Friday, May 18, 2012

How to eat an elephant (or engage with the Carbon Farming Initiative)

You eat an elephant one bite at a time. And so it is with the Carbon Farming Initiative. Here is a safety-first path for farmers who want to take advantage for this one-in-a-generation opportunity. It is a toe-in-the-water approach for maximum risk management and learning by doing. Step 1. Trees on farm. Identify a small area that could benefit from planting native trees. It could be a recharge zone causing salt expression further down the slop. It could be a erosion zone that needs to be stablilised. You could chose to plant 10ha-20ha, but make it part of a larger plan for your farm, a plan you could execute as you become more comfortable with the process. Step 2. Reduction in nitrous oxide emissions from fertiliser application. (At least two methodologies should be available later this year.) This can be done in any number of ways: straight reduction in NPK fertiliser; shift to precision application; part-replacement of fertiliser by bioferts; full replacement of fertiliser with biofert. Step 3: Reduction in methane emissions from livestock. (Methodology coming.) Step 4: Soil carbon sequestration. By this time you have had a chance to get used to the culture of the CFI - measuring and reporting on the activities; the concept of 100 Years; the production benefits of soil carbon, etc. You earn instant offsets for the emissions avoidance activities (nitrous oxide and methane) and delayed offsets (eg. 5 years, etc.) for carbon captured and held in vegetation and soils. This is just one example of the way you can take a staged approach to building a carbon farming portfolio. It is entirely voluntary. Your commitment deepens slowly so you can retreat early in the process. As you get closer to it, your elephant will shrink.

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