Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Don't call it Carbon Farming

They destocked Henbury Station and they’ve locked all 500,000ha of it up, and called it Carbon Farming.  It is the most high-profile example of ‘carbon farming’ but it sends all the wrong messages. Call it “Conservation” or a National Park, but it is not farming. It is simplistic and wrong to say that locking country up will protect it from degradation. The relationship between animals and vegetation is symbiotic when managed for balance. Grazing animals need plants for food. Plants need animals to graze them to prevent loss of groundcover and desertification which occurs when grasses die and oxidise. Plants need animals to disturb the soils around them and incorporate their carbon-rich dung and nitrogen-rich urine into it. Grazing can reduce fuel loads, reducing the severity of wildfires. And grazing is the only way that we can produce food in the rangelands. But not just any old grazing. Balance must be achieved by exposing the plants to grazing only to the point where the plant can easily recover. The roots of the plant need the leaves to be trimmed because they die back and then they return downwards. In each direction - coming and going - the soil microbes are excited by the food that the roots give them. Decomposing roots are partyfood for bacteria, etc. Roots returning by pushing down through the soil release delicious nectar that is also partyfood. The more partyfood we can offer soil microbes, the more they will manufacture the soil carbon which builds fertility, soil stability, water efficiency, biodiversity, and resilience. Destocking is a tactical tool, but it is not a strategy. It is not the presence of animals that is the problem; it is the recovery time allowed to the plant to deploy its leaves for maximum growth and maximum extraction of carbon from the atmosphere through the unique action of photosynthesis.

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