Is your property suitable for a soil carbon project?

As we move into the new financial year, carbon is the word on everyone’s lips.  With rising carbon prices in Australia and around the world, new technology entering the market as well as continued bipartisan government support, many are anticipating a carbon gold rush in years to come.  In the first half of 2021, Carbon Link has seen unprecedented interest from landholders who are realising that the soil carbon opportunity is real and is a game changer for the industry.

The world of soil carbon projects is a complex place, and without the guidance and support of service providers and subject experts it can be difficult to know where to even start to understand if a soil carbon project is right for you. To help you, Carbon Link has developed the Insights Report, a tailored but high-level insight of how a soil carbon project might look in a situation similar to yours. The purpose of this report is not to give you the information you need to sign up to a project, but to help you decide whether this is a road worth investigating further.

When we develop these reports, we consider a number of key factors that affect project outcomes. They include:

  1. Sequestration rate

Sequestration rate is the number one driver of the outcome of a soil carbon project. Soil carbon sequestration is influenced by a number of factors, such as:

  • Climate – Soil carbon can be sequestered in most climates if the country is managed well, however some climates are more conducive to sequestration than others. Hot, arid areas will have a lower sequestration rate than cool, moist areas. When we are developing your Insights Report, we will take into consideration your rainfall and average temperatures.
  • Soil – The physical structure of your soil will influence sequestration rates. Microbes play a key role in sequestration, and they need good structure if they’re to function to their potential. Plant roots need good structure to reach deep into the profile and put carbon where it’s less likely to be oxidised. Soil texture and mineral composition also play a role. Generally, the higher the clay content of the soil, the higher the sequestration rate (as long as the structure is good). The clay component of soil has great influence over the soil’s nutrient and water holding capacity. Better nutrient and water availability leads to greater growth and leaf area and therefore photosynthesis and sugar production. If you have your microbial workforce functioning, they’ll get to work turning sugar exuded through the plant’s roots into a more stable form of carbon. If you have loamy or sandy soil, all is not lost – organic matter also influences nutrient and water holding capacity, so a focus on building this will get you on the road to improving sequestration rates. We like to see your soil tests when we’re developing your Insights Report, however it’s not absolutely necessary as we also use some generalised and publicly available soil data to get an idea of soil type and sequestration potential.
  • Management style – A property that is managed using regenerative principles will likely sequester carbon at a higher rate and with a longer residence time than a similar property employing industrial methods. Managing plants for maximum photosynthesis (and recovery post grazing if in pastures), and the soil for maximum organic matter and microbial activity underpins regenerative management principles and carbon sequestration. When we’re developing an Insights Report, we’ll consider present and future management practices in our sequestration estimates.

2. Scale

Soil carbon projects carry with them necessary overhead costs, such as sampling, project management, auditing and administrative expenses. Properties with a larger scale can ‘spread’ these overheads over a greater area, giving a higher return on investment per hectare than that of a similar, but smaller property.

3. People

The mindset of the people carrying out the project is perhaps the most important factor of all.  Entering a soil carbon project is a big undertaking, and you need to be sure that you are committed to change and ready for the challenge. As the project proponent, you’ll need to make sure you have a long-term plan for the business and that you have the right skillset to manage for both carbon sequestration and business profitability.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to have the optimum of all of these factors for a project to be viable. Additionally, there is much more than these few things to consider when undertaking a soil carbon project. We introduce you to these considerations throughout the Insights Report process, and then get into greater detail if you decide to proceed to the next step – the due-diligence Project Plan phase.

We also recommend that you manage, first and foremost, for the health of your business, family, and ecosystem. Then, if through the Insights Report and Project Plan phases, we find a soil carbon project fits into your business’s future, we’re here to help you on that journey.

Would you like to start exploring if a soil carbon project might be a fit for your grazing or cropping business? Provide us with a little information here and we’ll be in contact to help start you on your journey with a free, no obligation Insights Report.