Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tim Flannery supports soil carbon credits

Interview with Professor Tim Flannery
Reporter: Sally Sara
First Published: 11/02/2007

SALLY SARA: we've had a lot of talk in the past week about carbon trading, what sort of opportunities do you see there for farmers in Australia?

PROFESSOR TIM FLANNERY: Carbon trading represents one of the great opportunities for farmers in Australia. But what we really need in order to maximise that opportunity is some good government policy. We also need a proper accounting system for carbon. One of the great opportunities in Australia is sequestering or storing carbon in the soil, and unfortunately that carbon is not so readily visible and measurable. It would be a great help if the Federal Government put some effort into trying to develop a proper accountable scheme for measuring that carbon so we could take an opportunity for trade, because without that accountability no-one's going to pay to have their carbon sequestered.

SALLY SARA: Using the bush for carbon credits, does that mean locking up land? Some people fear that’s what it will mean.

PROFESSOR TIM FLANNERY: Not at all. What it means is a creation of a carbon bank on your farm, and that carbon bank may be in the soil. You may decide to sequester it through better management practice that enhances the fertility of your soil and the carbon that is locked up within it. You may decide to grow perennial vegetation rather than annual grasses that again sequester carbon in the longer term. But as the land owner you're in charge of that carbon bank and if you decide you want to fell some trees and sell the timber, that's fine you can do that but there will be less money in your carbon bank.

SALLY SARA: How do you go about storing the carbon underground?

PROFESSOR TIM FLANNERY: There's a number of ways that this can be done but essentially it's all to do with good management of your soil. If you're practising zero till or something like that where you're not disturbing the soil and now allowing any oxygen in get in to release the carbon, you’re storing carbon in the soil. Having deep-rooted plants helps restore carbon in the soil. If you're dealing with a forested situation, the leaf fall and then rots away again stores carbon in the soil. There is a number of ways of doing this, but the big problem is quantifying that. If I'm someone who wants to sequester my carbon in your soil, I want to know how much is being sequestered per hectare before I pay, and we need some basic research work done around that to enable us to quantify that and to make the whole system fully accountable, and that really is a role for Government.

SALLY SARA: Could that be a serious mainstream industry or part of industry?

PROFESSOR TIM FLANNERY: I think it will be a major industry world wide in future and whoever has access to broad acres will be very advantaged in that. The broad figures are that we can store enough carbon in the living biosphere, particularly in the tropics of our planet, to offset all of the carbon emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution. So that's a significant opportunity. It's very clear that we already have too much carbon in the air for climate stability, so I think in the future people will be looking increasingly to carbon storage in the biosphere and in our soils in order to deal with this emerging problem.

SALLY SARA: Professor Tim Flannery and Australian of the Year, thank you very much for joining us on Landline.


Monday, February 19, 2007

The Soil C Data Gap?

Why is the NSW DPI is conducting studies of soil carbon take up by soils under a range of pasture management practices? Why is the $246,000 project now seeking farmers who have paddocks with a known history suitable for inclusion in the study? We have a complete suite of Australian Greenhouse Office Technical Reports covering soil carbon uptake under different land management practices. Why are there several trials underway in different states, testing different combinations? The Australian Greenhouse Office is on record as saying: "Typically Australian soils have a poor capacity to store large quantities of carbon." Watch the word "typically".

NSW Farmers' ask the right question

NSW Farmers’ Association President Jock Laurie says the environment is shaping up to be the leading issue for the 2007 State Election and voters must know where the two major parties stand on carbon trading.

“The Association is calling on the Government to establish a carbon market that rewards farmers for using cropping, grazing and vegetation management practices that enhance carbon storage,” Mr Laurie said.

“Farmers can help Australia by storing carbon on their land, essentially pulling carbon from the atmosphere and storing carbon in the soil and in vegetation,” Mr Laurie said.

“Agriculture is the only sector to have made a significant contribution to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, with more than 40% reductions from 1990 levels. We would like to see the entire community support these and further reductions,” Mr Laurie said.

“We are calling for a carbon trading scheme with rules that encourage the major greenhouse polluters to purchase carbon credits from farmers. We want to see soil carbon included as a tradable carbon store at state, national and international levels,” Mr Laurie said.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"What everybody knows"

"A new idea is first condemned as ridiculous, and then dismissed as trivial until it finally becomes what everybody knows." So said William James.

Soil Carbon Credits is quickly becoming what everybody knows. The subject started as the private obsession of a few fringe lunatics, including Dr Christine Jones ("The Carbon Goddess") and John Lawrie (Soils Officer with the Central West Catchment Management Authority). They infected a small group of"carbon farmers" in the central west who launched the Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming and published The Soil Carbon Manifesto in February 2006.

The Manifesto stated:

Carbon Coalition is a group of concerned Australians who believe the globe is facing a crisis of CO2 overload leading to Global Warming and that one of the most effective strategies for locking up carbon in our atmosphere is to be found in fostering deep-rooted plant species on land used for agriculture.

We urge governments and the business community to acknowledge the role that agricultural soils can play in addressing the Global Warming crisis. Farmers can play a central role in sequestering carbon in their soils by fostering deep-rooted perennial plant species that have significant biomass in their root systems.

Soil biomass is a natural carbon sink and should be used to create carbon credits which can be traded alongside those currently traded for forests.

That was 12 months ago. Despite being ignored by the media and treated with suspicion by many - and large1y shunned by the scientific community - the cracks are appearing in the walls of Jerico:

The Cracks:

1. John Williams, Commissioner for Natural Resources in NSW, announces on ABC TV NSW Statewide (9/2/07) - see transcript on ABC site - that farmers should be paid $25/tonne for soil carbon.

2. After two separate breifing sessions with the C arbon CVoalition, 6 months apart, Jock Laurie (NSW Farmers) calls for the same thing on the same program. (These are the first public statements in support of our position.)

3. The Conservation Agriculture Association of Australia and NZ (covering all the no tillfarmers' associations) have been invited to sign an MOU with wholesaler/retailer Carbon Planet by their South Australian members.

4. The NSW CMAs plan to become soil carbon pool managers and brokers. It turns out the NSW DPI has been studying the potential since September 2006. (See point 2 under "NSW Government invests $2.5million in climate research" (21 September 2006) at

5. Landcare signed a deal with Carbon Traders to broker remnant vegetation on farms, and this will naturally morph into a soil carbon relationship.

6. The Carbon Coalition was consulted by Andrew Fraser, NSW National MP, shadow minister for forests etc. re soil carbon and he indicated his party would be taking it into the election as party platform.

7. The federal government is taking the time to attack us. (Always a good sign)

8. There is a race on between up to 10 project groups trying to crack the secret to measurement/monitoring/verification of soil C for trading.

9. The NSW DPI announced a $246,000 study of the role of pastures in locking up carbon under a range of management practices in central and southern NSW.

We have come a long way in 12 months, but we still have a long way to go.

A big thank you to all those people in positions of influence who stuck their necks out for a fair go for soil carbon credits. It's too early to identify you. You know who you are.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming
Activity Report
February 2006-February 2007

The following represents our attempts to put soil carbon credits on the naitonal agenda and protect the interests of farmers:

February, 2006 - Launched Carbon Coalition at Central West Conservation Farmers’ Association conference.

Established blog site – posted 127 reports in 365 days

Established web site – – collected 600 email contacts in 12 months

April, 2006 - Recruited Coalition Council members as advisory board: David Marsh, Rick Maurice, Col Seis, Angus Maurice.

Reguler press releases to national and rural media. Interviews with media.

April, 2006 - Gain support from Tim Flannery, Author, The Weather Makers

Add extensive “Library” of scientific papers and links to website and blogsite.

26 May, 2006 – Form alliance with Peter Andrews, Natural Sequence Farming

27 May, 2006 - Make presentation at Manning Landcare event, Gloucester NSW

2 June, 2006 - Brief NSW Farmers’ Association, Jock Laurie and David Ayrs, Sydney NSW

Write “Open Letter to Soil Scientists” for Australian Farm Journal

5 July, 2006 – Brief Central West delegation to NSW Farmers’ Association Conference, Wellington NSW

14 July, 2006 – Presentation for CWCMA at Mudgee Small Farm Field Day

19 July, 2006 – Make presentation to Baradine Landcare Group, Baradine, NSW

July, 2006 - Make presentation to Land Management Workshop, Cobar Field Day

15 August, 2006 - Brief National Farmers’ Federation, David Crombie and Dr Vanessa Findlay, Canberra ACT

2 September, 2006 – Make presentation to Gulgong Anglican Church Men’s Meeting, Gulgong NSW

USA 3 week fact finding mission
18/19 September: Washington DC – attend 2006 Global CO2 Cap-And-Trade Forum
21/22 September: Bozeman, Montana - Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership Phase 2 Project Management Plan Workshop
25 September: College Station, Texas - Professor Bruce McCarl, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University
27 September: Albuquerque, New Mexico - Peter Holter, Holistic Management International
28 September: Albuquerque, New Mexico - Southwest Carbon Sequestration Partnership Phase 2 Project Management Plan Workshop
29 September: Swanton, Vermont - Address Farmers' gathering organised by Coalition member Abe Collins from Vermont.
1 October: Columbus, Ohio - Professor Rattan Lal (or colleague), Ohio State University
3 October: Chicago, Illinois – Mike Walsh, SVP, Chicago Climate Exchange

Susan Capalbo, Director, Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership.
Pamela Tomski is Associate Director responsible for outreach and education, Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership.
Dave Brown, Technical Lead, Terrestrial Sequestration with Big Sky.
Michael Bowman, Director, 25:25, a movement that aims to have 25% of America's fuel needs supplied by farmers in 25 years.
Ted Dodge, Director, National Carbon Offsets Coalition which brokered the first carbon credits paid to US farmers In Montana and Kansas.
Professor Bruce McCarl of Texas A&M University, climate economist on the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.
Dr Rattan Lal, author of a small library of books and papers, co-author of many others, Professor of Soil Physics at the School of Natural Resources at Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio.
Dr Klause Lorenz, Senior Research Fellow, the School of Natural Resources at Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio.

Launched Carbon Coalition in USA - Abe Collins, Carbon Farmer and Convenor, Swanton, Vermont.

Attended and addressed 2 day Phase 2 Workshop in Albuqurque, New Mexico of the Southwest Regional Partnership.
Met with Head of Partnership, Dr Brian McPherson, from the New Mexico Institute of Technology in Socorro.
Met with Dr Joel Brown and Dr Jay Angerer, the 'soil carbon sequestration' experts with the Southwest Partnership.
Met with Peter Holter, Holistic Management International.

Secured first order for 25,000 acres Australian soil (till to no till) from CCX.

23 October, 2006 – Make presentation to Kingaroy Carbon Forum, Kingaroy QLD

Submission to Commonwealth Minister for Environment, Sen. Ian Campbell via Parliamentary Secretary Greg Hunt, MP.

Coordinated 8-farm application for CWCMA Round 5 funding for carbon farming soil trials.

4 November, 2006 - Attended the “WALK AGAINST WARMING”, the International Day of Action on Climate Change on Saturday, Sydney NSW

4 November, 2006 - Briefed Federal Shadow Minister for Environment, Anthony Albanese MP

13 November, 2006 – meet with NSW President Soil Science Society re peer reviewed data for CCX and Summit of scientists and Practitioners

25 November, 2006 – Make presentation to Cobar/Nyngan Landcare group

11 December, 2006 – attend National Emissions Trading Summit, Sydney NSW

29 December, 2006 - Submissions (2) to National Emissions Trading Scheme Inquiry, Sydney NSW

Second Submission to Commonwealth Minister for Environment, Sen. Ian Campbell

22/23 November, 2006 - Speak at 2006 National Carbon Forum Canberra ACT

Organising Summit between Soil Scientists and Practitioners (March 2007)

Briefed Tony Windsor, MP, Canberra ACT (subsequently asks PM a question in Parliament)

13 December, 2006 - Briefed NSW Premier’s Advisory Panel on Climate Change, Sydney NSW

19 December, 2006 - Briefed NSW Farmers’ Asociation’s Jock Laurie. Subsequently calls for soil carbon credits.

Briefed NSW National Party MPs responsible for natural resources management election platform, Sydney NSW

Stand for NSW Legislative Council elections for Climate Change Coalition as soil carbon advocate.

Presented at Managing Under Changed Climactic Conditions Conference, Bathurst NSW

9 February, 2007 - Address South Australian No Till Farmers’ Association, Tanunda, SA

13 February, 2007 – Met with Peter Holter and Judy Earl, Holistic Management International

14 February, 2007 - Briefed NSW Department of Primary Industries Farm Management Climate Change Risk Management Steering Committee, Orange NSW

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Carbon Coalition to launch a farmers' soil carbon trading arm

We believe farmers who grow soil carbon should get full value for their work. That's why we are structuring a company which will buy and sell Soil Carbon Credits on the voluntary and mandatory, wholesale and retail markets to corporates and consumers. It will also trade in other carbon offsets such as renewable energy projects,. etc. This will not be a vehicle for wealthy investors and merchant bankers, but the shareholders will be the farmers selling and the corporates and consumers buying the SCCs. This gives the people who made the market possible the opportunity to be rewarded for that. As well, it gives them access to trading on the broader market, something most farmers wouldn't normally do. This will build a legacy for them when soil carbon saturates on their land. The Carbon Coalition set out to achieve a market to change the fortunes of the family farm. Now the time is near. Carbon Farmers™, the future is yours. The time to sign up is now. Please register as a grower or buyer at

Soil Carbon Credits at $25, says NSW Commissioner NR

On 9/2/07 ABC TV's Stateline program broadcast a dramatic breakthrough for the cause of soil carbon credits for Australian farmers.

Statelikne anchorman Quentin Dempster announced the following: "Carbon trading can provide a new long term revenue stream for rural landholders and represents a paradigm shift for agriculture and land management here and globally. Instead of fighting the environment movement, the farmers and landowners could earn $25 per tonne for carbon dioxide stored in soil, plants and trees, native vegetation and sustainable cropping techniques, and that is a conservative estimate, according to former CSIRO chief scientist, Dr John Williams, who is now the Commissioner for Natural Resources in New South Wales. John Williams is the Commissioner for Natural Resources in New South Wales."

Dr WIlliams said this: "Agriculture is able, through photosynthesis, the taking of carbon out of the air and fixing it in a plant, and the plant root depositing it in the soil, along with the soil organisms over time - can build up quite large stores of carbon. In fact, 75 per cent of the carbon stored on land is stored in soil. Now, farmers can manage the storage of carbon not only in the soil but also in the vegetation, in the managing native vegetation or other forms of vegetation - can store carbon, which is an important part of managing our way forward in climate change. So farmers have a great opportunity.

"The way they can get an income from this is because, if we go, as believe we will, to a carbon trading or carbon tax system, it means that someone who is emitting carbon into the atmosphere can actually buy from the farmer carbon that is stored, to make up for the carbon they have emitted.

"It is [a new paradigm], when we look at farmers who are trading in decreasing terms of trade, that is, they’re paying more for the inputs for their product and getting less for their product. Yet, society is expecting from them to maintain, beyond their duty of care, the vegetation and the soils and the land that we all benefit from functioning properly as an ecosystem. So we have moved to a stage of saying, “Well, those ecosystem services, all the things that farmers do that we, you and I, benefit from, are currently taken but not paid for.”

Jock Laurie, President of the NSW Farmers' Association, came out publicly in support of the Coalition's position:
"The opportunity for us to sequest carbon, to put it into soil, to store it for the future is exactly what we're talking about. We have got the ability to do it... We want [state and national governments] to be very aware that we are and will be a major component in any trading system when it comes to carbon trading, and it is vitally important that we are involved in the whole process and they acknowledge what we are doing and obviously get paid for what we are doing.

"Certainly around the world there are cabin trading systems being looked and put in place at the moment. Agriculture and the massive land mass that Australia has - in New South Wales, which is about 80 per cent of the state - we look after, agriculture look after, so the opportunities there are absolutely fantastic and ourselves as an industry would be silly just to sit back now and not take advantage of that."

Then there followed this interchange:

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: All the farmers watching this will want to know how much.

JOHN WILLIAMS: Well, how much is the issue and it is just emerging, but at the moment the current price for a tonne of carbon is about $25, and the EEC system – we’ll have to trade carbon internationally, not just nationally. A tonne of carbon can be fixed over a 10 15 year period quite readily in current ago agricultural methodology in Australia.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: That is potentially $25 per tonne of stored carbon, the equivalent of one or two hectares of vegetated land per 10 year period. So we are talking about a consistent revenue stream.

JOHN WILLIAMS: A consistent revenue stream for managing soil and the soil carbon and the vegetation carbon, so that we can actually address the climate change problem.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Up about $25 per tonne over a 10 year period?

JOHN WILLIAMS: That's right. That's a minimalist figure, but, until we know more, that's at least not raising hopes beyond what is realistic.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: So it is a conservative estimate but it should be fixed in everybody's mind that that is what the future holds?

JOHN WILLIAMS: That’s what the future holds and, I think, as we go on in future, we’ll find an ability to – as farmers are very innovative, we will find ways in Australian circumstances of increasing the amount of carbon they can store in soil and managing it that way. At the same time I think the price for carbon will increase over time.

JOCK LAURIE: Certainly in this position I have become very aware of it over the last 12 to 18 months, but, prior to that, working on the land and being involved on the land about 30 years myself, I think we all spend so much time working with soils, making sure that we keep good soil strength, good soil textures there available and good grass cover. And what we didn’t realise in lots of ways, I think, was that we are actually doing what people are talking about, we’re actually storing carbon, but we have the ability to actually do better than that by changing some of the work practices, some of the farming practices that people are using, to be able to store more carbon.

That’s the issue we’re at now. We are asking people to do something in the community. Let's develop this system, and, once we develop the system, then we can really start getting some money back into the areas it needs to be.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Even though the United States has not signed the Kyoto Protocol, Dr Williams says some North American farmers are already trading their ecosystem, or carbon storage services, on a Chicago exchange. Here, Landcare and Greening Australia are rapidly moving to organise a trading exchange for carbon farming in Australia.

JOHN WILLIAMS: We need to be alert to it, that the Americans are on the front foot, and we need to be in the game.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

SANTFA's brave plan for new climate

The South Australian No Till Farmers' Association has come up with an innovative plan for policing standards for soil carbon credits and other "environmental" payments and finance. Brainchild on SANTFA's recently-appointed Research & Development Manager Greg Butler, the scheme links together auditing for carbon credits, government environmental incentives, and favourable finance terms from banks. The plan will cover all Australian farmers and will be conducted by the Conservation Agricultural Association of Australia and New Zealand, the peak body of the Australasian no till cropping movement. The Carbon Coalition applauds Greg's vision and endorses such an industry-wide approach. SANTFA's plan was developed after consultations with the Carbon Coalition. We will report more details of this exciting development as they come to hand.

What is the potential value of soil carbon to farmers?

Soil carbon credits represent a big additional re venue opportunity for some farmers, according to this exerpt from
Dr Christine Jones' paper "Aggregate or aggravate? Creating soil carbon" (YLAD Living Soils Seminars: Eurongilly - 14 February, Young - 15 February 2006)


Soil carbon content is usually expressed as either a concentration (%) or a stock (t/ha). Unless the depth of measurement and soil bulk density parameters are known, it is not possible to accurately convert from one unit of measurement to the other.

For the sake of illustration however, some simple assumptions can be made. Changes in the stock of soil carbon (t/ha) for each 1% change in measured organic carbon (OC) status for a range of soil bulk densities and measurement depths are shown in Table 1. Numbers in brackets represent tCO2 equivalent. An explanation of these terms follows.

Soil bulk density (g/cm3) is the dry weight (g) of one cubic centimetre (cm3) of soil. The higher the bulk density the more compact the soil. Generally, soils of low bulk density are well structured and have ‘more space than stuff’. The lower the bulk density the more room for air and water and the better the conditions for soil life and nutrient cycling. Bulk density usually increases with soil depth. To simplify the table it was assumed that soil bulk density did not change with depth

CO2 equivalent. Every tonne of carbon lost from soil adds 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas to the atmosphere. Conversely, every 1 t/ha increase in soil organic carbon represents 3.67 tonnes of CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere and removed from the greenhouse gas equation.

For example, from TABLE 1 we can see that a 1% increase in organic carbon in the top 20 cm of soil with a bulk density of 1.2 g/cm3 represents a 24 t/ha increase in soil OC which equates to 88 t/ha of CO2 sequestered.

TABLE 1. Changes in the stock of soil carbon (tC/ha) for each 1% change in measured organic carbon (OC) status for a range of soil bulk densities and measurement depths. Numbers in brackets represent tCO2 equivalent.

Value of soil carbon. Sequestered carbon is a tradeable commodity. It has different values in different markets and the price is subject to market fluctuation. If the CO2 equivalent in the above example was worth $15/t, the value of sequestered soil carbon in ‘carbon credits’ would be $1,056/ha. If the soil carbon concentration was increased by 1% to a depth of 30cm rather than to 20 cm, this would represent 132 t/ha sequestered CO2 at a value of $1,980/ha.

If organic carbon concentrations were increased by 2% to a depth of 30 cm in the same example, this would represent $3,960/ha, that is, almost $400,000 in ‘carbon credits’ per 100 ha of regenerated land. These levels of increase in soil carbon are achievable, and have already been achieved, by landholders practicing regenerative cropping and grazing practices.

Even if organic carbon levels were only increased by 0.5% in the top 10 cm of soil this would represent 22 t/ha sequestered CO2 valued at $33,000 per 100 ha regenerated land (assuming a soil bulk density of 1.2 g/cm3 and a price of $15/t CO2 equivalent).

Carbon credits for sequestered carbon are not an annual payment. In order to receive further credits, the level of soil carbon would need to be further increased. It is also important that the OC level for which payment was received is maintained.

This is not difficult with regenerative regimes in which new topsoil is being formed. Biological activity is concentrated in the top 10cm of most agricultural soils, but regenerative practices rapidly expand this activity zone to 30 cm and deeper. Many benefits in addition to potential carbon credits accrue to increased root biomass and increased levels of biological activity in soil.

The majority of Australian soils have lost enormous quantities of organic carbon and this process needs to be reversed. What has gone up must come down. Soils, plants, animals and people will benefit when we take ‘recycle and re-use’ to the next logical step and recycle the excess carbon currently in the atmosphere.

Farmers to be robbed again?

Australian farmers have been robbed of carbon credits to the tune of AUD$10.8 billion to date and it looks like the Commonwealth Government is set to rob them of billions more, says Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming convenor Michael Kiely.

Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Accounts show that farmers, by reducing land clearing rates since 1990, offset significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions, the conservative value of these reductions is $10.8 billion in credits, according to the Australasian Emissions Trading Forum. “But Federal Government policy prevented farmers converting these reductions into tradable credits.”

And there’s more to come. “The words Peter McGauran used recently are ominous, when he was hosing down farmers’ expectations of getting paid for storing carbon in their soil,” says Mr Kiely. “The fix is on.”

“Farmers will be locked out of the upside of emissions trading, but they’ll be given a seat at the table when it comes time to pay, no doubt.” Farmers are big emitters of greenhouse gases, emitting CO2 when they plough or lime a paddock, nitrous oxide when they spread super, and methane from livestock.
“Agriculture is the second biggest emitter and the biggest emitter, the power companies, are demanding that agriculture be included when the big stick comes out.”
“Under such a system farmers will have to pay to plough, pay to fertilise, pay to graze.”
Farm Online reported on 7/2/2007: "The push for the Federal Government to set up a carbon emissions trading scheme is unlikely to help farmers earn an extra dollar." The Government's discussion paper on the potential for Australia’s participation in a carbon trading scheme.

The pape does not specifically address agriculture’s needs has brought criticism from National Farmers Federation president, David Crombie. "We're not impressed that we weren't involved - agriculture has earned a seat at the table,” Mr Crombie said. Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Vaile, "reassured" the rural sector that their interests will be taken care of by the Government.

We now know what being 'taken care of' means: Agriculture Minister, Peter McGauran, warns that farmers should not expect much from a carbon emissions trading scheme. "There's considerable hope in the sector at the moment that there could be money for farmers trading greenhouse credits – the value of carbon stored on their properties. We've currently got a trial going with Landcare to see how effective it might be. But the likelihood is it's not going to be massive. It's difficult to measure carbon stored at farm levels."

The tell tale sign that farmers are going to be robbed is the old chestnut ‘soil carbon is difficult to measure’. It’s quite the reverse. Scientists can measure it so well they insist on degrees of precision that make it impossible to proceed. The amounts of carbon held in trees is estimated on broad averages, but not soil carbon. America’s senior soil scientists are speaking out against this.

The second tell tale sign is the other chestnut: Australia’s soils can’t sequester much carbon. This has become holy writ among scientists who advise the government, and a huge joke among their peers. To make such generalizations about our soils is astonishing.

The levels of ignorance within the current government are to be understood against the background that its members have not had to deal with carbon issues, Australia having been excluded from the field by its own choice.

The ignorance of soil carbon dynamics under regenerative land management methods is plain for all to see. No Til cropping gets a mention, but it is a relatively low level carbon technique on its own. No Til largely stops the emission of CO2 from turning over the soil. It’s ability to increase soil carbon significantly on its own is limited.

Carbon farmers use a whole suite of techniques to get biological activity going in the topsoil, which is the engine-room of carbon manufacturing. Carbon farming has never been put to the test by scientists. It faces the same skepticism that Peter Andrews Natural sequence Farming faced until recently.

The fixation of the Federal Government on “Clean Coal” and Nuclear solutions and the fixation of the Greens on solar and wind proves few on either side understand the reality of climate change. None of these solutions will remove one tonne of the existing load of CO2 that is driving the world’s temperature up through the critical levels.”

Only soil and trees can do that. And there is not enough space on earth to plant enough trees to do the job in the time we have left to avoid the worst. Agricultural soils cover 65% of the earth’s landmass. It’s available, economical, and easy to mobilize… all it takes is for farmers to change their way of farming. And why should they do that? Soil carbon credits.


Carbon Farming is not a new practice. It is a new way to describe a collection of techniques which can increase soil organic carbon in agricultural land.

There are many benefits linked to increases in soil carbon:

• Higher fertility and production of vegetation
• More secure soil structure
• Better usage of available water
• Reduced levels of evaporation
• Reduced hard panning of surface
• Reduced salination (salt scalding)
• Reduced loss of top soil to erosion
• Reduced silting on waterways
• Higher species diversity
• Higher ecological resistance to disease

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Increased soil carbon also has the effect of absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. Soil can absord vast amounts of carbon. It has been estimated by soil carbon specialists that close to many tonnes of CO2 can be absorbed in a single hectare with only a 1% increase in soil carbon in the top 30cm. An increase of 2% would double the amount of CO2 absorbed. “These levels of increase in soil carbon are achievable, and have already been achieved, by landholders practicing regenerative cropping and grazing practices,” says Dr Christine Jones.

The key to increasing soil carbon is biological activity in top soil. Soil carbon is created by bugs and microbes living and dying. They do a lot of living and dying when there is a lot of root action in the soil – vigorous growth and regular decaying of rootmass. Roots that are continually reaching down deep into the soil and then dying back and retreating. Their rotting remnants feed the microbes which produce the soil organic carbon.

Land management practices that encourage biological activity in soil include the following:

100% groundcover 100% of the time - This is a Carbon Farmer’s goal. Soil covered by plants cannot be blown or washed away. It is cooler and more attractive to microbes than if it was exposed to the sun. Therefore over-grazing (“flogging the land”, in Australian parlance) and burning grasses and stubble and ploughing are anti-carbon growing actions. In fact, they release tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. These practices, along with clearing native vegetation, have put Agriculture in 2nd place, behind coal-burning power stations, as the biggest source of Australia’s Greenhouse Gas emissions.

Grazing management – Stock are concentrated in small paddocks for short periods (days) so that they graze evenly and at the same time ‘til’ the soil with their hooves, stomping old grass and manure into it. The plants are then left to grow a full head of foliage so that their roots go down as far as possible into the soil. When they are grazed, the roots die back upwards in proportion to how much of the foliage was eaten. Overgrazing can cause the roots to shrink so short they struggle to get started again. So short grazing periods and long periods of rest are best.

No til cropping – Ploughing disturbs the microbes and dries out the soil. It also releases tonnes of CO2 per hectare. ‘No til’ techniques sow the seed in the top soil without tearing off the existing foliage or applying herbicides which are also bad for microbes. There are several no til techniques, including “Pasture Cropping” and “Advanced Sowing”. The one ‘direct drills’ the seed into pasture while the other slices a line through the pasture and inserts the seed. The crop grows up above the pasture and can be harvested or grazed. The pasture usually thickens and grows more vigorously after such treatment.

Mulching – This takes two forms: 1. Covering bare earth with hay or dead vegetation. This protects the soil from the sun, cools it, and attracts soil-producing microbes. It also holds water where it can be used instead of letting it run off immediately. 2. Cutting down and dessicating tall, dead plants and thistles to form a layer of litter on the soil and allow the sun to penetrate and foster plant growth. Gardeners know the value of mulching.

Water management systems – Water is essential to the carbon growing process. Several systems have emerged for maximising us of water that falls on a farm. Two names are prominent: Natural Sequence Farming (NSF) and Yeoman’s Keyline System. NSF slows the flow of water through the landscape by returning enroded gulleys and creeks to swampy meadows and chains of ponds that they were when white settlers arrived. The water stays long enough to make more grass and plants grow, rather than rushing down widening gullies carrying the topsoil away. NSF is based on the natural topography of the land. So is Keyline planning. It uses the shape of the land to determine the layout and position of farm dams, irrigation areas, roads, fences, farm buildings and tree lines. Both methods increase soil fertility and carbon.

Biodynamics – This is a method of treating soil, based on the theories of mystic and theorist Rudolf Steiner. He postulated that vital forces or energies flowed throughout the universe and that these can be harnessed to increase plant growth. Biodynamics adopts a homeopathic approach to preparing natural fertiliser and times activities to align with cycles of the moon and the stars. Many ordinary, sober farmers report great results with biodynamic preparations.

Biological Farming – This is the umbrella term for the use of natural compounds to stimulate biological activity in the soil. These compounds range from compost teas (concocted after an analysis of the soil for deficiencies), worm ‘juice’ (active enzymes created from worm castings), Biosolids (human effluent which needs to be plowed into the soil for hygene and odour reasons - not a favourite of carbon farmers), Nitrohumus (treated human effluent, needs no ploughing) etc.

Composting - This largely involves breaking down manure into a rich humus ready to spread on the fields. There is also a growing movement for recycling green wastes from cities for use on agricultural lands.

Trees – Trees scattered across grasslands provide shelter for stock and wildlife and also have the effect of causing the soil adjacent to be richer in carbon. They can also assist in the management of water movement.

Rules of Carbon Farming

The following are the ‘rules’ of carbon farming:

1. There are no rules. Every farm is different. Ever farmer is different. Whatever path you take to increasing soil carbon is right, because it increases soil carbon.

2. There can only be suggestions.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

10 Fundamental Facts About Climate Change Politicians and Media Don’t Understand

10 Fundamental Facts About Climate Change Politicians and Media Don’t Understand

MICHAEL KIELY, Woolgrower and Carbon Consultant, and Candidate for CLIMATE CHANGE COALITION in NSW Elections for Legislative Council says there are 10 Fundamental Facts About Climate Change which are not understood by politicians or the media:

1. Most of the responses to Climate Change being considered will not stop the global mean temperature rising through the critical levels.

2. If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere to cause climate chaos. It is the ‘legacy load’ of 200 years of industrial emissions.

3. The Prime Minister’s favoured options of “Clean Coal” and nuclear power cannot capture existing CO2 in the atmosphere. They can only prevent future emissions.

4. The Greens’ favoured options of solar and wind power cannot capture existing CO2 in the atmosphere. They can only prevent future emissions.

5. Forests can absorb legacy load CO2, but there is not enough space on earth to plant enough trees to absorb the world’s emissions. We would need 7 planets.

6. Soil is the largest carbon “sink” over which we have control. It holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere and twice as much as all the vegetation on earth, including forests.

7. 60% of the earth’s surface is used for agriculture. This soil can remove more CO2 from the atmosphere faster, sooner, and more economically than trees or any other method.

8. Simple changes in land management can immediately start the process of CO2 removal. These changes can be made immediately if farmers are paid carbon credits at the prices traded on the European Climate Exchange.

9. A 1% increase in soil carbon in 10% of Australia’s agricultural soils would remove 10 years’ legacy load of the nation’s emissions.

10. The land management tools for increasing soil carbon also restore the land, prevent erosion and salination, improve biodiversity, and increase productivity. They are also the most effective means of coping with reduced rainfall and higher temperatures due to Climate Change.

Protecting the Family Farm – Soil Carbon Credits

Michael Kiely says: “I am not a politician. I didn’t enter this fight to save the environment. I stand for the Australian family farm. It is a key source of community. It is an important source of what it means to be Australian. It is a foundation stone of our national identity.

“Soil Carbon Credits offer farm families a revenue stream that will last long enough to restore the natural resource base on which their livelihood depends.

“Soil Carbon Credits protects rural communities from the reduction of demand for local services when adjacent family farms are bought up by city-based investors in CO2 ‘tree farm plantations’ (aka. Forests) and families are removed from local schools, medical servicse, retail outlets, etc.

““Soil Carbon Credits will give the much maligned farm sector a lead role in the global climate crisis.

“They are one way that city people can help country people. Better than a hand out or a government payment for environmental services, which farmers see as little more than work for the dole.”


Michael Kiely is a woolgrower from the Wellington district of NSW and Convenor of the Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming, a farmers’ and citizens’ movement which aims to have soil carbon recognised as a major solution to Climate Change. He is also the principal of CarbonCredited™Brands, a service which helps corporations become carbon neutral while taking their stakeholders on the journey. He is also principal of Carbon•Farmers™, a company that aggregates and sells soil carbon credits. These companies provide funding for Carbon Coalition operations. Michael has been a regular speaker at the “Managing The Carbon Cycle” Forums around Australia which started in 2005. He has been a delegate at many high level symposia in Australia and the USA. He led a fact-finding delegation to the USA on behalf of Australian farmers in 2006. While there, he negotiated the first order for soil carbon credits from the Chicago Climate Exchange. He attended workshops, briefing sessions and meetings with members of 3 of President George W. Bush’s 7 ‘regional partnerships’ of states whose senior scientists are preparing the USA’s geologic and land management sequestration strategies. He recently appeared as an expert witness before the NSW Premier’s Greenhouse Advisory Panel and the NSW Department of Primary Industries Climate Risk Management Project. He is a member of the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy.