Spotlight on the Soil Carbon Method

soil carbon method

The Soil Carbon Industry Summit kicks off the conference on Monday 17 July

Held in conjunction with the Soil Carbon Industry Group (SCIG), this full day on soil carbon is a fantastic education and exploration of the 2021 Soil Carbon Method and the tools required to run a soil carbon project.

So, let’s take a high-level look at the Soil Carbon Method

Note, the emphasis here is on high-level, and implementing a project requires quite a bit of detail. This method involves:

  • Soil carbon sequestration projects (drawing down carbon and storing it in soil and vegetation);
  • Most agricultural systems including cropping, pasture, horticulture, and mixed enterprises;
  • For the first time, a combination of direct measurement of soil carbon and modelling can be used to calculate sequestration.

You can carry out a carbon project on:

  • Land that has been used for grazing, cropping (including perennial woody horticulture), bare fallow, or any combination of these – provided at least one or more applied over the previous 10 years (the baseline period). You’ll need your records of this at audit time;
  • Land which has soil carbon improvement potential;
  • Land which you can sample to at least a 30cm depth.

You can undertake one or more eligible activities

Examples of activities to improve soil carbon include, but are not restricted to:

  • Converting from cropland to permanent pasture
  • Changing pasture species composition
  • Changing grazing patterns
  • Water ponding activities – where water effect is ‘spread’ over a wider area, to increase effective rainfall and carbon
  • Pasture cropping
  • Application of Synthetic Fertilisers
  • Application of Non-Synthetic Fertilisers (timing requirements apply)
  • Clay spreading and clay delving
  • Other ‘innovative’ activities that are aimed at improving carbon stocks. These need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis
  • ‘New’ irrigation (some definitions apply)
  • Compost application – depending on where the ‘waste’ material comes from
  • There are some limits on the use of some waste, such as straw. This will depend on the waste stream and its origins and can be assessed on a case-by-case basis
  • The application of amendments containing biochar are allowable under certain circumstances.

You should seek expert advice on which activities best suit your project site.

Project duration

There has been much discussion around the so-called ‘100-year rule’ which was a barrier to soil carbon projects. Soil Carbon Projects can now nominate either 25-year or 100-year permanence periods:

a. For a 100-year permanence project, there is no deduction of ACCUs (Australian Carbon Credit Units) over the 25 years crediting period that you can earn credits from the project. HOWEVER, after that time, you have a ‘carbon maintenance obligation’ to keep soil carbon levels for the next 75 years.

b. For a 25-year project, 20% of the ACCUs will be deducted over the 25-year project crediting period (provided you measure increases). After 25 years, there is NO obligation on the project area in terms of carbon levels. (Most farmers feel this project style suits their operational requirements)

c. There are other discounts within the method which diminish over time. These can be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

The all-important newness test

Farmers can choose many land management activities to build soil carbon, but must include at least one new management activity. This is to pass the ‘newness’ test – which ensures that the carbon stored is not ‘business as usual’ but additional.

However, the activities (for instance soil amendment) will need to demonstrate that it is LIKELY to improve soil carbon storage rates. And meet other requirements of the method, such as being included in a ‘Land Management Strategy’.

Land Management Strategy

An independent person must write or review a ‘land management strategy’ which will outline the way the activities are likely to improve soil carbon levels and evidence for this.

This can be written by your Carbon Service Provider but will need to be reviewed by someone without an interest in the project.

The strategy can be an appendix to an existing Farm Management Plan, or a stand-alone document. The strategy will provide a clear implementation pathway, which must be regularly reviewed.


Every project is subject to a certain number of audits over the 25 years that you can earn an income from your project. This audit schedule will be given to you when you register the project.


You can read the Soil Carbon Method in full here. Can’t wait for the summit – it’s going to be a big day, and a great start to the Nature-Based Conference & Expo. Don’t miss out on the discount… earlybird registration ends today!




Get plain-English, farmer-focused carbon market knowledge delivered by experts at the inaugural

Nature-Based Solutions Conference & Expo

Monday 17–Wednesday 19 July 2023