Agriculture and Food Systems - Theses

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    Studies of Ascochyta rabiei in Australia
    Pradhan, Prashanti ( 2005)
    Ascochyta rabiei (teleomorph: Didymella rabiei) which causes ascochyta blight is the most serious disease of chickpea (Cicer arietinum) in Australia as it causes significant losses in crop yield and quality. Although A. rabiei is heterothallic and genetically diverse elsewhere in the world, a study carried out on Australian isolates collected between 1995 and 2000 identified only one mating type and a low level of genetic diversity within the Australian A. rabiei population. In 2002, ascospores of Didymella rabiei, the sexual state of A. rabiei, were trapped in a discharge chamber, from chickpea stubble naturally infected with ascochyta blight in Western Australia. Examination of the stubble revealed pseudothecia typical of Didymella rabiei. The reported presence of the teleomorph in Western Australia indicated that the second mating type had been introduced into Australia or that the pathogen was capable of a low level of homothallic compatibility, previously undetected. The aims of this research were, to undertake a new survey of Australian A. rabiei isolates, to test for the presence of the second mating type, to determine if there has been a change in the diversity of the Australian population and to investigate if pathogenic variability was displayed among isolates. Sixty-seven isolates collected from chickpea fields in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia during the 2003 cropping season were single spored and confirmed as A. rabiei using a PCR test. The isolates were typed for mating type using MAT gene specific PCR primers and compared with tester isolates from USA. This test revealed that all the 67 isolates belonged to mating type 2 (MAT 1-2), thus, the presence of mating type 1 (MAT 1-1) in Australia could not be confirmed. Sequence Tagged Micro Satellite (STMS) markers were used to examine the genetic diversity of the A. rabiei isolates. The isolates were assessed for allelic variation at 19 microsatellite loci, each of which amplified a single locus. Seven of the loci were polymorphic across all the 67 isolates, while the remaining twelve were monomorphic. Based on the allele profiles at the seven polymorphic loci, 19 distinct A. rabiei haplotypes were identified with a total of 33 alleles. One haplotype constituted 35.8 % of the population and was found in the collections from South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Cluster analysis did not show a clear distinction between isolates based on the state from which they were collected. Polymorphism across the 19 microsatellite loci revealed a slight elevation in diversity in the 2003-2004 population (Ht = 0.07; compared to 0.02 in the 1995 to 2000 collection) and an increase in the number of haplotypes compared with that detected in the previous study of Australian isolates. To examine the pathogenic variability of the Australian population of A. rabiei, nine isolates were inoculated on five chickpea differentials, ranging from highly susceptible to resistant, under controlled conditions optimal for A. rabiei growth and infection. Eight of the isolates were virulent on the susceptible and intermediate chickpea cultivars but not the resistant cultivar and one isolate was only virulent on the susceptible cultivar. Based on these results the isolates were classified into two pathotype groups. The results obtained from the study of the population structure and the pathogenic variability of A. rabiei in Australia will enable the Australian chickpea breeders to understand the A. rabiei population better for formulating management and breeding strategies.
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    Effects of organic applicants in a southern Victorian vineyard
    Lakey, Vincent G ( 2007)
    Mulch is a material applied to the surface of the soil to reduce weed growth and reduce soil moisture loss through evaporation from the soil surface. The use of organic mulches will alter the soil environment. This alteration may include reducing soil temperature fluctuations, increasing soil organic matter, increasing soil microflora populations modifying soil chemical properties and increasing soil moisture retention. An experiment was conducted to compare composted green waste mulch and barley straw mulch with herbicide as alternative means of maintaining the undervine strip in a cool climate vineyard. Plant and soil responses to the different undervine treatments were monitored. Grapevine budburst was retarded, however, by the fourth week of vine growth there were no observable differences in grapevine growth stage. Both mulches stimulated grapevine growth and increased yield, with the compost mulch increasing vegetative growth with respect to fruit yield. The fruit quality parameters juice pH and titratable acidity were not significantly altered by the different undervine treatments. In the second year of the experiment the juice soluble solids were lower on the straw mulched grapevines. The compost mulch increased soil pH and carbon levels. The straw mulch improved soil water retention and the mass of soil fungal hyphae. Both mulches increased soil cation exchange capacity. The straw mulch increased soil exchangeable Mg to a greater extent than was predicted from straw nutrient content. The significant variations seen in soil cation content under the mulch treatments were not observed in the tissue analysis. Mulch can be used in a cool climate vineyard to increased yield without deleterious side effects.
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    Rural credit and farm viability : a study of the Shelford soldier settlement scheme
    Vincent, David P ( 1973)
    The accelerated fall in wool prices towards the end of the 1960's precipitated the emergence of a financial crisis in the sheep industry with high farm debts and low farm incomes. The subject of rural credit, which had provoked only minor discussion throughout the buoyant income periods of the 1950's and 1960's, became increasingly debated by farm leaders who challenged the suitability of the existing credit market to meet the increasing capital needs of the rural sector. Since the implementation of the rural reconstruction scheme in 1971 which provides assistance for a limited number of unviable farmers, farmer demands for more general concessional credit facilities have intensified. Recently, following submissions by several farmer organizations to the Government for assistance, the subject of rural credit has rapidly developed into a political issue. This thesis is a study of farm indebtedness and the rural credit market in a woolgrowing community of soldier settlers in the Leigh Shire of the Victorian Western District. The area was chosen because it was thought that the settlers, hard hit by the 1967-68 drought, and heavily dependent on the profitability of woolgrowing, would be suffering severe financial problems. The economic analysis was restricted by the lack of suitable empirical data. The original survey data, collected by the Agricultural Extension Section of the University by personal interviews with farmers, did not include farm costs or inventory levels. Because this was a pilot study, the data was cross-sectional, referring only to the survey year. Before proceeding with the analysis, it was necessary to obtain additional financial information from the taxation records of co-operating farmers. The thesis was written before but submitted after the release of a Bureau of Agricultural Economics report (B.A.E. 1972) advising the Government on the adequacy of existing credit facilities. Consequently, no reference has been made elsewhere in the thesis to this report. The thesis is organized as follows. Chapters 1 and 2 provide a general introduction to farmers' borrowing behaviour, the existing rural credit market, and the debt position of the rural sector, especially the sheep industry. In chapter 3, the Shelford settlement is discussed with emphasis on the debt position of Shelford farmers and their use of credit facilities. In chapter 4, an attempt is made to relate the financial position of farmers to their physical resource levels and social characteristics. The variance in debt and income are analysed. Chapter 5 contains a discussion of some past influences on the current debt position, especially the 1967-68 drought. In chapter 6, the present and future prospects of farm financial viability are studied. Some commonly used indicators of viability are evaluated within the Shelford context. The dependence of settlers on short term lenders and the future role these lenders are likely to play at Shelford and elsewhere are discussed in chapter 7. Finally in chapter 8, the role of credit in agricultural adjustment is discussed. A solution for unviable Shelford farmers is proposed and some brief comments on the shortcomings of the present credit market are advanced. Conclusions are presented throughout the thesis, and chapter 7 and 8 form a summary of the rural credit situation in general and at Shelford.
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    A systems analysis approach to drought reserves in the Hamilton region
    Thatcher, L. P (1944-) ( 1971)
    Following a discussion of drought strategies available to the grazier, one particular strategy, the holding of drought fodder reserves, is examined in detail. The study estimates the least-cost fodder reserves for a range of stocking rate-pasture production regimes in the Hamilton region. The amount of hay feeding required on any stocking-pasture regime is determined from a simulation model of the grazing complex. In this model, three levels of pasture production are stocked at rates ranging from one to ten wethers per acre. The pasture production assumed ranges from "excellent" (i.e. equivalent to the Hamilton Research Station pastures which produce about 10,000 lb. dry matter per annum) to "poor" (35% less). The climatic inputs into the grazing model are the date of Autumn break, for which a formula is derived, and the June to October rainfall. The pasture sub-model is specified and used to derive the pasture which is "grown" in the grazing model. The sheep aspects of the model are reviewed in detail to derive the relationships which are used in the next set of four sub-models in which animal intake is simulated and liveweight changes determined. This set of four sub-models provides for the four situations of animal intake which may be met. These are: The intake of green pasture alone (i.e. all pasture grown after the Autumn Break); the intake of hay alone; the intake of hay and green pasture together; the intake of hay and dry pasture (pasture remaining when the Autumn Break occurs and dry pasture alone which are handled in the same sub-model) The grazing model was validated for the years 1965-67 using data from the Pastoral Research Station, Hamilton, and showed good agreement for all three years simulated, one of which featured a severe drought. Drought feeding requirements (hay) are determined for each of the years 1879 to 1967 and for the ten stocking rate-pasture production regimes, using specific hay feeding rules. These rules, which aim at sheep survival, do not attempt to specify optimum feeding rates per sheep, and any change in them could significantly alter the drought requirements for any of the regimes studied. Furthermore, the estimates are Lased on the assumption that all sheep are fed through the drought. A pre-drought strategy which permitted the sale of certain classes of sheep at some stage during drought would entail lower feed requirements and might have a lower expected cost, especially at high acquisition costs for feed and low replacement costs for sheep. An inventory analysis is then undertaken, based on a 12 month planning period, which utilises the hay feeding probabilities generated in the grazing model, and provides estimates of the least-cost hay reserve. In contrast to previous studies, the price of hay is related to drought length in calculating the penalty cost of inadequate reserves. The effects of varying several parameters of the inventory model are then examined. The parameters varied are hay costs ($4, $10 and $16 per ton), interest rates (7%, 20% and 50%), and salvage values, and these vary in association with the parameters varied in the grazing model (stocking rate, pasture production and the area closed for hay). At the intermediate values for pasture production and hay cost and a 7 per cent per annum interest rate, the minimum-cost reserve rises sharply, from 2 bales per acre at 2 wethers per acre, to 4.5 bales per acre at 3 wethers per acre, 8 bales per acre at 4 wethers per acre, and 15 bales per acre at 5 wethers per acre. The minimum-cost reserve was found to be relatively insensitive to changes in acquisition costs, except at low stocking rates, where a change in reserve of one or two half-bales per sheep was common as acquisition cost varied over the three levels. The effect of interest rates was also examined for the average pasture regime. On the lowest level of hay acquisition cost, ($4 per ton) increasing the rate of interest from 7 to 50 per cent caused reductions of only one half-bale per sheep. However, at high acqusition cost ($16 per ton) raising the interest rate to 20 per cent resulted in a considerable reduction in the minimum-cost reserve, especially on the lower stocking rates, and raising the interest rate to 50 per cent made holding fodder reserves uneconomic for any stocking rate. One measure of the risk in holding various levels of fodder reserve is the standard deviation of the total expected cost. As expected, it was found that this declines as the reserve is expanded to the maximum ever required. However, only a small reduction in standard deviation results from expanding the reserve beyond the minimum-cost level. Finally, estimates were made of the income-maximising stocking rate for each level of pasture production and hay cost, with the wool price at 30, 40 and 50 cents per lb.. At the intermediate values for pasture production (8,000 lb. D.M.) and hay cost ($10 per ton), and with wool at 30 cents per lb. net, the income-maximising stocking rate was 3 wethers per acre. Each increase of 10 cents per lb. in the wool price was generally associated with an increase of one or two wethers per acre in the income-maximising stocking rate. An increase of 2,000 lb. D.M. (from "average" to "excellent") in average annual pasture production was generally associated with an increase of one wether per acre in the income-maximising stocking rate. A reduction of 1,500 lb. from "average" to "poor" pasture. production reduced the income-maximising stocking rate by about one wether per acre. Increasing the hay cost from $4 to $10 per ton reduced the profit-maximising stocking rate by one wether per acre for all combinations of pasture production and wool price examined. However, a further increase in acquisition cost from $10 to $16 per ton only caused a further reduction in the income-maximising stocking rate at the poor level of pasture production: with average pasture production there was little change and with excellent production there was no change in the income-maximising stocking rate.
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    The effect on some milking characteristics of cows of changing the flow rate thresholds of automatic cluster removers in a seasonally calving dairy herd
    Shoesmith, David ( 2004)
    An experiment to investigate the effects of altering the end-of-milking point values of automatic cluster removers (ACRs) from 0.40 kg/min (Control) to 0.70 kg/min (Fixed ACR), or 1.00 kg/min (Rising ACR) over an extended period from the peak until the end of lactation of a seasonally calving pasture based herd has been conducted at the Victorian Department of Primary Industries Ellinbank research dairy. One hundred and ninety two cows. and heifers were used in the experiment (64 animals statistically allocated to each treatment group). A comparative analysis of results for each treatment group is presented for average milk yield, average milking duration, average maximum milking duration, average milk flow rate, average peak milk flow rate and udder health. The Fixed ACR treatment reduced the average daily milking duration by up to 7.6%, but only for a small portion of the treatment period. The Rising ACR treatment reduced the average daily milking duration significantly by up to 15.3%, for the majority of the treatment period. The Fixed ACR treatment did not reduce the average daily maximum milking duration whilst the Rising ACR treatment reduced the average daily maximum milking duration significantly by up to 17.9%, for the more than half of the treatment period. A marginal increase in average milk flow rate was observed for the Rising ACR treatment. Even though the Rising ACR treatment began the experiment with higher average peak flow rate for AM and PM it declined less than the Fixed. ACR or Control treatment throughout lactation, providing a mechanism for the, removal of the same amount of milk in a reduced time when compared with the other treatments. However the difference observed in peak flow rates was not statistically significant. No difference was found amongst the treatment groups when analysed for new cases of sub-clinical or clinical mastitis. The geometric mean of individual cow cell counts was significantly reduced for the Rising ACR treatment in the latter stages of lactation. Flow rate curves have been constructed from real milking data and are presented as examples of the large variation of actual- flow rate from a cows udder. The flow rates curves are used to track individual cows through lactation to observe changes in the cow's milking characteristics. Theoretical consideration is given to how particular types, or brands, of ACR operate under various conditions and it is shown that the results from this experiment could be replicated by using other types of ACR if they are managed correctly. This study has shown that significant labour productivity. benefits could be achieved by, increasing the ACR end-of-milking point settings to 1.00 kg/min without impacting milk yield. However, further work is suggested to ensure that udder health is not compromised. This is to certify that the thesis comprises only my original work except here indicated in the preface; due acknowledgement has been made in the text to all other material used; the thesis is 19400 words in length, inclusive of footnotes, but exclusive of tables, maps, appendices and bibliography.
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    The Welfare of gestating sows housed in conventional stalls and in large groups on deep litter
    Karlen, Guillermo Adrian ( 2005)
    Confinement of breeding sows and gilts is one of the most controversial issues in livestock production and there is worldwide interest in finding alternative housing systems for gestating sows and gilts. The present study was conducted to measure aspects of the . welfare of gestating sows housed in either large groups on deep litter (Hoops) or conventional stalls (Stalls). Six hundred and forty sows were studied, with 40 recently mated sows entering each treatment each week over an 8-week period. Large groups were formed by 40 experimental and 45 non-experimental (n = 85) animals per group. Sows in Hoops had a higher (P < 0.001) number of scratches, presumably due to fighting, particularly in the first week of gestation (25 vs. 3.3 scratches/sow). In addition, there was a strong tendency (P = 0.06) for higher salivary cortisol concentrations in week 1 of gestation in the sows in large group housing (6.29 vs. 4.03 nM), which may correspond to increased aggression as reflected by more scratches and a higher (P < 0.01) return rate to oestrus between 19 and 43 days after mating (13.2% vs. 7.4%). Sows in Stalls had a higher (P < 0.01) incidence of lameness at 9 weeks of gestation (7% vs. 0%), and this treatment difference became more pronounced (P < 0.001) later in gestation (13.8% vs 0.8 %.at week 15). There was evidence that the capability of the immune system of the sows in the Stalls treatment, perhaps as a consequence of stress, was reduced late in gestation: sows in the Stalls treatment had a higher (P < 0.05) percentage of neutrophils (46% vs. 41%) and a lower (P < 0.05) number and percentage of lymphocytes (4.59 x 106 vs. 5.16 x 106 c/mI and 41.6% vs. 46.5%) and consequently a higher neutrophil: lymphocyte ratio (1.22 vs. 0.94, P < 0.05) than sows in the large groups on deep litter. There was a strong tendency (P =.0.06) for a higher reproductive failure in the Hoops treatment (27.3% vs. 14.5%). The Stalls treatment had a higher (P < 0.001) farrowing rate (76.8% vs. 66%) and while sows in Stalls weaned less piglets (P < 0.01) per litter (8.31 vs. 8.97), the average weaning weight of these piglets was higher (P < 0.005) than sows in Hoops (8.69kg vs. 8.01 kg). The combination of these reproductive parameters shows that the sows in the Stall treatment weaned the equivalent of 46 more piglets per hundred mated sows. The results of this experiment suggest that sows housed in large groups on deep litter may have faced greater welfare challenges in the early stages of gestation whereas sows in Stalls may have experienced greater welfare challenges later in gestation. However, further more detailed research on the welfare of gestating sows in these two housing systems is clearly required.