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The challenge

Cost-effective technologies and meaningful abatement

The amount and form of organic carbon plays an important role in soil process and function, the underpinning ecosystem service for agricultural and landscape productivity.

Increasing the amount of carbon stored in agricultural soils can help mitigate rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Farmers who adopt management practices that sequester soil carbon stand to gain a benefit from a more productive, sustainable and resilient farming system. There are also opportunities for farmers who utilise management practices that build carbon to earn additional revenue from carbon credits and gaining market entry.

Soil carbon sequestration is a key component of the Australian Government's technology-led emissions reduction policy. It is also included in Australia's National Soil Strategy as a crucial part of efforts to improve soil health.

Soil carbon sequestration means adopting practices – most often in the agricultural sector – that increase the amount of carbon stored in soils. Agricultural management practices might include:

  • increasing plant growth or cover
  • adding compost or mulch
  • decreasing losses through reduced stubble burning or minimal till practices
  • increasing the clay content of sandy soils.

A key challenge is developing sequestration technologies that are cost-effective, and that produce meaningful abatement at national-to-global scales.

Another challenge is that the diversity of soils and agricultural systems across Australia makes it difficult to develop consistent accounting metrics for soil carbon.

Australia has made a commitment to Net Zero emissions by 2050. Each year, the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory reports all greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, and the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF, provides the financial mechanism to incentivise industries to either reduce emissions, or increase sequestration, contributing to the emission reduction targets set under the Paris Agreement.

Our response

Towards better methodologies and monitoring

Our researchers are involved in developing cutting-edge technologies to quantify carbon sequestration in Australian vegetation and soils.

Together with our partners, we have developed a range of science innovations that seek to reduce the costs of land managers participating in soil and vegetation-based sequestration activities, that seek to improve the accuracy and implementation of the national carbon accounting system, and that provide science-based evidence in support of land-based carbon management policies under the Emissions Reduction Fund.

We have extensive experience in field survey design and data collection, developing statistically robust sampling strategies, novel instrumentation for on-site soil carbon measurement, developing empirical models of vegetation biomass, models for the spatial prediction of soil carbon and other soil properties at different spatial scales, and biogeochemical modelling and prediction of sequestration at local to national scales.

To support our research, we collaborate widely with state and federal government agencies, non-government organisations, universities and the private sector. These collaborations facilitate national-level coordination in research effort, provide opportunities for accessing and sharing key infrastructure, and allow the development of nationally-significant databases on soil and vegetation carbon.

Soil carbon case studies

  • Our LOOC-C ('look see’) app will help farmers and land managers discover possible carbon projects for their land and assess whether they can participate profitably in greenhouse gas mitigation and maximise the benefits to the land from carbon markets.

  • We’ve developed technology to rapidly scan the spectral signature of soil cores, showing promise for easier and cheaper soil carbon measurement.

Interested in helping us further this research?

We seek research collaborators with complementary skills so we can work together for stronger results.

Contact us to collaborate

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