Thursday, November 29, 2012

Carbon Farmers ain't Carbon Farmers

Tho first reports are coming in from the $20m Soil Carbon Research Program. The results are profoundly interesting: “No individual management practice has the same influence on soil carbon stocks across all agricultural regions. And significant differences in soil carbon stocks often were not detected despite strong variations in management practices.” Dr Jeff Baldock of CSIRO is to be congratulated  on the completion of the SCaRP program. It will provide a powerful platform for developing future knowledge of this substance that is so important to our future as a society. Jeff delivered a paper Australian soil carbon stocks: a summary of the SCaRP program results at the Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries (CCRISPI) Conference in Melbourne this week.

The value of a piece of research in not always in the answers it delivers, but more so in the questions it suggests. These questions come to mind: Could there be other variables that were not considered in the analysis of the SCaRP data? For instance, the skill level of the farmer in the agricultural practice that they nominate will affect the result. That skill level could be directly related to the length of time the practitioner has been practicing. Another issue that could influence the outcome would be the combination of practices, which is common. Eg. grazing management and pasture cropping and/or compost tea inoculant applied to the same paddock. Every successful practitioner will tell you that it took several years to get their system right. It is not a matter of simply applying a ‘practice’ to an area of land to get a standard response.
Did the subjects of the trials self-nominate?What do they define as rotational grazing, time controlled grazing, cell grazing and continuous grazing? They are not all names for the same thing.

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