Agriculture news from week 7, 2021

New Zealand

New Zealand’s largest solar farm proposed for top of country

A massive 12ha solar panel farm – enough to power 2750 homes – is planned for the top of Northland, in what would be the largest of its kind in the country.

Far North Solar Farm, a company of New Zealand and Australian solar installers, has applied for resource consent for the 16 megawatt solar farm at Pukenui.

The site is on the Far North’s Te Aupōuri peninsular, a narrow landmass at risk of drought, where intensive avocado farming has raised concerns by locals worried about spray-drift and the demand for water.

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worker shortage

Big response to Project Kōkiri’s Pick Nelson-Tasman campaign

More than 600 people have already answered the call to help bring in the Nelson region’s summer harvest crop.

Launched by Project Kōkiri last Thursday, the Pick Nelson Tasman campaign was set up to help meet the shortage of harvest workers in the Nelson-Tasman region leading up to the summer harvest.

Project Kōkiri spokesman Johny O’Donnell said it had been a very encouraging start, with 650 people having applied for jobs as of Thursday morning.

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Apple growers fear they will face carnage as the picking season hits its peak in the next few weeks.

Border closures have meant few overseas workers, and locals were just as hard to find.

Yummy Fruit general manager Paul Paynter told RNZ he was only sleeping four hours a night these days, even with the help of tranquillisers.

“I think there’s going to be a point of crisis. I mean, physically and mentally I feel it now but I think the pain is really to come down the track. But [I’m] certainly super anxious at the moment, I’m not sleeping and I’m really worried about our future.”

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High competition leads to ‘eye-watering’ hourly rates for fruit pickers, but there’s still few takers

With a shortage of fruit pickers this harvest season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some growers are digging deep in a bid to attract much-needed workers.

As well as offering cash bonuses and free lunches, average pay is around 20 percent above the minimum wage, says Citrus New Zealand board member James Williams.

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New Zealand’s dairy industry breeding more climate-friendly herd

As artificial breeding celebrates its 70th birthday the country’s leading specialists are looking to prioritise more environmentally and ethically friendly genetics for the next 70.

Dairy farming is in our DNA but it’s come a long way since we realised what we want in a cow’s DNA.

“The easiest way to describe that is going from a Morris Minor 1000 to a Ferrari in that 70 years, in regards to what today’s cow can do compared to what they did 70 years ago,” says Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) breeding manager David Hale.

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Big discrepancy in lentil estimates

PRIVATE forecasters have said 2020-21 Australian lentil production could be more than 50 per cent more the official estimate.

Mostyn Gregg, global pulse trader with Agrocorp, said he anticipated the final crop would weigh in at as much as million tonnes.

In comparison the most recent ABARES / Pulse Australia figures, from the start of December sat at 616,000 tonnes.

Mr Gregg based his estimate on a combination of better yields and more plantings.

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Sorghum bolstered by positive NSW season

USTRALIAN sorghum production is likely to be bolstered by a strong year in NSW, with farmers on the Liverpool Plains expected to have their best summer cropping season in more than a decade.

It comes as welcome relief from last season where Australia produced its lowest sorghum crop in 50 years.

Pete McKenzie, Agvance, Quirindi, said yield estimates were high following good late January / early February rainfall.

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Growing the plant-based protein market

As part of an agreement with Wide Open Agriculture (WOA), Curtin University has started early stage product development of plant-based burgers, milk, milk powder and pasta for the US$18.5 billion plant-based protein market.

The eight to 10 week research program will be led by technology co-founders and global lupin experts based at Curtin University to rapidly develop a preliminary range of plant-based food and drink products.

The agreement follows CSIRO’s successful production of food grade lupin protein at pilot scale and moves WOA closer towards commercialising the proprietary plant-based lupin protein technology.

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Aussies urged to ‘add a dash’ of passionfruit to summer

FAR from just a finishing drizzle across the top of a pavlova, passionfruit is making a push to own what remains of summer.

Industry marketing arm, Australian Passionfruit, has reported an abundance of fresh fruit still available in store, and has urged shoppers to make the most of the fruit during the summer flush.

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GrainCorp tips profit leap towards $85m after record harvest

Rain-revived GrainCorp is on track to store up to 16.5 million tonnes of grain in its east coast silos, load its biggest export shipments in years and a post a profit nudging $85m in 2020-21.

That compares with total crop receivals of just 4.2m during drought-hammered 2019-20 and a loss of $16m.

In the wake of crippling 80 per cent tariffs recently imposed on Australian barley sales to China, the grain handling, marketing and processing company has also been widely diversifying its sales footprint for this year’s big crop, broadening its market destinations from 30 countries to 50.

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South America

Argentine oilseed crushers say they reached a deal to hold down domestic edible oil prices

Despite confusing news from Argentina following president Alberto Fernandez’s announcement that he is prepared to reimpose levies on grains and oilseeds exports if food prices keep increasing, oilseed crushers said they had reached a deal with the government to hold down domestic edible oil prices.

The CIARA oilseed crushers chamber on Monday said the agreement on sunflower oil and sunflower-soy oil mix would help ease government concerns about inflation, which a central bank poll recently forecast would be about 50% this year, while the national budget presented to Congress forecasted 36%.

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FAO anticipates a sharp decline in global cereal stocks

FAO’s Cereals Supply and Demand Brief point to record wheat and rice production in 2020 and looking ahead to 2021 cereal output, early prospects indicate a likely modest increase for winter wheat crops in the northern hemisphere, buoyed by acreage increases in France, India, the Russian Federation and the US.

Maize output in the southern hemisphere is expected to decline somewhat in Argentina and Brazil from record highs but remain above average levels. The production outlook in South Africa and neighboring countries is favorable.

At the same time, this month’s forecasts point to larger volumes of world trade and a sharp decline in global cereal stocks.

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Argentine soybeans: after the drought it now aims to exceed 40 quintals

According to a survey by the Rosario Stock Exchange, the first-class soybeans managed to overcome the drought and would obtain 40 quintals. “The oilseed was losing vital millimeters day by day and there seemed to be no way to beat the lack of water that has been dragging on since February 2020. But finally the change of scenery materialized.”

“The condition of the first-class soybeans went from 30% regular and bad to 14%. And in very good to excellent conditions there are now almost 2.5 million hectares. That is, the regular and bad were reduced by half. and the very good to excellent ones occupy 50% of the planted area “, highlighted the study.

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brazil soya

Brazil’s slow soybean harvest widens U.S. export window

SAO PAULO/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Harvesting delays in Brazil, the world’s top soybean producer, are prompting buyers led by China to rely on rival exporter the United States for longer than usual in 2021, according to government data and traders.

Sustained demand for U.S. soybeans is accelerating an historic drawdown of U.S. supplies of the oilseed and could further drive up soybean prices at a time of rising food inflation as countries hoard staples during the pandemic.

Concerns over tight global soybean supplies after China dramatically increased purchases in recent months ignited a 4.5% U.S. soybean futures rally last month to a 6-1/2-year high.

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Food Updates

Brown fruit is not bad fruit says Copenhagen scientist

We tend to avoid choosing apples with brown spots, assuming that they taste bad. But according to researchers from the University of Copenhagen, that needs to change.

Which bananas end up in your shopping basket – the uniformly yellow ones or those with brown spots?

Plenty of shoppers skip the spotted ones and select those that are perfectly yellow. This is because emotions play an oversized role in our shopping decisions, according to a new study by Danish and Swedish researchers.

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Organic sector booms in the UK as online sales increase by a third

A new report by the Soil Association Certification, which verifies organic products sold in the UK, has revealed online orders and home delivery of organic products increased by more than a third.

The Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 2021 has revealed the UK’s organic market is now worth £2.79 billion, after a 12.6 percent growth in sales in 2020. The report claims the market has now reached its highest growth rate in 15 years, outperforming the non-organic sector. During 2020 more than £50m per week was spent on organic food and drink.

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Plant-based diets no climate change solution: UN poll

THE largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted has found the majority of people believe the situation is now an emergency.

In terms of solutions, there is strong support for climate-friendly farming, for conserving forests and land and for making companies pay for pollution.

Wasting less food was also a more popular solution than wasting less energy.

Promoting plant-based diets was at the bottom of the list of supported solutions.

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Manufacturers seeking sustainable sugar may look to Australia

AUSTRALIA is in the box seat to capitalise on an increasing push by food manufacturers seeking sustainable sugar production practices.

With moves already underway to incorporate blockchain technology within the sugar supply chain, Australia could hold an edge against its much larger and more dominant global competitors.

Speaking at the CaseIH Step Up conference in Bundaberg last week, Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL) senior manager Andrew Phipps said the cane industry had an opportunity to vault ahead of the likes of Brazil and India by proving its environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), something high production companies were seeking out.

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modeling the measure of moisture

Modelling to estimate moisture in soil

A MODEL which would estimate soil moisture at different depths across the Wheatbelt is under development by a PhD student at The University of Western Australia (UWA).

The model, designed by Atbin Mahabbati, works by using two types of satellite images as well as ancillary data – including new methods to gap-fill meteorological data and important fluxes such as the carbon dioxide flux which Mr Mahabbati is also researching – if needed.

The aim is to develop the model in such a way that it needs minimum input features, which are available for the entire region.

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