Carbon Farming Newsletter December 2011 / January 2012
January 9, 2012 Louisa Kiely
A Soil Carbon Christmas (Meth News)
While you are enjoying the beginning of the New Year, spare a thought for those of us working on the only ‘farmer-friendly’ Soil Carbon Methodology which has just come back from the Domestic Offset Integrity Committee with a list of questions to be answered before it is posted on the web for public comment. To give farmers a safe way to earn and trade soil carbon offsets, we need to provide a ‘methodology’ which sets out the ‘rules’ or protocols for measuring and sequestering carbon in soil. The methodology must comply with a list of Integrity Principles, such as Additionality (abatement must be genuinely new) and Permanence (abatement must be effectively ‘permanent’). We hope to make 2012 “The Year Of The Carbon Farmer” by celebrating the first sale of soil carbon offsets under the Carbon Farming Initiative. Here’s to a Happy New Year!
- Escaping From 100 Years Rule
- FarmReady Runs Out 30 June 2012
- Durban “Good News” for Agriculture
- Grazing Systems don’t work: Tell the Farmer of the Year
- Are you CFI-ready? 1-Day CFI Course: New Dates Announced
- Climate-Smart Agriculture
- “Get out of the way” – World Bank
- Climb down off that camel!
- “Go back!” CSIRO’s Canute tells No-Till Tsunami
- Termites for Nitrogen?
- Crikey, it’s all good for soil carbon
- Property Values under the Carbon Farming Initiative
- Wanted: Experienced Carbon Farmers
- State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2011
Escaping from the 100 Year Rule
Notice anything in the 3 charts below? The behaviour of carbon markets on three continents shows that if you wait long enough the market falls into your lap, offering a way to cash out of the 100 Year commitment.
EU ETS Spot price comparison
The EU ETS market officially started trading in 2007, however, there was little or no trading before the commencement of Kyoto (1 Jan 2008). Once trading stated in earnest the price for an EUA launched at just above €20. It reached a high of €28.59 on the 1st of July 2008 ($58NZ), and then dropped over a 9 month period to below €10. The price then rallied to around €15 and remained constant until around July 2011. It has subsequently dropped €7.16 as at 5 December 2011.
NZU price since June 2010
“The price of spot NZUs remained reasonably steady at the $18 to $20 mark for around a year until June 2011, when it started dropping and hasn’t really stopped. There are several reasons why this is the case, but it mainly has to do with hot air units for sale offshore, and the dumping of carbon credit reserves by European industrial companies to boost cashflow,” reports Clayton Wallwork.
“It is useful to compare recent events in New Zealand with the experience in Europe. In 2008, when it first started trading the EU ETS followed a similar pattern as the NZETS, as can be seen in the graph below.”
The same pattern can be seen in the Chicago Climate Exchange. Sooner or later, new carbon markets collapse. And here is the opportunity for Australian farmers with the Carbon Farming Initiative. The Act allows a grower to withdraw from a contract by ‘relinquishing’ Australian Carbon Credit Units – which means handing back the same number of ACCUs they had been awarded for their measured offsetting.
One of the attendees at our one-day workshop “An Introduction to Carbon Farming and Trading” in Bungendore said he would relinquish his units when the market hit the floor – which all markets do at some time. The trick is to know when the ‘rule’ is not going to apply.
FarmReady Runs Out 30 June 2012
FarmReady – the program that reimburses farmers 65% of the course fee for eligible training courses – is coming to an end on 30 June, 2012. This means the only Government-funded training for farmers wishing to learn about the Carbon Farming Initiative will be delivered by LandCare.
Carbon Farmers of Australia is registered as a FarmReady-approved program deliverer for “An Introduction to Carbon Farming & Trading” (available in half-day, one-day and two-day advanced formats).
Durban Talks All Good For Agriculture
The decision to put off any serious action on Climate Change until 2020 would be farcical were it not a great opportunity for Agriculture to come into its own. The “breakthrough’ at Durban – the agreement by all nations attending (except Canada) to make an agreement by 2015 to do something by 2020 – leaves a void and people are asking how can we fill it. “Whilst pledging to make progress in a number of areas, governments acknowledged the urgent concern that the current sum of pledges to cut emissions both from developed and developing countries is not high enough to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius,” said Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and President of the Durban UN Climate Change Conference.
Soil carbon sequestration is attracting attention as a potential solution whose time has come. And it was in the right place – Africa – at the right time, when the World Bank launched its Climate Smart Agriculture. Author Fred Pearse was at the launch on Agriculture Day in Durban: “The offer from the world of carbon finance to poor farmers in Africa and elsewhere is this: Let us use your soils to capture carbon from the atmosphere, and we will, in return, make those soils more productive and less vulnerable to the climate. This is a big deal. Nurturing the organic matter in soils on the world’s farms has as much potential to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from industrialized countries as the much better-known plans to fund forest conservation, such as REDD. Rattan Lal of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center at Ohio State University suggests soils worldwide could capture as much as a billion tons of carbon a year — more than a tenth of man-made emissions.” Solving the food crisis and the climate crisis is a double-edged sword, say those who fear that peasant farmers will be forced off their land when agriculture becomes more lucrative. “Soil carbon offsets will promote a spate of African land grabs and put farmers under the control of fickle carbon markets,” said Teresa Anderson of the UK-based Gaia Foundation, an NGO that promotes indigenous farming. The standard objections are recited in any discussion of soil carbon. In Fred Pearse’s report he mentions the cost of measurement and the fact that commercial crops in which large agribusinesses specialize have a much greater potential to take up carbon than smallholder subsistence crops.
Data presented in 2010 at the FAO in Rome by Rama Reddy of the World Bank’s carbon finance unit show that the carbon-capture potential for a hectare of smallholder maize in Kenya is around half a ton of carbon dioxide per year, whereas the potential for commercial biofuels is between 2.5 and 5 tons, and for a sugar cane plantation up to 8 tons per hectare. Australia offers large acreage, commercial crops and well-educated farmers… But problems aside, Fred Pearse concludes: “Any credible solution to climate change will probably involve finding ways to get the landscape to absorb more carbon, whether in trees or soils, probably financed from carbon markets.”
Grazing Systems don’t work? Better tell the Farmer of the Year
Someone should tell the judges of all the ‘farmer of the year’ awards that Science disagrees with their choices: it has proved many times that grazing management is no better than continuous or set stocking. Nearly every time a grazier has won or been runner up in annual awards since 2007 they have nominated cell or rotational grazing management as a centerpiece of their farm plan. Yet science has been unable to confirm that they are making a difference to the health of their pastures, their animals and their landscapes.
A $1 million, four-year study funded by the MLA and CSIRO and conducted by Queensland’s Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation has found that different grazing systems delivered nearly indistinguishable results.
The study found no statistically significant differences between the systems with the choice of system relatively unimportant for land health and productivity.
At the same time the NSW DPI compared set stocking with 20 and four paddock rotational grazing systems, and found differences between the systems were minimal and not as large as those determined by the landscape. This is a largely ‘so what’ result, yet the intent is clearly to take the shine off land management.
- Norm Smith, NSW Farmer of the Year for 2011 pioneered planned grazing management on Glenwood, near Wellington. Norm has encouraged greater diversity of desirable species with rotational grazing enabling short graze periods and long rest periods.
- 2011 Runners up, Liz and John Manchee, Narrabri, have increased rotational and cell grazing techniques and have concentrated on smaller paddock sizes.
- Runner up in 2009 Andrew and Megan Mosely, Cobar NSW take a holistic farm business management approach to ensure the business balances social, environmental and economic outcomes.. They believe that increasing soil carbon is the key to overcoming this challenge and prospering in dry times.
- The 2008 winners, Nigel & Kate Kerin, Yeoval, own and manage a cell grazing operation at Yeoval in the state’s Central West with his wife Kate, holistically managing the operations enterprises including sheep, wool, cattle trading and pasture cropping.
- The 2007 Young Farmer of the Year joint winners were both devotees of grazing management: Stuart Blake manages a mixed livestock and cropping enterprise near Walcha. Sheep and cattle are rotationally grazed, promoting continual groundcover that also helps make the most of available water.
- Joint winners in 2007 Ben and Liarne Mannix manage an 18,000 hectare property Gumbooka north east of Bourke in the western division. They use the principles of Grazing for Profit and Holistic Resource Management in their farm management.
- Queensland’s Jack Banks took out the title of 2011 Wool Producer of the Year as part of the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards. Jack implemented a rotation grazing strategy which has resulted in improvements to ground cover.
Why is it so? The gap between farmer experience and scientific experimental results has been acknowledged by scientists. Professor Ben Norton (formerly of Curtin amd Utah State Universities) told a WA Department of Food and Agriculture workshop in 2002, that the majority of published research studies of rotational grazing find that continuous grazing is better than or comparable to rotational grazing in terms of either animal or plant production. Yet “hundreds of graziers on three continents claim that their livestock production has increased by half or doubled or even tripled following the implementation of rotational grazing…” In the McClymont Lecture in 1998 he said: Science, based on ‘hundreds of studies’ concluded that planned grazing is not cost effective. (Norton, BE., “The application of grazing management to increase sustainable livestock production,” Animal Production In Australia, Vol. 22 1998).
The Queensland study of grazing systems also has a flawed methodology: The study failed to observe the basics of scientific method in several ways:
- There were too many variables operating to allow the systems studied to demonstrate their capacities. The properties selected were not representative of any one of the 3 categories of grazing system, but were required to operate at least 2 of the systems at the same time. Instead of clearly defining each category, the properties were graded on a continuum ranging from intensively grazed (cell) to extensively grazed (continuous).
- Animal production data was made meaningless as “livestock were often grazed across different systems within a year”.
- There were too few properties studied to provide enough data to make the results reliable. Only a total of 9 growers were involved across north and south Queensland.
- There was not enough variety in the management style of the growers. Even the continuous grazing practitioners used rest (spelling) and stocked according to the capacity of the landscape.
- Despite the ambiguity of the study, several definitive statements were made based on the findings:
- “There was little or no impact of grazing system on pasture attributes or soil surface condition.”
- “Diet quality was generally lower in the more intensive systems, especially during the growing season.”
- “There was no consistent difference in grazing days per ha due to grazing system.”
- “The intensity of the grazing system had no consistent effect on soil surface condition, pastures or carrying capacity when compared to less intensive systems on the same property.”
The science community has a track record of finding difficulty with farmer-driven innovation. The same resistance from science was encountered by the no-till movement, according to Bill Crabtree, who was scientific officer with the West Australian No-Till Farmers Association and the leading light of the no-till movement. “The adoption was farmer driven. Much of the scientific data being presented during the time of explosive change, during the early 1990s, was negative towards no-tillage.” He says that there are too few progressive researchers: “While no-till has been rapidly adopted by farmers, many researchers are still negative about no-tillage. This has restricted the amount of useful research that has been done.”
An important part of the scientific method is the “Does it make sense?” test. If the results of trials defy expectations, it is advised that they be subject to scrutiny. In this case, the results confounded initial expectations, lead researcher Trevor Hall said. “We’d thought there would be massive changes, and that’s what we’d be quantifying.”
It is hard to conclude that this $1m MLA/CSIRO study proved anything.
– Posted by Intensive Cattle Grazier
Are you CFI-ready?
1-Day CFI Course: New Dates Announced
- BENDIGO 27/2/2012;
- WARRAGUL 1/3/2012;
- TARANG 5/3/2012;
- WAGGA WAGGA 13/3/2012
- What Is Carbon Farming?
- Why is it so important for the future of your community?
- What is the Carbon Farming Initiative? What does it mean for you?
- How will it change the way you farm?
- What activities are covered?
- What new opportunities for additional farm-based revenue are likely?
- Farm emissions: what are they; how can they be reduced?
- Decision-making tools for Carbon Farmers.
- Soil Carbon – What is it? How does it benefit agriculture?
- Soil health, nutrition, production, and water efficiency…
- Planning tools and options to maximising carbon soil sequestration.
- Growing Soil Carbon: the role of the farmer, their animals, their plants, and the microbial communities
- Opportunities and risk management.
- Safe, ethical soil carbon trading.
- Campaigned since 2005 for farmers’ rights to sell farm carbon credits.
- Conducted the first study tour of the USA soil carbon industry in 2006
- Secured first order for Australian soil carbon from Chicago Climate Exchange 2006.
- Made first sales of Australian soil carbon credits in March 2007
- Organised the first “Soil Science Summits” between scientists and farmers 2007.
- Staged the world’s first Carbon Farming Conference, Mudgee 2007.
- Launched the first formal training program on soil carbon 2008.
- Helped secure $26 million in funds for research to soil carbon for trade 2009.
- Invited to FAO rangelands and conservation farming events USA 2008/9.
- Consulted by both Government and Opposition about farmer take up rates, 2010
- Invited to give evidence as expert witness to Senate Inquiry 2011.
- Methodology Proponents under the Carbon Farming Initiative 2011.
“THERE WOULD BE NO CARBON FARMING INITIATIVE WERE IT NOT FOR THE WORK OF MICHAEL AND LOUISA KIELY.”
GREG HUNT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE ACTION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
“I BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE THE CARBON FARMING INITIATIVE THANKS TO CARBON FARMERS OF AUSTRALIA”
PROFESSOR JOHN CRAWFORD, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY
It is “agriculture that will strengthen food security, adaptation and mitigation where farmers use proven conservation agriculture techniques together with innovative technologies such as drought and flood tolerant crops, improved early warning systems and risk insurance, We need climate –smart agriculture, which can provide a triple win for farmers by creating higher yields and increasing climate resilience, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in plants and the soil.” Last month, leading scientists from 38 countries agreed. Gathering in the Dutch town of Wageningen, to share research findings on this phenomenon, they were united in calling on the negotiators in Durban to recognize and support the potential that Climate-Smart Agriculture offers. In September, the Government of South Africa hosted a meeting of African Agricultural Ministers who noted the crucial opportunity of a “triple win” for African farmers, and called for support from the international community to incorporate Climate-Smart Agriculture into existing regional and national agriculture plans.
“Get out of the way” – World Bank
- An agriculture work program under SBSTA that covers both adaptation and mitigation. It should be informed by science to enhance the role of agriculture in achieving synergies between adaptation, mitigation and food security
- Text that makes crops and pasture eligible under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol ‘Placing agriculture in a global agreement would help provide a policy framework for fully incorporating agriculture into adaptation and mitigation strategies. Further work on numerous technical issues (e.g. monitoring methods, identification of new technologies and approaches) and institutional issues (e.g. how to make sure benefits reach poor farmers) would be stimulated by such an agreement.’
Climb down from your camel!
A desire for sustainable practices arises from personal values that are enshrined in culture and thrive, survive or crash-dive in a social context. The average farmer desires to protect the landscape out of an innate sense of respect for Nature. However there are many perceived risks facing a farmer wishing to act on these desires:
- The need to maintain production for economic returns;
- The lack of knowledge of alternatives;
- The opinions of neighbours and others in the district;
- The media controversy over ‘natural’ practices;
- The “Green” connotations surrounding the alternatives; and
- The opinions of family members.
The concept of a network of progressive farmers acting as a research base and a demonstration platform has been floated. It is intended that, unlike the conventional top-down approach to conducting research about agricultural practices, a more collaborative spirit would produce more cohesive and better informed methodologies.
The sources of success with sustainable farm management are not easy to identify or understand. The farmer is managing a complex bio-economic system that is subject to rapid change and uncertainty and relies upon the farmer’s skills, knowledge, intuition and passion for the task. It cannot to broken down to a series of disconnected roles and responsibilities and subjected to laboratory experiment.
According to the Bell Curve of Diffusion of Innovation Model, there are only two segments to be engaged in this process: the leading farmers are Innovators (2.5%), the vanguard, and the Early Adopters (12.5%), the first wave of followers. The members of these segments, and the third, the Early Mature (35%), are differentiated by their risk tolerance. Innovators have high tolerance, Early Adopters have lower tolerance but see being left behind as a countervailing risk. The Early Mature have even lower tolerance to risk than both Innovators and Early Adopters, but follow when it appears ‘everybody’s doing it’.The first segment gives the second, much larger segment the permission they seek to take the risk as the second would give the third. This is where the network concept could operate.
Engagement Strategies: Collaboration must be more than consultation with stakeholders. It must be closer to a relationship between colleagues from different specialties. In order for collaboration to be genuine, there must be mutual respect for the disciplines each party must observe in order to practice their profession.
It is recommended that a cross-training approach be adopted whereby the scientists involved attend an Holistic Resource Management course and the farmers attend a course in Practical Agricultural Science 101.
This would demonstrate commitment and at the same time heighten the engagement of both sides and lead to better project designs. It would give farmers more realistic expectations of science and more ownership of the results. It would set the bar for future engagement between scientists and practitioners.
By adopting a more holistic approach to studying the dynamic of successful sustainable farming through a two-way transfer of skills and knowledge, both parties in the collaboration can contribute to the solution to soil security to their fullest extent.
“Go back!” CSIRO’s Canute tells No-Till Tsunami – How Science greets farmer-driven innovation: The Case of No-Till
‘we told you so’ when problems emerge. It would be great if they said ‘let’s push on and refine the system to cope with the new challenges’. One thing is for sure, the farmers are not keen to go back!”It appears that farmer-led innovation is immediately suspect to those who see their role as providing farmers with new technologies and techniques: “In the early 1990’s there was enormous farmer enthusiasm for the adoption of no-tillage… Some senior staff from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture (WADA) were not positive about this farmer enthusiasm and their rapid adoption of no-tillage. Farmers were frustrated by what they believed to be, a lack of objective WADA data that reflected their positive whole-farm benefits from their adoption of no-tillage.”
There was a lot to be enthusiastic about with no-till: “It has lifted whole farm yields, improved time of sowing, reduced evaporation, stopped soil erosion, lifted soil carbon levels, improved soil biological fertility (by not burning the soil with tillage), reduced farm energy inputs, and perhaps most importantly it has turned many of our soils into sponges with good soil structure. Making the soil biologically soft has helped us to maximise water use efficiency where water is scarce, and sometimes when intense rainfall occurs the water has been able to get to a depth where it is available for ‘drought proofing’…
“But the science community needs to work out why farmers are seeing what they are seeing. If we don’t there will be very good no-till farmers who get frustrated with the establishment who are disagreeing with them and they will go to ‘muck and mystery’ fertiliser companies and buy products that rarely add value to a farmer’s bottom line.”Despite his reliance on ‘anecdotal’ evidence sourced from farmers, Mr Crabtree denies it to the farmer-driven innovation in the biofertiliser industry. Both Crabtree and Kirkegaard could be prisoners of their own paradigms, suspicious of bioferts as the next wave of farmer-driven innovation crashes on the rocks of othodoxy.
“There is a continuing need for farmers to take control of their own agronomic destiny. Researchers tend not to be leaders, but followers, and the lag phase is often very frustrating – especially when you are on the edge.”
Termites for Nitrogen?
“Termites have bacteria in their stomachs that fix nitrogen,” says no-till consultant Bill Crabtree. “A CSIRO study found that having termites in a crop gave yield benefits by keeping open pores in the soil, reducing compaction and nutrient cycling. In the Geraldton area a guy who has been no-tilling for about 20 years sprayed out the termites in the field. By taking the termites out he found quite significant yield reductions happened a couple of years later.”Back to top
Crikey, it’s all good for soil carbon
“The other thing that motivates carbon farmers is a love of the land, to treat it well and give it the best chance to perform,” added Kiely. “One of the great rewards of the carbon farming is seeing the land respond with joy to the rest, resuscitation and regeneration.”Back to top
Property Values under the Carbon Farming Initiative
1. Soil structure
2. Soil health
4. Ground Cover
6. Tree cover
8. Potential Usage (grazing, cropping)
9. Average Rainfall
10. Fertiliser HistoryThese dimensions can be used as indicators of soil carbon levels and potentials, opportunity for environmental and other plantings, and fertiliser management opportunities.A Carbon Farming Opportunity Report can add an extra dimension to the value proposition of a property. This is especially so with degraded properties. For instance, the more degraded the soil, the lower the carbon levels, the more new carbon can be ‘sequestered’ or drawn down from the atmosphere by plants and stored in the soil.Similarly, the higher the fertiliser applications, the more nutrients being tied up in the soil, the less is available to plants, the more fertiliser needs to be applied to maintain effectiveness. But replacing chemical fertilisers with other nutrient sources allows the landholder to claim carbon credits for reducing emissions caused by fertiliser.Again, an estimation of stock carrying capacity plus average stocking rates can indicate potential for carbon credits arising from methane reductions.NB. No warranties can be given that any price will be achieved.Back to top
Wanted: Experienced Carbon Farmers
Therefore farmers whose soils are already rich with carbon will be penalised for doing the right thing while those who punished the land until recently will be rewarded. A perverse outcome.Opportunity:
- Investors see opportunities in the CFI for returns from agriculture in the emerging scenario of climate change and food security.
- To realise the opportunity they need access to expertise in carbon farming, in particular, knowledge of soil carbon dynamics.
- This creates an opportunity for experienced carbon farmers to participate in the rewards flowing from the CFI.
Consultancy: To meet anticipated demand for this expertise, Carbon Farmers of Australia is establishing a consultancy service with the following benefits for carbon farmers and investors:
- Advising the client on CFI opportunity and methodology requirements
- Matching client with consultant(s)
- Providing a framework for delivering the consultancy service
- Managing the consultancy relationship (where necessary)
Consultant’s Responsibilities: The Carbon Farmer would be required to perform the following tasks:
- Advise the Client on Property selection.
- Draw up a Carbon Farming Plan for the Property.
- Help set Benchmarks for the Plan.
- Help select a Manager for the Property.
- Direct the Manager in implementation of the Plan.
- Mentor the Manager.
- Report on progress against Benchmarks in the Plan.
This consultancy creates an opportunity for both Carbon Farmer and the Investor to benefit from the power of soil carbon increases to regenerate the landscape and play an important part in the global effort to soften the blow of Climate Change.
State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2011
‘In 2010, almost 75% of all OTC volumes were transacted by carbon-conscious buyers who directly or through resellers offset emissions – some of them for the first time. The buyers’ market that emerged in 2009 also became business-as-usual last year, requiring suppliers to meet savvy buyers on their playing field. “Three years ago we talked to companies who said, ‘Climate change? Tell me about that,’” remarked Freddy Sharpe, CEO of Australia-based Climate Friendly. “Now they come to us with a pre-measured footprint and specific requirements for this many tonnes of VERs from this project at this location and this price. Buyers are much more informed and aware than they were even a year ago.”Click here for more information.
Kyoto extended: China, India & USA get on board
Negotiations staggered on from COP to COP. And the world changed: China “became the greatest manufacturing exporter the world has ever known. Within 10 years it had more or less bankrupted the United States and Europe by maintaining an undervalued currency and helping to keep their interest rates down,” says Kohler. “The result is that China is now rich and Europe and the US are poor. Some European nations are destitute and should definitely not be in Annex 2, and probably not even Annex 1.”