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Professor digs in to director role – Mirage News

Professor Ken Flower starts his role as the new Director of the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) this week at The University of Western Australia’s School of Agriculture and Environment.

AHRI is a national initiative based at UWA with major investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Its solution-based research addresses herbicide resistance for the broadacre cropping industry. Weeds cost Australia grain growers an estimated $3.3 billion per year or $146/hectare so there needs to be a continued focus on solutions to minimise these costs which impact grower profitability.

With a broad farming systems skillset, including conservation farming/no-till systems, agronomy and cropping systems, precision agriculture, and weed control, Professor Flower will ensure AHRI remains at the forefront of delivering efficient weed control solutions to Australian broadacre growers.

“Despite successes in integrated weed management, we are still heavily dependent on herbicides for weed control and weed resistance is an increasing threat,” he says.

“My aim is for the AHRI team to show leadership in developing grain production systems with less reliance on herbicides.

“The paradigm in agriculture is changing with rapid advances in technology and data science, yet the application of new technology has been focussed on single solutions, rather than delivering long term impact.

“I believe AHRI can play a leading role by developing a cropping systems approach, so that new technology solutions are pragmatic and based on their long-term weed control impact. Also, no single organisation can provide all the solutions, so a collaborative approach is essential.”

GRDC Managing Director Nigel Hart welcomed Professor Flower to his new role with one of world’s leading organisations in herbicide resistance research.

“GRDC invests approximately $1.5 million each year in AHRI on behalf of Australian grain growers, because the organisation delivers critical research and knowledge that is helping growers manage current and emerging weed threats,” Mr Hart says.

“Growers are constantly battling to effectively and efficiently manage weeds, so Professor Flower’s whole-of-farm focus will be increasing critical for the sustainability and profitability of Australian grains businesses.”

Professor Flower says he was excited to engage the team with the new mission of trying to reduce our reliance on herbicides.

“The other exciting opportunity is to spend more time interacting with growers and the agricultural industry,” Professor Flower says.

UWA Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Colmer, congratulated Professor Flower on his new role.

“Ken is at the forefront of his field and his leadership and experience will be help deliver viable weed control solutions that are less reliant on herbicides,” Professor Colmer says.

‘I wish him all the best and look forward to seeing his solutions integrated into the farming industry.”

From Zimbabwe to Australia

Professor Flower completed his undergraduate degree in South Africa at the University of Natal.

His first job was as at an agricultural research station in Zimbabwe working in weeds research and looking at registering herbicides for use, with the main crops being tobacco, maize and wheat.

He then moved into agronomy with a broader focus, working in irrigation and different tillage systems.

“That’s where I also got some experience with difference tillage implements and I had my first taste of no-till agriculture,” he says.

“While I was there, I went to the UK and had the opportunity to do a Masters of Wheat Science at the Imperial College in London.”

Professor Flower previously worked for a company which was exporting fresh vegetables to the UK, overseeing agronomic and pest control recommendations.

“One of the exciting things in this role was trying to reduce pesticides, particularly insecticides, used on vegetable crops,” he says.

“We bred beneficial insects to release into our vegetable crops and we grew alternative plants as refugia for natural enemies.”

In 2004, Professor Flower moved to Australia and started working for the WA No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA) running their technology demonstration site.

“While I was there, we developed a project to investigate the long-term effects of no-till cropping systems, with full residue retention and diverse rotations, on crop yield and soil quality – this work was funded by GRDC.

“It was at WANTFA where I really learned a lot about the cropping systems of WA. I then joined UWA, teaching precision agriculture and cropping systems and ventured into the agricultural technology space.”

Digging into the issue of over-reliance on herbicides

Professor Flower has worked with small-scale farms through to large-scale farms with thousands of hectares.

He says herbicides were important for small-scale farmers, but ultimately any weeds that do survive could be hand-weeded.

“For weed control in larger systems, particularly if you think of the size of WA farms, farmers need to get over the country fast and the most efficient way to do this is with multiple applications of herbicide.

“You can see why we’re so reliant on herbicides. There are some good new herbicide modes of action and farmers are rotating herbicides, nonetheless, the issue of multiple herbicide resistance will continue to increase.”

Professor Flower says his goal was to couple the new developments in technology and digital agriculture with a whole-of-system approach to weed control, to have a major impact on the amount of herbicide used.

“Technology is moving fast and there is scope to integrate it into our farming systems,” he says.

“The aim would be to map weed patches, then apply targeted (site specific) herbicide and non-herbicide control measures.

“For example, if we’re moving to more targeted application, what are the implications for herbicide resistance and with this site-specific approach, do we need to re-evaluate some of the non-chemical and cultural weed control tactics?”

GRDC Manager Weeds, Jason Emms says AHRI has played a significant role in weed management advancements during the past 20 years, such as the evolution of harvest weed seed control and the prevalence of the double-knock control strategies.

“The emergence of ‘new’ weed challenges and the increasing control costs of weeds to grain growers keeps weed RD&E as a priority for GRDC investment,” Dr Emms says.

“GRDC is excited to work with Professor Flower and AHRI as together they will play an integral role in finding profitable weed management solutions for the grains industry moving forward.

“Developing weed management strategies in the whole-of-farm business and farming system context is critical and Professor Flower is well equipped to tackle this challenge.”

AHRI, UWA and GRDC congratulate Professor Flower on his appointment as AHRI Director.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.

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Too poor to migrate? Climate change weakens economic growth … – InfoMigrants


Too poor to migrate? Climate change weakens economic growth, migration in Global South – InfoMigrants

From file: Afghans with their belongings cross into Pakistan on September 7, 2021 | Photo: Saeed Ali Achakzai/Reuters
From file: Afghans with their belongings cross into Pakistan on September 7, 2021 | Photo: Saeed Ali Achakzai/Reuters

Can climate change increase and hamper international migration at the same time? Yes, according to a new study from Germany. While climate change generally increases migration, this effect is greatly reduced as climate change also weakens economic growth, thereby limiting people’s means to migrate in countries of the Global South.

Given the increasing density of disasters like hurricanes, floods and droughts, it’s easy to imagine the rapidly worsening climate crisis leading to an apocalyptic mass exodus of affected people worldwide.

But while it’s true that extreme weather events, sea level rise and other consequences of man-made climate change lead to increased displacement, it doesn’t automatically lead to more international migration, a new study has found.

According to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, one reason for this is that many people in the Global South don’t have the means to migrate — because climate change itself considerably hurts their countries’ economic development.

The PIK scientists say that as a result of weakened economic growth, many people cannot afford to leave their countries in the first place.

“Overall, migration related to climate change has increased — but it has done so to a lesser extent than might have been expected,” said Jacob Schewe, head of the PIK FutureLab Security, Ethnic Conflict and Migration and one of the authors of the study, in a press release.

While climate change reduces economic growth in almost all countries of the world, “many people in need who live in poor countries lack the means to migrate. They have no choice but to stay where they are,” Schewe said.

Also read: Climate crisis increasingly driving migrants to Italy

Link between economic growth and migration

According to the findings of the study, economic growth affects migration by affecting national income levels. “Relatively few people migrate from both high- and very low-income countries. In the case of poor countries, this is partly because many people simply cannot afford to leave the country,” according to co-author Christian Otto. As a result, very poor people often stay in their home country despite being in need or wanting to emigrate for other reasons.

“Our study was not about flight caused by natural disasters,” adds Anders Levermann, another co-author and researcher at New York’s Columbia University. “Rather, it was about migration motivated by life circumstances,” Levermann is quoted as saying in the press release.

Other studies show that migration due to changed environmental conditions is also particularly pronounced in places with a dependency on agriculture. Among them are regions with many small-scale farmers like sub-Saharan Africa.

From file: Droughts and other weather-related disasters will presumably lead to a rise in the number of 'environmental migrants' | Photo: Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters
From file: Droughts and other weather-related disasters will presumably lead to a rise in the number of ‘environmental migrants’ | Photo: Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters

In their study, the PIK scientists examined how climate change affects international migration by analyzing several country’s income levels from 1990 to 2020. Income levels are considered an important factor influencing migration flows; a higher income can remove financial constraints, for instance, and a lower income can correlate with lower average education levels, among other reasons.

The scientists also compared migration flows with a scenario without the effects of climate change. Moreover, they acknowledged that the data and model of migration they used for the study “cannot predict actual migration flows at a given point in time.”

Experts have pointed out before that prognoses on global migration related to climate change should be taken with a grain of salt: Many factors are at play, and the link between climate change and migration is complex and not always clear, partly as there is little reliable data available.

‘Climate migration’ mostly internal

While climate-related displacement is a growing global phenomenon, it’s worth noting that people who migrate mostly stay within their countries or region and do not have the goal or the possibilities to go to Europe. As a matter of fact, internally displaced people (IDPs) make up more than half of all estimated 89.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR.

In 2021, some 23.7 million people were newly displaced due to extreme weather events and natural disasters and their consequences in their country, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). By comparison, only 14.4 million people were internally displaced by conflict or violence. In the same year, moreover, disasters accounted for more than half of all internal displacements.

Still, migration induced by the climate crisis doesn’t stop at the border, especially when it’s exacerbated by conflict: 1.1 million Somalis, for instance, fled to Kenya and Ethiopia from the impending civil war after the 1991 collapse of the government. The political instability was compounded by drought-related famine, itself linked to armed conflict and violence.

Such cross-border movements in situations where conflict or violence has interacted with disaster or adverse effects of climate change is an area known as ‘nexus dynamics.’ In the words of a 2018 UNHCR report on the subject, Somalia can be characterized as a “situation in which preexisting conflict, and responses related to it, exacerbated the impacts of disaster and adverse effects of climate change.”

Importantly, nexus dynamics is an example of a “situation where the refugee criteria of the 1951 Refugee Convention or broader refugee criteria of regional refugee law frameworks may apply,” according to UNHCR. This matters because ‘climate migrants’ — or ‘environmental migrants’ as they are sometimes called — are not legally considered refugees according to international law. To date, there is no globally accepted or legally binding definition of a ‘climate migrant,’ and the term ‘climate refugee’ meanwhile is being discouraged from being used and somewhat regarded as a misnomer, for not everybody leaves their homes involuntarily.

Read more: Climate migrants can’t be returned home, UN committee

Climate change likely to keep increasing migration long-term

While climate-related displacement also affects industrialized countries in the Global North, which are responsible for a large share of global greenhouse gas emissions, a recent Oxfam study, among others, shows how poorer countries in the Global South are disproportionately affected.

In the ten climate crisis hotspots most affected by extreme weather events, all of them in the Global South, more than twice as many people are struggling with acute hunger than six years ago, according to Oxfam. This trend potentially results in displacement and irregular migration patterns.

The climate crisis hotspots Oxfam cites in its study are the African nations of Somalia, Kenya, Niger, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Madagascar and Zimbabwe alongside Afghanistan, Guatemala and Haiti. According to the study, they have most frequently been affected by extreme weather events in the past two decades. More than twice as many people in these ten countries suffer from the acute threat of facing hunger, Oxfam said.

While climate change has been reducing migration as it keeps many in the Global South in the low-income bracket, according to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research study, it may keep increasing global migration long-term: The PIK scientists say the climate crisis could slow down countries’ transition beyond the middle-income range.

This means that more people will stay within this bracket instead of moving upward into high-income brackets. Since those in the middle-income range are generally especially likely to leave their countries, according to the study, climate change could thus have the long-term effect of also increasing migration flows, while hampering economic development at the same time.

Read more: Climate migration: No longer a distant nightmare


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Zimbabwe Hopes to Boost Agriculture Sector With Help From Belarus – Voice of America – VOA News

Zimbabwe is attempting to boost its agricultural sector with support from controversial partner Belarus, which is under sanctions for supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited Zimbabwe this week on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Columbus Mavhunga reports from Harare, Zimbabwe. Camera: Blessing Chigwenhembe.

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Former Cottco boss ‘fanning Zanu PF factionalism’ – Bulawayo24 News

Former Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) boss Maxmore Njanji, who is currently facing graft allegations before the courts, is under fire after he was reported to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa that he is funding candidates in every internal election thereby fanning factionalism.

Mnangagwa is also ZANU PF Politiburo member. Sources familiar with the incident told that disgruntled officials told Mnangagwa recently when she was at her rural home in Chiweshe.

“A number of disgruntled senior party officials who attended one of First Lady’s events in Chiweshe reported Njanji that he was fanning factionalism in the province as he was sponsoring candidates in a desperate move to gain political power,” the source said.

“In the just ended Central Committee elections, Njanji caused a lot of chaos by sponsoring half of the candidates and the other half in the province felt bullied.”

It is further alleged that Njanji is eying Mazowe Central seat and hoping to become the Minister of Agriculture if ZANU PF wins.

His allies claim that he is the favourite candidate since he is financially stable.

Njanji is in court to answer to allegations that he used money from Cottco for his own personal gains.

“Our candidate is financially stable, and nothing will stop his curriculum vitae from sailing through ZEC knows him he can simply pour money and win,” one party supporter said in confidentiality.

Njanji did not pick up calls and did not respond to messages sent to him.



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