a green manure crop of oats/vetch, an ideal opportunity is to use a mixed inoculant during the green manure crop.

Timing of tillage is important. Green manure crops should be incorporated into the soil while still green with maximum biomass and soil moisture available for microbial activity. Incorporation should be done before seed- set otherwise seeds could become weeds in the cash crop. A single pass with discs is all that is needed. A minimum of 4 months should be given for decomposition and mineralization before the cash crop is grown. Replenish organic matter in soils with green manures once every 3 to 4 years.

Green Manuring and Cash Crop Program
1st week in August
# To stubble of previous crop spread 250 Kg/ha fine quality dolomite CaCO3.MgCO3 (min. 80% purity).
# Seed a mixture of 80 kg/ha oats/lupins/vetch.
# At germination apply 15 litres/ha of Super Energy liquid fertiliser with 30 litres water.
# Incorporation into soil - 1st week in November (before seed-set).

Following crop (e.g Wheat) - next April/May/or June
# Seed with 100 kg/ha Super Potash 2:1
# At 3-leaf apply 5 litres/ha Super Energy with 40 litres water.
# At heavy tillering apply 30 litres/ha DIY Fertiblend N-P-K-Cal (see home page, micro ad for Fertiblend System). Posted June 29, 2016.


How can I apply liquid fertilizers intensively for high yields and quality?

Liquid fertilizers are usually applied through the foliar method in orchards, and often by injection into irrigation water (fertigation). Intensive application of liquid fertilizers can be achieved by direct application of undiluted liquid fertiliser to the soil in orchards, and in forests for increasing photosynthesis and CO2 sequestration, a concept introduced here by Western Fertiliser Technology Pty Ltd for economical use of liquid fertilizers.



Foliar and irrigated applications of liquid fertilizers, whilst improving plant response from applications of balanced liquid fertilizers, seldom achieve the kilograms/ha of nutrients needed by crops, resulting in lower yields and quality. This is due to concerns of leaf-burn or soil nutrient-overload. Application of highly diluted liquid fertilizers then demand several applications, while still not achieving sufficiently high application of NPK, secondary nutrients (calcium, magnesium and sulphur) and trace elements for high yields with quality.

In a modern orchard developed for high-yielding, economical-to-maintain dwarfing rootstocks planted closely, and trellis-trained for ensuring high light interception (4m between rows, 1.2 m - 1.5m between trees in the rows). In a 4 ha orchard (10 acres), there are approximately 10,000 trees that can be fed adequately with liquid fertilizers for high yields and quality. Assuming liquid fertilizer at 20 litres/ha is applied 6 times to a 4 hectare orchard , a total of 480 litres of liquid fertilizer, only 48 ml/tree is applied. Calculations show that this amount of applied nutrients as liquid fertilizer is inadequate for achieving high yields unless granular fertilisers are applied additionally. For achieving high yields together with quality from applications of NPK, secondary elements and trace element liquid fertilizers, approximately 500 ml/tree or more of a complete liquid fertiliser is needed; an increase of a factor of ten. Tests have shown that undiluted liquid fertilizer followed by irrigation, or rain, can be safely applied at an approximate dose of 50 ml/tree if applied to the root absorption zone 600 mm from the trunk of the tree along the rows as shown in the diagram above (a total of 10 applications/tree applied at intervals of 2 weeks).

The applied undiluted liquid fertiliser is quickly adsorbed by soil colloids, acting as a slow- release fertilizer feeding directly to feeder roots with little or no waste of liquid fertilizer. Applications at radial distances of 600 mm from the tree will ensure even development of feeder roots around the tree. Manual applications can use a squeeze-type dishwater detergent bottle (with a pop-up cap) for small orchards, but could be difficult for large orchards unless a new type of mechanised liquid fertilizer applicator is used.

For broad-acre cereal farmers, liquid fertilizer injectors are already being used widely, so undiluted liquid fertilizer can be applied at high dosage/ha if applied at seeding time, ensuring adequate separation of the seed from the band of liquid fertilizer applied under the seed or between rows. Direct application of undiluted liquid fertilizer for large broad- acre farms will save on carried water, fuel, and reduce soil compaction. Approximately 100 litres/ha of liquid fertilizer (see Products) can be applied to the soil at seeding, followed by 25 litres/ha applied foliar at tillering for high yields and quality. Posted November 2, 2016.


Magnesium and Boron:

Grain analysis of my wheat grain is showing deficiencies of magnesium and boron with low protein level although I used recommended amounts of granular fertiliser. Can using magnesium and boron nutrients improve my wheat yields and protein levels for the next crop?

A recent review by Cakmak, I and Yazici, A.M (International Plant Nutrition Institute publication; Magnesium: A Forgotten Element in Crop Production) summarised some of the essential roles of magnesium for plants. Seven key functions of magnesium were listed and one of them is for protein synthesis. Both magnesium and boron's metabolic functions in plants are closely linked to calcium; all important for nitrogen metabolism in plants (see also this website: Publications: Magnesium's mysteries unravel; and Products List: Soil and Foliar Boron).

Multiple deficiencies of nutrients are often responsible for poor performance by plants, and departures of several nutrients simultaneously from optimum levels are serious barriers to obtaining yield maximums (Wallace, A.J; Plant Nutrition, 1986; Nutrition Management, this website). In Western Australia, the major suppliers of granular NPKS fertilisers to farmers are now considering adding both magnesium and boron to their granular fertilisers.

Our DIY Fertiblend System (see home page, micro ad) can be ideally coupled to our Grain Analysis System for flexibly applying deficient nutrients after identification by grain analysis. Grain analyses of wheat, other cereals, lupin and canola from WA has shown multiple deficiencies of nutrients often including magnesium and boron deficiencies.

One of the 6 liquid fertiliser products of the DIY Fertiblend System (home page, micro ad), Fertiblend N-Mag-S with the analyses 15%N - 3.0%Mg - 4.0%S is ideally suited to supply nitrogen (as urea), magnesium (as magnesium sulphate) and can include boron as borax or boric acid. Posted December 3, 2016.



FERTIBLEND SYSTEM FOR BROADACRE FARMS



"Crystal of Life"

The Six Environmental Forces (Publications page, this website: Letter to the Editor, "LOOK at the big picture"; Farm Weekly, July 22, 1999, page 6).

There are six major forces controlling the environment and life on Earth, namely Heat - Light, Air - Water, Nutrients - Microbes.

The spatial relationship of these six forces to the central, living cell forms an energetically, octahedrally coordinated "Crystal of Life" complex of interactions which sustains the cell.

The forces themselves are in complimentary pairs of Heat & Light, Air & Water, and Nutrients & Microbes, each directly affecting the other. An effect on any one of the forces will also influentially affect the others.

The environmental forces are in harmony with each other and with the central cell when each force has an optimal magnitude. The immunity of the cell at that point is then at a maximum (though never 100%) and disease is at a minimum (though never zero).

Thorough explanations on ecology of each environmental force is available on Internet search engines, as well as explanations of the physiology of the cell, immunity, and disease. For example, Air as an environmental force means the individual and combined effects of all its components on the environment and life processes, such as CO2, Ozone (O3), Oxygen (O2), Nitrogen (N2) etc. The magnitude (concentration), physics and chemistry of these gases, which controls global temperature by affecting infrared radiation (carbon dioxide); ultraviolet radiation (ozone); breathable air (oxygen); and cell structure, food protein (nitrogen), etc. should be maintained at close to optimal for sustainability of life. All life depends on the six forces acting together in harmony, clearly shown by plants for the most important thermodynamic, biochemical process on Earth - photosynthesis. Microbes in soil play a crucial role by converting nutrients into more available and useful forms for plants, which produce carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals as food for humans and animals. Posted February 7, 2017.

The four thermodynamic laws which govern the movement and function of energy underpin the harmonious expression of the six forces which nurtures all life forms, be it human, plant, animal, insect or microbe.

A spontaneous and uninterrupted flow of energy (Gibbs Free Energy, G) is needed and must be maintained to support life's complex metabolism. In biological thermodynamics, the total heat content of the system is quantified by enthalpy (H), a measure of energy available for biochemical reactions. Biochemical reactions involve changes in energy levels, in temperature (T) and an increase in entropy (S), a measure of randomness or disorder.

The source of energy and nutrition for the functioning of metabolic systems for life is nutritious food. Photosynthesis by plants and phytoplankton produce the food for terrestrial and marine organisms by complex, thermodynamically controlled reaction of water, CO2, O2, nutrients and solar radiation. Symbiotic microbes utilise these photosynthate compounds as energy to fix atmospheric nitrogen as organic nitrogen compounds in legume nodules.

Food consists of energy-dense biomolecules composed of various elements; carbohydrates (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen), proteins and enzymes (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, trace elements), nucleic acids such as DNA (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, nitrogen) and minerals in organic forms (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulphur, sodium, chloride, trace elements and ultra trace elements).

The most abundant energy-carrier biomolecule in cells is adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP). It stores and transfers energy to other biomolecules to enable metabolic reactions to take place in cells. Photosynthesis by plants and phytoplankton requires ATP which is generated by photo-phosphorylation with solar energy.

Life ceases without a supply of energy from food, or if the harmonious functioning of any of the six forces (heat, light, air, water, nutrients and microbes) is disrupted, exceeded or cease, leading to a permanent loss of metabolic temperature and commencement of cellular degradation (disorder).

Temperature is a measure of the average heat or thermal energy of molecules in a substance or body. Thermodynamic maintenance of a steady temperature is critical for all life forms. Humans are homeotherms and must maintain a constant body temperature within a close range to live, whilst poikilotherms cannot maintain a constant body temperature due to their particular metabolic system. As humans cannot burrow to stay cool or warm, we must depend on Earth maintaining a habitable temperature.

Entropy (randomness) always increases with time, so there is an enormous variety of life forms on Earth as a result of billions of years of evolution; each species connected in some way to the other and living in harmony within the bounds of Earth's different ecosystems. Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem services are provided by bio-diverse natural species which are caretakers of the ecosystems humans depend on for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, environment, etc. Maintaining nature's biodiversity by preventing climate change is now a key strategy of governments.

We cannot afford to ignore the vital importance of any of the six forces if we wish to survive and prosper. Nutrients & Microbes, Air & Water are critical for life, and are currently in need of close attention to turn back the onslaught of climate change. Atmospheric CO2, even in a low concentration range of 400 - 408 ppm (0.040 - 0.041%), plus other greenhouse gases, has the power as a greenhouse gas to warm up the Earth's atmosphere, warm up oceans and melt Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. Governments have acted effectively on eliminating CFCs which deplete vital atmospheric ozone (the Montreal Protocol, 1987). Atmospheric ozone is present in even smaller amounts (0.00001 - 0.0001%) yet it protects us from dangerous UV radiation.

We must act quickly to remove excessive CO2 (Paris Climate Summit, UNFCCC, 2015), utilising photosynthesis with plants, trees and phytoplankton. Understanding thermodynamics and nutrition in relation to the six environmental forces will be crucial for our efforts to succeed in preventing dangerous climate change, a serious threat to humanity.
Posted April 18, 2017.


"Role of fertilizers in climate change adaptation and mitigation"

Webinar by IFA, IFDC and IPNI on 31 October, 2017

4 written questions, comments and feedback were provided to the webinar by Western Fertiliser Technology Pty Ltd.

CO2 emission reductions by less use of fossil fuels, coupled with growing biomass intensively by all governments, with increased solar and wind energy can prevent runaway global warming by lowering atmospheric CO2 preventing dangerous methane emissions from Arctic permafrost

Q. Daily CO2 emissions globally are now around 100 million tons of CO2, equivalent to about 50 million tons of biomass. By growing biomass intensively on available empty spaces globally, using efficient fertilizers, can 100 million tons of CO2 be removed daily globally, as the first urgent step to prevent runaway warming? CO2 is now at 490 ppm CO2 - eq. (NOAA).

Q. Holding CO2 levels below 450 ppm CO2-eq would keep warming of the planet below 2 degrees C increase, scientists advise. How soon can governments lower CO2 by 40 ppm to 450 ppm CO2-eq, utilising fertilisers globally; taking into account that CO2 is rising annually by around 3 ppm.

Q. Can the benefits of more nutritious abundant food, lives saved, and reduced infrastructure damage from climate change (floods, storms, heatwaves) offset the costs from increased use of efficient fertilizers?

Q. Each day, half of Earth is nighttime, and radiation of heat into space as infrared radiation is more at nighttime than during daytime. Will lowering atmospheric CO2 rapidly increase cooling of Earth at night? By how much per ppm of CO2? Can cities switch off unnecessary lights at night? Posted November 2, 2017.


"ARCTIC sea ice volume"

Changing Arctic sea ice volume is a good indicator of Earth's increasing temperature as a result of accumulating greenhouse gases. Arctic sea ice volume is the product of Arctic sea ice extent and average Arctic sea ice thickness. To be expected, less Arctic sea ice volume correlates well with increasing global temperatures, resulting in stronger hurricanes (recently, Irma and Maria), worse floods, large wildfires (currently in California) and scorching heatwaves (recently India, Middle East). Changing daily Arctic sea ice volumes are ably provided monthly by PIOMAS (Piomas December Arctic sea ice).

Lets look at the December 2017 graphic trends. Daily Arctic sea ice volume for December 5, 2017 is now at the third lowest after 2016 and 2012. However, parts of the curves showing the maxima (April- May, after winter Arctic sea ice growth) and the minima ( around September after summer Arctic sea ice melt) of past years correlate well with the curve of mean volumes 1979 - 2016. We could perhaps take comfort from the current third lowest position if atmospheric CO2 levels have plateaued, but cannot against the background of daily accumulating CO2 levels (around 100 million tons a day). Brian Brettschneider from the International Arctic Research Centre also reports ( see Piomas December Arctic sea ice) that sea ice in the Chukchi is only 46 per cent covered in ice instead of 88 per cent at this date.

Increasing CO2-eq levels (now at 490 ppm CO2-eq, NOAA) will mean less Arctic sea ice volume in future years, as shown by the PIOMAS graphs and trend lines for Arctic sea ice volumes versus time. Of particular concern is the very wide gap of Arctic sea ice volume between the maxima of 2017 and those of 2016 and mean volume 1979-2016. Its time we roll up our sleeves and start to lower atmospheric CO2 levels to safer levels; quickly, as Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (UNFCCC) once said "We are running out of time ". The stakes are too high. Sea ice volume loss and increasing temperatures in the Arctic are pointing to a global catastrophe. An Arctic emergency should be declared soon by the UNFCCC Secretariat. Posted December 8, 2017.


Increasing the efficiency of phosphorus fertilisers - a way to delay peak phosphorus

Phosphorus in fertilisers is a finite, limited resource, unlike nitrogen which can be fixed industrially or biologically as ammonia from an abundant resource (78% nitrogen by volume in air). Economically recoverable phosphate rock reserves are expected to be depleted in 50 - 100 years. Quantities of reserves remaining are hotly debated, with "peak phosphorus" - maximum global production - thought to be reached around 2030 - 2040 due to steeply rising demand. The world's high grade phosphate reserves are found in just 6 countries, which could increase scarcity and prices of phosphorus fertilisers in the future. Fortunately, other resources - N, K, Ca, Mg, S and trace elements needed for the production of premium fertilisers are in abundant supply for the foreseeable future.

Essential life processes depends on organic compounds containing phosphorus as phosphates in DNA and RNA (for structural framework and for biochemical, genetic functions), ATP (for phosphorylation reactions producing energy) and phospholipids for forming cellular membranes.

As phosphorus is irreplaceable as a nutrient for sustainable food production and food security, it is vital now that new agricultural, food and forestry production systems are introduced to conserve and extend the lifetime of global phosphorus supplies. Increasing the efficiency of phosphate fertilisers would benefit phosphate rock suppliers, phosphate fertiliser manufacturers and farmers.

Formulation and efficient use of phosphorus containing fertilisers should also be accompanied by changes to diets demanding less phosphate fertiliser inputs, to more freshly grown vegetables and fruit, balancing with whole-grain breads for complex carbohydrates.

Improving efficiency of a phosphate fertiliser will lead to improved photosynthesis and improved uptake of applied nutrients, providing increased quality and yield of produce. In this regard, the key compound in plants to focus upon is ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy compound in all living organisms. The efficiency of phosphate fertilisers can be increased by focussing on ATP as a model compound. Improved nutrition in plants that improve the function of ATP in plants will also improve productivity and efficiency of phosphate fertilisers.

Adenosine triphosphate is a nitrogen - phosphate containing molecule involved intimately in metabolic processes for all forms of life and for storage and transfer of cellular respiratory energy. ATP enables the energy intensive photosynthesis process to proceed smoothly with the close involvement of nutrient minerals and trace element nutrients. It has an oxygen-rich chemical formula of C10H16N5O13P3, with a molar mass of 507.18 g/mol. It is a fairly large molecule enabling complex stereochemical functions. Its composition of 24% carbon, 3% hydrogen, 14% nitrogen, 41% oxygen and 18% phosphorus reveals the important constituents of ATP.

ATP releases a considerable amount of Gibbs free energy in cells (-34 kJ/ mol) on hydrolysis, converting from its triphosphate form to the di- or mono phosphate forms after phosphorylation. This energetic reaction is reversible, regenerating ATP. Some of the ATP goes on to form DNA and RNA. During the poly-ionic transfer reactions which release useful energy, stability of ATP is improved by strong chelation and buffering of pH in cellular fluids by calcium, magnesium and trace elements. These minerals enhance ATP function during photosynthesis and its complex interactions with proteins containing sulphur. Hence efficiencies of phosphate fertilisers without calcium, magnesium, potassium and trace elements content are considerably lower.

Water-soluble, pH buffering forms of phosphorus as mono-calcium phosphate, Ca(H2PO4)2, magnesium phosphate, Mg(H2PO4)2, mono-potassium phosphate, KH2PO4, and chelated trace elements are particularly important in increasing efficiency of liquid fertilisers which utilise urea and high-density concentrated phosphoric acid as sources of N & P. Sulphur and chloride are supplied as sulphate and chloride of magnesium, potassium and sodium.

Positively charged ammonium ions, NH4+, competes strongly with ionic calcium, magnesium, potassium and trace elements during plant uptake from the soil, so urea is a cheaper and preferred companion for phosphorus in highly efficient liquid fertilisers. Soil conditions that improves phosphorus uptake from the soil solution, such as pH (optimum range 5.5 to 6.5), EC (range 1.5 to 2.5 mS/cm), an oxygen-rich environment, and optimum temperatures for growth are remarkably similar to those needed for hydroponics. These conditions are ideal too for microbial communities involved in phosphate uptake and soil fertility to flourish in presence of humic and fulvic acids from soil organic matter.

An interesting request came recently from a farmer on ways to grow vegetables efficiently on his 50-acre farm, which has nutrient depleted soils but sufficient water. He wanted to grow tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant (aubergine) and pumpkins in a high-production system. My recommendations to him consisted of: Posted January 23, 2018.


BIOMASS for Power generation - some important considerations for efficiency

Biomass-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) generation plants are increasingly being built in Europe and worldwide; they are seen to be potentially carbon-neutral and are built to avoid fossil based CO2 emissions for a sustainable climate. What are their energy and cost efficiency considerations? Some of the efficiency- improving management processes discussed here are:
Value the tree... it holds our destiny. Hug it - Respect it...

Posted March 3, 2018.


ARCTIC Sea Ice Volume - Beware the Trend Line

A trend line is formed when a diagonal line can be drawn between a minimum of three or more points. The relationship of changing Arctic sea ice volume versus time is a vital trend line for monitoring climate sustainability, for which good data exists since 1980. Scientists use trend lines (also used in financial markets) as powerful tools to predict future events by simple extrapolation (straight line or exponential). Long- term trend lines with low divergence between extrapolated points on the diagonal can predict with high confidence (>90%) that the prediction will become true; unless a fairly dramatic change in management, or a catalyst for a turning point, occurs before that date. In terms of reversing climate change due to global warming, the major change in management needed now is to dramatically lower atmospheric CO2 from around 490 ppm CO2-eq now to less than 450 ppm CO2-eq within a short period of time to stay below 1.5 C increase of global warming.

So what is the trend in Arctic sea ice volume (sea ice area times average sea ice thickness), and what has been happening of late to the Arctic, the canary indicator and predictor of global climate changes?

Leading PIOMAS (University of Washington, Seattle), NSIDC and CryoSat (ESA) models, showing good agreement with each other, calculates daily changes in Arctic sea ice volume from accretion (growth) or melt due to changes in local weather and climate trends. Data for modelling are obtained from in-situ monitoring of ice and snow by aircraft, submarines, and satellites. Temperature and wind data are obtained from buoys. The measured data provides a high degree of confidence in the models, with daily comments and discussions between leading climate scientists and meteorologists on their websites. Reading their daily comments is certainly worrying. The Arctic is:
Game-changing events will occur when the Arctic goes ice-free each summer. High methane (36x GWP of CO2) emissions from destabilised permafrost in Arctic regions, loss of albedo and increased absorption of heat radiation by darker ice-free oceans are worrying scientists intensely. An exponential trend line by PIOMAS scientists, Zhang, Rothrock and Wipneus in 12/12/2012 shows that September Arctic sea ice volumes in summer will be close to ice- free (defined as less than 1000 cubic kilometres) between 2015 and 2020, with R2 coefficients of 0.931 for exponential and gridded-exponential regressions. See also the excellent report in Arctic News; Malcolm P.R. Light, November 11, 2012.

Currently, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) whose member countries’ ships have annual carbon dioxide emissions the size of Germany's, are meeting in London to set ambitious emission targets (Initial GHG Strategy) for international shipping (see Climate Home, 6/04/2018). For the IMO, an excellent report by the International Transport Forum, OECD, describes in detail technological pathways to achieve zero-carbon emissions from shipping by 2035 or earlier. The IMO's strategy is to come up this week with a full policy package to implement before 2023.

Fortunately many scientists believe we still have time, albeit severely limited now, to avert all-out catastrophic warming and methane emissions - if we throw the full technological policy package at the main problem - very high atmospheric CO2. We urgently need the UNFCCC or UNSC to lead the way - call a crisis meeting of experts now to come up with a policy pathway for all nations to strictly follow, or face carbon taxes.

Beware the trend line. Lack of awareness and alertness leads to calamity. Runaway climate change would be a monumental tragedy, as it would occur at peaks in our scientific knowledge and advanced civilisation; right before the launching of limitless hydrogen-based fusion power; of humans exploring space and gaining limitless resources from the universe. Posted April 9, 2018.


Climate action motto should now be "Trees! Trees! Trees!"

Maximum day temperatures in Australia in 2018 and 2019 has been extremely hot. 2018 ended with a severe heat wave on December 27th (The Guardian), with maximum temperatures of 49 C in Pannawonica, Western Australia, 41 C in Adelaide and 46 C in Port Augusta and Coober Pedy, South Australia. Today's forecast temperature of 44 C in Melbourne and 46.5 C in Adelaide yesterday (the forecast was for 45C) are ominous signs that high CO2 levels (now at 494 ppm CO2-e, NOAA) must be quickly reined in to lower daytime and nighttime temperatures. Currently increasing maximum temperature trends, breaking old records set 50 - 80 years ago, differ from the older records because they tell us to expect higher maximum temperatures in the near future. The older records were clearly outliers, often a single-day event, so we cannot justifiably draw comfort by quoting and comparing them to current high temperatures.

Australia's climate maps from the Bureau of Meteorology on 27th December 2018 and 24th January 2019 (see PDF 1 & PDF 2) shows clearly the large geographic expanse of heat from its furnace-like desert interior all the way from the west to east coasts, where most of Australia's capitals are located. Not surprising then that interior regional towns (PDF 3, PDF 4, PDF 5) of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales have suffered worse with higher heatwaves of longer duration. Even Canberra, ACT (The Canberra Times) had an unprecedented, continuous, 4-day heatwave above 40 C beginning 15 January 2019. Tarcoola in South Australia and Marble Bar in Western Australia reached sweltering 49 C and 49.3 C, and were dubbed "hottest place on Earth".

Other cities elsewhere in the world, located near deserts such as Phoenix, New Delhi, Karachi etc. have suffered badly in 2018 with heatwave temperatures nudging 50 C. We must, urgently, lower CO2 levels. There are few alternatives other than mass planting of trees globally to prevent runaway climate change. Global action on climate change is long overdue (is Davos listening?). Our motto for climate change action should now be "Trees! Trees! Trees!". Posted January 25, 2019.


"Trees! Trees! Trees!"

2018 ended with the lowest ice extent ever in the Arctic. Australia had the hottest ever maximum daily temperatures in January 2019 (Bureau of Meteorology). Townsville in Queensland has record ongoing floods, threatening 20,000 homes (Weatherzone News). The Midwest U.S and parts of Eastern U.S (esp. Chicago) saw temperatures plummet last week to their lowest ever, -45 C plus windchill, causing possible frostbite in seconds. This was caused by anomalous heat in the Arctic, weakening the Polar Vortex allowing the vortex to bulge southwards, dragging air with it colder than in Antarctica.

The world has seen major climate disasters causing deaths, and costing billions of dollars during the past fifteen years as CO2 levels climb relentlessly from fossil and other emissions. Heatwaves, floods, hurricanes, storms, wildfires, are increasing in intensity, and ice-melt at the poles and glaciers are causing sea levels to rise everywhere. On good news, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), made up of the major global powers and charged by the United Nations for keeping all countries secure, is now going to focus on global problems related to climate change; British Petroleum (BP) has backed shareholder calls to align its climate strategies with the Paris agreement (Climate Home News; 25 Jan. 2019 and 1Feb. 2019).

Action on climate change is therefore beginning to ramp up; action that can prevent deadly heatwaves from worsening in vulnerable cities in Australia, U.S, India, Pakistan, the Middle East etc. We need something that will dramatically slow and reverse increasing atmospheric CO2 levels, paving the way for renewable energy deployments to catch-up, eventually reaching net- zero global CO2 emissions between 2030 - 2050. We need additional help from none other than - Trees!.

A tree is a perennial plant, typically having a single stem or woody trunk storing a large amount of carbon, growing to considerable heights, bearing millions of leaves (e.g oak) for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the dominant chemical reaction on Earth, by which trees, herbaceous plants, lower plants, manufacture food as sugars, proteins, oils and fats and as dense bundles of cellulose as wood in trees (see Nutrition Management, Technical Questions, CO2 Management, this website for more on photosynthesis). The photosynthesis process is so complex that humans have been unable to copy it or to make a single leaf. CO2, water, solar energy and nutrients are the main drivers for photosynthesis. If we grow trees in extremely large numbers globally, in a short time, we can reverse warming and climate change within a decade. That is the power of photosynthesis. Trees grown intensively for CO2 reduction should of course include fruit trees and nut trees large and small, tropical and temperate for food.

We think naturally about forests as the main domain of trees, yet trees can be planted in any suitable empty space that can be safely accessed for care, watering and fertilising to grow large and strong in a short time. We need global political leaders who can envisage and lead this solution for drawing down CO2 quickly. Forests have done a magnificent job in keeping climates cool, and their various other ecological functions and benefits such as conservation of water and biodiversity has been adequately covered by scientists. Yet forest trees have a serious drawback: they cannot move about to harvest more soil nutrients, which, over time, causes shortages in the soil disabling continuous vigorous growth. Fertilising forests, and this may seem an unusual step for some, is needed now to rejuvenate stems, branches and leaves (canopies) for removing excess atmospheric CO2, thereby also improving biodiversity by making more nutrients available for other organisms living in the landscape. Provided with nutrients containing trace elements, forest trees show remarkable rapid response and growth. Healthier, larger trees with higher canopies and less undergrowth make wildfires less intense and controllable. Nutrient mineral blocks can be provided to goats in forests which can obtain their protein and carbohydrates by eating and clearing trashy undergrowth, lowering risks of forest fires.

To minimise waste, fertilisers as both concentrated liquids (minimum water) or as buried briquettes can be applied a short distance (1 - 1.2 metres) from the tree in forests, plantations, as well as in any suitable location. CO2 levels are now historically high 494 ppm CO2-equivalent (NOAA), so the target could be to lower CO2 using trees (and crops) to 450 ppm CO2-equivalent by 2030 (4 ppm CO2/year). This can be easily achieved by humans to ensure our survival. Posted February 2, 2019.


Climate Change - Fight or Flee!

The perplexing slow global response to climate change by humans may be due to "human nature", and the way we have always responded to an imminent, deadly threat. For example, a community of chimpanzees in a forest, under imminent attack from a number of very hostile chimpanzees looks to its largest, strongest, most capable chimpanzee for leadership cues for what to do. If he launches a defence and fights, they follow suit; i.e. they fight instead of flee.

With climate change, human communities are facing the same danger from an increasingly hostile global climate. Our choice is now clear. Will we fight or flee? We of course cannot flee planet Earth, so we must fight climate change or perish. Humans now await cues from their leaders on how to respond effectively to worsening climate impacts (e.g. thousands perishing in a heatwave or flood). Further delay would greatly imperil probability of success.

Historically, we have never been in a situation like this before, where we will have to respond to an ecological catastrophe brought upon us by ourselves. We are confused and are delaying an appropriate timely response. We must act soon because a hostile climate is like no other danger humans have faced before. It is a powerful, physical force driven by high concentrations of CO2 causing global warming (see CO2 Management, this website) and it is completely without any feelings, empathy or mercy for human communities. We must act now. We must begin by growing trees in all suitable empty spaces on the globe where they can be tended, and rejuvenate our existing forests. We must reduce CO2 emissions very quickly and deploy solar, wind and other renewable energies - which we are doing but not quick enough. Our targets must be based on lowering CO2 levels to analytically measurable, safe levels of CO2 (NASA and NOAA), within immediate years; not targets set in distant time (e.g. 2050) because the deadly impacts are here. We look to our leaders for their signal: fight climate change now to survive. Posted February 28, 2019.


Expressions of Interest

Western Fertiliser Technology Pty Ltd seeks expressions of interest from large Australian fertiliser manufacturers and companies.

Click here to scroll down for company history and product details.

Contact us by Email wft_ptyltd@bigpond.com or telephone 0412 912 793. Posted April 5, 2019.


What's happening with Arctic sea ice area and extent? Why is it losing ice so quickly?

A very worrying trend during the past month has been a downward, steep decline in the trajectory of Arctic sea ice melt. Arctic sea ice levels reach their lowest in summer in the northern hemisphere, around mid September. The lowest ever extent reached (3.18 million square kms) was in 2012, on September 16th. Here is the published satellite view in 2012 (PDFA) and graph (PDFB) provided courtesies of NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and here are the current (April 7th) total Arctic sea ice area (PDFC), extent (PDFD) and volume (PDFE), courtesies of NSIDC, JAXA and PIOMAS (Polar Science Center) respectively.

Lets keep up with the daily trending comments by our scientists at the "Arctic Sea Ice Forum". They are doing a great job to keep us informed, which will lead to rapid global action by policy makers. We are facing dire short-term and long-term threats. Gerontocrat says his computer is wheezing under the load of everyday data. Maybe Apple or Microsoft could award him a new computer as he is doing a great job!

If this trajectory continues, they say, and there is still a long melt season to September, we could be seeing the lowest ever ice area and extent in the Arctic in September 2019. On 7 April 2012, JAXA Arctic sea ice extent was 14.2 million square kms, compared now to 12.9 million square kms on 7 April 2019, placing 2019 all on its own on a totally new part of the graph which is very concerning. Scientists believe the Arctic could be the first domino or "tipping point" leading to other tipping points (see Google) of more serious climate change effects such as heat waves, hurricanes, storms, floods, forest fires, methane emissions from permafrost etc. Tipping Points are expected to be abrupt, and once set in motion are difficult to stop; collapse of ecosystems following tipping points are thought to be irreversible.

The Arctic is losing ice because of high accumulated CO2 causing warming from the Green-House gas effect. CO2 levels are now 496 ppm CO2-e, with each day seeing an additional 100 million tons of CO2 added to the atmosphere as emissions keep rising. This is causing more ice-melt at both poles and in glaciers, leading to the worsening climate change effects we are now witnessing.

Global warming can be viewed simply and logically, if you can picture climate stability as an antique hand-held scale (balance). On the right pan is the cooling ice (in trillions of tons) and on the left pan is the global warming CO2 (in trillions of tons). Before the industrial revolution, you could say the horizontal balance was pretty good, and average global temperatures were quite steady, apart from random wobbles from weather causing wild wet weather, droughts or storms. Then along came higher standards of living for humans and higher CO2 emissions, adding more tons of CO2 to the pan, causing the heat balance to tilt as ice melted; we started to notice climate changing for the worse. Adding tons of CO2 daily to the atmosphere makes it inevitable that ice will one day disappear, and as shown by the climate agencies, the Arctic sea ice trends for the past 30 years or so are pointing to zero ice in the Arctic for the summer months causing damaging climate feedbacks.

Attempts by nations to rein in CO2 emissions and deployment of renewable energies (wind, solar etc.) has had very little effect on reducing CO2 being added to the atmosphere at around 100 million tons a day. Think of all the CO2 emissions each day globally from cars, power stations etc. The Carbon Cycle tries hard to soak up its share, but is showing signs of exhaustion. Each year around 36.5 billion tons of CO2 is being added, making long-term plans (e.g. to 2050) for net-zero CO2 emissions doubtful. What will maximum heat wave temperatures and intensity of storms, floods be like then? We have just two solutions, scientists say, and that is to lower fossil fuel and other CO2 emissions very quickly, and harness the power of photosynthesis to capture atmospheric CO2. i.e. lower it to stop reaching tilting point; before climate crashes. Massive forestry, agriculture (for biofuels such as canola oil) and horticultural expansion are what we need urgently to capture and store CO2 until emission reductions catch up. A question for NASA, please. What is the maximum amount, in tons of CO2 we can reasonably remove from the atmosphere to be safe, by all means available, within 10 years from now (2029 - 2030)? What will the atmospheric level of CO2-e be then if we are able to lower CO2 by that amount?

Another question we should ponder: is our world worth saving by spending trillions of dollars now?. How much is it worth to justify spending to save it? According to Quora, the net worth of our planet comes to thousands of trillions of dollars:

Real estate value of 100 major cities: 100 trillion $ net GDP of nations: 107 trillion $ Minerals, crude oil, gas, plants, animals, insects, forests, humans, water, air, science, art, culture, knowledge, and many other forms of wealth would add up to thousands of trillions of dollars Quora says, say: 2000 trillion $.

Total net worth of our world: approximately 2207 trillion $.
Spend 7 trillion dollars saving planet Earth.
Return on investment is 2200 trillion $.
Posted April 9, 2019.


Why we must, and can, reach net-zero emissions by 2030

Rapidly diminishing summer Arctic sea-ice makes it crucial that we reach net- zero emissions by 2030, not 2050 as it would be too late if we are to preserve Earth's ecosystems and avoid crossing planetary thresholds leading to a Hothouse Earth (PDFF).

PIOMAS (Polar Science Centre) yearly minimum Arctic September sea ice volumes (PDFG), obtained from daily satellite data since 1979, projects highly probable zero-ice conditions in 2024, or earlier, if September 2019 surpasses the lowest minimum seen in 2012. Zero ice, or BOE (blue ocean event) in the Arctic must be avoided at all costs, as sharply decreased albedo can lead to less ice in the winter months, setting in motion a weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which will have profound consequences on humanity by hastening global climate catastrophe.

Two main causes of Arctic sea ice decline are a high 496 ppm CO2- equivalent level and daily addition of 100 million tons CO2 from global emissions. These must be addressed as a matter of urgency if we are to save the Arctic. Current 496 ppm CO2-equivalent (NOAA, ESRL data), which includes the contribution to warming from other GH gases as well, and having the same warming power of 496 ppm CO2 on its own, should be the quoted level in reports instead of the lower current atmospheric CO2-only level of 414.5 ppm which could be misleading as to the need for urgency. The problem with adding 100 million tons CO2 each day to accumulated emissions is that it is causing a far more rapid exponential decline to zero ice (as shown by the PIOMAS graph) than a slower, straight-line decline if there was a steady atmospheric CO2 level (e.g. 400 ppm CO-equivalent).

A natural, safe way to address climate change, discussed in earlier posts, is sequestration of carbon as wood and as protein in forests and plantations. As advised by UN scientists recently, wherever possible, trees grown for carbon sequestration should be native species to preserve biodiversity which is under severe stress. As wood is composed of approximately 50% of carbon, we need to grow 54 million tons of wood globally each day, to offset the 100 million tons of CO2 emitted each day to the atmosphere. This might seem daunting, but intense effort globally by all nations can achieve this task easily. The surge in the planting of trees for carbon-neutral biomass energy should be based on the preservation of biodiversity, and will contribute greatly to achieving global net-zero emissions by 2030. A useful aspect of using biomass for generating energy is the cleanup of trashy undergrowth in forests, greatly reducing the risk of wildfires.

Solar and wind power is plentiful in Australia, potentially a central provider of container-sized batteries for electrically powering ships to lower emissions from this important sector.

Climate change poses a severe risk to economic stability (PDFH - Climate Home News by Megan Darby); the good news is that leading global Central Banks and Supervisors from NGFS (Network for Greening the Financial System (PDFI), (PDFJ) and (PDFK), has acknowledged that climate-related environmental risks are a source of financial risks. Their collective financial strength (2/3 of globally leading banks, central banks, and insurers covering 44% of global GDP, 31% and 45% of global populations and emissions respectively) will be the key for lowering global emissions to net-zero by 2030, preserving Arctic sea-ice and leading a pathway to a Stabilised Earth (PDFF).

Value our children...they are our future and our destiny. Hug them, Protect them...
Posted May 10, 2019.


Update on what's happening with sea ice volume on July 6, 2019

Arctic sea ice volume is a 3-dimensional measurement by satellite which takes into account average Arctic sea ice thickness and sea ice area, so it is regarded by scientists as being the best available measurement to predict the fate of Arctic sea ice. Arctic sea ice volume will reach a minimum around mid September, as it has in past decades.

Sea ice volume was the lowest ever in September 2012, reaching a low of 3670 cubic kms on September 18th, 2012 compared to 5000 cubic kms on September 15th, 2018 (PDFG, data from PIOMAS). Can we be comfortable from the fact that there was more ice volume in 2018 than in 2012 ? As physics laws state, energy cannot be destroyed or created, so the increased heat accumulated from higher GH gases in 2018 compared to 2012 will show up soon enough. This has climate scientists worried as the latest PIOMAS Arctic sea ice volume on 6 July, 2019 (PDFL) is now trending lower than on 6 July, 2012. Volume in 2019 is now less than 2018 by 1766 cubic kms (-12.8%) and less than 2012 by 250 cubic kms (-2.0%, PDFM). Showing less ice volume now could mean a lower sea ice volume in September, which could increase warming in the Northern Hemisphere, or even globally. Recent heat waves in Europe, reaching a high of 45.9 C in France is a serious cause for concern. We must hope that this event was not connected to the lower sea ice in the Arctic, or connected in any way to the Polar Vortex (jet stream).

Scientists are now urging lowering of CO2 through both global emission reductions and CO2 removal through massive, urgent, planting of trees globally by restoring global forest cover - up to 0.9 billion hectares (PDFN). This would represent a greater than 25% increase in forested area, including more than 500 billion trees and more than 200 gigatonnes of additional carbon at maturity. Such a change is considerable, and has the potential to cut the atmospheric carbon pool by about 25% according to scientific recommendations in this report.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres is determined that countries avoid disastrous climate change, so he is convening a September 2019 Climate Summit at the UN headquarters in New York, with the Climate Summit centred on climate action by all nations. The Summit will be reaching out for the views and recommendations of young climate leaders too; being young, they are particularly worried about the worsening climate impacts on their future well-being. Posted July 06, 2019.


The Arctic has lost 12534 cubic kilometres of ice as at 15 July 2019 compared with the 1980's

The Arctic has lost 12534 cubic kilometres of ice as at 15 July 2019 compared with the 1980's; a loss of 58.8% (PIOMAS). This amount of sea-ice loss equates to ice blocks, each measuring a cubic kilometre, stretching, almost, from the Geographic North Pole to Sydney Australia,13772 kilometres to the South. That is a lot of ice! Not surprising then that the Northern Hemisphere, especially Europe is heating up, and as recently as June and July, broke several temperature records in France, Germany, Belgium, UK etc. Greenland is losing ice quickly too due to high temperatures (Guardian, Jonathan Watts, 2 August 2019).

Is there a solution to the climate crisis we are witnessing? Fortunately yes, if we act very, very, quickly. We can grow protein globally in leaves and stems of forest canopies very quickly using fertilisers. Protein has a carbon content of approximately 50%, but can be grown much quicker than wood, which also has approximately 50% carbon. Coupled with a program to quickly lower very high, daily global emissions of CO2 (discussed in earlier posts), CO2 levels can be drawn down to safe levels within 5 - 10 years to alter the global heat balance favouring more ice in the Arctic and in Antarctica (see also The Conversation - Arctic ice loss is worrying, but the giant stirring in the South could be even worse).

Time is critical now. We must act quickly. Posted August 03, 2019.


Options for fertilising standing forests and plantations - aiming for rapid, low- cost, sustainable global drawdown of CO2

Climate change has often been described as a complex process which makes it a problem to address effectively. This might have been true 50 - 60 years ago when climate impacts were starting to be felt, but there was much less data for scientists to draw upon. Since then, regular monitoring of atmospheric CO2 levels at Mauna Loa observatory and satellite measurements of ice loss in the Arctic and Antarctica (since 1980) has made a firm connection between increasing CO2 levels (now 496 ppm CO2-eq) and increasing heat from the greenhouse-gas effect. European countries in close proximity to the Arctic, with cool temperate summers are now seeing high, dangerous summer temperatures, some in the high-thirties and mid-forties centigrade.

If we view the JAXA Arctic Sea Ice Extent data, in square kilometres, between July and September (JAXA-PDF) we can see clearly that Arctic sea ice extent averages has been decreasing each decade, with sea ice in 2010's < 2000's < 1990's < 1980's. The same applies to NSIDC sea ice areas for the past decades (NSIDC-PDF) and PIOMAS Arctic sea ice volumes (Arctic death spiral) in cubic kilometres (PIOMAS-PDF). Current levels during July-August 2019 are shown. There is still a month of melting to go, and a badly timed, badly placed cyclone in the Central Arctic Basin can quickly melt out a lot of the fragile, thin ice leading to a BOE.

Changing sea ice volumes, extent and areas can be seen daily by visiting the Arctic Sea Ice Forum. Based on accumulated data, we can now say that climate change is simply due to increasing global heat from increasing CO2 greenhouse gas. Certainly, short-term changes in weather makes changes seem complex, but long-term changes to climates are quite clear; we are running out of time to address the dangerous changes. As many now say, climate change is an existential threat to humanity. Accumulation of global heat in oceans is leading to intense heat waves on land, intense wildfires, intense storms, intense floods, threats to ecosystems collapse and rapid loss of biodiversity.

Among the many near-term actions to reverse climate change, mitigation of CO2 in forests with judicious use of modern liquid fertilisers to increase canopy growth and photosynthesis promises to be the quickest and cheapest option open to governments. Trials on small blocks of forests will show responses within weeks to a couple of months. Short-term tests by Western Fertiliser Technology Pty Ltd has shown that forest trees respond very quickly to phosphorus-based trace element liquid fertilisers which includes nitrogen (as urea), calcium (as oxide), magnesium (as oxide or sulphate), potassium (as muriate), sodium (as muriate) and sulphur (as sulphate). The quick response from trees to applied fertiliser should not be a surprise as most forest trees are in a highly competitive environment of biomass seeking available nutrients; natural recycling of available nutrients in a forest is not perfect, and loss from terrestrial run-off of soluble nutrients can be high over time.

To determine the cost of investment of fertiliser to stimulate canopy growth of leaves and stems, composed of proteins and carbohydrates high in carbon content, for rapid sequestration of CO2, several factors should be considered - number of trees per hectare; cost per tree; cost per hectare; timing and placement, and method of application.

The number of trees in a forest can vary from 500 - 1000 trees per hectare to as low as 300 trees per hectare in plantations and managed forests. The method of application and quality of fertiliser will have a strong bearing on tree response and cost per hectare. Aerial applications of liquid fertilisers with aircraft, limited to wide expansive forests with poor accessibility will respond to as low as 2 litres per hectare of concentrated liquid fertiliser with approximately 5-litres of water, costing around US $20 - $50 per hectare including application cost once/year. The low amounts applied aerially once/year is meant to stimulate canopy growth for carbon sequestration, so risks of contamination to streams and rivers is negligible. Direct application to soil above feeder roots elicits quick response from trees. This method of application could be limited to nearby inhabited areas such as homes, towns and villages. Direct pneumatic application, with a holding tank on a road, very long hose and applied to one spot on soil 2 to 3 feet from the tree trunk. Around 50 - 100 mL per tree is needed (no diluent). The liquid fertiliser reacts with soil colloids and becomes slow-release. Application to trees adjacent to water courses should be avoided. This method should cost approximately US $0.20 - $0.40 per tree plus application costs once/year. For native tree plantations, small fertiliser briquettes buried 150 mm, approximately 900 mm from the tree would be economical and effective. Posted August 11, 2019.


Editorial - Human Nature

Human nature, for survival, makes moves to protect one's self. That's natural. We make moves everyday, just like in a game of chess, to win over our perceived competitors to protect and enrich our own interests, that's natural human nature too!

We forget however that there is a very important piece protecting us collectively, our Earth, as important as the Queen in a game of deadly chess. With climate change now as our collective, deadly opponent, are we sacrificing the Queen (Earth) to gain a few short-lived pawns (dollars)?.
If we lose the Queen early in the game we will lose everything, Chess Masters will tell us that - we must make our moves to use the Queen (Earth) to win, but we must, collectively, protect Earth from harm if we wish to survive the game. Time is no longer on our side. Every day will count from now on. The Arctic, Greenland, Antarctica and glaciers are all in a mess.
We must look at the big picture and act decisively, now, for the future.

Think about it... We must marshall all our forces and intellect to protect Earth against the deadly onslaught of climate change - for each and all of us, our children and following generations too. There is no point in planning to fly to Mars in 20 - 30 years if we have lost our only means to get there - Earth and its bountiful resources.

Scientists think that Earth may be unique - the only planet in the universe with its unique biological communities of interacting organisms, including us, which, to exist, must be in harmony with each other and, most importantly, with our physical environment. Posted August 17, 2019.


Human Intelligence compared to Artificial Intelligence

The Hewlett Packard HP-35 hand-held digital calculator was introduced in 1970, and for that time it had a very high price of $390, equivalent to about $3000 today, but it was exceptionally popular. It had scientific functions, was programmable as well as being supremely faster to use for scientists, engineers and students, compared to a slide rule or Napier logs.

Contributions from thousands of computer software and hardware scientists following the lead of inventor scientists Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, Konrad Zuse, George Stibitz and others, computers have become much more sophisticated; their storage capacities are enormous (my desktop has 2 trillion bytes of storage capacity) and computing speed has increased tremendously since the HP-35. Together with miniaturisation for mobility (smart phones, USB flash drives etc.), the digital binary format has still not changed intrinsically to keep up with increasing knowledge and need. Today we are more reliant than ever on human intelligence for problem-solving, response and adaptation to new and changing situations, for example climate change and food production under increasingly difficult conditions.

Some of the problems with digital computer hardware and software are: Let's discuss here how human intelligence, based on biochemistry dominated by water compares with artificial intelligence (machine intelligence), and to make possible changes so AI can more closely imitate human intelligence.

Human Intelligence

Human intelligence is an organically based, analog system. The energy needed for this spontaneous autonomic system is generated during hydrolysis (reaction with water) of a ubiquitous energy storage and transfer compound, ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Incredibly, the structure of ATP resembles a rechargeable battery, with acidic phosphate groups at one end, a middle, neutral sugar and a basic adenosine group at the other end. ATP is fully water-soluble so through hydrogen-bonding with water it has pH buffering property between pH 6.8 - pH 7.4 to hold hydrogen ions and e.m.f. within strict limits for cellular and thermodynamic stability, generating spontaneous flow of Gibbs free energy for activating sensors and neurotransmitters to do work. By having contact with large numbers of cells, DNA and large neural networks, the energy producing system is highly efficient thermodynamically with large changes in entropy.

Major sensor organs such as the brain, spinal cord, eye, ear, nose and associated blood cells, joints, muscles etc. are bathed in a specific type of buffered fluid which react differently to commands sourced from DNA.

Whilst the total quantity of ATP in a human body is just 0.1 mole (51 grams) at any one time, ATP is recycled 2000 to 3000 times a day, producing around 5.7 kJ of energy equivalent to 20 Watts of power. By contrast, a super computer weighing several tons need millions of Watts to operate.

Computers

To operate, computers use a battery or an external source of power for driving electrons through circuits and transistors. Electrical connection to a battery resembles automobiles in that there is a positively charged terminal (anode), and the negatively charged terminal (cathode) is connected to the metal body of the car (ground point).

Improvements could be: Artificial intelligence of computers will increase markedly with time (e.g. for computer speakers and robots speaking fluently and understanding different languages, and acquiring stored human expertise seamlessly from Google for example). However AI can never be expected to compare with human intelligence's characteristic qualities such as insight, intuition, perception, deep thinking, cooperation, quick decisive response to new and sudden change, response to new ideas and concepts, etc. Posted September 7, 2019.

[Edit].

Q. How do you assess intelligence in a computer? If a computer can access human expertise from the internet, would that not make it extremely intelligent?

A. Acquiring expertise from the internet and being able to teach itself to learn isn’t truly comparable to human intelligence. Intelligence requires autonomic, spontaneous, stand-alone decision making and response. A simple test of computer intelligence could be to ask it (a super computer) a random question which even a human toddler can understand and answer straight away. So that the super computer cannot be prompted, disconnect it from the internet before asking it to reply to a random question, for example, “Are you hungry?”. If the super computer answers straight away with something like “Now don't be silly! How can I be hungry!. I do not use food for energy, I use electrons!”. If something like that, rational and direct, is its answer to a random question, without prompting from anywhere, I would say that super computer is pretty intelligent. A single “No” or “Yes” answer should be accompanied by an explanation from an intelligent computer. Organic- analog-digital hybrid systems may be needed in the future. Posted November 2, 2019.


Accumulating CO2 - the elephant in the room of deadly climate change

Scientists have repeatedly warned that CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, accumulating around 40 billion tons each year pose an existential threat to humanity. Incredibly, a detailed analysis of this underlying problem, and how to solve it has been absent; an elephant in the room that cannot afford to be ignored any longer and must be addressed with the utmost urgency if humanity wants to survive climate change.

There are only limited options now available to governments to mitigate climate change. Adaptation would be difficult due to current high CO2 (496 ppm CO2-eq) causing increasingly intense heatwaves, at times reaching dangerous levels (50 C and above), long duration and widespread droughts, intense and extensive wildfires, fierce storms and floods all leading to fatalities and less food security for people. The obvious option to mitigate CO2 emissions, most agree, is to move away from burning fossil energy to investments in renewable energies; but despite valiant efforts by companies and governments with renewables, CO2 levels have increased every year.

The best option to urgently remove CO2 emissions is for all nations to move to a tax on CO2 emissions, and use part or all of the revenue for mitigation. Although thoroughly investigated and debated, introducing a carbon tax to lower CO2 emissions has been difficult for most nations. However given the increasing impacts of dangerous climate change and the dire need to act urgently, this option could become unavoidable. Another major option, not discussed sufficiently, is to use forestry, namely trees, to remove CO2. Modern fertilisers must be used to grow and close wide open canopies in forests. Canopy growth and rapid removal of CO2 by trees will be assisted by: Here are some PIOMAS updates on changing Arctic sea ice levels, discussed in earlier postings of Current Topics, this website. Mitigation plans for yearly accumulation of CO2 (40 billion tons/year at over 100 million tons CO2/day) has always assumed that nations can eventually agree to mitigate CO2 to save their citizens. Little thought has been given to the very likely probability that further delay would drive CO2 amounts beyond all available means to lower CO2 to a safe level. Therein lies the Achilles heel of accumulating CO2. We must act quickly before it has become futile to stop climate change, and that mitigation and adaptation can only buy us some limited time. Governments cannot let that happen because that would deprive their present young generation of citizens of their rightful future. Humanity's future depends on our future generations. Posted September 25, 2019.


Heatwaves

Heatwaves are the biggest threat from accumulating CO2 for countries such as Australia, India, Pakistan, Middle East, US (Arizona), France, etc. Maximum heatwave temperatures reached now in some countries (50 C - 51 C) are increasing as CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increase each year (see PDFS - NOAA; Annual Greenhouse Gas index). CO2 is currently high at 496 ppm CO2-e, with the Index of 1.433 for 2018, compared to the reference Index of 1.0 set in 1990 when CO2-e was 417 ppm (NOAA). The radiative forcing (Watts per square metre) from increased CO2 and other GH gases since 1990 has increased by a massive 60%, increasing the index each year (NOAA). If coincident with high humidity, the effects from heatwaves can be substantially worse.

Even without any further increase in CO2 level, current CO2 and other gases accumulated in the atmosphere may be high enough to reach maximum heatwave temperatures above 52 C - 56 C within10 -15 years from today, reaching upper limits of human endurance. High sea surface temperatures adversely affect heatwaves on land, and sea surface temperatures are currently anomalously high in both the Pacific and Arctic seas (see PDFT, Polar Portal, 26 to 30 September 2019; Danish Arctic Research Institute). This is why scientists are warning about heatwaves on both land and in oceans - that we must quickly lower CO2 to a safer level before it is too late. Doing nothing to lower CO2 level in the atmosphere is too high a risk we cannot afford to take. Posted October 1, 2019.


Climate change benchmarks could be updated

The Paris Climate Summit in Dec 2015 adopted climate benchmarks of no more than 2 C increase in the globally averaged temperature, preferably to keep average temperature increase below 1.5 C. Based on this, countries have submitted their voluntary contributions to mitigate emissions and improve their adaptation to climate change, subject to regular review.

Very severe climate impacts in Australia and other countries recently should justify Australia requesting the UN Climate Authority and Cop25 Climate Conference in Madrid next month to update the climate benchmarks, initiate rapid global action to lower high atmospheric carbon dioxide causing heatwaves and wildfires. Nearly a million hectares of land was burnt in Queensland and NSW last week. A long-term drought raging in Australia has lead to shortages of water, large stretches of rivers drying with loss of fish.

What should these benchmarks be, in addition to existing benchmarks? New benchmarks should be verifiable analytically, visually, and accurately estimated using scientific, meteorological calculations. Benchmarks could be: Posted November 14, 2019.


Mitigation of annual greenhouse gas emissions

Wood contains approximately 50% carbon, and carbon dioxide gas, CO2, contains 27.2% carbon (C). Because daily global emissions are around 100 million tons of CO2, this is equivalent to 9.9 billion tons of carbon emitted each year. This means we may have to grow an extra 19.8 billion tons of wood for each year we delay action on climate change; just to stay where we are at present with atmospheric CO2 at 496 ppm CO2-equivalent (CO2-eq,) . With obvious serious climate change impacts witnessed now, we should have started years ago to limit emissions of CO2. Without climate action, in ten years we would need to grow an extra 198 billion tons of wood each year to keep CO2 at 496 ppm CO2-eq., a seemingly impossible task. At this very high level of accumulated CO2 and other GH gases, radiative forcing has increased by a staggering 60% since the baseline year of 1990 (NOAA, PDFS). Without action to lower atmospheric CO2 from today’s 496 ppm CO2-eq., radiative forcing (heating) of Earth’s surface (land and oceans) will increase higher than 60%, compared to 1990 level.

Scientists have warned recently that climate tipping points may be reached soon if we do not act straight away to lower emissions, a serious existential threat to humanity. The choice before us is stark. Get to net-zero emissions as soon as possible to prevent reaching tipping points and a resulting hothouse Earth. Targets must therefore be based on lowering atmospheric GH gases from the current 496 ppm CO2-eq. to around 1990 levels of 417 ppm CO2-eq. Do we have the technologies now to reach net-zero emissions within 10 years? The answer is a resounding yes if we can overcome the tragedy of the commons, and deploy resolute, collective action immediately by all nations of the UN.

From PDFS we can see that CO2-eq increases each year by about 3 - 5 ppm CO2-eq., equivalent to an increase of around 36.5 billion tons CO2 each year. Analyses of CO2-eq by NOAA each month in any year shows that this increase is not smooth, and the up-down change in CO2 levels can vary by up to 6 ppm, depending on the seasonal difference between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. This is attributable mainly to uptake of CO2 from plant growth. This means that our mitigation strategy should be focussed first and foremost on uptake of CO2 by improved forestry and agriculture followed by emission reductions in all remaining sectors.

Mitigation strategies could be based on: The above mitigation strategies are not necessarily shown in order of importance. For more details see WikipediA, Climate change mitigation.

Using the monthly analysis of greenhouse gas levels by NOAA (PDFS) could provide the most sensitive monitor of emission reductions on a monthly and annual basis. Analyses by NOAA of GH gas levels in the atmosphere are highly accurate and precise, although expensive as it is very technical with use of highly sophisticated instruments by skilled scientists and technicians. Let us look at measurements during the past 7 years (NOAA. PDFS) to gauge the level of annual global emissions and how quickly we could get to net-zero emissions.

Year (Dec.) CO2-eq. (ppm) Increase in CO2-eq. (ppm)
2012 474
2013 478 4
2014 481 3
2015 485 4
2016 490 5
2017 493 3
2018 496 3
Average increase in CO2-eq for the past 7 years is around 3.6 ppm

This means that to get to net-zero emissions we must lower annual emissions by more than 3.6 ppm CO2-eq each year. This would require a lot of effort from the 200 or so UN member countries, but this should not be difficult for collective action using all emission-reducing strategies suggested above. Current targets by many nations to reach net-zero by 2050 appears to be too little, too late. We have to peak emissions as soon as possible to prevent more disastrous climate impacts.

Let us look at a scenario where we could increase GH gas reductions each year, on an increasing scale of 1 to 7 ppm, using the 3.6 ppm average value as a starting point. An adequate level of annual emissions reduction needs to be achieved in order for emissions to peak by 2022 and then start to decline to 1990 levels. More work to reduce emissions may be needed if the climate deteriorates even more quicker than scientists envisage.

Year (Dec.) CO2-eq. (ppm)
2019 499.6
2020 502.2
2021 503.8
2022 504.4
2023 504.0
2024 502.6
2025 500.2
2026 496.8


Above shows that we could possibly achieve net-zero emissions by around 2026 - 2027 (compared to Dec. 2019) if all nations collectively give their best effort. The load will be heavy, but could be distributed according to each nation’s GDP and each nation’s annual emissions of GH gases. We may be forced to reduce emissions quickly because according to PIOMAS projections (PDFU) we could possibly see a BOE (blue ocean event) in the Arctic around 2025; and that could be just one of the tipping points which leading scientists fear. Posted December 7, 2019.


Radiative forcing of greenhouse gases

The contribution of Synthetic greenhouse gases and Nitrous oxide, Methane, to Radiative Forcing of Earth's land and ocean surfaces, including Carbon dioxide, shows Radiative forcing at 3.2 Watts per square metre (reference; Greenhouse gases - CSIRO). An increase to 2.1 Watts per square metre of Radiative forcing from Jan. 1990 (a 60% increase for CO2 alone; NOAA, see PDFS above) makes this a total increase to 91% from 1990 when all gases are included. This should explain clearly why the weather is getting so much hotter and drier each year in Australia and globally. Increasing Radiative heating of Earth's surface is due to increasing daily emissions of greenhouse gases, now at unsustainable levels, which must be reined in as soon as possible by applying modern technology. Posted January 7, 2020.


Immune systems need to stay activated

Enzymatic systems in our bodies are activated by nutrients, particularly elements such as Iron, zinc, iodide, selenium, chloride, phosphate, cobalt, sodium, calcium, magnesium, vanadium, molybdenum, tin, and many more (see also DC Nutrition; Minerals - General Discussion). Deficiencies affect the proper functioning of metabolic systems, lowering immunity to pathogens. For example, iron is one of the most important trace elements as it occupies a central active position in haemoglobin for the transport of oxygen and in enzymes for the biosynthesis of hormones and antibiotics. Iron deficiency is a serious problem in some countries where widespread alkaline-type soils hinder plant uptake of iron.

The variety of crucial trace elements needed to sustain health and boost immune systems are generally limited in extent and range in commonly used granular NPK fertilisers for crops, even though, for sometime now, scientists involved in human and animal nutrition have recommended a need for a larger array of trace elements than those routinely used in fertilisers. Fertilisers can contain Iron, copper, manganese, zinc, boron, molybdenum and cobalt in various compositions. Humans and animals utilise nutrients, proteins, fats and fibre, vitamins etc. provided by plants for growth, health and maintenance, hence the critical importance of fertiliser composition and use. Better coordination and communication between animal and plant nutrition scientists to prevent deficiencies in humans and animals is now needed to boost immune systems against common and new, novel viruses and bacteria.

Diets consisting of seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and cereals rich in minerals and vitamins are needed. Because enzymes are activated by minerals and trace elements, often only by a small number of atoms per large enzyme molecule, even a once-weekly A to Z dietary supplement tablet recommended by a healthcare professional should be very helpful to boost immunity. However, a better pathway to micronutrients is via plants grown with better fertilisers. For the micronutrients, needed in tiny amounts, application as liquid fertilisers is preferred for more even coverage of soils.

An added advantage of course for using better, more complete fertilisers is for significantly improving productivity of crops, pastures and stock, giving a much- needed economic boost now for agricultural exports from Australia.

In conclusion, a strong immune system maintained by good nutrition is often the last line of defence against an infectious organism, as well as being crucial for recovery from infection (see also Publications: Look at the Big Picture; Farm Weekly, July 22, 1999, this website). Posted March 19, 2020.



Use of completely formulated fertilisers throughout the world will green the planet in a short time; the effect will be almost magical. Productivities and quality will soar and food costs fall.

We must not lose sight that, other than humans and animals, plants, forests, insects, beneficial microbes and lower plants need nutrients to maintain their immune systems to sustain healthy environmental ecology and biodiversity, in a trickle-down effect from the use of efficient fertilisers.

We must not lose sight too that following this coronavirus crisis which has caused severe health, economic and employment crises throughout the world, the next crisis threatening humanity is the climate crisis from increasing radiative forcing and heat as a result of unsustainably high atmospheric CO2-e; causing loss of Arctic sea ice and climate feedbacks which worsen melting of ice in the Arctic and globally with increased warming of climates; bushfires leading to loss of life, property and environment, bleaching of corals and the tragic, continuing loss of biodiversity and extinctions, storms, floods, increased sea levels, etc.

The small increase in costs of using completely formulated fertilisers will be easily recovered from lower application rates of fertilisers with increased efficiencies. Posted April 13, 2020.


Technical and Economic Advisory Team

As global warming perils are proceeding at a fast pace, time is now critical for action. With the 2020 COP26 in Glasgow UK postponed to 2021, a high-powered technical and economic advisory team could be appointed by UN to report directly to global governments for immediate adoption of action by governments, based on a simple majority vote for each action.

Technical and Economic Areas for quick action could be:
The important concept is to make quick starts followed by stepwise improvements as in wartime. Fostering of actions put forward by the technical and economic team by global leaders would be critical for humanity’s survival. Posted April 17, 2020.


How soon will the BOE occur and how fast will it be?

PIOMAS (PDFU) has been modelling satellite measurements of Arctic sea ice volume since 1978, and from regression equations (Arctic sea ice volume versus time) has calculated regression coefficient, R2, to be around 0.905 and BOE around 2025 (blue ocean event or near-zero ice). There is therefore around 90% probability that BOE will occur close to or just after 2025. Arctic ice melt recently (9 May 2020) has increased (PDFX) and sea ice area now is the second lowest ever in the satellite record (NSIDC). It could go lower as it is just the start now of the Northern Hemisphere summer. PIOMAS models ice volumes, and Ice volume = Ice area x ice thickness. Multi-year ice (MYI) is in short supply compared to thinner first year ice (FYI). Thin, scattered sea ice can melt quicker than thicker MYI.

How soon will BOE occur? Ice melt is more physical than chemical, so weights of reactants are important here. Reactants are weight of remaining Arctic sea ice (calculated from volume) versus weight of CO2- eq in the atmosphere (analysed by NOAA). High CO2-eq means more environmental heat from increased radiative forcing (NOAA, CSIRO).

Scientists are not yet certain when the tipping point will be reached, and how fast that will be as the mathematics involved would be complex in the absence of a precedent. So we can guess conceptually.

As a teenager I accompanied my mother on her weekly shopping trips by carrying her cane shopping basket. I was always amused at her bargaining tactics, such as pretending to walk away, hoping the merchant would relent. It worked for a while until they woke up. "The lady will be back, don’t worry!" they used to say. Seeing the merchant measure out a kilo of potatoes using a hand-held scale was educational for me. A kilo of weights would be placed on the merchant’s left-hand pan, and she would then lift the scale up a fraction before starting to add the potatoes to the right-hand pan. The scale would be off the table and level when there were just enough potatoes to counter- balance. The hand-held scale would be teetering. The merchant would then select the smallest potato (at my mother's annoyance) and add it to the other potatoes. The pan containing the potatoes would then suddenly crash downwards when the tipping point was exceeded. Physically that is what we can expect to happen at the Arctic tipping point, but the Arctic has notoriously unpredictable weather, so many meteorologists are careful with their predictions.

Some people optimistically assume that lowering atmospheric CO2-e quickly (akin to removing some potatoes from the pan) can reverse the melt (balance the scale again), but that may not happen because there is no weight of ice left then - it has all melted. That is why scientists and the younger generation of citizens are making passionate pleas to global leaders to urgently start lowering emissions and to increase CO2 drawdown before it is too late. Fossil fuel as natural gas will be needed more than ever to manufacture fertilisers for crops and forests. Even after the first BOE, ice in the Arctic will make limited appearances in winter, so we have probably about 5 -10 years to draw down CO2 to a safe level, to save humanity. Posted May 21, 2020.



Scientists are currently very concerned about heat and rapid sea ice area loss in the Arctic in spring 2020. NSIDC monitoring of the trend in total Arctic sea ice area continues a sharp drop on May 27, 2020 (PDFY) which could result in a lower Arctic sea ice volume in September 2020 as monitored by PIOMAS (see for example PDFU). An area causing the most concern is the unusual rapid loss of sea ice area in the High Arctic Seas (NSIDC, PDFZ) comprising the Central, Chuckchi, Beaufort, Canadian Archipelago, East Siberian, Kara and Laptev seas. Sea ice area for the High Arctic Seas on May 27, 2020 is currently 7,561,739 square kilometres, the lowest ever in the satellite record (PDFZA).

Supporting scientists' concerns about a cascade of global climate changes, which could lead to an Arctic tipping point or a slide to zero-ice around 2025 ( PIOMAS, PDFU) is the continually increasing CO2-eq emission levels (500 ppm CO2-eq for Dec. 2019 compared to 496 ppm CO2-eq for Dec. 2018 reported recently by NOAA), a 4 ppm annual increase compared to the 2017-2018 annual increase of 3 ppm. Persistent anomalous heat over the Arctic in spring 2020 (DMI Polar Portal, May 24-May 28, 2020, PDFZB) is another worry, as well as 2020 spring heatwaves in Siberia leading to large forest fires which would add to high CO2 emissions (PDFZC).

The Arctic is in deep trouble. An irreversible planetary catastrophe looms around 2025 with the very probable BOE. Countries surrounding the Arctic would be increasingly concerned about rising heat and ice melt in the Arctic. All are highly technological and financially able (with help from other nations such as Australia and China) to respond quickly to this crisis; a global response to this should be no different to one that would occur if scientists had instead announced a large asteroid strike on Earth around 2025 with a 90% probability.

We must value, treasure and react quickly to save the remaining ice in the Arctic. We reacted quickly and correctly to the danger of ozone depletion. We now have the Montreal Protocol. Posted May 29, 2020.


What will zero ice or BOE in the Arctic do?

Near-zero ice or a blue ocean event in the Arctic is a consequence of global warming as a result of high CO2 and other GH gas emissions. From the graph (PIOMAS, PDFU) near-zero ice is expected to occur, with a calculated probability of around 90% around September 2025. The lowest ever Arctic sea ice volume occurred in September 2012 with a sea ice volume around 3.75 thousand cubic kilometres; September 2019 was second lowest at around 4.2 thousand cubic kilometres. In 1990, just 30 years earlier, September Arctic sea ice volume was around 15 thousand cubic kilometres.

PDFZD (PIOMAS, June 3, 2020) and PDFZE (DMI, June 4, 2020) shows the current trends of daily Arctic sea ice volume. If ice volume undergoes another slide to the September 2012 level before 2025, BOE could occur even sooner. Fortunately we still have some remaining sea ice in the Arctic, so we could use that to claw our way back to 1990 levels before a BOE occurs. Around September 2023, with no action, BOE could be just over the horizon.. We must act now to prevent BOE in the Arctic.

The sequence of events which can lead to the first BOE are:
Unless we can arrest the decline of sea ice in the Arctic while some ice remains, it would be near-impossible to regain lost Arctic sea ice in the presence of high CO2- eq concentrations and resulting high daily radiative forcing. Scientists say some sea ice will re-appear during Arctic winters, but climate feedbacks which accelerate warming can lead eventually to permanent ice-free summers in the Arctic. So what are these climate feedbacks that scientists fear could lead to a Hothouse Earth (PDFF)? The consequences of a BOE are therefore extremely severe and is expected to lead to more loss of biodiversity (flora and fauna) on Earth and hasten extinction of humanity after much suffering. The great scientist and cosmologist, Carl Sagan warned us that for Earth’s species including humans "Extinction is the Norm, Survival is the Exception!". Let us embrace his warning and show the younger generation that the older generation opts now for survival. Lets' delay nation - nation bickering, for now at least, and concentrate our energies on saving the younger generation.

With the current high CO2-eq level and high radiative forcing causing accelerated warming and climate change, hoping for a delay to total ice loss in the Arctic is unrealistic and would be dangerous for everyone. Game-changing action is needed now as the time remaining for action is very limited.

In my posts of Dec.7, 2019 and April 15, 2020 (Current Topics, this website) I suggested some solutions. Posted June 6, 2020.


Ruminlicks

Q. Our company helps to fight climate change by renting flocks of goats and sheep to graze accumulated dry matter under forests and plantations to reduce the need to burn. We have tried using Superphosphate without much success. The dry matter is low in nutrients, especially trace elements. Can you recommend one of your products as a supplement?

A. Dry matter is hard to digest, so goats and sheep need a quick source of energy as molasses. Trace elements, sea salt and fish emulsion are needed for the enzymes which help in digestion. Superphosphate often has high fluoride and some cadmium. Our Super Energy product supplied to the ruminants at just 1 mL for each ruminant as a lick provides trace elements at milligram and parts per million levels to assist digestion.

Here is the formula that has been shown to work very well as a mineral supplement for farmers' goats and sheep for many years without any adverse effects.



RUMINLICKS
* SAFETY WARNING - Keep out of reach of children. Wear safety glasses and gloves when blending.

Description: Ruminlicks is a mineral supplement for ruminants to improve their health and vitality. It assists in improving their immune systems to fend off parasites and improve their productivity. It assists in the digestion of low quality dry matter under forests and plantations.

Ingredients: Molasses, water, sea salt, fish emulsion, mono calcium phosphate Ca (H2PO4)2, potassium sulphate, Super Energy.

Mixing Instructions: To 20 litres molasses in a 25 litre pail (with a press-seal lid), add 2 litres of warm water, 200 grams of sea salt, 1 litre of fish emulsion, 200 grams of mono calcium phosphate, 200 grams of potassium sulphate and 200 mL of Super Energy. Blend to a smooth mix.

Sufficient as lick for approximately 200 ruminants (100 mL each, containing 1 mL of Super Energy per ruminant). Posted June 17, 2020.


Time to ring alarm bells on Arctic ice

Is it time for meteorologists to ring the alarm bells loudly on the decline of Arctic sea ice volumes? The trend in Arctic sea ice volumes seem to indicate it is. Meteorologists refer to Arctic sea ice volumes as 3D measurements by satellites, providing a very reliable inventory of the ice volumes remaining with time. Volume = Area x Thickness. As sea ice area has shrunk with the rapid progress of climate heat from high daily radiative forcing, so has Arctic sea ice thickness. Old, thick multi-year ice is making way for thin first-year ice. The decay of ice volumes has followed an exponential pathway (PIOMAS, PDFU) since 1980. Here are the actual values taken from this very valuable graph.

Year Volume of ice (thousand cubic kilometers)
1980 16.80
1985 15.30
1990 15.00
1995 13.70
2000 11.00
2005 10.20
2010 7.30
2012 (record low) 3.75
2015 7.00
2019 (last year) 4.20
2020 (from trend line) 3.20
2025 (from trend line) 0 (near-zero)


From the trend line, PIOMAS has calculated the probability of ice volumes in September 2020 and September 2025, shown above, to be around 90.5%, which is fairly close to a certainty as far as regression equations go. So how is Arctic sea ice behaving in 2020 now that the summer sea ice melt has started? Sea ice volume to date (Danish Meteorological Institute, PDFZG) is showing losses to be on trend. Meteorologists report that on that day the Arctic recorded its hottest temperature ever at Verkhoyansk in Siberia, 100.4 deg. Fahrenheit (38 C); 32 degrees Fahrenheit above the normal highest temperature. The heat domes over Siberia adjacent to the Arctic and the CAA (Canadian Arctic Archipelago) has been persistent for a long time (PDFZH, DMI Weather Portal, June 24, 2020).

The CAA in the Central Arctic has undergone significant area losses due to the anomalous heat in early summer (Reference, Arctic Sea Ice Forum; NSIDC Sea ice area and extent data):

Day Area (1000 square kilometers)
19 June 2020 -33k
20 June 2020 -40k
21 June 2020 -30k
22 June 2020 -20k
23 June 2020 -12k


Losses in the Central High Arctic (of which the CAA is a part) has been high even though there is still around 75 days of summer ice melt remaining. Delaying serious action on climate heating could be extremely risky for all nations. Posted June 25, 2020.

It is crucial that we react quickly to the climate emergency. We must recognise that climate heating is a physically-based phenomena. It is simple physics: increasing heat increases ice melt, yet it is complex too: daily, weekly, monthly and yearly changes in weather and climate cause changing levels of ice in the Arctic, and as a result complicates interpretations of the changes underway, which delays immediate action.

Its simple physics because as the level of CO2 and other GH gases increase each day and accumulate in the atmosphere (now at 500 ppm CO2-eq.), radiative forcing on Earth increases and climates everywhere are now hotter than decades ago. CO2-eq has increased from 385 ppm in Dec.1980 to 500 ppm in Dec.2019. Radiative forcing has increased from 1990 level by a massive 60% in 2019, and that is from CO2 alone (NOAA; see also Radiative Forcing by GH gases, Current Topics, this website). Each ppm of CO2 measured is equivalent to 7.8 gigaton (billion tons) of carbon dioxide by weight in the atmosphere (ref: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center). An increase of 4 ppm CO2-eq from Dec. 2018 to Dec. 2019, from 496 ppm CO2-eq to 500 ppm CO2-eq respectively (NOAA) is equivalent to 31.2 billion tons of CO2 that was added to the atmosphere for that year.

We must recognise that the end-result of radiative forcing, increasing with each day, causing ice melt in the Arctic, Antarctic and glaciers, will lead to zero ice in the Arctic. This would then ramp up climate problems which would then accelerate, scientists warn. Increased global heat is not lost from the climate system - it accumulates in the oceans causing oceans to heat up, and ocean acidity to increase as CO2 is acidic . PIOMAS has shown us that ice volumes in the Arctic has been on a downward, exponential trajectory since 1980. Targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 could be too late to stop deadly climate feedbacks. The urgency of current climate heating might demand net-zero emissions by 2030; zero ice in the Arctic by 2025 being 90.5% probable (PIOMAS).

The past decade and this year are shaping up to be the hottest years ever. Survival will depend on climate leadership shown by all those in leadership positions in society; each and every leader. Decisive, quick, corrective action is needed now. Posted June 30, 2020.


Thermodynamics of Arctic ice-melt

The direction and behaviour of physical and chemical reactions can be predicted by calculations using the thermodynamic Gibbs Free Energy equation: G = H - TS where G is the Gibbs Free Energy (Joules) for reactants and products, H is the enthalpy or the total internal energy (Joules), T is the temperature (Kelvin) and S in the entropy (Joules/Kelvin), a measure of disorder and randomness. Changes in Gibbs Free Energy which determine whether or not a reaction will occur spontaneously (exergonic) is given by: dG = dH - TdS, where d or delta is the magnitude of change. If the value of dG for the reaction is negative (exothermic), energy is released spontaneously to the system.

In importance, the Gibbs Free Energy equation can be ranked next to Einstein’s famous energy equation. As thermodynamics deals with changes taking place between heat and other forms of energy, it can be usefully applied for interpreting energy changes resulting from increasing heat and melting of ice in the Arctic, Antarctic and glaciers.

How can thermodynamics assist in interpretations of changes in the Arctic? Let’s state the equilibrium-based equation again:

dG = dH - TdS

When dG = 0, the system is at equilibrium and there is no melting of ice in the Arctic.
When dG = >0, the system favours retention or formation of ice (entropy decreases).
When dG = <0 i.e., negative, spontaneous melting of ice occurs (entropy increases).

For example, let’s look at two lumps of ice; one in a freezer and one in open sun. Obviously the lump of ice in the freezer does not melt whilst the lump of ice in the sun melts freely because the temperature T exceeds the melting point of ice, entropy S of ice increases on melting, and enthalpy H has negative value (exothermic). H becomes negative as ice melting at 0 C releases latent heat of fusion for water at 0 C (approximately 334 Joules per gram of water); a significant amount of heat added to the Arctic environment. The overall result is to give dG a negative exothermic value which releases heat energy spontaneously, accelerating ice-melt.

To slow down catastrophic summer ice loss in the Arctic, increasing temperature T in the Arctic environment must be lowered urgently. Reducing emissions of CO2 and other GH gases lowers radiative forcing by the sun responsible for high T. The energy released from ice-melt can translate to other forms of energy such as wind, storms and rain which has featured strongly in the 2020 melting season. The DMI daily weather portal PDFZI on July 27 to July 31 shows a cyclonic storm in the Beaufort Sea which is leading to ice fragmentation and ice dispersal in the Beaufort, Chukchi and Central Arctic seas, increasing vulnerability to ice-melt. Meteorologists from ASIF have commented on the unusual strength of this cyclone. The persistent highs on the Arctic periphery has been present since January. Warm winds from Siberia, Canada and US has had a severe effect on ice in the CAA, Eastern Siberia Sea, Laptev, Kara and Central Arctic seas. The Central Arctic sea area (PDFZJ, July 29, 2020, NSIDC) reached the lowest on record with a huge loss of 54,000 square kilometres of ice area on that day.

Arctic sea ice area (PDFZK), volume and thickness (PDFZL) are now at a record lows. Remaining Arctic sea ice volume at the September minimum could possibly reach a new record low, below the 2019 level according to projections from PIOMAS (PDFU). There is high agreement among scientists that zero-ice in the Arctic will eventuate if high global emissions of GH gases continue to increase (CO2-eq is now at a record 500 ppm, NOAA).

Heat from insolation has been particularly severe this summer (ASIF). Increased evaporation and rain on the ice is another thermodynamic risk to ice from latent heat of condensation, the heat energy released during phase change when water vapour condenses to form liquid droplets or rain. The energy released is considerably high at 2260 Joules per gram.

Gibbs Free Energy change is equilibrium dependent, so as temperatures drop in the Arctic during autumn and winter partial recovery of ice takes place. But the extent and volume of recovery will depend on avoiding a blue ocean or zero-ice event, as decreased albedo from less ice and open water which absorbs more heat will warm Arctic waters well into the winter months. Ice loss could begin earlier too in spring from increasingly warm Pacific and Atlantic Ocean waters as a result of the global accumulation of heat. The weakening of the Jet Stream which depends on Arctic cold for its strength, and thawing of permafrost potentially releasing large amounts of methane, a potent GH gas, are major worries. All these gives global governments urgent reasons to lower atmospheric CO2-eq to a safe level before it is too late to do so. Posted August 2, 2020.

A combined Einstein-Gibbs Free Energy equation is theoretically possible, and if so, would be highly useful for interpreting energy changes involving mass of ice in the Arctic; during nuclear fusion process and in cosmology. Posted August 7, 2020.

Time to roll up our sleeves on climate change action. The Arctic is not looking good on thermodynamic change now needed for winter ice re-freeze. The Danish Meteorological Institute weather map for October 21, 2020 (PDFZM) shows it is still anomalously hot around the Arctic including Greenland, and has been anomalously hot since January 2020 which has scientists worried. The extent of sea ice in the Arctic (Arctic Sea Ice Forum, ASIF, October 22, 2020) is now 565,444 square kilometres less than in October 22, 2019 (PDFZN), and incredibly 4,055,475 square kilometres less than the 1980’s average, clearly showing increased global warmth since then.

The graph PDFZO) shows sea ice extent for October 22, 2020 heading into uncharted territory compared to previous years as commented on ASIF. Scientists are hoping for Arctic sea ice extent to catch-up soon to other years. Climate action is now crucial to prevent a blue ocean event (BOE) in the Arctic. High CO2-equivalent levels in the atmosphere, now at 500 ppm CO2-eq (NOAA, December 2019) are unsustainably high. CO2 needs to be lowered to a safe level by both emissions reductions and CO2 removal from the atmosphere by forests and crops; a two-pronged action approach which should show quick results. See also: Mitigation of annual greenhouse gas emissions and Technical and Economic Advisory Team, Current Topics, this website. Posted October 22, 2020.


Dietary Calcium and Magnesium: Q&A

Nutrition is a complex subject as there are many nutrients that take part in metabolic processes. Balanced diets contain the nutrient forms we need with proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, fibre, fats, sugars, vitamins etc. which make up a heathy diet; this information is covered comprehensively on some websites. The emphasis there is that all nutrients are important so daily diets should contain all of them, in balanced amounts without deficiencies or in excess.

Consuming foods containing high salt, high sugar, high levels of trans-fats should be avoided. Fresh vegetables and fruits should be a daily part of the diet, including occasional sea food. Sea food is derived from the sea and ocean so can boost daily needs of trace elements.

A diet high in salt (sodium chloride) is reported to contribute to hypertension (high blood-pressure), topping a long contributory list, so judicious use of highly-salted condiments is recommended. Preventing hypertension is very important for health, so blood-pressures and pulse should be regularly monitored.

If we look at the major nutrient elements in food, Calcium and Magnesium are particularly important, as a diet high in salt could produce excessive acid during digestion of food which can contribute to loss of calcium and magnesium nutrients. Both calcium and magnesium play highly important roles in human, plants and animal metabolism. For efficiency, NPKS fertilisers used for cereals, vegetables and fruits production should also contain, whenever possible, balanced levels of calcium and magnesium.

Calcium and magnesium are often useful as occasional supplement tablets for acidogenic diets low in these alkaline elements. Calcium as calcium carbonate and as calcium citrate, and magnesium as magnesium oxide in tablet forms are available. Calcium and magnesium nutrients are closely related so are best taken together (consult your healthcare provider). Food sources high in calcium and magnesium are leafy greens, legumes (peas), dark chocolate, cheese, sardines and canned salmon, almonds etc. Good sources of potassium are avocado, sweet potatoes, beets etc,, and for boron are almonds, dried apricots, chickpeas etc. Posted October 1, 2020.


Improving use of lime for acid soils

Soil acidity is a serious problem faced by farmers for Increasing crop productivity to increase their incomes. This problem is acute for subsistence low-income farmers who have fairly small plots to till so needing high productivity and quality of produce. Providing them with the right types of lime to use will very quickly improve their income. Assisting large numbers of small and subsistence farmers will have a quick, beneficial impact on climate change by lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide quickly. Medium and large-scale broadacre farmers with economies of scale and use of up-to-date machinery should fare even better.

Use of suitable forms of lime with added nutrients can dramatically improve and restore forest growth for lowering high CO2 levels causing global warming. Crops grown with adequate lime and nutrients to counter soil acidity can have increased levels of calcium and magnesium for improved health of humans and livestock. Increasing calcium and magnesium in pastures increases wool production and quality.

Key Points of soil acidity Soil acidity has therefore been a long term problem for farmers with large and small farms, horticulturalists and growers in home gardens. It shouldn’t be. Lime is a plentiful resource, especially in Australia. The problem of acid soils can be solved by a detailed understanding of the chemistry and agronomy of different forms of lime, their costs and methods of use to reduce soil acidity, improved availability of easy-to-use types of lime to increase productivity.

Chemistry and Agronomy

Calcium and magnesium both belong to Group 2 alkaline earth metals in the Periodic Table, with anti-acid properties. The chemistries of calcium and magnesium are therefore closely related, so from the viewpoint of chemical, nutritional compatibility and synergy, using lime containing both calcium and magnesium forms becomes almost mandatory for productivity, quality and economy.

Reactivity of crushed limestone or limesand from coastal dunes with soil acids is slow, so good agronomic returns may not be achieved in the year of application or for several years ahead. They have a neutral pH reaction. Grinding to a fine powder (less than 45 microns) will increase reactivity but is considered expensive. Spreading the fine dusty product with a spinner then becomes a problem. Cost per ton of crushed limestone (2 -5 mm) is reasonable at around $ 35/ton with spreading costs around $ 10/hectare. For broadacre farmers with farm size of 2000 - 8,000 hectares, with a recommended application rate of 1 ton/hectare of crushed limestone, the cost could be prohibitive. Due to costs, spreading smaller amounts (e.g 250 kg/ha) efficiently, slow reactivity and sources lacking magnesium component, this option is seldom attractive. For broad acre farmers needing thousands of tons of limestone, on-farm blending costs, e.g. with magnesite MgCO3 could be a problem.

Dolomite

Lime sources containing both calcium and magnesium comes as dolomite MgCO3.CaCO3 or as magnesite, MgCO3. Dolomite deposits are smaller so it is somewhat more expensive than limestone. Its main advantage is agronomic efficiency from calcium and magnesium content, but reactivity in acid soils is also slow, being pH-neutral. Using powdered form of dolomite improves reactivity considerably, but spreading in powder form becomes a problem. Particle size between 2mm - 5mm can be used for easier spreading but with lower reactivity.

Builders’ lime (Calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2, Slaked lime)

This is an ideal form to use because of its very high reactivity towards acids. Small amounts of this product can give excellent immediate returns for both small and large growers. Cost of product (about $ 9/25kg) is reasonable, as compared to limestone, much smaller amounts are effective. Being very fine and with a high caustic reaction, technology of using calcium hydroxide is important (discussed below).

Magnesium oxide, MgO

This powder product (25 - 45 micron) has also high reactivity for acid soils so it is very economical to use although cost per ton is quite high so using it effectively is important. As with slaked lime, it is very fine so technology of use is important too. In chips form it is easily spread but with lower exposure to acids needs time to work.

Solving Problems

As we can see above, using lime economically and efficiently has its problems. Part of the solution lies in using blended products or co-granulation with some existing products. Using lime as liquid lime has several technical and agronomic advantages.

Blended forms of lime
Co-granulation
* Note: Adding Super Energy liquid trace elements (see our Products list) makes granulation easier. Co-granulation including trace elements adds value to manufacturers’ product lines.

Liquid Lime

The advantages of liquid lime are: Posted October 4, 2020.

* Small amounts of sodium and chloride are needed in both plant and animal nutrition, while excessive amounts of sodium chloride (salt) in soils is harmful, causing salinity and corrosion, and chlorosis in plant leaves. Animals deprived of salt can become “un-thrifty”. Plants can tolerate somewhat larger amounts of salt if provided with lime or fertiliser containing calcium, magnesium and potassium.

It is well established that sodium can partly replace potassium during photosynthesis. This is because they both belong in Group 1 of the Periodic Table (the alkali metals) and have similar chemical and physical properties. Chloride is a small sized anion useful in plant metabolism and nutrition as most other anions such as phosphate, sulphate, bicarbonate, carbonate, citrate, acetate are large anions. In organic chemistry and biochemistry, chloride ion is known as a good “leaving group” during organic reactions involving large molecules, since being small it easily makes way for a larger incoming anion, thus increasing rates of reaction. Small amounts of chloride therefore has a beneficial and synergistic effect during photosynthesis.

Sodium chloride, often present in fertilisers and liming materials such as limestone, dolomite, magnesite, calcium hydroxide and magnesium oxide are therefore not harmful in small amounts and can even be beneficial if accompanied by calcium, magnesium and potassium. “Small amounts” is the key word, not excessive amounts. Always keep a check on level of EC (electrical conductivity) of soils and soil pH for optimum plant performance. Posted October 11, 2020.


Civilisation and global warming

Saving civilisation from global warming can be an economic opportunity instead of global warming turning into a health disaster for humans and other life forms. We have to face this problem now together. “United we stand, divided we fall”. We all must put aside our pride, our differences and stand together against this common danger.

What is needed at the moment is to look at the problem from a different perspective. Once the problem and solution is in perspective, it is then a matter for global leaders, scientists, engineers, technicians, economists etc. to mobilise rapid, effective CO2 mitigation. We need to identify our immediate Dangers and accrued Assets which can be used to turn the Tragedy of the Commons (PDFZP and PDFZQ) into an economic opportunity. The tragedy of the commons which leads to loss of biodiversity and extinction of life can only be avoided now with a common, global effort.

Only a brief outline of above can be discussed here. A new Global Enlightenment is desperately needed. Time is running out.

The Dangers
Much has been discussed on this website about the dangers of global warming, so to keep it brief, its the Arctic that will most likely initiate runaway climate change and lead us to a Hothouse Earth (PDFZR). The loss of sea ice in the Central Arctic seas is alarming. A most recent graph released by the NSIDC (PDFZS) shows that the combined sea ice extent (in millions sq. kms) of the East Siberian Sea, Laptev and Kara Sea for October 26, 2020 compared to the same date in past decades, when refreeze should be occurring strongly, has dropped close to zero during the past 2 decades. A warning in ASIF yesterday by an eminent meteorologist was “...dramatic drops over the past two decades do suggest we may be witnessing a state change in the three seas”. The daily DMI weather portal (PDFZT) showing anomalous warming (deviation from the norm) in these seas since January 2020 is a serious worry for scientists.

The danger is escalation of maximum heat wave temperatures from loss of cooling Arctic sea ice followed by intense warming from release of methane deposits from permafrost. With zero ice in the Arctic (BOE) the Polar Vortex will weaken, causing extreme frigid weather in the US and Europe leading to fatalities. The Gulf Stream, which feeds into the AMOC system may slow down with severe consequences. This year has seen an escalation in the frequency and power of hurricanes and cyclones in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; size and intensity of forest fires in Australia, California, Siberia etc.. Drought and dieback of forests, and loss of food security are dangers we face.

The Assets
High concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere causes global warming, but carbon in the air is itself an asset since CO2 enrichment has been shown to increase photosynthesis rates, increases productivity of crops and forests by improving fertiliser and water use efficiency from the relation:

CO2 + WATER + NUTRIENTS + MICROBES + (SUNLIGHT) =
Carbohydrates + NITROGEN = Protein & Carbohydrates

Modern developments in fertiliser technology (see our website) can rapidly draw down CO2 to safe levels over time if combined with CO2 emission reductions by forest regeneration, pastures improvement and rehabilitation, soil carbon storage, productive crops, seaweed and algae farms; and renewable energies from solar, wind, geothermal, batteries, hydrogen.

Resources, technologies, know-how, contacts, and assets owned by fossil fuel companies can be wholly or partly channelled by fossil fuel companies to CO2 utilisation, atmospheric CO2 reduction, production and distribution of renewable energies. Posted October 29, 2020.


Climate Action - time now to mobilise

Climate scientists say that global climate mobilisation must begin immediately as we have, at most, 5 - 10 years to act before initiation of runaway global warming occurs. The evidence is there for all to see - deadly climate impacts are now escalating exponentially. 2020 has broken all records in the number of hurricanes formed in the Atlantic ocean, with Eta, Theta and Iota currently raging there (NOAA, PDFZU).

Climate impacts occur because of a confluence of physical changes resulting from accumulating atmospheric CO2, loss of sea ice volume, and a steep increase in radiative forcing and warming from CO2 and other GH gases. These changes are now on or near-exponential trajectories, causing sleepless nights for scientists.

Let’s look at some of the changes since 1979, usually referred as a benchmark year by climate scientists.

Atmospheric CO2
NOAA (PDFS) reports that CO2-eq has increased from 382 ppm in 1979 to 500 ppm in Dec. 2019, an increase of 118 ppm. Each ppm increase is equivalent to 7.8 billion tons of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre), amounting to 920.4 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, equivalent to a daunting 251 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to approximately 502 billion tons of wood.

Global temperature increase
The Paris global climate treaty on Dec. 2015 set benchmarks of 1.5C and 2C (maximum) global temperature increase guardrails. CO2 concentrations and temperature measurement anomalies from disparate locations around the globe are measured, amounting to fractions of 0.1C increase in warming for each site, which are then averaged for each year. Oceanic temperature-rise measurements are, understandably not possible but scientists say oceans are absorbing most of the heat. Actual CO2-eq analysed by NOAA was used to calculate global temperature rise in 2017, giving a minimum temperature rise of 1.6C and maximum of 3.6 C in 2017 compared to pre- industrial CO2 level of 280 ppm (see Publications this website; Climate Central, March 6, 2017). Updated to Dec.2019 with CO2-eq at 500 ppm shows a temperature rise of 0.1 C to 1.7 C and 3.7 C.

Radiative forcing, for CO2 alone has increased by 60% compared to 1990 (NOAA, PDFS ,Figure 3), probably causing recent maximum heatwaves around the globe exceeding 50 C.

Arctic Sea Ice Volume and Area decrease
PIOMAS has been monitoring sea ice volume since 1979, and PDFU clearly shows exponential decrease in ice volumes since 1979. A Blue Ocean Event (zero ice) is expected to occur anytime between 2025 and 2030 if climate change remains unchecked. NASA has been measuring Arctic sea ice area by satellites since 1979 as shown in their Video animation.

A Video animation was uploaded on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum on October 29, 2020 by Andy Lee Robinson. See also Gerontocrat’s comment at ASIF - “you gotta watch it” and comment on ASIF “3/4 of the Ice in the Arctic has melted away” - from16,855 cubic kilometres in 1979 to 4030 cubic kilometres in September 2020.

Central Arctic refreeze in the Eastern Siberian Sea, Laptev and Kara Seas for October 26, 2020 has been on a long term decline (NSIDC, PDFZS), approaching zero area compared to 2.5 million sq. kms in 2000, just 2 decades ago, drawing a warning on ASIF that these 3 seas are probably facing a “state change”. From the graph, it is unlikely that an upwards U- turn to previous high levels can occur without serious global climate action to lower CO2. As a result, lower maximum Arctic sea ice volume and area in March 2021 and lower minimum Arctic sea ice volume and area in September 2021 are probable.

To survive global warming it is obvious then that changes in human social behaviour is needed. Perhaps we should emulate the behaviour of ants, where every able-bodied ant protects and nurtures its young in their nest. I accidentally stepped on a red ant nest a few years ago. The ants mobilised very quickly, and their bites laced with formic acid was excruciating; but rubbing in some lime and water to the bites quickly fixed the agony. There is always a solution.

Regrettably, CCS (carbon capture and storage) could be destined to be a disappointment. Despite CO2 being a precursor of the food chain (photosynthesis), by its very chemical nature it is also a highly reactive, corrosive, asphyxiating gas. It can be a geological nightmare to store safely from leakage, and an economist’s nightmare from costs of infrastructure needed for capture, costs for its safe handling and transport to burial grounds, burial costs, and unending costs of monitoring.

We must prepare for the day when legislative developments everywhere will demand contributions from every able-bodied person on the planet to fight global warming and help adapt to climate change. Perhaps planting trees on every available, empty space using effective fertilisers for quick growth will be one of the tasks, coupled with other solutions discussed earlier on Current Topics and elsewhere on this website. See also Biomass.....Current Topics, March 3, 2018. Posted November 13, 2020.


Let’s look at the analysed atmospheric levels of CO2-eq. and net CO2 increase in ppm and billions tons for each year, and the net average increase for the decade before that (2009 - 2000) when public awareness of global warming was just awakening.

Year CO2-eq. (ppm) Net Increase (ppm) (billion tons)
2019 500 4 32
2018 496 3 23
2017 493 3 23
2016 490 5 39
2015 485 4 32
2014 481 3 23
2013 478 4 32
2012 474 3 23
2011 471 3 23
2010 469 2 16
2009-2000 (average) 3 230

The table above shows that we have not made any progress in reducing CO2-eq. levels, none at all to give us any confidence that we can mend our ways in order to survive until 2050. Assuming December 2020 CO2-eq. comes in at 503 ppm due to lower emissions as a result of the pandemic, that is a possible saving of 1 ppm, equivalent to 7.8 billion tons of CO2-eq. Annual global CO2 emissions of CO2 for 2019, at 32 billion tons, shows us the scale of the problem we face to get to net-zero without immediate, massive global mobilisation using all means available to lower atmospheric CO2 to a safe level.

With Arctic sea ice volume fast approaching zero, DMI daily weather portal (PDFZW) still showing anomalous warning since Jan. 2020, and maximum heatwave temperatures approaching 54 C in some parts of the planet we have to act soon. High humidity coinciding with high temperature makes a particularly dangerous future. The survivability threshold is reached when the air temperature climbs above 35 C wet- bulb temperature. We have reached the crossroad. Mobilising immediately to lower atmospheric CO2 and other GH gases is our only hope for survival. Posted November 20, 2020.



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