In this issue

Issue 114

Recycling water, up and down to the Darling
Darling Downs Vision 2000 is a scheme that involves piping wastewater from Brisbane sewage treatment plants to the Darling Downs. CSIRO scientists are assessing the economic and environmental benefits and risks of using recycled water on farm.
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Saving our beef and bacon
Australia's capacity to cope with a major outbreak of livestock disease, such as foot and mouth disease, is being enhanced with the installation of a robotic sample handling and information management system at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL).
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Searching soils for functional genes
CSIRO scientists are developing a genetic test that looks at the presence and activity of microbial genes responsible for nutrient cycling in soil.
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Take-home tips for smarter prawning
Prawn farmers in Belize have found a way to simultaneously triple prawn production and reduce the environmental impact of the production process. Australian scientists and prawn farmers are hoping to adapt and enhance the technology to increase production profits and meet ever-tightening environmental regulations.
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Mining tool retrained to seek acids and salts
A nuclear probe developed for minerals exploration and mining may soon be used against acid mine drainage and salinity. The probe is part of the SIROLOG suite of spectrometric borehole logging tools developed by CSIRO to evaluate the composition and quality of coal, ore and rock at mine sites.
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Hybrid turbine mines power from waste
A new hybrid turbine system that uses reject coal and methane gas to generate electricity could help 'green' the mining industry and reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
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Magnesium alloys go lightly on the road
Researchers at the Cooperative Research Centre for Cast Metals Manufacturing (CAST) have developed AMC-SCI, a magnesium alloy that they expect to be part of the next breakthrough for engine design and manufacturing.
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Feeding the future
Drought-resistant cereals such as sorghum are being developed. Using sorghum lines from Ethiopia and Nigeria with high resistance to water stress, plant breeders have developed 'stay-green' plants containing other useful traits, such as midge-resistance and high grain yield. Stay-green lines are being genetically mapped and molecular markers identified. The research will reveal the identify and function of the different genes involved in stay-green, offering sorghum breeders the tools to develop a new generation of crops adapted to dry conditions.
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Fly fishing
In the early 1990s, a dramatic decline in freshwater fish species was recorded in the Ok Tedi and upper and mid Fly rivers, PNG. The otoliths, or earbones, of barramundi were examined to see if the Ok Tedi mine was having an effect on barramundi behaviour. When a fish moves through contaminated water, trace metals such as copper and zinc, can replace the calcium in the otolith, providing a record of the fishes' movement or behaviour. The results were inconclusive, but subsequent studies suggest that much of the copper at the confluence of the Ok Tedi and Fly rivers is not bio-available and probably not toxic to aquatic life. Otolith and generic analysis has also been used to study migration of barramundi between the Fly River and coastal fisheries.
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Pioneering proteins
Data generated by the Human Genome Project and associated advances in biotechnology are fuelling interest in protein science, especially proteomics. However, studying the proteome or full protein complement of an organism is a much bigger challenge than its genome. CSIRO scientists are using proteomics, structural biology and related approaches to study a range of health problems in humans and livestock. Other CSIRO scientists are using bioinformatics to deal with the huge databases generated by proteomics and genomics.
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Managing mimosa
Mimosa pigra, one of Australia's worst environmental weeds, has spread across rangeland areas from Western Australia to Queensland. An Australian biocontrol project was begun in 1979 and 11 insects and two fungal pathogens have been released, with varying success. The latest agent, a leaf-feeding moth, Macaria pallidata, was released in 2002.
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Biotech cotton - a budding field
The cotton variety Ingard carries a Bt bacterial gene that protects the plant from bollworm pests. The first genetically modified crop released commercially in Australia, it has reduced pesticide applications by an average of 50 per cent compared to conventional crops and allowed two-to-three fold increases in beneficial insects. The industry is using a pre-emptive strategy to counter the risk of resistance to Bt protein developing in bollworms. This includes compulsory planting of refugia crops to reduce selection pressure. A new more effective GM variety, Bollgard, with two Bt genes, has made its debut, further reducing the risk of resistance.
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Unearthing geckos and truffles
Alcoa World Alumina Australia (Alcoa) has an innovative environmental rehabilitation program, which has succeeded in restoring the botanical richness of its bauxite mine sites in Western Australia. Research on fungi from rehabilitated sites has led to the discovery of a new truffle, Amarrendia oleosa.
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The great frog survey
A study has measured the distribution and habitat requirements of the great barred frog. The results of the study provide a benchmark against which any future changes in the distribution and abundance of the great barred frog can be assessed.
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Butting whales
The bulbous forehead of toothed whales, which contain oil-filled sacs known as the spermaceti sac, are used as weapons by the whales.
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Time-worn koalas
Koalas' teeth gradually wear down. By reducing the time and energy available for some koala activities advanced tooth wear reduces the social involvement and potentially the reproductive success of male koalas.
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Tales of the swamp
The critically endangered western swamp tortoise, Pseudemydura umbrina, faces a new threat. There are concerns that the yabby, Cheras destructor, introduced to Western Australia may prey on hatchlings of the rare freshwater tortoise.
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More milk for India
A new feed supplement is set to increase milk production from India's dairy herd by millions of litres a day. The 'by-pass protein' supplement increases the amount of protein bypassing the degradative process in the rumen and entering the intestine.
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