|Location:||Central western New South Wales|
|National priority area:||Sustainable farm practices|
|Targets:||Improving management practices; improving knowledge and skill.|
$157 000 through the 2009/10 Caring for our Country Business Plan as part of regional funding provided to the Central West Catchment Management Authority for one year.
Lachlan Catchment Management Authority, Conservation Agriculture and No-Till Farming Association, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW Department of Primary industries
Increasing soil carbon
Targeted investment to increase landholder skills in carbon farming in central western New South Wales. Incentives are paid for capacity building and on-ground improvements, where there is a high public benefit, through an expression of interest process.
Soils in NSW's central west have suffered under years of inappropriate management practices that caused widespread land degradation, including declining soil structure, nutrient levels, biological activity and rising acidity. Today, soils are improving steadily in the catchment's grazing, cropping, irrigated farming and horticulture industries. The trigger for this turnaround is carbon farming.
The catchment is located in central western NSW and includes the Castlereagh, Bogan and Macquarie River valleys. It covers an area of 84 842 square kilometres.
The Central West Catchment Management Authority (CMA) is working to improve management practices funded with $157 000 from Caring for our Country. The project is a combination of incentives, events (using leading farmers as mentors), best available science, targeting of specific landscapes, and partnering with organisations like Landcare and the No-Till Farming Association.
These measures have helped 1 500 landholders in the central west make significant land management changes.
Program manager Jane Crystal says "the key to managing change management, given a predominantly conservative farming community where our programs have challenged full adoption, has been through partnership arrangements with Landcare and farmer grower groups to encourage adoption of best practice and conservation farming, thereby increasing the resilience of the land".
The principles of carbon farming include:
- maintaining complete ground cover with crop and pasture residue throughout the year
- reducing the use of mechanical soil disturbance to sow crops and pastures
- preventing soil compaction in the cropping and grazing phases
- using a wider variety of crops and pastures to increase biodiversity in the cropping system and the extent of organic matter and micro-organisms in the soil.
These principles have been explained to some 770 landholders through demonstrations, development of plans with landholder groups, machinery field days and visits to farms.
A soil carbon map has been developed for the Central West to provide the best available information on carbon levels and soil carbon sequestration limits of the various soils in the catchment.
Carbon levels range from less than 0.5 per cent in the western fringes to above 4 per cent in the coldest and wettest areas and up to 8 per cent on top of Mount Canobolas.
"Extensive monitoring for soil health and ground cover, together with landholder surveys, provides evidence that changed management practices are yielding improvements," Jane explains.
"Landholders who are able to manage their groundcover well can have significant effects on the levels of soil organic matter and organic carbon, soil surface condition, soil structure, water infiltration rates and the ability to store more water where it falls in their paddock."
For example a one per cent increase in soil carbon can equate to 144 000 litres per hectare of additional water storage. (Jones. C, 2006, Aggregate or aggravate? Creating soil carbon). This enhances landholder productivity as well as reducing environmental impacts from erosion, water logging and dryland salinity.
"Carbon farming is a win-win for the environment, productivity of the land and profitability of farming enterprises," Jane says. "A healthy soil allows for a more resilient farming landscape."
Where is this project?
Location: Central western New South Wales
Connect with this project
Central West CMA
Ph: 02 6840 7803
Central West Catchment Management Authority web site: