Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meet SCOT: the Soil Carbon Optimisation Tool

SCOT - the Soil Carbon Optimisation Tool - is a simple planning system that can help land managers make decisions about Carbon Farming. It is easy to be confused by the array of options for growing carbon levels in soil. SCOT can be used to sort through these options and choose which steps to take towards meeting goals.
SCOT divides Carbon Farming into subject areas. On each of its concentric rings can be found one of the Five Foundation Stones of Carbon Farming:
1. Water 2. Vegetation 3. Soil 4. Land 5. Microbes (or Biology)
These Foundation Stones are equal in importance. To overlook one is to invite failure.
Each Foundation Stone is an area of focus and an area of activity. There is a time to think of them on their own, and a time to think about the way they relate to each other.
The Carbon Farmer can decide to use it any way they like.
SCOT can be a CHECK LIST. Each level is a Heading and a list of options. (Not all options are listed on the rings. A list can be supplied.) The Carbon Farmer can use it to find options that they haven't heard or thought of before.
SCOT can be a TEMPLATE for a SOIL CARBON FARM PLAN. If you start at the centre and move outwards, you are following a path that deals with major decisions which form a platform for all other activities before leading on to less fundamental options. By moving through the rings, YOU ask the Planning Questions: Is this option relevant to this property and this landscape? What Return On Investment can we expect? (Is it low hanging fruit - fast, cheap, and easy to install? Or will it cost more than it is worth?) Does it get a tick in every box - if working on a triple bottom line: financial, environmental, and social impact. Do we face a trade off between one goal and another if we introduce this option?
SCOT can be a PORTFOLIO PLANNING TOOL. Carbon is based on 'change in land management'. Usually a single change is introduced. This can take 20-30 years to reach 'equilibrium' or saturation. But in in view of the crisis in climate patterns, the world would welcome a major contribution to the global effort -the faster we can extract the 'Legacy Load" of CO2e, the better. So combinations will bring the greatest returns.
SCOT can be an IMPLEMENTATION PLANNING GUIDE. The order of installation of options might be important. For instance, a laser graded water solution might deplete soil carbon stocks stored in the soil disturbed by machinery. Whereas a decision to use a biofert can be taken at any time without major implications for other decisions.
SCOT can be a RISK MANAGEMENT GUIDE. If the Farmer wants to put a toe in the water, start on the outer rings and move in towards the centre. If you want to jump in boots and all, start at the centre and move outwards. You are now following a path that deals with major decisions which could be hard to reverse, before leading on to less risky options. Used in this way, SCOT represents a "Hierarchy of Permanence"* - running from more to less permanent as you move from the centre ring outwards.
SCOT can be an EDUCATIONAL AID. By working through the rings and the planning process, a Trainer can lead a class to discover the individual parts of a system and the way they can be incorporated into a Farm Plan. How they can be deployed in 'teams' to maximise their impact. And how they can be changed over time.

SCOT TRAINING is the centrepiece of the training programs offered by Carbon Farming Services (CFS). This is the trading arm of the Carbon Coalition. It helps to fund the Coalition's activities.) CFS offers Carbon Farming and Soil Carbon training in programs ranging from 1 hour to two-day workshops. CFS's "Carbon Farming 101" program is a half-day introduction to Carbon Farming.

"Carbon Farming 101" is being offered as a half day "Come Up To Speed Before The Carbon Farming Conference & Expo" on November 3rd, 2009 at the Orange Ex-Services Club.

Many Farmers and Graziers use a management system to help them make decisions. SCOT does not seek to replace them. Instead it can be incorporated into the process. SCOT is a flexible system.

*Thanks to Ausmin's David Hardwick for this term.

No comments: