Workshop explores Carbon farming initiatives
The Future Proofing Agriculture on Kangaroo Island Project got underway with a well-attended workshop in Parndana recently.
Supported by the KI NRM Board through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the project aims to help farmers adapt to a changing climate and changing consumer preferences.
Dr Amanda Schapel from Primary Industries & Regions South Australia (PIRSA) kicked off the session with a presentation on how the carbon cycle works and how soil organic carbon provides the food for microbes that in turn influences soil function and health that ultimately drives plant productivity.
“There is three times as much carbon stored in soils than in above ground vegetation, but we still have a lot more to learn about how long carbon stays in the soil and how different management practices impact that” said Dr Schapel.
Dr Schapel was able to use local examples of individual property sampling dating back to the 1990’s that showed an overall trend of increasing soil carbon levels over that time on those properties.
Dr Tim Wiley of Tierra Australia Pty Ltd went on to explain how the Carbon Farming Initiative, Emissions Reduction Fund and associated methodologies for brown carbon work.
“Approved management practices are a key element of carbon credit projects and they include practices such as soil amendment by delving or claying, applying lime and nutrients, and planting perennial pastures such as kikuyu” said Dr Wiley
“The approved management practice used on a project area must, however, be a new practice for that piece of land.”
While there is some data on soil carbon levels and sequestration rates for Kangaroo Island, more information is needed to inform farmers of where it is likely that they will achieve sequestration rates high enough to generate a profit from soil carbon credits.
One of the key concerns for farmers is the current method of deferring income for a number of years until follow up sampling is completed.
Mr Andy Gilfillan, one of the interested local farmers that hosted Dr Wiley on his property to investigate the feasibility of the scheme on KI, said that in some ways KI is ahead of the curve.
“As soils are the third largest carbon store on earth, Meat and Livestock Australia are aiming to have Australia’s meat industry carbon neutral by 2030.
“However, many Kangaroo Island farmers would already be carbon neutral and proper analysis may even indicate they are carbon negative as we have found reasonably high carbon levels across the island where soils have been tested.” said Mr Gilfillan.
The Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator at Natural Resources Kangaroo Island, Mr Damon Cusack, said that evaluation surveys undertaken before and after the workshop showed that the presentations were useful in building knowledge about several aspects of soil carbon and the Emissions Reduction Fund.
“Many participants placed a higher value on the importance of soil carbon for plant productivity, soil health and offsetting greenhouse emissions by the end of the evening” said Mr Cusack.
Senior Consultant with PIRSA, Ms Lyn Dohle, said that while more work is required to evaluate the potential for our soils to store more carbon, producing carbon credits may offer farmers another income stream.
“The key gain will be the increased productivity from increasing soil carbon with any income from carbon credits being the icing on the cake" said Ms Dohle.
Further information on the Future Proofing Agriculture on Kangaroo Island Project, soil carbon and future community workshops can be found here
As part of the wider Future Proofing Agriculture on KI project there is an additional event in Parndana.
Prof Richard Eckard, Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre at the University of Melbourne, will be presenting on the latest thinking and science on agricultural production under a changing climate.
He sits on science advisory panels for the Australian, New Zealand and UK governments on climate change research in agriculture and leads research programs in nitrogen efficiency, climate change mitigation and adaptation and whole farm systems modelling agricultural systems.
This will take place at the Parndana Bowling Club, 7.30 – 9pm (with question time), Thursday 28 February. Tea/coffee will be served.