As a farmer, have you thought of farming carbon ever? Carbon farming is surprisingly profitable and can work alongside your current farming operation.
In this blog, we have discussed carbon farming and its benefits in Australia.
What is Carbon Farming?
Carbon farming, by simple definition, is the process of agricultural management that helps the land accumulate and store greenhouse gases instead of releasing them into the atmosphere.
Carbon sequestration is the key success of carbon farming, which is a naturally-occurring process where carbon is absorbed by the land and gets stored in the soil or gets converted to new vegetation. We are all aware the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a driving factor for climate change; therefore, limiting carbon release is the prime objective of carbon farming projects. These projects work toward avoiding carbon emissions and increasing carbon sequestration through changes in land management practices. Since carbon farming complements the existing farming operations, you need not worry about locking up or de-stocking.
Common Carbon Farming Methods
- Human-induced Regeneration Method: The most widely practised vegetation carbon projects undertaken by landholders across Australia are the Human-induced Regeneration (HIR) projects. These projects involve storing carbon in biomass and provide additional revenue. Some of the activities that can be implemented under human-induced regeneration are controlling grazing pressure, managing introduced, and non-native, plant species, and ceasing clearing regrowth.
- Soil Carbon Method: This is a land-based method designed to enhance the storage of carbon within agricultural soil. Soil carbon projects enhance soil health, fertility, and production. A study on the soil carbon method stated that “soil carbon or soil organic carbon (SOC) is the carbon stored in the soil as a component of soil organic matter, including plant and animal matter that are in various stages of decay. It is directly related to agricultural productivity as increased carbon stocks improve water holding capacity, nutrient availability, and soil fertility”.
- Reforestation and Afforestation Method: This type of farming method helps in permanent planting using forest species on previously cleared land. To measure carbon stocks, direct field measurement of trees to estimate carbon stocks is the preferred method.
- New Farm Forestry Plantations Method: Under this method, farmers focus on establishing agroforestry or permanent planting on their farms. Ensure that the area of land that you would be using for the farm forestry project has already been used for grazing or cropping for at least 5 years before you start the project.
- Plantation Forestry Method: For plantation forestry, you need to establish a new plantation forest on land with no plantation forest for about seven years, convert a short-rotation plantation to a long-rotation, and maintain a pre-existing plantation forest that was built under any other method but suits the needs of plantation forestry.
- Reforestation by Environmental or Mallee Plantings Method: This method is similar to the reforestation and afforestation method and involves planting and maintaining trees or shrubs in agricultural areas. However, the key difference between this method and the reforestation and afforestation method lies in how the carbon stocks are measured.
- Avoided Deforestation Method: This type of project focuses on protecting native forests by avoiding clearing forests for converting the lands for agricultural use. This is one of the best methods to avoid carbon emission and also helps in maintaining biodiversity, erosion, and salinity.
- Beef Herd Method: Methane, a greenhouse gas gets naturally emitted by cattle when they breathe, as a product of fermentation. Adopting improved management practices that boost productivity can minimise the amount of methane emitted per unit of production. This is also known as emission intensity. To reduce methane emission, improvements need to be made towards nutritional management of grazing cattle, enhancing reproductive performance, etc. This method is preferred by cattle grazing enterprises and is a cost-effective solution.
The first carbon farming initiative in Australia was introduced in 2011 through the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) where several land managers participated. Since then, carbon farming evolved in size and scope with around 100 million carbon credits awarded to successful projects under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). These projects implement methodologies that suit the location, farming practice, availability of land, and land-use history. Currently, there are about 1000 projects registered across all states and territories in Australia.
A report stated that “Queensland is well positioned to generate carbon credits through carbon farming. There are already over 250 carbon farming projects in the state operating under the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF)”. Also, the Queensland Government committed to reducing carbon emissions by at least 30% by 2030 and reaching zero net emission by 2050.
Benefits of Carbon Farming in Australia
There are numerous benefits of carbon farming for land managers, producers, communities and the environment.
Environmental benefits of carbon farming include:
- Restoring native flora’s diversity within the farm
- Enhancing the native wildlife quality and habitat size
- Enhancing water quality
- Putting a check on erosion, run-off, and river sedimentation
- Boosting soil health, water retention, and biological diversity both above and below ground.
On-farm benefits of carbon farming are:
- A stable and diversified income source
- Possibility to invest in on-farm infrastructure including fences, water points, etc.
- Control of feral animal populations
- Less grazing, erosion, or run-off
- Ability to withstand the impacts of drought and other extreme weather conditions
- The possibility of de-stocking before the drought
- Better animal health
- Better productivity due to enhanced water retention and soil health
Social benefits of carbon farming include:
- More employment opportunities
- Better scope of skill development
- The capability to invest back into the local community
Other than the aforementioned benefits, carbon farming, being an increasingly lucrative voluntary market, also provides financial benefits to the land managers in Australia.
If you are researching on the agriculture market online, browse through the official KG2 website, Australia’s largest independent farmer database. We use advanced Australian farm software to create and develop new and unique data products. Should you require more information on the Australian agriculture industry, get in touch with KG2- your unrivaled agribusiness data partner.