Australian soils are particularly poor, both in terms of general plant nutrients but also organic matter, with undisturbed soils only having about 5 per cent organic matter. With cultivation and farming, organic matter decreases and soils become less fertile. Many areas of farming land, both under pasture and cropping lands have <2 per cent organic matter.
At the same time, carbon in the atmosphere, in the form of carbon dioxide, contributes to global warming. Along with most countries around the world, Australia has recognised the anthropogenic impact on our climate and has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Applying compost is a win-win method for increasing the amount of organic matter retained in the soil. It is a win for the environment and it is a win for the soil and farmers. Compost works on all three aspects of soil fertility:
- fertiliser (contains essential plant nutrients);
- soil conditioner (improves the physical structure of soil); and
- biological stimulant (provides valuable living microorganisms and organic matter that soil microbes feed upon).
As such, compost increases soil organic matter, benefits soil health and productivity in complex ways and , to a large extent, can substitute artificial fertilisers and soil conditioners saving money for farmers in the process. Now, farmers that apply compost to land can also earn carbon credits (and ultimately cash) through the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). The ERF is well funded with more than $4.5 billion dedicated so far.
The new ‘Measurement of soil carbon sequestration in agricultural systems’ method (soil carbon method) means farmers using compost to improve soil fertility can earn Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) which they can sell for cash.
To assist farmers navigate the registration and compliance process, MRA has developed a webinar on cropping and one on pasture, which describe how farmers can use compost under the ERF applications. The webinars cover:
- Benefits of compost for farming soils
- Soil carbon sequestration and the ERF – how does it work?
- Pathways to the ERF – how to get involved
- Ongoing management and reporting – what is needed?
- Other benefits, including economic, environmental and social.
The project has been funded by the NSW government’s Waste Less Recycle More fund to promote demand for recycled organics by increasing awareness of the ERF “Measurement of soil carbon sequestration in agricultural systems” method.