Episode 304. Varroa, FNM, Reduced Methane & Duckweed

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 29th of July 2022.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

Hi all, it’s been a while, I know. As many of you know I work in a disability service and we’ve been smashed this month with the Omicron variants. I’m up to date with boosters so I’ve been pulling so many shifts, I’ve almost forgotten “normal” life. Staff and clients have been out of action but no one has been hospitalised, so that’s a good thing. 

Anyway, I’ve continued to monitor and collect stories so this episode will attempt to squeeze a month’s worth into one. Buckle up, it’s been a hell of a month!


As I mentioned last time, varroa has raised its ugly head on the mainland. Picked up in monitoring hives at the port of Newcastle, action has been relatively swift. In contrast to another biosecurity threat I’ll get to later.

From the ABC news site, comes a piece entitled Varroa mite outbreak sees millions of bees destroyed, keepers call for compensation.


As authorities destroy millions of bees in a bid to control the New South Wales varroa mite outbreak, devastated apiarists are waiting to learn how they will be compensated.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has already destroyed 600 hives across New South Wales, each containing up to 30,000 bees.

The bees are gassed or doused in petrol and left overnight before the hives are torched.

End Quote

This must be heartbreaking for the beekeepers but the alternative is worse, I guess. The bordering states of Queensland and Victoria have closed their borders to commercial bees. The honeybee feralised very quickly after they were introduced to this continent back in the 1820s. There are native bees and other pollinators that could step into the breech and perform pollination duties but their honey crop is insignificant when compared with Apis mellifera. They will take time to breed up and fill the gap if the varroa takes hold. For this reason, fruit and nut growers are twitchy about the upcoming spring pollination period.

In recent news, three hours ago at time of writing, the following post:

Varroa mite detected on blueberry orchard near Coffs Harbour in 43rd case since outbreak began


Beekeepers on the NSW Mid North Coast are the latest to prepare to destroy their hives after the detection of varroa mite in hives at a blueberry farm.

The deadly bee parasite has been detected in Nana Glen, 25 kilometres inland from Coffs Harbour, where a 10-km eradication zone has been established.

It was the 43rd detection since an initial case in the Port of Newcastle last month.

“I’m shocked. I’m devastated,” beekeeper Alan Elks said.

End Quote

The blueberry is not the only berry fruit grown in the region. Raspberries are a big crop too and they are 100% reliant on pollinators of some sort to produce fruit. Things are going to be very hard for those growers inside the exclusion zone. From the same article, it appears individuals haven’t been quite as honest with the Dept of Primary Industries as they could have been. I’m not surprised given the creative stories we had to hear from “entitled” individuals during the COVID whoha. 

Foot and Mouth

This leads to the next biosecurity threat we are facing here in the Great Southern Land. The Indonesian island of Bali, a popular tourist location, not with your narrator, I don’t do tropical, but with large numbers of my fellow citizens has a foot and mouth outbreak running through its livestock sector.

Australia has been assisting with vaccinations and veterinary advice. The border control types have allegedly tightened entry requirements for travellers coming from Indonesia and yet…


Viral fragments of foot and mouth disease were found at Adelaide Airport days after traces of the virus were detected in a beef product at another airport and pork products in a Melbourne supermarket.  

End Quote

That was from a piece entitled: Foot and mouth disease detected in Adelaide as airports ramp up biosecurity measures from SkyNews.

It appears some of these cases arrived in people’s baggage and others through the mail. Who knew pig meat products travelled through the mail? Not me. Anyway, every parcel coming into the country is now being x-rayed to locate possible sources. The good thing, so far, is that what’s been detected are fragments of the virus not actual Foot and Mouth pathogens. Every traveller is now required to pass through disinfecting foot baths on arrival and lots of fingers are crossed. It does seem like BioSecurity Aust has been a little slow to move on this. I’ve seen what happens in Europe during foot and mouth outbreaks and it’s not good. Livestock breeders are, where they can, freezing sperm, ova and embryos to save genetics, some of which represent generations of selection decisions. You’d have thought with both the varroa and the foot and mouth intrusions we’d have learned something from 2020/21 but it appears not. As I say, fingers crossed. We have about, no one knows for sure at least 24 million feral pigs on the mainland. If Foot and Mouth became established in that population we’d never eradicate it.


To happier matters.

From Agriland comes the post: New feed additive could cut Irish cattle emissions by 60% and from the ABC a piece entitled: Methane-reducing seaweed asparagopsis up for sale after years of research. And if you have a look at the transcript over at World Organic News dot com there’s a pic I found on the book of faces. Dairy cows with the light behind them on the left and three photos on the right: Oil wells, oil refinery and traffic. Added are the words: Imagine the amount of propaganda it took to make people believe cows are the problem.

From the Agriland piece which talks about the research being undertaken:


The studies aimed to assess the potential of feed additives for their methane mitigation potential.

One of the most promising feed additives tested to date is oxidising methane inhibitors.

These are synthetic peroxide-based compounds, such as urea hydrogen peroxide or potassium iodide.

Early results from the RUSITEC are encouraging, with approximately 60% reductions in methane observed, with no negative effects on digestibility.

Following on from this, a feeding trial is planned to commence in August to see if the results obtained in the RUSITEC experiment can be replicated in the live animal.

End Quote

This is promising indeed but given the long tradition of seaweed consumption in Ireland, I’m surprised the research has gone down the chemical route but whatever works, I guess. 

From the ABC article:


After years of frantic research and fast-tracked commercial licensing, cattle feedlots can now buy asparagopsis, a native Australian seaweed touted to reduce methane emissions by “90 to 95 per cent” when fed to cows and sheep.

The first global sale of asparagopsis was announced this month by CH4, one of three businesses licensed to sell the feed additive in Australia.

Asparagopsis has been the subject of numerous research trials and a fast-tracked commercialisation effort since it was first identified as a way to reduce ruminant animals’ methane emissions.

End Quote

So despite the fear campaigns and the wet dreams of vegan activists, we are starting to see the possibilities of new technologies hitting the real world. Solar panel takeup in the country is way ahead of where it was first projected to be twenty odd years ago. Change is accelerating and it needs to, especially given the summer the northern hemisphere is experiencing.

The use of stock as a tool in combating GHGs is being often documented, getting the word out to the masses and the policy makers is the next big challenge. On the Thursday 21st July edition of Late Night Live, a flagship program on Radio National here is Aus, Philip Adams held a discussion on regen ag. One of the guests brought up a farm in the USA that’s sequestering 50lb of GHGs for every 1lb of meat produced. Don’t hear enough of these stories. There’s a link in the show notes for Late Night Live and I highly recommend a listen.


The other good news item I came across this month was entitled: Duckweed: How a humble plant could help food security from Agriland.


An Irish-based consortium believes that duckweed will play a key role in providing local and global food security solutions.

Emerald Life Sciences, which includes seasoned entrepreneurs in the aquaculture and biotechnology industry, is focussed on cultivating and processing the plant into animal feed and food ingredients.

The team has developed a proprietary and scalable process for the extraction of

protein from the plant for use in aquaculture and animal feed

Duckweed – what is it?

Duckweed is a small, free-floating aquatic plant which is fast growing and rich in protein.

The perennial plant combines to form a green ‘carpet’ on the surface of the water.

It thrives on nutrients from natural sources but also in water that is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus.

Researchers have shown duckweed cultivation is effective in removing the chemical elements from animal manure waste water.

End Quote

Duckweed is, in fact, one of if not the smallest flowering plants in the world. It can double its mass in 24 hours under the right conditions. Some work was done on using it to provide green feed during droughts here in Aus. The major problem was squeezing the excess water out of the harvested plants. 

It also contains 35-42% protein. It thrives in organically polluted water and just needs light and warmth. Probably in polytunnels during winter in most places that cop a frost but the potential is huge. I’ve had a crack at it a few times over the years but didn’t achieve sufficient scale to get it working. It is a thing I always mean to get back to but haven’t yet. It’s available in most aquarium supply places and might be a thing for growing out meat rabbits as part of their diet. The protein levels are too high for a whole diet approach but it would be a good option in household level food production as are rabbits. And given the food supply bottlenecks and world trade slow downs, going local in a sustainable, climate friendly way makes more sense with every news bulletin I read or sit through. 

Growing a food garden may well be the most revolutionary thing we can do, right now that actually makes the world a better place. 

Certainly a world with better flavour. And as I said last episode, flavour and kindness could well be the drivers for our salvation as a species.

So let’s all be kind and grow some food.

If you’d like help, the discount is still on for the No-Dig garden Course over at World Organic News. It’s currently selling for $17 dollars not the usual $149 until the world starts to return to a little more normality. 

So if you have been put off in the past, now is the time to jump in and learn. If you know anyone would be interested and the more people we can get growing the better, please let them know. I’ll have a link in the show notes or you can go to the World Organic News.com website and click the course tab. Please spread the word, we need to get as much food happening as possible as close to the people eating it as we can. The best time to move from consumption to production was probably 50 years ago, the second best time is now.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




No Dig Quick Start Course




email: jon@worldorganicnews.com


Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1546564598887681


Transcript: https://worldorganicnews.com/episode304/


Varroa mite detection at Port of Newcastle threatens Australia’s bee industry


Varroa mite outbreak sees millions of bees destroyed, keepers call for compensation.


Queensland, Victoria impose bee border bans as NSW battles varroa mite outbreak


Varroa mite detected on blueberry orchard near Coffs Harbour in 43rd case since outbreak began


Duckweed: How a humble plant could help food security


Foot and mouth disease detected in Adelaide as airports ramp up biosecurity measures


New feed additive could cut Irish cattle emissions by 60%


Methane-reducing seaweed asparagopsis up for sale after years of research


Late Night Live


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