Action on the Ground

There has been a lot of talk of reducing carbon emissions in agriculture as a means of addressing climate change in recent years. This has extended to paying farmers, through carbon credits, to reduce their emissions or sequester carbon on their properties. What does this all mean? How is it done, who can do it and does it really work?

Reef Catchments is seeking to answer these questions for farmers in our region through an Action on the Ground Clean Energy Futures project funded by the Australian Government. “Managing carbon in the tropical environment is different to temperate climates so it is important that we conduct research here in our own region,” explained Will Higham, Reef Catchments Land and Water Operations Manager.

The project is being run with local independent agronomy business Farmacist who have established a number of trials across the region to better understand how management practices impact on organic carbon levels.  In some of these ‘on farm trials’ nitrous oxide emissions are being measured to determine the effects of various nitrogen input rates on soils with different soil properties.

Other trials are assessing the effects of tillage intensities on soil organic carbon levels and soil biology over time and comparing organic carbon levels in pasture and sugarcane production systems.  Measurements are also being undertaken to determine possible soil health improvements by incorporating compost tea and mill mud into seasonal nutrient programs. Two ‘Understanding Soils’ workshops were recently held in the Mackay and Proserpine regions. The aim of the workshops was to provide growers with a basic understanding of the interaction of soil physical and chemical properties on plant growth. One of the modules in the presentation emphasized the importance of managing organic carbon and its role in maintaining healthy a diversity of soil biology in our agricultural soils

“Under the current Carbon Farming initiative farmers can sell carbon credits for culling feral camels, upgrading piggeries to use co-gen technology and by undertaking long term tree planting projects. The only activity that is approved that could be relevant to our farmers is tree planting. We hope that with this research we can create new approved farming practices that will allow farmers in Mackay Whitsunday to eventually enter the carbon market,” said Mr Higham.

He added that, beyond carbon credits, the trials are helping to build our knowledge of farming practices that will have a positive effect on soil health and over all farm management.

For more information contact Reef Catchments on 07) 4968 4203.

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“Bill Blair is hoping to learn whether his zero till farming methods are improving his soil carbon levels”

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“The Action on the Ground research will look into the soil carbon benefits of mill mud application”

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