Thursday, March 30, 2006

Kansas soil carbon measurement easy system

These are real crop circles in Kansas, photographed from satellite. This extract from a brochure from the Iowa Farm Bureau reveals that carbon measurement is not an issue is selling soil carbon credits in Kansas. Just grow certain crops or maintain 100% groundcover with grassland:

"Exchange Soil Offsets (XSOs): To be eligible, the land enrolled in the XSO certification program must be capable of being cropped – that is, the land could be utilized for row crop or small grain production even though it may currently be in a harvested grass or forage crop. If such lands are farmed with row crops during the project period, such crops need to be produced in a compliant no-till manner.
Cropland that was put into CRP prior to Jan 1, 1999 will NOT be eligible for XSOs. Cropland that is in a harvested hay crop as
part of a crop rotation is eligible.
XSOs will be issued at the rate of 0.5 metric tons CO2 equivalent per acre per year to farmers (in CCX Zone A) who commit to
continuous conservation tillage (defined as continuous no-till, strip till or ridge till) on the enrolled land from 2006 through 2010. Enrolled acres may be planted in soybeans no more than three of the five years (2006-2010). XSOs will also be issued to farmers who commit to maintain soil carbon storage realized as a result of establishment of grass cover plantings on eligible land (land that is capable of being cropped) that were undertaken on or after January 1, 1999. The land must remain in permanent grass cover through 2010. XSOs for these recent grass cover plantings will be issued at a rate of 0.75 metric tons CO2 equivalent per acre per year.
In the event that the land fails to meet these requirements, all XSOs from such land shall be null and void and any payments for XSOs delivered prior to January 1, 2011 shall be repaid subject to interest and penalties as provided in the sales agreement.

Definition of Conservation Tillage: For CCX purposes, these practices are as defined in the Natural Resources Conservation Service National Handbook of Conservation Practices. These definitions are:
• No-till/Strip-till - Managing the amount, orientation, and distribution of crop and other plant residue on the surface year-round while growing crops in narrow slots or tilled or residue-free strips in soil previously untilled by full width inversion implements;
• Ridge-till - Managing the amount, orientation, and distribution of crop and other plant residue on the soil surface year-round while growing crops on preformed ridges alternated with furrows protected by crop residue."

Kansas farmers paid soil credits

Thanks to Coalition Member Dennis Hilder for picking this story up on the Kansas State U. website:

Kansas farmers are being paid to sequester carbon in their soils. Not a lot, but still they're being paid. Lat year 72 producers were paid credits for carbon locked up in more than 75,000 acres. They were mainly primarily no-till producers in the eastern half of the state. The carbon credit pilot project was offered by the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) and administered by the Iowa Farm Bureau. This year there are 330,000 acres under contract.

Eligibility requirements for the new phase of the program are established by the CCX. "In the eastern half of Kansas, land in continuous no-till (or strip-till or ridge-till) and new grass plantings is eligible... In western Kansas (except for a few counties in southern areas), only land in new grass plantings is eligible at this time," says the report.

The Iowa Farm Bureau aggregates the credits from individual producers into a large pool of credits and sells the credits on a commodity exchange operated by the Chicago Climate Exchange. So far, buyers have been mainly CCX members, such as Ford Motor Company, DuPont, International Paper, the University of Oklahoma, and the City of Chicago.

"When the aggregator (Iowa Farm Bureau) who has the credits under contract believes the bid price is high enough, the credits are sold. The buyers pay the aggregator, and the money is then dispersed to the producers who enrolled in the project by signing a contract. The aggregator keeps 10 percent of the proceeds for administrative costs" says the report.

In December 2005, 15 percent of the carbon credits were sold for about $2 per ton (about $1 per acre for land in no-till, and $1.50 per acre for land in new grass plantings).

"Soil carbon sequestration is basically the process of storing carbon in the soil, usually through increased levels of soil organic matter. There are several recognized management practices producers can use to sequester carbon, including no-till, grass plantings, increased cropping intensity, tree plantings, erosion control and others," said Kansas State University professor of agronomy Chuck Rice.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Carbon credit market grows 2500% in a year

Significant increases in traded carbon volumes and values took place in 2005 and big increases are expected in 2006, reports analyst Point Carbon. The global carbon market saw transactions totalling around A$15 billion, 25 times more than the year before. A great number were negotiated directly between companies.

Australian farmers paid for native vegetation

The precedent has now been set! The land reports that two trials are underway in NSW paying farmers for protecting the environment. 37landholders in the Liverpool Plains Land Management Committee's area have been invited to set a price for their services to the community for work they want to do to reduce salinity, improve water usage and increase biodiversity. The farmers are putting up $3 for every $1 funding they receive.
Naturally "native vegetation" means trees in the language of the herd. It's a short distance to the point where grasses are included in the definition for funding purposes.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Farmers are big polluters

Agriculture contributes 19.2% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the emissions of motor vehicles and other forms of transport (14.4%), according to a report by the Australian Greenhouse Office in 2002. Ploughing releases large amounts of CO2 as does burning stubble. Both activities deplete carbon in the soil. If the Government rewarded farmers for adopting minimum till or no till approaches, it would reduce greenhouse emissions and make a positive contribution to the global warming effort. That would be additional to the carbon sequestered in the undisturbed soil. just one more good reason to mandate emissions trading so energy users pay the true cost of the energy they use.

Federal Government against carbon credits (for now)

The Commonwealth Government's is against trading in carbon credits, for the time being, according to a 2004 policy document called "Securing Australia’s Energy Future".

"Australia will not impose significant new economy-wide costs, such as emissions trading, in its greenhouse response at this stage," says the report. But it doesn't rule trading schemes out in future: " Such action is premature, in the absence of effective longer-term global action on climate change..."

Australia is holding out for a better deal, especially from fast-growing economies: "Expected economic growth in less developed countries, such as China and India, will result in emissions from these nations increasing substantially over the next 20 to 30 years. Total emissions from less developed countries, which have no quantitative targets under the Kyoto Protocol, are expected to soon overtake those from industrialised countries. It is clear that, to be effective, any global response must encompass the world’s major emitters."

If the international community plays ball, Australia will get a trading system: "Should such an effective global response be in prospect, the government will consider least-cost approaches to constraining emissions. This consideration would encompass the possible introduction of market-based measures (such as an emissions trading scheme) in the longer term, noting the potential for these to lead a better resource allocation and provide industry and individuals with the greatest flexibility in determining how best to respond."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

US farmers paid for carbon in soil!

Farmers in Montana may soon be paid for sequester-ing carbon in agricultural soils, reports the Great Falls Tribune.
A National Carbon Offset Coalition pilot project is linking industries that produce greenhouse gas with landowners who store carbon in the ground through conservation practices to enable them to earn credits.
Montana University researchers are measuring carbon stored in soil and how land use affects storage. The study involved 20-acre plots. “Some are planted with rotations of grain crops, such as wheat, and then pulse crops, such as peas. Others are planted with grain, then plowed and left idle the next season. No-till farming is practiced on others,” says the report.
“The market for carbon offsets is voluntary in the United States. A metric ton, the amount saved in about 10 acres of no-till cropland, trades for $1.50 to $3.”
But carbon credits are traded in established markets where greenhouse emissions have been capped, like Europe where just over a month ago carbon was trading for $30 per metric ton.
President Bush has refused to set caps for greenhouse gases, but the industry is waiting for the next Administration when Congress is expected to do so.
“The carbon sequestered during the pilot will be traded with the National Carbon Offset Coalition acting as the broker. A power plant in California has the option to buy the first 25,000 metric tons of carbon credits that the coalition secures,” says the Great Falls Tribune.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Great Green Lie

This is a painting made by John Lewin in 1812 of the Coxes River in the Blue Mountains. Where's the forest?
Greenie scientists claim Australia was heavily forested when white man arrived and so we should turn it back to forest. But explorers describe grassy plains and lightly timbered woodlands. Here is more support for George Evans description of central western NSW as not being forested when white men arrived. Judge Baron Field visited Bathurst in 1822 writes,"The scarcity of wood takes away the log appearance of the cottages; they build of turf here and roof with straw or reeds, instead of wooden shingles.”
Many people observed the lack of tree cover on the Bathurst Plains and the lack of weatherboard buildings in Bathurst as a result. In fact anyone who has been to Bathurst will see hundreds of red brick houses. I taught local history at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst and made a special study of the brickmaking industry. In the 1860s the municipal council had more than 600 brickmakers registered. The variety of ‘frogs’ or makers’ mark depressions in local historic sandstock bricks have led many locals to collect them. I had my own collection. Why so many? Because, as far as my research could take me, bricks were fired on every building site, made from the clay dug from the site.
As with so many necessities of life, the colonists used whatever was at hand. And on the Bathurst Plains there was not much timber.

"The Australian Landscape - observations of Explorers and Early Settlers" (D. G. Ryan, J. E. Ryan and B. J. Starr)
"The nature of pre-European vegetation in south eastern Australia: a critique of Ryan, D. G., Ryan, J. R., and Starr, B. J. (1995) The Australian Landscape- Observations of Explorers and Early Settlers" (J. S. Benson, P. A. Redpath)
"The extent of the Grasslands in the Central West of NSW prior to European settlement" (Darryl Cluff)
"The Future Eaters" (Tim Flannery)

Still more trouble with trees

Tim Flannery – no slouch in greenie circles – first posited the theory that Aboriginal ‘firestick’ farming had created vast, thinly-timbered grassy woodlands to attract kangaroo, and that the cessation of the burning changed the tree cover dramatically. He quotes botanist William Carron’s description of Queensland's Tam O’Shanter Point in 1848, saying the stretch between the beach and the swamp ‘was principally covered with long grass..’ When Dr Flannery visited the spot while writing The Future Eaters, he said, “Today the vegetation is dense rainforest with emergent eucalypts.”
Sir Joseph Banks, sailing with Cook in 1770, observed the land around Bulli near Wollongong and described it as an open woodland. Tim Flannery reports the same place is today thick rainforest and eucalypts.
Those greenie 'scientists' who would rewrite history and claim these areas were originally forest when white man arrived attacked Tim Flannery’s views. But he saw through their loose use of historical fact: “One of the first lessons a scientist learns is not to rely upon secondary sources, but to examine original materials.” A direct rebuff of their failure to use correct scientific method.
Australia was not carpeted with dense forest and undergrowth when white settlers arived. Much of the area now used for pasture was already pasture, maintained by Aboriginal use of fire. To claim Australian agricultural lands should be turned over to forest is based on historic revisionism not usually associated with democracies, but popular in the Societ Union and other dictatorships. Shades of Big Brother in Orwell’s “1984”.

More trouble with trees

The trouble with trees is that extreme green ideologues are attempting to rewrite history to 'prove' that there were more trees on the grazing areas of NSW than there actually were when the white man arrived. One example will suffice to reveal how loose these 'scientists' are with the truth.

A background paper prepared for the Native Vegetation Advisory Council (which is behind the NSW Government's land clearing regime) claims the plains around Bathurst were not the open grasslands that so many explorers and visitors remarked up, buit were forested to an average of 10 trees per acre. They quote explorer George Evans to substantiate this figure. However Evans actually said, of the O'Connell Plains, that "the timber around is thinly scattered. I do not suppose there are more than ten gum trees on an acre”. He put the upper limit as 10 trees per acre which describes a grassy woodland, not a forest in which "tree densities varied from 2-59 with an average close to 30 trees per hectare." Looseness with the facts is fraud when it comes to history.

The problem with their evidence starts with where they got it from. They did not use the primary source - Evans's journal. They used a much less accurate secondary source: Their reference for the quote is from the publication Forest and woodland cover in the Central Western Region of New South Wales prior to European settlement (Croft, M., Goldney, D., & Cardale, S. (1997).

Now I am a trained historian and taught the Philosophy and Practice of History at the University of New England with Maureen Purcell in the 1970s. Any undergraduate student can tell you two things: 1. You must get as close to the original source as possible to gain an accurate interpretation of historical facts. 2. You must interpret historical reports in context to understand the meanings historical figures put upon the words they used.

In this case the authors dismiss all the first hand reports of open grassy woodlands that became forested once the aborignines were prevented from burning as wrongly interpreted or based on selective reporting (because pastures was what they were looking for). The reliability of the historical record is critical here because the clearing of trees that took place in later decades on these grasslands was either an assault on forests (which means farmers gtoday should be prevented from cleearing regrfowth and let their pasture lands be taken over by 'woody weeds' in the form fo eucalyts) or it was to a great extent reestablishing the grassy "plains" that the observers there at the time reported they saw.

The true historical record supports the view that much of the land ew now farm was not forest when it was first settled by white. It was perennial grassland with scattered timber. And it is this condition we regenerative farmers are seeking to restore.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The trouble with trees

Like burning witches and wearing garlic to ward off vampires, planting trees or allowing "regrowth" is a modern superstition. An offering to the pagan gods whose anger has sent violent storms to lash us for our crimes against Eden. The mania for planting trees ignores the facts that trees can be net polluters (adding to the carbon load in the skies) and net damagers of soils (baring ground out beneath them as they colonise grasslands). But trees are green and easy to be seen, and we cut so many down. Wasn't the whole world one big forest before wicked white man stepped on the land?

Well, no, Virginia, it wasn't. Australia had millions of acres of grassy woodlands - widely-spaced trees with a grassy understorey - when the first explorers crossed the land and saw it as the Indigenous inhabitants were 'farming' it.

Explorer Thomas Mitchell explained 'firestick farming' in 1848: "Fire is necessary to burn the grass, and form those open forests, in which we find the large forest kangaroo; the native applies that fire to the grass at certain seasons, in order that a young green crop may subsequently spring up, and so attract and enable him to kill... the kangaroo... But for this simple process, the Australian woods hada probably contained as thick a jungle as those of New Zealand or America, instead of the open forests in which the white men now find grass for their cattle, to the exclusion of the kangaroo." This he observed in the central western districts of NSW. Ten years earlier he had observed around Sydney that: "Kangaroos are no longer to be seen there; the grass is choked by underwood; neither are there natives to burn the grass... the omission of the annual periodical burning by natives, of the grass and young saplings, has already produced in the open forests nearest to Sydney, thick forests of young trees, where, formerly, a man might gallop without impediment, and see whole miles before him."

The vast areas of perennial grasslands encouraged by regular burning were noticed by explorers from tthe outset. In May 1770, Captain James Cook described the vegetation on Botany Bay's shore thus: 'the woods are free from underwood of every kind and the trees are such a distance from one another that the whole country might be cultivated without being obliged to cut down a single tree...' He also wrote: `the moors looked like our moors in England and as no trees grow upon it but everything is covered with a thin brush of plants about as high as the knees.'

In the next few blogs I will quote from other explorers' reports.

No, Virrginia, Australia was not a thick forest before the white man. I was a large kangaroo farm, featuring vast grassland pastures maintained by burning. So instead of rushing to plant a tree or let the woody weeds invade the grassland, get hip to what was going down when the black man ruled.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Flannery joins the CCoalition (well almost)

" Dr Tim Flannery made this comment in a keynote address 'Agriculture in the context of climate change' on 23 September 2005 at the closing ceremony of the 15th IFOAM Organic World Congress in Adelaide. He stated soils can hold two to three times as much carbon as what trees are known to hold above ground."

Thansk to Martin S. who was there.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Farm Journal honours David Marsh, Carbon Farmer

If the soil organic matter level in pastures in the Central West and Lachlan Catchments of NSW increased only 1% in the next 10 years, then 100 million tonnes of carbon would be sequestered, David Marsh told Australian Farm Journal. It would cost $20 billion to establish forests in drier regions to achieve the same effect. With cropping taking only 10% to 15% of agricultural land space in Australia, pastureland can have the greatest impact on terrestrial carbon management than any other land use, he says.
David is a hero of the new agricultural revolution. Both Commonwealth and State Governments look to farmers like David to solve their biggest natural resource management problems: the degradation of our soils and the poor health of our water systems. Conservation farmers have shown there is profit in practices that preserve and regenerate natural systems. David Marsh had no shortage of feed on the ground and made a profit in each of the three years of the drought just passed. His secret? He switched from the traditional high production philosophy of agriculture in 1999 to the high profit model by shifting out of high input/maximum stocking management into holistic decision making. In short, David and Mary Marsh try to match their livestock numbers to the carrying capacity of the landscape in each season, never baring out the soil, always retaining ground cover to protect the soil structure. Under this system, David's 813 hectare property 'Allendale' near Boorowa, NSW, moved from 30% bare soil in 2002 to zero in 2003 and 2004 while levels of litter increased. (Litter encourages the growth of humis and the retention of water.)
"The high input, high production model of agriculture would seem to many to be the crowning glory of the triumph of humanity over nature," he told AFJ. But decisions made only with economics in mind have ignored the cost to ecosystems and only put off the day when that bill will have to be paid.
David Marsh is a member of the Council of the Carbon Coalition.

Greetings from Vermont

Abe from Vermont is another carbon farmer. Here is his comment to our post on calculating soil carbon:


Again, I am with you folks. It seems I am commenter # 1. Hopefully the tide begins picking up soon.
We will be establishing baseline carbon measurements, measuring for all fractions on the farm this year. We'll see what happens after another year of Holistic Management Planned Grazing and Keyline subsoiling/irrigation.
Do you know of Keyline farms that are thinking/working along the same lines as you?
Please feel free to consider me a carbon farming penpal.
My lines of thought are exactly parallel to yours. I have presented at three conferences this winter on this theme, as well as hosted five workshops on the farm on same. People are listening.
Now, we are aiming to gather a group of graziers who also want to subsoil and monitor soil carbon to see what we can do in a year or two.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Tim Flannery Rumour!

Rumour has it that Tim Flannery said at a recent conference that agricultural soils are the best way to sequester carbon. We are seeking confirmation as you read this post...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Now you're linked to the world of Carbon Trading

We aim to build an online library here so you can find anything you want to know about soil carbon credits. Articles and websites containing research results and other useful information will be sourced and posted.
We are all walking advertisements and information centres for the Carbon Coalition. I don't know all the answers, neither do you. But now we know where to find them.
Under the heading LINKS on the left hand side of the page you'll find the following so far:

JOIN THE COALITION! A link to the Carbon Coalition website,, where people can sign up.
CHRISTINE JONES ON SOIL CARBON WATER, an article by Christine that emphasises the water retention benefits of carbon farming.
CHRISTINE JONES ON SOIL CARBON CREDITS, a article that introduces the concept of carbon, but more importantly, it has a section that shows you how they calculate the value of carbon in the soil.
AMAZING CARBON, Christine's website which contains articles and news of her Managing the Carbon Cycle Forums. This site contains one of the best articles Christine has written on the whole issue of soils.
AUSTRALASIAN EMISSIONS TRADING FORUM, a link to this organisation which offers information on the market here in Australia.
CONSORTIUM FOR AGRICULTURAL SOIL MITIGATION OF GREENHOUSE GASES is a consortium of nine American universities and one National Laboratory assembled to investigate the potential of agricultural soils to mitigate greenhouse gases.
MIDWEST REGIONAL CARBON SEQUESTRATION PARTNERSHIP* consists of seven state universities in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia whose research teams are assessing the technical potential, economic viability, and public acceptability of carbon sequestration within its region.
BIG SKY CARBON SEQUESTRATION PARTNERSHIP* includes state university research teams in Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Wyoming, and the Pacific Northwest.
NATIONAL CARBON OFFSET COALITION is comprised of seven Montana non-profit corporations. NCOC provides a unique opportunity for landowners, public and private corporations, tribal, local, and state governments to participate in a market-based conservation program that can help offset the environmental impacts of greenhouse gases.
GUARDIAN CLIMATE PAGE is a website about Global Warming put up by the Guardian newspaper in Britain.
POINT CARBON, a US-based analyst and market information expert group
EMISSIONS MARKET ASSOCIATION, an industry association based in the US, serving members in the carbon industry.
CHICAGO CLIMATE EXCHANGE, the world's first voluntary, legally-binding credits exchange.
GREENHOUSE GAS ONLINE, a useful source of information about Global Warming, by a respected British academic and researcher.
SPIRIT OF THE SOIL: A blog on a city family learning to live on the land and with the spirit of the land, and what happens to them, including the Carbon Coalition.
We will continue to add sites as we find them. We are putting up pages with Christine's articles and any other resource we can find. Learn as much as you can. It's good for you!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Meet a "Carbon Farmer"

Bruce Maynard - the latest addition to the Council of the Carbon Coalition - is a true "Carbon Farmer". He has been using regenerative or conservation farming techniques on his fourth-generation family property Willydah, near Narromine, since 1987. Regenerative practices usually have a direct impact on soil structure and fertility and, as a consequence, lead to an increase in the carbon load in the soil.
In future, Bruce and others like him might be called Carbon Farmers, once the importance and economic value of locking up carbon in agricultural soils is known and agreed by the market.
The Coalition's plan, as it stands, sees an important role for a network of "Carbon Farmers" throughout Australia as learning centres where growers can see the techniques in action, attend field days and seminars, and decide if carbon farming is for them. As there is no fixed way to farm for carbon, a variety of styles will be available.
Bruce Maynard has been honoured as a hero of Australian agriculture and featured on ABC television for his innovative practices. These include whole farm planning, holistic management, time-controlled grazing, minimum tillage "Advanced Sowing" of crops into grassland, and stress-free stock handling. The Maynard family's success in responding to the needs of the ecology while managing for profit and lifestyle was recognised by inclusion as a case study on the National Heritage Trust.
Bruce is conducting the "Farming Systems Program" for the Central West Catchment Management Authority. The Carbon Coalition was one initiative to emerge from that Program.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! WWW.CARBONCOALITION.COM.AU is launched

The official carbon coalition web address is now live and collecting supporters contact details. Tell your friends! This is the way to sign on to the new agricultural revolution - carbon credits in the soil.