From the editor

Welcome to issue # 341 of the Katherine Rural Review (KRR) and the 2019 build-up.

Following the dismal 2018-19 wet season, the extended dry period has morphed into a build-up of unprecedented heat. Temperatures are soaring across the Top End; some sites in the Katherine region have recorded their hottest ever October daytime temperature, with further records for the most consecutive days above 40C expected by the end of November.

Together with strong winds and very low humidity, the hot conditions have led to severe fire weather, challenging pastoralists and fire services. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the positive Indian Ocean Dipole will continue to deliver hotter and drier than average weather until the monsoon arrives, which is likely to occur in early January. Happily, a typical wet season is predicted for January to April, which should bring much-needed relief to the drought-stricken areas of the Barkly and Victoria River District. Something to look forward to! But until then, dry conditions are expected to persist.

With confirmation of an African swine fever outbreak in Timor Leste, staff in the Livestock Biosecurity Branch have been busy with preparedness activity in the exotic disease control and quarantine space. This involves significant planning, consultation with stakeholder groups, research around practical measures such as feral pig control options, and scientific work in areas such as field diagnostics and surveillance. The Animal Health News section of this newsletter provides more detail, with respect to recent pig disease investigations, and the work done by the Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) and other agencies to maintain Australian biosecurity for primary production industries.

Plant industries have been busy with the mango season almost complete. Mango production contributes an estimated $88.5M to the Northern Territory (NT) economy each year, the largest NT farming industry by value. Around 20% per cent of all Australian mangoes grow in the Katherine/Mataranka region. In real terms, this means Katherine growers produce a staggering 30 million mangoes from 330,000 trees each year. Local residents would be well aware of the increase in overseas seasonal fruit-picking workers in town, a vital workforce which enables this industry to flourish and gives our local economy a boost.

Read on to find out more about field days sharing the good oil on soil health, the Kidman Springs fire experiments, a timely reminder about Gamba Grass control measures, results from the Sweet Spot project, which is investigating pasture utilisation and reproductive performance, and much more.

Cheers,

Megan Pickering

Editor

Last updated: 12 December 2019

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