Project update – March 2021
What a different start we have had to 2021 than 2020, which was a year like no other in recent memory.
CSIRO Ginninderra, like many parts of our local region, has benefitted from a milder and wetter start, in stark contrast to last year when bushfires, smoke and hot temperatures were prevailing across large areas of the eastern states.
With the La Niña weather pattern influencing conditions, Ginninderra weather station recorded 169 mm of rain in January and February (42 mm above average) and maximum temperatures on site in the 20s or below for all of February and most of January. The maximum temperature recorded at Ginninderra across summer was 37.20C on 26 January.
Unlike past decades, there are no agricultural crops in the ground at Ginninderra to take advantage of these conditions, however the recently planted Blakely’s Red Gum provenance trials and community shrub plantings, in the box gum woodlands and dry forest areas, are reaping the benefits.
A legacy of benefits from agricultural research at Ginninderra continues for our farming sector with news like the recent Australian record NSW Canola crop, just one example.
After more than 60 years operation, 2021 will mark the final decommissioning of agricultural research at Ginninderra, as we take the next steps to prepare Ginninderra East for future sustainable urban development. As we have reported previously, CSIRO has moved the focus of its agricultural research to a state-of-the-art and digitally-enabled site – the Boorowa Agricultural Research Station – which was officially opened in November 2019.
While Ginninderra will farewell farming research, it will continue to host a range of exciting environmental and sustainability research which we will provide further updates about over coming months. Across the nation we continue to solve challenges through innovations such as recent advances in smart technology enabling Australians to live safely and independently at home for longer.
Moving forward in a COVID-safe and digitally-enabled way, our Ginninderra team is engaging with key experts and a number of Commonwealth and ACT agencies as we work through all of the environmental, heritage, infrastructure, land planning and site technical activities needed to realise the vision for a sustainable urban community.
Ginninderra trials helping Blakely’s Red Gum beat dieback
CSIRO is partnering with the ACT Government and Greening Australia to conduct provenance trials at Ginninderra to ensure the long-term survival of the iconic Blakely’s Red Gum.
One of the iconic eucalypt species of the open grassy woodlands of south eastern Australia is the Blakely’s Red Gum (Eucalyptus blakelyi). Found mainly in the tablelands areas of NSW and ACT, it grows to a height of 20-25 metres and features smooth white bark shed in large, irregular flakes leaving grey, white and red‑brown patches and with broad, grey-green leaves.
In the ACT and surrounding region, Blakely’s Red Gum trees are suffering a poorly understood condition known as dieback. This damaging process kills large, mature trees and can be spotted in the landscape as trees begin to lose their leaves and develop dead branches.
A major cause of dieback is attack from sap-sucking insects called psyllids. These are naturally occurring native insects and the damage they cause appears to be getting worse. Climate change and altered land management practices such as pasture improvement are suspected to be major contributors.
All this presents a challenge because, together with Yellow Box and White Box, Blakely’s Red Gum forms an important part of box-gum grassy woodlands, an endangered ecological community. This species also provides habitat for insects, bats and birds and flowers in winter, providing food during the cooler months.
Partnering with ACT government to find solutions
CSIRO is partnering with the ACT Government and Greening Australia to conduct trials supporting the long-term survival of this iconic species. CSIRO’s ecologists and scientists from Australian Tree Seed Centre and the ACT Government are carrying out these ‘provenance’ trials at CSIRO Ginninderra among three other sites.
“These trials will play an important part in gaining a better understanding of what is causing dieback of Blakely’s Redgum here in the ACT,” according to Luke Bulkeley, a Program Manager with the ACT Parks and Conservation Service.
“If we find resistant provenances or individual trees, we may be able to use these as the basis for resilient planting stock for future plantings.”
Provenance trials will compare the condition and survivability of Blakely’s Red Gum trees grown from seed collected from different places, according to Director of CSIRO’s Australian Tree Seed Centre, David Bush.
“In this trial at Ginninderra we’ve got trees from as far as Queensland and Victoria and of course we’ve got provenances from here in the ACT as well,” David says.
“The trials will show whether trees sourced from different locations vary in their growth, adaptation and resistance to insect attack.”
Seed for the trials has been sourced through the Australian Tree Seed Centre (ATSC) one of the National Research Collections managed by CSIRO. For more than 50 years, ATSC has been collecting, researching and supplying quality, fully documented tree seed to both domestic and overseas customers.
In the future, successful provenances of Blakely’s Red Gum could be planted in the ACT to help conserve this species and the woodlands it forms.
Watch the video to find out more and see footage of these beautiful trees.
These provenance trials are supported by ACT NRM, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
|David Bush, Director of the Australian Tree Seed Centre, CSIRO at the Ginninderra provenance trial.|
|Blakely’s Red Gum seedlings at Ginninderra include plants grown from seed collected from across Australia.|
Project update – September 2020
With wattles blooming and lambs relishing the green pastures – spring has arrived at Ginninderra.
After a horrendous hot, dry and bushfire smoke-filled summer, it’s encouraging to see the spring growth and green landscape that has emerged from good rainfall across autumn and winter. The signs of spring are all the more welcome after the extended impacts of COVID-19 across the country, and indeed the world.
We’re very happy to report the excellent growth and progress of the 5000 shrubs planted by community volunteers in the Box Gum Woodland and Dry Forest sites in 2017 and 2018. Some of these plots now feature shrubs towering over 3-4 metres and visible evidence of the return of native bird species.
Despite the unprecedented challenges associated with COVID-19, the Canberra hailstorm and bushfires, our team has been making steady progress on conservation activities as well as the preliminary planning for future urban use at Ginninderra.
On the far north of the site, near Wallaroo Road, a trial has been established to help support the survival of Blakely’s Red Gum, an iconic species of the Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands. With this species suffering from dieback, CSIRO and the ACT Government are partnering in provenance trials to compare the survivability of Blakely’s Red Gum trees grown from seed collected from different parts of Australia. Ginninderra is among four sites in the trials and seed is being provided by CSIRO’s Australian Tree Seed Centre.
As part of the grassland restoration trials in partnership with the Ginninderra Catchment Group, research activities are also continuing at the five sites on the Ginninderra property.
Our Project Team continues to work through preliminary planning, environmental and technical studies that will help to inform the proposed future sustainable development at Ginninderra East.
As part of this, CSIRO has also been meeting via teleconference with the relevant Commonwealth and ACT agencies to work through matters of traffic, infrastructure, environment and heritage.
Stay tuned to this website for further news about further activities and developments.
Shrubs sprouting and birds are back at planting sites
It only takes a few minutes among the community shrub plantings at Ginninderra to see and hear the transformation that is taking place across the Box Gum Grassy Woodlands and Dry Forest sites.
Following excellent autumn and winter rainfall, after a very dry and hot summer, a host of native shrubs are springing into blossom among the green canvas of spring at Ginninderra.
A thick layer of shrubs, some towering over 3-4 metres, can now be found across many of the plots where local residents and community volunteers planted around 3500 shrubs into two zones of the Box Gum Woodland in 2017.
Just as pleasing as this wall of vegetation is the visible and audible evidence of native birds, according to CSIRO ecologist, Jacqui Stol.
One of CSIRO’s key goals in running the community shrub planting days in 2017 and 2018 was to restore healthy biodiversity and habitat for native birds as well as insects, possums, gliders and reptiles in these areas of high conservation value.
“Once upon a time these woodlands had many naturally occurring groves of shrubs like these. It’s been wonderful to see the amount of growth from the tiny tubestock into a diverse patchy mosaic of flowering wattles and other shrubs and providing valuable wildlife habitat.”
On the ridge where community volunteers planted shrubs among the scribbly gums and Dry Forest trees in 2018, the hot and dry conditions of 2019 and last summer have had more of an impact on growth and survival rates. Nevertheless, there’s a good cover of shrubs in these plots beginning to create the understory habitat previously lost over years of European settlement and agricultural land use.
Volunteers from the local community planted 1500 shrubs into the Dry Forest zone making a total of 5000 shrubs across the two years of community plantings.
Across South-East Australia, the Box Gum Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands is classed as an endangered community, as only 10% of these remain, and only about 5% remain in good condition.
The community shrub plantings are part of a project to improve the health and quality of these woodlands in areas identified for future conservation on Canberra’s urban fringe.
|A wall of shrubs at the site of this 2017 planting|
|Ridge site of the Dry Forest planting in 2018|
|Hot and dry conditions in 2019 and over 2019/20 summer have had more of an impact on growth and survival rates for some of the 2018 plots|
Urban Living Labs enable greener, smarter, cleaner cities
New opportunities to demonstrate smarter, greener and cleaner cities are emerging through the ‘COVID reset’ and CSIRO’s first Urban Living Lab – a collaboration with developer, Celestino in Sydney Science Park west of the Sydney.
Temperatures in Western Sydney have intensified with recent hotter summers and Penrith City Council and other local government agencies engaging with CSIRO and Sydney Science Park to understand how urban greening can help mitigate this.
CSIRO Researcher Dr Simon Toze says, “We’ve measured a 5 to 8 degree difference between sensors under trees and those outside, in the sun. There’s also growing evidence that urban greening is good for our physical and mental health.
“But trees need water and nutrients. How we manage the need for water – for people, the environment, for growing trees, for everything else we need – is going to become critical.
“We can find much smarter ways of using water using AI (artificial intelligence). We could recover nutrients or other material from waste and put those back into trees and other infrastructure – a circular economy.
“Some of the waste can go to energy, not just combustion energy, but producing hydrogen.
“So you get this whole integrated approach – that’s where we’re hoping to start to take things. With COVID, we’re at that crossroads, where things like this can happen.”
Dr Toze hopes the COVID reset will include renewed interest in AI within the home, especially for managing appliance and energy use, not just for energy savings in the home, but to balance out peak loads in the grid.
“But people will need to see the social and the economic benefits first. That’s what we want the Urban Living Labs to demonstrate.”
Dr Toze also hopes to see fewer cars in post-COVID cities, from better design that brings home, work and services within walking or cycling distance for everyone – the ‘20- and 30-minute neighbourhoods’.
“We could start to change the structure and function of roads so they become greener and the road surface more porous. You’d have children able to play on the streets again.
“Another thing we’re looking at is the idea of community gardens. There are so many benefits, to do with health, exercise, food security, social capital, and so on. We hope to study it from an energy–water–circular economy perspective, involving citizen science.
“We’re fortunate with Sydney Science Park because it’s just starting to develop. We’re in the process of looking at what can we put into buildings – what technologies are already commercially available and others that are still not commercially available but are close to market.
“So we can plan, from the ground up, smart water systems, smart [hydrogen-based] energy systems, virtual power plants and so on. It will all be designed as part of the infrastructure.
“COVID is showing us a different way to move forward.
“One of the interesting things we’ve seen during the shutdown is how quickly the air quality has improved in a lot of cities around the world. There are cities in India where locals can see the Himalayas again after 40-50 years.
“To me this is proof that change is possible.”
* This week’s blog is an extract of the CSIRO Ecos article by Mary-Lou Considine.
|In the face of climate change and heat waves, the Darwin Living Lab looks to create a thriving, cooler tropical capital. (Image: Louise Denton)|
|Smart hydrogen based energy systems, smart water systems and virtual power plants will all be part of the infrastructure in future cities.|
Boorowa unlocks digitally-enabled farming future
A suite of digital technologies will help CSIRO drive the future of agriculture at its state-of-the-art Boorowa research station, officially opened in November.
Farmers, scientists, agronomists and the Boorowa community came together to celebrate the launch of Boorowa Agriculture Research Station, with an official opening ceremony, site tours, barbecue and activities for children, on November 9.
At CSIRO’s Boorowa Agricultural Research Station, drones, remote monitoring and advanced data analytics will provide scientists with unprecedented ways to precisely study crops and farming systems. The farm is equipped with 100 temperature and humidity probes, 72 soil moisture probes, and six weather stations to monitor experiments in crop science, agronomy and farming systems across its 290 hectares.
While we can marvel at some of the tech now available, this is also an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come. As Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO has been leading the way in agricultural research in the national capital region for almost 100 years.
Our first agricultural research site in Canberra was a 40-hectare site at Duntroon Farm which was leased in 1926 to study the nutrient value of different stock feeds. This site became Canberra Airport in the 1930s.
Then the Dickson Experiment Station became the hub of CSIRO’s agricultural research operating from 1940 to 1962 before the area was reclaimed for the modern day suburb of Dickson. Our agricultural research moved to Ginninderra Experiment Station from 1958 and has continued there for around 60 years.
It was at Ginninderra that we field-tested a range of high yielding and disease resistant wheat varieties such as Lawson, Paterson, Gordon, Tennant, Brennan and Dennis. We also refined our high-fibre BARLEYmax and ultra-low gluten Kebari® barley, among many other research breakthroughs and discoveries.
Now the mantle is being passed to Boorowa.
“With this new state-of-the-art facility, it’s exciting to imagine what we can achieve,” said Director of CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Dr Michiel van Lookeren Campagne.
“Our agriculture industries are facing major challenges, especially with the current drought,” he said. “It’s more important than ever to advance innovative science to build resilient agriculture systems and increase food production.”
At the Boorowa farm, CSIRO will be trialling new varieties of wheat, canola, legumes and pastures that can withstand warmer and drier conditions, such as those predicted for the future.
“We’ll also continue to research the best farming practices to manage our fragile soils and get the most from every drop of water.”
“The better we can understand how plants grow and produce in a real farming environment – not just the lab – the more we can help Australian agriculture meet its $100 billion target.”
The Boorowa research station is an $11.5 million infrastructure investment the future of Australian farming. It took four years to design and build and was developed with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Science and Industry Endowment Fund .
Crop trials at Boorowa Agriculture Research Station
Dr Michiel van Lookeren Campagne at the opening.
Farmers, scientists, local community and agricultural industry took part.
Boorowa station includes state-of the art technology and infrastructure.
Drone in flight at Boorowa.
Project update – August – October
In line with most of the Canberra region, CSIRO Ginninderra experienced one of the driest winters on record with just 51.2 mm of rainfall recorded between June and August at the CSIRO Ginninderra weather station.
Winter rainfall hasn’t been so low at Ginninderra since we established automated records from the site in 1993-1994. Average winter rainfall at Ginninderra in the years since 1994 has been 174 mm while in one standout year – 1998 – a massive 544 mm fell across the three winter months.
Despite the dry winter, a range of crop trials are proceeding and we’re pleased to report that the shrubs from the community tree plantings of 2017 and 2018 are predominantly alive and growing well. The wattles have been in bloom adding a golden tinge to areas of the site.
Across the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) ACT stations, rainfall totals for winter 2019 on the plains were mostly below 50 mm, at some sites the driest winter since 1982 or the driest winter on record.
The recorded rainfall for 2019 and recent years is consistent with a trend, reported by CSIRO and the BOM in the State of the Climate 2018. The report found a decline of around 11 per cent in April–October rainfall in the southeast of Australia since the late 1990s.
With further decreases in rainfall, and more hot days and heat waves predicted under climate change, CSIRO is investing research effort into making our cities and urban landscapes more resilient.
At Ginninderra we’ve been working with the Ginninderra Catchment Group and community volunteers to restore a shrub layer into the Box Gum Woodlands. Apart from strengthening these endangered communities and bringing back native birdlife, this is providing shade and heat buffering for nearby urban developments.
We were delighted to be able to host members of the Catchment Group onto CSIRO Ginninderra in September and visit various points of ecological and archaeological interest as well as the sites of projects that we are working on together.
In this update we are pleased to report on another exciting project – a collaboration with the ACT Government to bolster Blakely’s Red Gums and help our city and the Box Gum Woodlands adapt to the changing climate. CSIRO Ginninderra is one of several sites for trials to study how these Red Gums, sourced from different locations, will grow and mature under a changing climate and resist dieback.
From little things BIG things grow
From small beginnings, big things have been growing in the Ginninderra landscape and it all began about four years ago.
Towards the end of 2015, CSIRO ecologists from across Australia met to study the CSIRO Ginninderra site and to discuss plans for the protection and improvement of the site’s ecological values.
Several months later, a few of those scientists met with representatives of the Ginninderra Catchment Group (GCG) and considered ways we might work together to conserve and restore the important environmental assets and values identified through ecological surveys.
One of the key topics in those conversations was how to manage, protect and rehabilitate areas of endangered Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grassland that are present on CSIRO Ginninderra.
By April 2016, these initial discussions led to a programme for ecological burning, and resulted in the first autumn burns in the native grasslands at Ginninderra. This was part of a GCG-led project to study the effectiveness of four different treatments for the restoration of native grasslands. Five of the 15 trial sites within the Ginninderra catchment, are on CSIRO Ginninderra.
A further stage of that project, later in 2016, saw GCG, and Dr Ken Hodgkinson, a CSIRO Land and Water Fellow, as well as a growing army of volunteers, plant several thousand plants into these grassland trial sites. This work aimed to test the effectiveness of the different treatments in promoting recovery of native species like Nodding Chocolate Lily, Bulbine Lily, Billy Buttons and Common Everlasting.
Scroll forward to Autumn 2017, and CSIRO and GCG again partnered in the running of two community shrub planting days and in engaging the help of the Aboriginal Green Army. The combined planting efforts of these volunteers led to 3,500 new plants being added to the shrub layer and enticing native birds back to these patches of Box-Gum Grassy Woodland.
This collaboration was repeated at two planting days in 2018 with a host of volunteers planting 1500 dry forest shrub species across six plots near an area of old Scribbly Gum forest.
From the small shrubs planted in 2017 – large plants have now grown – some topping three metres. In addition to the excellent growth rates, the 2017 shrubs have recorded a 90% survival rate. The 2018 plants also have a good survival rate despite some prolonged dry spells.
With this history of collaboration, CSIRO was delighted to host GCG members on a site tour in September 2019 and to visit and report the progress of projects we are working on together.
As part of this visit, Ngunawal Elder, Wally Bell led a Welcome to Country and provided insights into, and interpretation of, Aboriginal use and heritage at Ginninderra. Ken Hodgkinson spoke about the grassland restoration trials and some of his early findings.
CSIRO ecologist Jacqui Stol led the discussions about the Halls Creek waterway, Box Gum Woodlands and Scribbly Gum forest ecology including, among other topics: recent Little Eagle movements and the progress of 2017 and 2018 community shrub plantings.
The group also had the opportunity to visit the site of upcoming trials to help Blakely’s Red Gum survive and adapt to a changing climate. This project, which is a collaboration with the ACT Government, will see around 800 Eucalyptus blakelyi Red Gum seedlings planted at CSIRO Ginninderra.
CSIRO looks forward to forming and growing the collaborations that will help to protect and improve the native ecology and develop the vision for urban sustainability at Ginninderra.
Ngunawal Elder Wall Bell (left) gave the Welcome to Country while Ken Hodgkinson (third left) spoke about this trial site for native grassland restoration
CSIRO ecologist Jacqui Stol pointing out features of the Ginninderra Landscape
From small seedlings in 2017, some of these shrubs in the Woodlands have grown to more than three metres in height
Powering-up EV on PV
A new CSIRO-developed solar charging system for electric vehicles (EVs) will relieve pressures on grid-fed charging stations and help advance the uptake of EVs powered by renewable energy.
With more EVs on Australian roads, demand for infrastructure is growing and placing stress on grid-powered charging stations especially during times of peak loads, such as on hot summer days.
To address this challenge, the Victorian Government provided funding to CSIRO, Nissan Australia and Delta Electronics to create a system that links solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery with smart charging technology.
CSIRO researchers helped to develop and test a new system which draws upon renewable energy to charge a vehicle at any time of day, and in any weather, with little impact to the electricity grid.
The charging system was developed with the Australian household in mind, overcoming challenges associated with EV charging, including managing temperatures on even the hottest days. The system incorporates a range of heat management strategies to ensure batteries are charged and discharged efficiently.
The technology also supports charging of multiple vehicles in areas with limited access to grid power – such as home garages and public carparks – where the charge rate would otherwise be limited.
Lead researcher from CSIRO’s Centre for Hybrid Energy Systems Dr Christopher Munnings said up to 90 per cent of EV charging was likely to take place in the home.
“A normal household battery system is typically not powerful enough to charge a car on a hot day as it can overheat and slow down,” Dr Munnings said. “We’ve devised a way to manage the temperature of the battery, minimising the amount of power required from the grid.
“In a multi-EV home, this system will automatically monitor each car, spreading the load between the battery, solar PV and the rest of the home.
“This means the cars charge as quickly as possible, using as much sun as possible, without the need to upgrade grid connection. This technology could accelerate the widespread rollout of EVs across the country.”
Three solar charging modules have been installed at Nissan Headquarters in Dandenong, Victoria each capable of charging four vehicles. They will be tested and evaluated over 200 days, including over the peak summer period.
Nissan Australia Managing Director Stephen Lester said: “Nissan is proud to partner with CSIRO and Delta Electronics to deliver this innovative trial and acknowledges the investment of the Victorian Government in supporting this project.”
Following the test period, project partners will evaluate data collected throughout the trial, with the intention of confirming associated environmental and cost benefits.
Find out more about the benefits of CSIRO’s Solar powered electric vehicle charging
CSIRO EV being charged at the smart solar EV charging station
Charging of multiple vehicles is possible in areas with limited access to grid power
Lead researcher from CSIRO’s Centre for Hybrid Energy Systems, Dr Christopher Munnings is plugged into all things ‘electric vehicles’.
Ginninderra shrubs Spring to life
A drizzly start to Spring, along with the significant rain this week, has provided welcome refreshment to the Ginninderra shrubs planted in partnership with the Ginninderra Catchment Group by more than 100 members of the local community, the Green Army and the Indigenous Green Army back in May 2017.
After careful monitoring by the CSIRO, we are delighted to report that 95% of the 3500 shrubs planted are thriving.
“This impressive survival rate is testament to the care our community volunteers took to follow planting instructions, and gives our shrubs the best possible start”, said CSIRO ecologist and planting day coordinator, Jacqui Stol.
To keep the vegetation safe and sound, all 13 of the planting sites have now been securely fenced to protect them from sheep and kangaroos on the property.
“We are also preparing for the warmer months by ensuring any weeds in the area are removed, since they would compete with our plants for water and nutrients.
Allowing shrubs to grow in the best possible conditions brings us closer to our ultimate objective – to create a safe habitat and foraging site for vulnerable woodland birds”, Jacqui said.
There is always more work to be done, and the CSIRO is continuing discussions with the Ginninderra Catchment Group to plan for future restoration activities.
Stay tuned for further opportunities to get involved or re-live the planting day with our video below!