Opportunities for Carbon Farming by Tony Peck

Fridays for Future demo Bairnsdale

Climate change is being felt by everyone in Australia and farmers already are among the worst affected, with deeper and longer droughts along with worse floods and storms.

There are many opportunities for farmers to benefit by action. It is gratifying that Gippsland Federal representative Darren Chester has acknowledged the concerns of many farmers that climate change is affecting them, despite dissenting voices within his party.

We are already very aware of the intense and more frequent bushfires, decreasing crop yields across the state and longer more frequent droughts caused by global warming. This is happening with only 1.1°C rise in global temperatures. Current targets for reductions in carbon emissions are just not enough and will result in very high rises in temperatures – more than 4°C by the end of the century. The impacts on agriculture will be profound. Luckily, there is plenty that can be done to keep temperatures under 1.5ºC which is seen as our best bet for a reasonable future.

Farmers can benefit by acting now. They are finding that they are using less fertilizer and their soils are both retaining more moisture and have increased crop yields. These techniques build up carbon in the soil, reducing the carbon available to cause the greenhouse effect that warms the planet. There are also opportunities to trade the additional carbon that is stored in the soil with industries that are also trying to reduce their carbon impact.

Techniques that are restoring carbon to our soils include minimal tilling and use of perennial grasses and planting native trees and shrubs. Managing stock to allow native forest to regrow not only provides potential shade and wind-breaks, but trees are a great store for carbon. Many trials underway show a number of ways to improve beef herds by reducing methane a potent greenhouse gas.

Farming organizations are providing effective targets and support. The Meat and Livestock organization has set a net zero carbon emissions target for 2030 for beef production. The Australian Farmers Federation has a net zero target of 2050. Groups like Farmers for Climate Action and Carbon Farmers of Australia each have useful web pages and they are keen to support farmers to understand what they can do to make a difference.