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Soil Organic Carbon

Soil Organic Carbon
A reward for good land stewardship


The decline in fertility attributed to diminishing concentrations of soil organic carbon (SOC) is a major threat to the productivity and sustainability of our agro-ecosystems.  While conventional broad-acre land management practices tend to result in the loss of SOC, economically viable changes to land management may reverse this trend and allow some soils to store much larger quantities of carbon. For example  adoption of no-till technologies,  incorporating perennial pasture species and modifying grazing management to maintain pasture cover..

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Built For This Country

Built For This Country
Cropping into kikuyu maintains soil carbon

Name: Ken and Jan Reddington farm with son Paul and his wife Alice Reddington
Location: Bremer Bay
Average Annual Rainfall: 520 mm
Enterprise mix: 80 per cent livestock (sheep and cattle) 20 per cent cropping
Property size: 2000 hectares
Soil Type: Sandy duplex (non wetting)

Ken and Jan Reddington obtained a conditional purchase block in the early 1970s on the South Coast of WA. Over the past 40 years Ken and Jan have developed their property into a productive farm. They focus mainly on grazing, running sheep for prime lamb production and super fine merino wool, as well as cattle for vealer production. Utilising perennial pastures to mitigate wind erosion, and more recently introducing cropping to reinvigorate their pastures, has stabilised their soils and improved their productivity.

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Cropping Into Kikuyu

Cropping Into Kikuyu
Herbicide use and regrowth of pastures

Farmers: Ken and Jan Reddington, son Paul and his wife Alice
Location:  Bremer Bay, Western Australia
Property: 2000 ha
Rainfall: 520mm, with 25-30% as summer rainfall
Enterprise mix: 80% livestock, 20% cropping (some for hay), sheep for prime lambs and fine wool merinos, cattle for vealer production. Tactical cropping.
Soils: south coast sandplain, sandy duplex, non-wetting

The perennial pasture grass kikuyu is highly suited to some parts of the South Coast sandplain of Western Australia, but even when well-managed, the pastures gradually decline in productivity. To look for solutions South Coast NRM through the Climate Action on Farms project, talked to two South Coast farmers who are rejuvenating their kikuyu pastures by cropping into them.

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Native Grasses

Native Grasses
Improve farmland by storing and increasing carbon and reducing salt scald

Name: Tim and Val Saggers
Location: Kendenup, WA
Average annual rainfall: 400mm
Enterprise: 90 per cent livestock (sheep) and 10 per cent cropping
Property size: 480 ha
Soil type: Gravel over clay

Compared with current annual-based systems, perennial pastures introduced into Australian farming systems offer an acceptable balance between food and fibre production as well as many environmental benefits. Perennial pastures’ ability to utilise dry season moisture extends the growing season in summer and autumn, thereby increasing production potential.

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Increasing Soil Organic Carbon

Increasing Soil Organic Carbon
Though biological farming

NAME: Stephen & Kerry Frost.
LOCATION: Stonemeal Farm, Narrikup, WA.
ENTERPRISE: 100 per cent livestock (wool & prime lamb production).
PROPERTY SIZE: 275 ha, including 40 ha of protected & managed
remnant vegetation & 57 ha of blue gum plantation in second rotation.
SOIL TYPE: Sandy duplex.

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Permanent Environmental Plantings for Carbon Benefits

Permanent Environmental Plantings for Carbon Benefits
A Fitz-Stirling Perspective

AREA: Fitz-Stirling (corridor of agricultural/reserve land between Fitzgerald River & Stirling Range national parks).
LOCATION: Eastern part of Shire of Gnowangerup & western part of Shire of Jerramungup.
LAND USES: Mixture of remnant vegetation in nature reserves plus vegetated & managed remnant vegetation for conservation with neighbouring broad-acre agriculture.
SOIL TYPE: Wide ranging.
WHY HERE?: The Fitz-Stirling area is a focal point for the ambitious Gondwana Link project which aims to conserve & restore landscapes on a regional scale. This area will provide the South Coast community with a unique opportunity to see how best practice revegetation is undertaken & managed for long term benefits, including potential carbon benefits.
SPECIALIST PRACTITIONER: Justin Jonson, managing director, Threshold Environmental.

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Foraging for the Future

Foraging for the Future

Name: Ian and Joan Walsh, Michael and Mindy Walsh

Location: Cranbrook
Average Annual Rainfall: 400-425 mm
Enterprise mix: Livestock (sheep) and cropping (canola, barley and oats)
Property size: 1600 hectares
Soil Type: Sandy duplex (Yellow sands Uc5.22)

“Foraging for the Future” shows how farmer Ian Walsh includes perennial forages on marginal land to increase livestock productivity while lowering methane emission. Ian’s most recent trial with South Coast NRM and CSIRO was to find how perennial shrubs increases sheep production and reduces methane emission intensity. Grazing perennial shrubs enabled sheep to gain weight in summer/autumn and helped get them to market weight quicker compared to sheep that grazed stubbles. Peak methane emission intensity was almost 39 % lower for these sheep grazed shrub compared to sheep that grazed stubbles. This case study shows growing perennial shrubs on marginal land gives farmers the ability to be opportunistic and make farming systems more robust against future climate variability.

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