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Farming soil carbon: a second crop

26 August 2021

Binginbar Farm has been in the Simpson family since 1868. Located near Gollan in central-western New South Wales, Nathan Simpson saw their 3,850-hectare property becoming less productive through years of continuous cropping and heavy grazing. He turned to soil carbon project developer AgriProve, and ultimately the Emissions Reduction Fund, for solutions.

Binginbar Farm is the 1,000th project participating under the Emissions Reduction Fund – an important milestone for the scheme. The Emissions Reduction Fund continues to back projects that deliver on-the-ground practical action to reduce emissions, providing benefits to our farmers and helping business and industry to offset their emissions.

Soil carbon projects aim to build soil carbon levels by introducing a new or materially different land management practice.

More carbon in soil can increase productivity and drought tolerance while reducing farm input costs. However, when carbon levels become depleted soil health declines, as does production.

"The country was deteriorating, and I knew we had to change our practises," Nathan said.

"Overgrazing was a big issue for us. We got our grass cover down to the point where you get wind erosion and water erosion when it finally does rain."

Nathan first heard of carbon farming from a friend in Tasmania.

"My mate had one of the first Emissions Reduction Fund projects down there," he said.

"I followed what he was up to and saw that AgriProve had done their work. I contacted them and said, 'I want to be a part of this, what's the next step?'"

AgriProve is the first company to have taken a farmer on the complete journey from building soil carbon through to selling carbon credits s. Agriprove has pioneered developing soil carbon projects under the Emissions Reduction Fund and has the largest number of registered soil carbon projects.

AgriProve's Regional Operations Manager Kieren Whittock said increasing soil organic carbon "is an absolute 'must have for farmers".

"Some our soils are the most carbon depleted in the world," he said.

"Increasing soil carbon builds resilience into farming operations - there are a lot of benefits."

To remediate Binginbar, the Simpsons are implementing better land and stock management practices.

"Our first and foremost objective with the project is to make the farm more productive, grow more grass and crops per millimetre of rainfall that we receive," Nathan said.

"The more you look after your country the better it will respond and improve and produce more. All our pastures are a couple of mixed species, but we're changing our seed mix to include two different grasses, three types of clover, two lucernes and a chicory – and a plantain will be in there too. One of the benefits is it'll provide feed through the whole season; something's always growing.

Assisted by satellite data, Nathan said they will keep a suitable level of grass cover to allow soil carbon sequestration to occur.

"We want to keep as a minimum 600 kg of dry matter per hectare over our country at any point in time," he said.

"Through the drought it got down as low as 200 kg which was not ideal.

"We always know roughly where we sit in terms of dry matter per hectare by driving around the property and looking at it – you know that from experience - but we now also have satellite imagery provided to us. The satellite looks at each paddock and punches out groundcover data for us."

Binginbar will also adopt full stubble retention in cropping areas.

Like many successful carbon projects landholders, the Simpsons have partnered with an expert service provider. Regional Manager Kieren Whittock said AgriProve focussed on removing barriers for farmers wanting to access the Emissions Reduction Fund and run soil carbon projects.

"Our role is to take on all the monitoring, reporting and verification requirements, and trying to remove any administrative burden for the farmer to make participation as streamlined and efficient as possible," he said.

"It's up to Nathan to implement the changed practices. We sit in behind doing the number crunching and give whatever support is needed, freeing up our farmers to do what they're best at which is running their farms. It's very much a partnership."

"When our clients come to us with Nathan's kind of attitude it makes our job very easy".

"We have over 100 soil carbon projects registered with the Emissions Reduction Fund, stretching from Mackay to Tasmania and into South Australia. In our pipeline, we're talking with nearly 500 other individual farmers - that volume of inquiries speaks a lot about farmer's changing attitudes to improving landscape function."

For more information on soil carbon projects, visit Measurement of soil carbon sequestration in agricultural systems method or view our case study videos.


Aerial photo of Binginbar Farm.
Binginbar Farm: photo supplied by Nathan Simpson.


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