Ant Fungus Farmers Hold the Answers for Human Farmers

Weaver Ants farming aphids
Weaver Ants farming aphids, carrying them to different plants to ‘milk’ the aphids of their sugary liquid excretion

With the Earth’s population exploding and nearly every arable acre already cultivated, the future of farming is a looming concern. For inspiration science is looking to the leaf-cutter ant which has mastered single crop agriculture and represents the apex of ant agriculture.

Monoculture crops are the rule in modern agriculture. This is why modern crops are especially vulnerable to disease. A pathogen that can infect one plant will likely be infectious to the rest.

Today the banana industry is being threatened by a fungus known as Tropical Race Four. This infection has resisted every counter-measure and may eventually doom modern bananas altogether.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the latest crisis has hit the Australian Pistachio nut industry. In December 2010 torrential rainfalls created ideal conditions for an outbreak of the moisture-loving anthracnose fungus. Australia’s pistachios originate almost entirely from a single cultivar developed in the early 1980s. Continue reading “Ant Fungus Farmers Hold the Answers for Human Farmers”

Wild Horses at Sunset on the Bot River Estuary

Wild Horses grazing at sunset
The Bot River Wild Horses grazing at sunset -- Photo: John Bradfield

Today at sunset I strolled down to the “lagoon” otherwise known as the Bot River Estuary. Lo and behold, the wild horses were grazing on the grassy banks in the distance about 200 meters (650 feet) away.

The Bot River Estuary which lies at the edge of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve near Hermanus in the Western Cape of South Africa

Fortunately I had my camera with me and I decided to get nearer and take some photos. As I approached them the three stallions in the herd watched me carefully before deciding that I was not a threat. In the fading light I was able to take a few — uploaded here for your enjoyment (4 photos).

Continue reading “Wild Horses at Sunset on the Bot River Estuary”

South Africa’s Kirstenbosch Exhibit for 2011 Chelsea Flower Show

Designer David Davidson
Designer David Davidson With a Scale Model of the Kirstenbosch Entry -- Photo: Charles O'Leary

A scale model of the Kirstenbosch exhibit which is South Africa’s entry to the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London is seen here on display at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town. The finished display will cover a 12 x 12 meter (39 x 39 feet) area.

Designers, David Davidson and Raymond Hudson will be exhibiting for the eighteenth time this year. For the past 35 years, the Kirstenbosch-SA Exhibit has won 30 Gold medals, two Silver-Gilt medals and three Silver medals, as well as various special awards for outstanding contributions. The two designers will win a special ‘Gold Prize’ from the Scion shop if they win another Gold Award in this year’s show.

The show will run from the 24th to 27th of May, 2011. All the plants used in the show are indigenous to South Africa. However, because some are annuals, usually flowering in Spring in South Africa, plants will be sourced from Keintzler in Germany. South African plants are a common sight in Europe where their cultivation has become quite commonplace (5 Photos).
Continue reading “South Africa’s Kirstenbosch Exhibit for 2011 Chelsea Flower Show”

Rhino Massacre in South Africa Continues

Black Rhinocerous
Black Rhinocerous (Diceros bicornis) -- Photo: prob1t on Flickr

In South Africa, home to 90% of the world’s population of rhinos, a war against internationally funded rhino poachers is losing ground.

Last year 333 were killed, nearly half of them in the Kruger National Park. The year before that it was 209. The year before that, in 2008, the total jumped to a staggering 83 rhinos from a previous year total of only 17. The accelerating numbers are a real cause for concern. In the first three months of 2011 it’s already reached 81. This is in spite of some rigorous countermeasures.

Well resourced and highly organized crime syndicates are now equipped with helicopters, night vision equipment, high-tech weapons, tranquilizer darts and chain saws. The horns are taken in efficient military-style operations with little regard for the animals and often with gruesome results. Continue reading “Rhino Massacre in South Africa Continues”

South African Sunset Painted By The Master Scientist

South African Sunset
South African Sunset over the Bot River Estuary -- Photo: John Bradfield. Taken with a Canon Powershot A460

This photo was taken just after sunset with a Canon Powershot A460. If you painted this incredibly beautiful sky just this way . . well, it would look as if you changed your mind somewhere, wouldn’t it?

The Bot River Estuary lies against the foothills of the Kogelberg mountains in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and only 20 kilometers outside Hermanus, South Africa. At bottom right part of the Kogelberg mountain range is just visible.

Smoke and Fire in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve – Day 2

Well, the fire didn’t go away. This short Video clip shows Day 2 of the fire in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve

The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve is in the heart of the Overberg about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Hermanus in the Western Cape, South Africa

Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve
Panoramic view of Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve on fire, day 2
At right, the aftermath of Wednesday’s fire is visible in the center. Burning right through the night the fire advanced over the mountains seen in the background. This morning, on day two, the fire had moved into new territory and was burning strongly.

In this previous post yesterday you can see a photo of the fire just minutes after it started around 2pm on Wednesday.

By late yesterday afternoon the wind was a factor, blowing strongly from the south-east. The fire was moving rapidly into the mountainous area north of the N2 national road, threatening farms in the area.

Smoke and Fire in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve

The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve on Fire
The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve on fire
Within minutes, yesterday afternoon, this fire had blossomed from a wisp to a towering column of smoke. The vegetation of Fynbos contains plant matter with eucalyptus-type oils that burn very quickly.

After sunset the fire continued to burn as it marched over the peaks of the mountains in the distance at left casting a bright yellow glare in the night sky.

Japanese Tsunami and the Amazing Resilience of Japanese People

Japanese nuclear reactors
Japanese nuclear reactors under threat -- click to enlarge

Day five and utter devastation and mounting problems face the deeply shocked survivors of the worst Japanese seismic event in history. The Japanese people, in the first moments realised that something was different from the intensity and duration of the movement of the ground.

The one-meter drop in sea level which occurred immediately after the 8.9 level earthquake confirmed that this was a seismic event big enough to generate a deadly tsunami. People on the coast began evacuating immediately.

The tsunami arrived on the shore at Sendai a mere 10 minutes after the quake, and 30 minutes after the quake at the shorelines of the Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. The wave was shockingly huge, reports vary between 10 and 15 meters. The series of tsunamis (tsunamis come in sets) penetrated 10 kilometers (6 miles) inland, further than expected. Continue reading “Japanese Tsunami and the Amazing Resilience of Japanese People”

Avatar Movies Trilogy in the Works

Avatar Movie 2009
Avatar Movie 2009 -- click to enlarge
Avatar, like the Star Wars classic, looks set to become a ‘Trilogy’ with Avatar 2 and 3 in progress on the directors canvas. Just as the Star Wars franchise moved into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, as it is known, it seems that Avatar will follow suit.

In this earlier post we explored Cameron’s plans to film Avatar 2 underwater in the deepest ocean on earth, the Marianas Trench. The movie is set in the turbulent seas of Pandora, an alien moon.

The director is planning to film Avatar 2 & 3 back-to-back with the two movies set to be released in 2014 and 2015. James Cameron is not a new phenomenon. He has a passionate Geek audience who are drawn in droves to movies like Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss. Continue reading “Avatar Movies Trilogy in the Works”

Hottentots Holland Mountains of the Western Cape

Hottentots Holland Mountain Range
The Hottentots Holland Mountains, Apple, Pear, Peach and Nectarine country

Almost equidistant between Hermanus and Cape Town lies the beautiful Hottentots Holland mountain range. The excellent N2 national road must negotiate the Sir Lowry’s and the Houwhoek mountain passes. The recently upgraded road is in superb condition and is well graded and contoured.

This region is the heart of the Western Cape’s successful fruit-growing export industry. Apple, pear, peach and nectarine orchards are interspersed with established vineyards.

These beautiful fruit farms and vineyards lie nestled together in the sheltered and fertile green valleys of the Hottentots Holland mountains. Many of the famous vineyards in this area contribute substantially to the renowned South African wine export trade. See a slideshow of 24 images Continue reading “Hottentots Holland Mountains of the Western Cape”