Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hooray for the Farm Journal

The current issue is a triumph for soil carbon. Congratulations Patrick. It has articles on successful trials of perennial pasture species and pasture cropping in WA, on the biological basis for rapid soil C sequestration, on biochar, and an editorial that questions the scientists and agronomists who can't come to terms with the fact that a farm operation could be net carbon positive. Grab a copy!

Letter to Editor
Australian Farm Journal

Dear Sir –

Hooray for the Farm Journal for covering the soil carbon issue! While we were in the wilderness, AFJ gave us hope. Now the issue is on the national agenda. We have important advice for farmers interested in carbon trading: Seek advice from someone who knows the carbon market before you commit to anything. There are many pitfalls as well as opportunities. Pitfall 1: Additionality. Unless you can prove that the change in land management which has led to the accumulation of carbon (whether in trees or soils) was made specifically with carbon in mind, the offsets or credits will not be recognised under Kyoto principles. All activity must be ‘additional’ to business-as-usual, not something you would have done anyway. This includes getting involved in “best practice’ programs sponsored by government bodies. Better to stay out of them for the time being until the government solves the “Additionality” problem. Pitfall 2: Prices. The price of carbon dioxide was around $20/tonne in March when your article (about Landcare CarbonSmart) was being written and $40/tonne in May when I read it. Industry watchers estimate the price will move quickly to $60 and some say it will eventually reach $100. If you lock in at $20, you might regret it. Tip: Don’t commit your whole property. Opportunity 1: The combination of time controlled management, pasture cropping and biological farming is proving to be the fastest way to sequester soil carbon. Opportunity 2: You can add an income stream or two if you secure the local market for compost and compost teas as well as biochar unit. Production units of these soil ameliorants will need to be decentralised and localised to solve transport problems. General Tip: Don’t be distressed by presentations by scientists and government officials and industry body speakers about methane and nitrous oxide emissions on your farm that talk about how bad the situation is and do not include mention of the simple solutions that have already been discovered to address the issue. No one is giving a balanced view of the issue. They all dwell on the worst case scenario and remain silent about the fact that solutions are arriving. And the most important fact they refuse to tell you: even at low prices, an average farm can sequester sufficient carbon to meet its liabilities for emissions. So if the powers that be refuse to give farmers access to the carbon they sequester in soil yet insist that they meet their responsibilities for emissions, it will be a great injustice.

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