Beyond the black stump: more black stumps

smh vines pic
Survival mode … citrus trees like these at Bourke have been cut to the stump. It helps them survive with little water but stops them producing for as long as five years.

What a shame my first mid-terms have been printed, already. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Irrigation water in the Murray-Darling Basin is selling for up to 10 times the price of a year ago as farmers fight to keep their permanent plantings alive.

Many irrigators growing citrus, stone fruit and wine grapes have less than 10 per cent of their normal allocation – not enough to survive another long, hot summer.

An increasingly common sight across the basin is citrus trees that have been cut back to the stump. It helps them survive with little water but takes them out of production for up to five years.

Continuing dry weather saw the price of wheat reach a new high of $492 a tonne on the Stock Exchange yesterday.

The basin in question (from Wikipedia):

wikipedia murray-darling basin

Which correlates well to a seminar a few CSIRO guys gave back in my Master’s days (the degree, not the golf) about our South-East heading for a dust-bowl in about 50 years.

Here, however, is a slight breaking point of our sympathy (slight = mine and that of a friend of mine):

The area planted to cotton this summer is expected to be the smallest in 30 years and the area planted to rice the smallest since the industry’s infancy in the first half of last century.

NSW water storage inflows in recent months have continued to be among the lowest on record and there is less water in storage now than at the start of last year’s disastrous irrigation season.

That’s cotton, a kilogram of which requires 7 to 29 kilolitres of water and rice, a kilogram of which requires 5 kilolitres of water. Water use alone, the irrigation mechanisms cock up (a) rivers (as we’ve plainly seen) but also (b) freshwater ecosystems, migration within them and bio-diversity (whether affecting indicator species or not, sadly, I do not know).

Wheat (500 litres per kilogram), potatoes (900 litres per kilogram) and even soy (2 kilolitres per kilogram) come under that (link: .pdf). This also does not include the pesticide use of cotton. I say bring back hemp (and for Australia we just might see such a thing, if you can imagine it).

Don’t forget the truly wonderful water recycling blog, which I’m sure has much more intelligent a review of this sort of thing. Also, if you’re an ethanol believer, the former R-squared energy blog.

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