Pill press, six firearms and drugs allegedly seized as six houses searched across Abermain, Weston and Chisholm

SEIZED: Strike Force Olenia detectives allegedly found a small pill press during one of the simultaneous raids on a Chisholm property on Tuesday morning.

WHEN members of the Central Hunter’s drug unit went knocking on a few doors across Abermain and Chisholm on Tuesday, they were already planning to lay significant drug charges against an alleged burgeoning drug syndicate.

But what they allegedly found even surprised them.

A pill press, so rarely seized by law enforcementbecause of its obvious manufacturing value, at least six firearms and a total of nearly 500 grams of ice was allegedly seized in the six simultaneous search warrants.

Strike Force Oleria detectives later charged seven people following the raids.

At the alleged drug kingpin Kirt Wayne Griffiths’ home on Charles Street at Abermain, police said they found a handgun, two 12-gauge shotguns, a sawn-off .22 calibre rifle, a shortened .22 calibre rifle, an air rifle, assorted ammunition, an extendable baton as well as some drugs.

Mr Griffiths, 21, was later refused bail on a range of charges, including two counts of supplying a large commercial amount of drugs and manufacturing a large commercial amount of drugs.

DISCOVERY: Investigators will allege they discovered a handgun during the search of one of three houses on Charles Street at Abermain.

At an associate’shouse at Chisholm, police allegedly located thepill press, a powder believed to be amphetamine, pills believed to be MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), a white rock substance believed to be methylamphetamine, as well as methylamphetamine oil and other tools and implements used in the manufacture of prohibited drugs.

A man, 31,was arrested at the home and charged with multiple drug offences including manufacture prohibited drug (large commercial) and supply prohibited drug (large commercial).

At another home on Charles Street, Abermain, police allegedly located an amount of cannabis, drug paraphernalia, water pipes, scales, an amount of cash, and a mobile phone.

GUNS: Sawn-off rifles, shotguns, an air rifle, assorted ammunition, an extendable baton as well as some drugs were seized in the raids.

A man, 23,wascharged with knowingly take part on large commercial quantity supply of methylamphetamine, and supply cannabis.

And police allegedly seized a number of mobile phones, laptop computers, storage devices, a Honda 125cc motorcycle, personal documentation, a white powder believed to be methylamphetamine, and a small amount of cannabis at a third CharlesStreet premises.

A man, 23, and 20-year-old woman were arrested at that house and charged with drug offences.

A woman, 33, is also facing serious drug offences after an amount of ice and cash were found at a home on Ellis Street, Weston.

Police alleged located an amount of cash, assorted personal documentation, and electronic devices at another Abermain house.

A woman, 51 was spoken to at the address, however no arrests were made and enquiries are ongoing.

The Newcastle Knights are at 251/1 odds to win the 2017 premiership

Underdogs: Can the Knights do a Leicester and win next season’s premiership? Can the Newcastle Knights win the comp next season?

One punter thinks so.

The TAB says a $1000 bet has been placed on the Knights to follow back-to-back wooden spoons with a premiership in 2017.

If the Knights pull off this miracle, the punter will collect $251,000.

This, of course, means the odds of the Knights being triumphant when the whistle blows on next year’s grand final are 251/1.

These are the longest odds among all the teams, followed by St George/Illawarra at 81/1.

North Queensland are favourites at $7.50/1, followed by Brisbane and Melbourne at 8/1.

“If you took the glass half-full approach with the Knights, the Sharks were wooden spooners in 2014 and, of course, went to the top this year,”TAB’s Glenn Munsie said.

“But this is a Knights’ side which won one game in 2016, so it would be up there with Leicester City winning the English Premier League should they manage to go all the way next season.”

We should also mention the Chicago Cubs, who won the World Series this year after 108 years of waiting.

Glenn said another TAB customer had last month placed a $400 bet on Newcastle to win the 2017 premiership and “stands to collect $100,400 should they pull off a sporting miracle”.

Here’s the full odds for next season:

Newcastle in 2017

$251 NRL winner

$15 Top four

$251 Minor Premiership

$1.90 Most losses

$7Final eight

2017 NRL Premiership

$7.50 North Qld





$11 Cronulla

$11 Warriors

$13 Roosters

$15 Manly

$17 Bulldogs

$17 Gold Coast

$17 Parramatta

$17 Souths

$26 Wests Tigers

$81 St George Illawarra

$251 Newcastle

We don’t condone irresponsible gambling. In fact, we think gambling is a mug’s game. But we do like odds. Odds are interesting.

Take this quote from Elon Musk, the man behindSpaceX and Tesla Motors: “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour”.

Day trippers drive the Hunter’s record year in tourism

SHIFTING SANDS: A Quad Bike King tour group explores the Stockton dunes in December. The Hunter’s record year in tourism has been driven by almost 6.7 million day trips, a 17 per cent increase. Picture: Marina Neil- Why Asia is in love with the Hunter

THE Hunterhas enjoyed a record year oftourism, with a day tripper-drivenincreaseofmore thana million visitors whocollectively spent$2.3billion.

The total10.1 million visitors in the year to September was up by 1.25 million people, and tourism chiefs creditthe international pull ofthe Hunter Valley wine countryand Port Stephens, andthe newfound urban chicof Newcastle.

Tourism Hunter chairman Will Creedon said thesector’s boost of $120 millionwas a windfall for the near-six thousand businesses and28,000 workers who rely on the Hunter’s visitor economy.

The valley and Port Stephens bothhad three million visitors in twelve months.

Newcastle,long overlooked byholidaymakers, drew more than fourmillion.

There was a steady rise invisitors stayingin the Hunter overnight, both from Australia and thetraditional overseasmarkets ofBritain, New Zealand and the USA.

ButMr Creedon also pointed to the burgeoning number oftourists from China, India and South Korea who stayed in Sydney and visited the Hunter for the day.

“There were nearly 6.7 million day trips, which is a 17 per cent increase. It’s a big number,” Mr Creedon said.

“With the day trips you don’t know where they’ve come from, but our business is growing in Korea, China and India.”

BIG NUMBERS: Tourism Hunter chairman Will Creedon has lauded the Hunter’s record visitor numbers. Picture: Simone De Peak

The Hunter’s brand has been bolstered, Mr Creedon said, by itsassociation with events such as football’s2015 Asian Cup and next year’sV8 Supercars Championship race in Newcastle.

The V8 race has become a flashpoint for some residents of the city’s East End who are angryabout the looming disruption and what they say has beenalack of consultation by Newcastle City Council.

But Mr Creedon, a vocal supporter of the race, said the success of 2017 as “a building year” for the Hunter’s tourism will hinge on a receptive approachfrom locals.

“With respect to Novocastrians, I think a lot of people have a lot to say in Newcastle without knowing what they’re talking about,” he said.

“I think we need to play the long game.”

Records have also tumbledat Newcastle Airport, whichoverhauled its passenger recordin a calendar year by November, moving 1.21 million people.

“October was our biggest ever month at the airport, and since November last year we’ve been growing every month by around the sixper cent mark. That’s twice the growth rate compared with Sydney Domestic [airport]’s business,” the airport’s chief executive Peter Cock said.

“It shows the strength of the Hunter tourism product. Just over a year ago we opened our new terminal, so I think people are giving us a go.”

TAKING OFF: After a record year at Newcastle Airport, chief executive Peter Cock says the best way to attract international flights is for locals to keep using the airport’s domestic services. Jonathan Carroll

The airport hasopenlycourtedcarriers forinternational routes to New Zealand and South EastAsia, though Dr Cock declined to predictwhether2017 wouldbe the year overseas-bound flights began taking offfromWilliamtown.

He said the most effective wayfor locals to unlock international routes –with a trans-Tasman service the most likely starter –is to flyfrom Newcastle whenever possible onthepresent carriers Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, FlyPelican and Rex.

“What I can do is promise to try andnotleave any stone unturned,” Dr Cock said.

“We’re trying to get into that virtuous cycle where people are using their local airport and airlines are putting flights where the numbers are.”

Maitland’s home for the aged Benhome is in the middle of an $18 million redevelopment.

An $18 million revamp is underway at Maitland’s home for the aged Benhome.

DIGGING DEEP: Benhome’s Director of Services Irene Gill, Site Manager Andre Bartley, and Benhome CEO Neil Sutherland. PICTURE: Jonathan Carroll.

Work started on the Regent Street site in April this year and is expected to be completed mid to late 2017.

Benhome CEO Neil Sutherland said the work involved the installation of on-site demountable buildings to accommodate a temporary kitchen, stores and staff amenities.

The new works will accommodate 45 additional residential aged care beds and an additional 14 replacement beds.On completion the new works will mean Benhome will be able to accommodate 121 permanent residents and close to 100 staff.

Mr Sutherland saidthe relocation of other services including physiotherapy, laundry, staff offices and maintenance department all needed to take place before half of the property was handed over to builderstodemolishbuildings that had become outdated for providing aged care.

He said the expansion will also incorporate a new function room and attached servery from the kitchen to seat 150 people. It will also have an operable wall for partitioning into two function areas including a chapel.

Builders will also work on anew main entry and reception area, new kitchen and laundry, new physiotherapy centre (gym), doctors’ consulting room, physiotherapy, dental and hairdressing clinics, a new men’s shed, emergency power generation room, maintenance department, additional 30 car parking spaces and two 23-person lifts.

Mr Sutherland said the expansion is a sign of the times withBenhome, like most other aged care facilities, experiencing lengthy waiting lists.“We do have a lengthy waiting list,” he said. “The disappointing aspect will be that for every place offered on completion, there will be three families for every place offered that will be disappointed.”

He said the expansion has meant many jobs during the construction phase and will result in additional positions being created in registered nursing, carers and hotel support service staff (catering, cleaning and kitchen), once the new buildings are commissioned.

Benhome is also hoping to significantly increase its home care services from February.

Fisheries officers net two men with illegal abalone catch

Fisheries officers nabbed two South West men fishing north of Margaret River, who had in their possession a combined total of 405 of the abalone in excess of the allowable daily bag limit. Two South West men are being investigated, with a view to prosecution, for alleged offences related to recreational abalone fishing off the coast, just north of Margaret River.
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The men, both aged 27from Busselton and Dunsborough, were apprehended by Fisheries and Marine Officers on Friday, December 16.

Acting compliance manager for the southern region Steve Embling said the men were returning to their vehicle after fishing for abalone, when first approached by the Fisheries officers.

The officersthen searched the men’s vehicle and located a total of 445 Roe’s abalone, which were concealed in the rear of the vehicle.

“The men told the Fisheries officers they had dived and caught the abalone and also claimed the abalone were for personal consumption,” Mr Embling said.

“Officers seized a combined total of 405 of the abalone in excess of the allowable daily bag limit that applies.

“Licensed recreational abalone fishers are limited to a maximum of 20 Roe’s abalone per day per fisher, in the Southern Zone fishery.

“Search warrants were executed on the homes of the two men at Busselton and Dunsborough but no further abalone was located. Investigations are continuing and charges are expected.”

Penalties can be severe for illegal fishing activity.

Proven recreational fishing offences can attract fines of up to $5,000 per person and any excess abalone involved would also attract an additional and mandatory penalty of $30 per abalone for each person found in possession of them.

Abalone is a highly sought-after shellfish, with strict rules to ensure that the stocks are not over exploited.

A number of other people have been apprehended in WA’s South West in the past few weeks with excess bag limit and undersize abalone.

A copy of theRecreational fishing for abalone guide 2016/17can be found on the Department of Fisheries website at梧桐夜网fish.wa.gov419论坛or at information outletsaround WA.

The guide has details of WA’sSouthern Zone for abalone fishing, which extends from the Busselton Jetty to the South Australian border and that zone is currently open for fishing every day, until the annual season closes on 15 May 2017.

Fisheries officers will continue to patrol and monitor fishing activity.

Licences are required for all abalone fishing and can be purchased from the department’s website.

As always, fishers are urged to consider their personal safety at all times and to not take risks.Safety tips for fishing in WA are available on the Fish and Survivewebsite.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Morning BuzzThursday, December 22

Regular unleaded petrol is the most popular type of fuel in Australia. Photo: Chris RatcliffeGoodmorning and welcome to the Morning Buzz for Thursday, December 22.
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It’s set to be a cloudy day with tops of 24 degrees across the Sydney region.

Traffic BuzzSEVEN HILLS:A truck breakdown is affecting traffic on Gibson Road from Old Windsor Road. The southbound lane is closed.

MOUNT KURING-GAI:There has been an accident involving a truck and pedestrian on the M1 Pacific Motorway (F3) near Church Street. The site has been cleared, but there are still heavy traffic conditions. City-bound motorists should expect significant delays.

News Buzz The 24-kilometre stretch of road from Parramatta Road, Concord, along the M4 to the M7 Westlink is the most dangerous place to drive in Australia. It is often the site of crashes such as the one pictured. Photo: Seven News

DANGEROUS ROAD: A 24-kilometre stretch of Sydney’s M4 Western Highway – the site of 788 crashes causing serious injuries and six deaths from 2010 to 2014 – is Australia’s most dangerous place to drive.

OUT OF GAS:Regular unleaded petrol – the most popular fuel choice among Australian motorists – would be completely phased out under a series of radical proposals by the Turnbull government.

FAMILY SPEAKS OUT:Most people would find it difficult to fathom how a person could bash a baby to death.The father of a man accused of carrying out such an act in Guildford West says he can’t either.

Mohammed Khazma’s father Joude, at home in Guildford West, said he does not condone the alleged actions of his son. Photo: Louise Kennerley

RECORDING HOUSING:A record number of homes built in Sydney over the past year is struggling to address the city’s housing affordability crisis, as the state and federal government remain at loggerheads over the best policy approach for addressing the problem.

BUCKING THE TREND:Five schools across Sydney are bucking the trend of Australia’s decline in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, leaping more than 10 places compared to their overall HSC ranking to become one of the state’s top 20 schools for STEM.

SHOPPING SPREE:More than 80,000 people, equivalent to the crowd at ANZ Stadium for the Sharks’ historic premiership win, are expected at Westfield Miranda today for the climax of the Christmas shopping spree.

EXPLOSION IN CANBERRA: A van reportedly carrying gas cylinders was driven into the Australian Christian Lobby headquarters in Canberra on Wednesday night, causing an explosion.

PETROL INCENTIVE:New cars could cost up to $2000 more under new environmental standards being considered by the Turnbull government, butmotorists could save more than $500 ayear on their petrol bills.

Petrol bills could fall but the cost of new cars could climb under any tightening of Australia’s fuel standards. Photo: Louis Douvis

TRANSPORT DERAILED:Rail transport through central Sydney was crippled on Tuesday night because of the failure of a bracket used to hold up power lines between Wynyard and Town Hall.

HURSTVILLE PROTEST: About 200 people have gathered outside the Hurstville Baptist Church in Dora Streetto protest the compulsory acquisition of the church by Georges River Council.

TAX CRACKDOWN:The Australian Tax Office has announced that 27 people have been chargedfor serious taxoffences in the last year, resulting in 23 jail sentences.

CHRISTMAS CHALLENGE: This Christmas, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is throwing down a challenge to households in NSW to create less waste.

FED UP:Telstra hasbeen accused of being a bullyby an 83-year-oldgrandfather whose protest resulted in the police being called to Wodonga Plaza.

Sports Buzz Leading men: The fitness and form of Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will be major considerations. Photo: Paul Kane

SOLDIERING ON:There are no plans to rest Australia’s pace aces Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood for the final two Tests of the summer despite their heavy workloads in Brisbane.

PANTHERS POUNCE ON WIN: Minor premiers the Penrith Panthers have claimed grand final glory in the 2016 NSW Wheelchair Rugby League (NSWWRL) season.

SONS OF LEGENDS: Will Sutherland, whose father James is the chief of Cricket Australia,is among a group of precocious youngsters progressing through the governing body’s pathways system.

CONTROVERSIAL FINISH:NSW premiership leader Brenton Avdulla can further Chris Waller’s hopes of a first Magic Millions success after stewards admitted they were hoping the state’s hottest jockeywon a controversial photo finish that prevented a serious charge at Warwick Farm on Wednesday.

Elite list rises for Carnival Series

Distance running events at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnival Series have received another boost with two more elite athletes added to the list.
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ADDITION: Elite Australian Jordan Williamsz will join Olympian Zoe Buckman at this year’s Carnival Series. Picture: Getty Images.

World Championship finalist Zoe Buckman and dual world relays bronze medalists JordanWilliamsz have both been confirmed torun a trio of races for the series.

The duo will first tackle the indoor mile at Launceston before backing it up with performances in the 800m event in Devonport and Burnie Mile on January 1.

Williamsz will be making his first carnivals appearance and the Victorian said he hadbeen keen to take to the grass.

“I ran at Stawell when I was younger, so I’ve had some experience, but I’m looking forward to doing it properly this time,” Williamsz said.

“I’m not too sure what to expect. I know it will be a great event and something I’ve been looking forward to.

“It will be great to race training partners like Ryan (Gregson), Gen (LaCaze), and Zoe on a level playing field; I guess some bragging rights may be on the line.”

The 24-year-old will start as the backmarker from scratch in the 800m, thanks to his personal best at the distance of 1:46.77.

He will also be the backmarker in the Launceston indoor mile and after years of racing on the college scene in the USA and he hopes his experience will come in handy.

“I think my experience indoors in the states will come in huge, that being said, a handicap changes the game immensely.”

Buckman isa two time Olympian and Australia’s fourth fastest ever at the 1500m distance and said she was excited for her first carnivals campaign.

“I actually don’t know what to expect, but it will be great to get in some hard efforts andpractice pace judgment.

“I’ve never raced in a professional handicap event, so it will be interesting.”

After making the semi-finals in the 1500m at the Rio Olympics, Buckman recordeda lifetime best at the distance of 4:03.22 at the Paris Diamond League meeting in August, before a third placing at the Mitchell Street Mile.

Buckman said she was pleased with her recent form in 2016 but hoped the upcoming Carnival Series would help her ahead of a new season.

“Running a PB after the Olympics was great, but championship results are where it really counts, so making the final would have been even better. But hopefully these races will kick start the new season.

“Training has been going great recently.

“I got an early start compared to previous years and had a good block at altitude in November which I’ve never done before.

”Am appreciative of having strong training partners like Gen Lacaze andEloise Wellings, as well as some new talent like Georgia Wassall.”

The field for the Launceston Indoor Mile has now been announced.

Handicaps for the event in Launceston willfollow closer to the event date.

The field is;Jordy Williams,Kale Adams,Deon Kenzie,Josh Harris,Pat Smith,Dylan Evans,Zoe Buckman,Jordan Tyler.

VISIT: Rio Olympian Zoe Buckman will compete in Tasmania. Picture: Getty

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Letters to the editor

TALENT POOL: Corowa golfer Marcus Fraser had top facilities to practice in as a junior and one Border Mail reader says it should be noted when considering the town’s pool.Transparency lackingRelative to “Security tender switch bombs” – page 3 The Border Mail – Tuesday, December 20.
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Tendering Guidelines for NSW Local Government unambiguously states that unethical or inappropriate conduct such as approaching councillors or council officers or intimidating behaviour, will result in a tender being disqualified.

That is not a maybe, but a will be.

It is clear the intent of the Guidelines and the Local Government Act is that local government decisions should not be influenced by lobbying.

I attended the council extraordinary meeting last Monday wherein not one councillor denied receiving emails from the tenderer or an associate.

Standing orders had been suspended, but it was a case of “silence of the lambs” wherein five councillors had an unrestrained chance to deny they had received emails, the crux of the rescission motion, or argue against the rescission motion.

I had decided earlier in the day to attend the council meeting to establish for myself the merits of the rescission motion so it was disappointing that they choose not to, yet as an accord they voted it down.

It absolutely lacks transparency for a councillor to move out of the chamber to make a defence to The Border Mail reporter five minutes after the meeting was closed. The councillor’s comments should have been made within the meeting where his views could have been debated.

Apart from any extenuating circumstances it is appears that councillors may well have awarded a $5.5m contract, having ignored a council recommendation, unlawfully and void because it was granted on a tender that per NSW Government issued tendering guidelines was disqualified. It also resulted in a cost to the public of $373,000.

It is of great concern that it is not apparent that a CBA (cost benefit analysis) had been used to bring back to a NPV (net present value) assessment the dollar advantage that the “awarded” tenderer held over its competition considering it was substantially more expensive.

Particularly so, because council decision making must be on merit and can’t be a case of last time a councillor’s vote was influenced to show support for a staff recommendation and this time there is a flip/flop, yet that was a question/accusation made at the extraordinary meeting and not answered.

Graeme Richardson, AlburyPool needed, not a puddleOne could go on and on about the pool plan in Corowa that sets the bar so low and aims to please so few. The 25m pool plan sends a message toyoung people and families that you are not considered or planned for by the merged council.

A 25m pool is for the seniors in town and leaves young people out of the picture and that message is a bad one by people there tolead and strengthen communities.

Young people need to be part of the community and see planning that stimulates healthy living and ambition and opportunity in their home town.We need a pool that is Olympic size, not a puddle for seniors. Council needs to plan for the future and families and the young now.

I wonder if Marcus Fraser would have stayed and played golf on a nine-hole, par-three course in Corowa and become a great golfer? Hehad a great course to hone his skillsand be a great example for Corowa and beyond. Marcus Fraser is an outstanding result for us all .

Money was allocated for the pool years ago and spent on the council offices in the old broke bowls club in the flood plain. Questionable I must say.

Move the Civic Bowls club to the golf club ASAP and make it all strong and viable with increased membership and renovate the indoor pool at the golf club. The golf club is a very important part of town and it needs some ways forward.

Gyll Anderson, CorowaThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Doh, a deer, a risk to you

PEST OR GOOD SPORT: Wild deer have become a bane for motorists
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REINDEER are welcome when they are flying overhead at this time of year, but deer on the ground continue to pose a serious threat to Kempsey motorists heading south toward Port Mcaquarie.

The Hastings Wild Deer Strategy came into effect in May,but it is still too early to assess the impact of the project.

The aim of the two-year strategy is to reduce the adverse impact of wild deer in the district south of Kempsey and to improve available resources to reduce their numbers. The third prong of the management program is to identifypriority areas to be addressed.

“It’s very difficult to ascertain whether the population of wild deer has been reduced as there hasn’t been any study to assess their numbers,” North Coast Local Land Services senior lands service officer Geoff LeMessurier said.

“The cost of doing such a study would be of great expense and very time consuming.”

Wild deer have been a concern in the districtsince the 1980s and as the Hastings region continues to develop, the negative impacts of wild deer have increased.

Deer are classified as a ‘game animal’ but the Natural Resource Commission of NSW submitted a report to the State Government in August recommending that the classification changes to ‘pest’.

Mr LeMessurier said a number of stakeholders are working together in an effort to reduce the number of wild deer in the area.

He said they are causing the biggest impact in peri-urban areas. The deer trample residential gardens, damage fences and walk on to roads.

Due to the size of the animal, Mr LeMessurier said they pose a big risk to people driving vehicles and there have been a number of collisions.

Mr LeMessurier said stakeholders were working on priority areas and culling in a manner that was safe and professional.

He said wild deer have proven themselves to be a successful invasive species and hard to control.

For culling methods,there are two options – shooting the animal or capture.

Mr LeMessurier saidany potential hunters are only allowed on land where there has been approved permission by the landholder and the appropriate steps have been taken to ensure the practice is safe and controlled.More research is being done on other methods of control.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

African breakthroughs to help Aussie wheat growers

Andrew Noble, ICARDA, talks agriculture with a group of farmers from the Nile Delta in Egypt.A RANGE of groundbreaking agricultural research and development work being conducted in Africa will help push sub-Saharan Africa towards food security, but may also have big benefits for Australian agriculture as well.
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Deputy director general of research at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) Andrew Noble said there had been some breakthroughs in wheat varieties with heat tolerance.

Varieties have been developed that are able to withstand heat shock at critical periods of development.

“We have varieties that can withstand temperatures up to four degrees Celsius hotter than previous lines, which is a massive advantage when planting in areas subject to heat at critical times during crop development.”

“It is a great thing for sub-Saharan Africa and will mean wheat will be able to be produced in non-traditional areas, such as in Sudan, where it will be able to be grown under irrigation,” he said.

Dr Noble said other crops, such as sorghum and millet, had traditionally been grown in many areas, but said preference was for wheat.

“The consumers want wheat products, there is $15 billion worth of wheat being sold to this part of Africa alone, so any improvements in production within the region would really help.”

However, he said the benefits of the research into heat tolerance would not just benefit Africa.

“Australian breeders are very interested in working with our material, with the high risk of spring heat stress in Australia it could have some real application there,” he said.

Researchers have identified heat shock as one of the major annual causes of yield losses in Australia.

Dr Noble said the material used in the heat tolerant lines primarily came out of Middle Eastern wheat landraces (wild relatives).

“There are 154,000 lines of landraces in the ICARDA gene bank so we have plenty of material to work with.”

The ICARDA team’s work is not the only exciting research and development being conducted in agriculture in Africa at present.

Kindie Tesfaye, a scientist with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is working on a project to transform and intensify crop production, with a similar overarching aim: to avoid over-reliance on imports and meet future food security needs.

Dr Tesfaye said there were major challenges in ensuring African farmers met food demand without excessive clearing, given population in the region is likely to grow 2.5 times by 2050.

He said an integrated approach was required to boost yields.

“Central to closing the yield gap is cropping system intensification, involving increasing productivity per unit area which requires better agronomy and better seeds,” he said.

“Mechanization can also play a role where it is most appropriate, for instance without putting many landless people who depend on farm employment out of work.”

African nations are acutely aware of the need for improvement in their food systems, with Dr Tesfaye saying the African Development Bank ranked self-sufficiency in agriculture as a principal goal of its action plan.

Dr Tesfaye said there was progress being made, with cereal yields in Ethiopia and Zambia growing quicker than population and demand, but added in the majority, population growth was outstripping productivity gains.

However, he is optimistic about dragging more African nations into positive productivity

“With improved cultivars, hybrid seeds, coupled with increased use of irrigation, fertilizers, modern pest management practices and good agronomy, it’s possible to achieve accelerated rates of yield gain,” he said.

Dr Noble said after the successful work in Sudan, trials were now underway growing wheat in dry parts of Niger and northern Nigeria.

“We got yields above 10 tonnes to the hectare on irrigation in Sudan, while in dryland environments such as those found in Zambia and Zimbabwe there were yields of around 6t/ha.”

The southern African nations have annual rainfall of 600-700mm making them wetter than the majority of the Australian cropping belt.

Dr Tesfaye said he believed irrigated cropping was only just taking off in Africa due to a lack of infrastructure.

“Africa has huge potential for irrigation farming but it is not yet exploited,” he said.

He said arid and summer active climate zones required the traditional crops of sorghum and millet to be the major crop.

“We recognise the poor nutritional quality of these crops and are looking to supplement them through crop diversification.”

“For example, cowpea, common bean and pigeon pea are complementary crops that thrive well where sorghum and millet are the dominant crops and can provide protein in the diet.”

He said incorporating legumes into the cropping system required agronomic know-how.

“Agronomy has to play a role here in terms of how these crops can be grown on the same field through intercropping and crop rotation systems.”

Dr Tesfaye said in other areas maize was increasingly in acreage, with solid improvements in yield due to the release of drought tolerant hybrid cultivars.

“This work has been a joint project between CIMMYT, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the national research systems in 13 African countries.

“It has been made possible through a generous and committed financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for over 10 years and is seeing small farmers get access to hybrid seed.

Dr Tesfaye said work post-farmgate was also required to improve food security.

“Storage is an important aspect of the agri-food system in Africa.”

“Most African countries suffer from post-harvest losses and targeted interventions in transport, storage and food processing losses will indeed contribute to feeding millions.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.