Saturday, February 19, 2011

We put the question: the answer is 'No'.

We asked the first question of Minister Combet after his presentation to MP Rob Oakshott's Land Use Forum Thursday last. "The $20million Soil Carbon Research Program will only provide one fifth of the data needed to drive a comprehensive soil carbon sequestration model, according to sources inside the project. Will the Government meet the challenge and fund the balance of the work so farmers everywhere can have access to offset trading opportunities?" Minister Combet: "No." (It was a longer answer than that, but meant the same thing. He said they have to balance the budget. We're trying to balance the biosphere.) So now we know.

Readers might remember we complained to then Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke that we were not given an opportunity to comment on the structure of the research project. The Modelling Approach, to be useful, must have benchmark data that reflects practice. To make an accurate assessment of potential – to discover the benchmark - one would expect the research would seek to create the most favourable conditions within which the highest increases possible could be recorded. Such a study could see all the following practices actioned at the same time on the same piece of land (among others).

1. Grazing Management as a basic practice to use animals to transform the soil.

2. Pasture Cropping to stimulate native grasses.

3. Compost Teas using local compost to feed the soil microbes.

4. Biological Inoculant to address microbial community gaps.

5. Soil Stimulants to awaken microbes to action.

6. Water Management to rehydrate the landscape, reduce erosion and build biomass.

7. (Perhaps) Deep-ripping to start, subsoiling ongoing.

No one does just one thing when trying to increase carbon. It is always a portfolio approach. And it is not 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. It = 111. Potentially.

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