Transcript of Soil Carbon, North

​This eight minute video was produced to communicate the outcomes of the Climate Change Research Program from the Soil Carbon Research Program (SCaRP). It provides information to help land managers understand possible ways they can trade the carbon sitting under their feet in the soil and when this might be feasible.  This research has been funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to help prepare Australia’s primary industries for climate change and build the resilience of Australia’s agricultural sector.

Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry
Transcript – Soil Carbon North Video (Final) – Soils ain’t soils: A Queensland perspective

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Soil carbon - North [7:58] 

13 June 2012

Transcript

  1. Voice Over:
    With the commencement of the Carbon Farming Initiative, farmers are asking if they can trade the carbon sitting under their feet in the soil and when this might be feasible. The potential to trade soil carbon through the Carbon Farming Initiative means farmers, scientists and policy-makers need to better understand soil carbon or soil organic carbon, as it’s more accurately known.

    The Australian Government is helping to build this knowledge by funding the Soil Carbon Research Program (SCaRP). This research is developing a consistent assessment of soil carbon across our agricultural regions, identifying the land management practices that can build soil carbon, and finding fast and less expensive ways to measure soil carbon. CSIRO scientist Dr Jeff Baldock is leading the research involving national and state partners.

    Dr Jeffrey Baldock, Lead Scientist, Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Balance, CSIRO:
    Well, soil carbon by definition, and how we use it in a research sense, is all of the organic carbon found in the soil that has a size less than 2mm. It has a lot of beneficial effects on parameters that are important to defining soil productivity. It influences physical properties like the ability of a soil to hold water, it influences chemical properties like the ability of a soil to capture and exchange cat-ions with plants and it also influences biological properties, it holds nutrients and it provides the energy for all the organisms that live in the soil for them to do the things they do.

    Soil carbon also has a place in reducing emissions or net emissions of greenhouse gas. If we can build the amount of carbon held in the soil that can actually be used to offset emissions elsewhere through the agricultural sector.

  2. Voice Over:
    One of the problems for scientists and farmers interested in soil carbon, is the lack of accurate information from across Australia’s farming regions of how much carbon is in the soil.

    Dr Jeffrey Baldock, Lead Scientist, Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Balance, CSIRO:
    Farmers are becoming more and more interested in soil carbon because of recognition of its potential roles in productivity. They also now, with the publicity around soil carbon trading and potential carbon trading systems that may be coming online, are interested in understanding whether there’s a role for them or an opportunity for them to gain carbon credits and sell them in the market.

  3. Voice Over:
    The team is using a new ‘fingerprint’ method for measuring the concentration of organic carbon called mid infra-red spectroscopy. Once further refined, a tool like this could be used by landholders to deliver quick, reliable and cheap assessments of soil carbon.

    Soil samples have been taken from two and a half thousand sites which will help establish one of the most detailed national benchmarks of soil carbon levels in the world.

    Dr Jeffrey Baldock, Lead Scientist, Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Balance, CSIRO:
    What we’re doing with these samples is analysing both the amount of carbon plus the form of carbon present in them.  And what we want to end up with then, in each of these regions that we sample, is a very good understanding of the baseline soil carbon values that exist out there, and how they may vary when we move from one management regime to another.

  4. Voice Over:
    All these soil samples will be housed at the National Soils Archive, and because researchers know exactly where they came from and the management history of their paddock, they can return to those exact sites in future and measure any changes in soil carbon.

    Dr Jeffrey Baldock, Lead Scientist, Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Balance, CSIRO:
    In the analyses that we’ve been completing so far, one really interesting thing we’re finding out is when we go into a region to look at the soil carbon values, they can vary tremendously within that region. We have for example in one region soil carbon values ranging from less than 1% carbon all the way through to more than 5% and what that tells us then is there’s lots of potential for farmers to shift soil carbon values. We still have a really big challenge though. We have to understand why that variation exists, is it controlled by management or does climate and things beyond the control of the farmer actually play a really significant role?

  5. Voice Over:
    A number of management practices are being investigated, such as grazing and tillage practices, fertiliser use, crop rotations and the use of perennial pastures to work out what effect they have on soil carbon.

    Dr Jeffrey Baldock, Lead Scientist, Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Balance, CSIRO:
    An additional aspect of the Soil Carbon Program is looking at trying to understand what the potential role of bringing perennial vegetation, in particular perennial pastures, into management systems, agricultural management systems, and how that might augment or enhance the amount of carbon that we have in soils.

  6. Voice Over:
    In Queensland, as part of the National Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative (NAMI), Dr David Lawrence has been collecting soil samples from farmers in a bid to help them understand more about the role organic carbon plays in a productive farming system.

    Dr David Lawrence, Principal Extension Officer, QDAFF:
    On farms we’re asking people to pick a soil type that’s of real interest to them, and pick a paddock, two paddocks on the same soil with different management. Now if we look at say country that's new, like the brigalow trees behind me or old cultivation that's been cropped for 30 years, then we can look at the effect of that management on the soil organic matter and the soil carbon. Similarly a lot of people have looked at putting pastures in and seeing what 10 years of pastures will do to their soil organic matter and carbon. And we've done 300 of those now and it's really captured people's imagination, it's helped them think about carbon but do it looking at their own situation.

  7. Voice Over:
    Dr Lawrence said research had shown that cropping has the biggest effect on soil carbon, and in southern Queensland will reduce levels to about 1% over roughly 30 years.

    Dr David Lawrence, Principal Extension Officer, QDAFF:
    Perhaps the best way that people can rebuild their carbon and build up organic matter and store more nutrients in the soil, is actually to go into these legume and grass rotations. Now we may call them ley pastures because you crop, then you put pastures in and then you crop them again. And we're finding anywhere from 5 to 10 years of doing that can make major contributions to the health of the soil by boosting soil organic carbon and soil organic matter.

  8. Voice Over:
    Greg Olm, a cattle producer on the Darling Downs, said a lack of productivity in one of his paddocks prompted him to test his soil carbon levels.

    Mr Greg Olm, Mixed cropper and grazier, ‘Yambella Park’, Brigalow district, QLD:
    We just made our country available so we could carry out some tests, there was two different scenarios. One was a long time cropping and the other we had put some pasture in to try and build things up, as I said, I run cattle and we needed some pastures to feed those cattle and that's how it all came about.

  9. Voice Over:
    The cattle doubled their fattening rate on the grass/ legume pasture gaining a kilo a day, but it was in the subsequent crop that Greg noticed significant improvements in yields.

    Mr Greg Olm, Mixed cropper and grazier, ‘Yambella Park’, Brigalow district, QLD:
    We grew wheat here last year and it was a very wet year. Then where the pasture and the legumes had been ploughed out and put back to wheat we attained a yield of 1.5 tons per acre with a protein of 12.6 and the paddock adjacent to that one which hadn't had any pastures, just long-term cropping, the yields were down to 1.25 tonnes per acre and a protein of 9.4.

  10. Voice Over:
    Once the soil test results were calibrated Greg was keen to discuss the findings.

    Mr Greg Olm, Mixed cropper and grazier, ‘Yambella Park’, Brigalow district, QLD:
    The results on the pasture legume paddock were 50% greater than the other ones which was a pretty good result, I would have thought. The organic carbon here was higher than anywhere else that they done some tests on which, you know, proves that the legumes and pasture combination does work as far as that goes. Then you know you can't be organically friendly without making a profit. So the two have got to go hand-in-hand, so if you can build up your soil carbon and make a profit well then I think you're on the right track, that's where I think we're going, to look after the viability of our soil into the future that's what we need to do.

  11. Voice Over:
    The Climate Change Research Program funds research projects and on farm demonstrations to help prepare Australia’s primary industries for climate change and build the resilience of Australia’s agricultural sector into the future.

    The Soil Carbon Research Program is supported by funding and in-kind support from the following partners:

    CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship
    Queensland Departments of Natural Resources & Water and of Primary Industries
    Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia
    Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South Australia
    Department of Primary Industries, Victoria
    The Co-operative Research Centre for Future Farming
    Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)

    Thank you to the following participants of this video:

    Dr Jeff Baldock – CSIRO
    Dr David Lawrence – QDAFF
    Mr Greg Olm – ‘Yambella Park’, Brigalow, member of Chinchilla District Landcare Group

    END