OCCASIONAL PAPER: A landholder’s guide to participate in soil carbon farming in Australia

Published 2 Aug 2021

Robert E White, Brian Davidson and Richard Eckard

Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne

Soil carbon farming has been promoted as one of the key strategies for offsetting Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the ancillary benefit of improving soil health and farm productivity. This article explains in simple terms the procedures for a farmer to participate in the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund. It evaluates national and international scientific data on annual rates of soil carbon storage, in tonnes carbon per hectare.30 cm, for several environments, which are compared with some of the exaggerated claims made by commercial aggregators. 

Project compliance costs, which are variable, are compared with the possible income from carbon credits. The overriding metric determining whether a project is financially viable is the opportunity cost of changing the land management practice, which generally far exceeds the net income from carbon credits. However, the benefit-cost ratio could become more favourable if the value of ecosystem services provided by an improved soil condition could be realised.

This paper is also accompanied by a podcast with the authors and AFI Executive Director Richard Heath.

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