Case study – Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia’s Farming Future Climate Change Research Program (CCRP)
Farmers hear about benefits of biochar
More than 110 primary producers attended an update in June on the National Biochar Initiative, which is funded through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s $46.2 million Climate Change Research Program.
Producers participating in the ‘Biochar in Agriculture’ workshop heard that natural organic materials like poultry litter, wood chips and wheat straw can be converted to biochar and have the potential to be used to improve soil properties and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
National project coordinator Evelyn Krull of CSIRO was among the scientists who addressed the event. Dr Krull said the project has evaluated a range of biochars in different soils and under different farming systems to find out how they impact on soil health, carbon sequestration and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.
One important outcome of the research is that not all biochars have the same properties or benefits.
“Wood-derived biochars tend to have the highest organic carbon concentrations, whereas manure and food waste-derived biochars have higher nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus levels,” Dr Krull said.
“The type of material and pyrolysis temperature that it is produced from, are the most important determinants of biochar properties,” Dr Krull said.
Dr Krull said in trials at Wollongbar on the NSW north coast, biochars can result in not only sequestering carbon through biochar but through stabilising native soil organic matter.
“The organic materials being converted to biochar are naturally part of the carbon cycle,” Dr Krull said.
“So taking the carbon out of the cycle and locking it in biochar means that there is a decrease of carbon dioxide (CO2) that would otherwise be in the atmosphere.”
Local organic farmer, David Roby, said the forum provided a great opportunity to meet with the researchers and hear local and national results first-hand.
“It is important that we have access to and take on-board what the scientists are saying and look at ways to implement this into our own system.
“It was great to hear a national and local perspective to better understand how this applies to my soil,” said Mr Roby.
Keynote speakers at the Biochar in Agriculture updated included national project coordinator Evelyn Krull, CSIRO, Lukas Van Zwieten, NSW DPI, Annette Cowie, Rural Climate Solutions, Balwant Singh, University of Sydney, Bhupinder Pal Singh, NSW Primary Industries and Dan Murphy from the University of Western Australia.
About Australia’s Farming Future: Climate Change Research Program
The Australian Government’s Australia’s Farming Future: Climate Change Research Program is a significant research effort aimed at providing practical solutions for our primary industries to adapt to the changing climate. The Climate Change Research Program (CCRP) has provided funding for key research projects and on-farm demonstration activities under the three priority areas of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving soil management and research into adaptation management practices.
The CCRP has laid the vital groundwork for further research, demonstration and extension that will now occur through the Australian Government’s $429 million Carbon Farming Futures Program.
For further information on the CCRP or any of the funded projects, please phone 1800 638 746 or visit the Australia's Farming Future on the website.
This case study is part of a series produced by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as part of the Climate Change Research Program (CCRP).