For a long time, carbon farming was seen only as an act of environmental activism. Land managers working to lower CO2 levels and stem their impact on the climate were perceived to be doing it out of the good of their hearts, by force, or because they got ‘money for jam’. But what farmers and land managers across the country are now realising is that – when done well – carbon farming can be a powerful tool for unlocking new revenue and improving on-farm productivity too.
In fact, many high-quality carbon farming projects like the ones GreenCollar helps implement are explicitly designed to optimise the productivity and profitability of your current land management operations. With advancements in our understanding of climate and improved oversight over the quality of the carbon market, the methodologies we have available are now inherently good for your land. And what’s good for the land tends to be good for whatever you’re trying to grow or graze on top of it.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to carbon methodologies. Each project is designed specifically to earn you credits (ACCUs) based on the natural attributes, historical and existing land use of your property, and can range from a single activity (eg. new fences) to a whole-farm exercise. This means that whichever land management adjustments your project developer suggests – be it increasing native vegetation cover or upgrading infrastructure – you’ll be earning credits while doing what’s right for your land, without any negative impact on operations.
Take Soil Carbon projects for example. Depending on your property’s eligibility, a project developer might suggest methodologies that improve the soil’s ability to store carbon, such as no-till farming, or using a different fertilizer. It’s a powerful methodology climate-wise, with studies showing that increasing soil carbon by just 0.4% each year is enough to offset any annual increase in CO2 levels from fossil fuel emissions.
But while this sequestration of CO2 is what land managers are being paid for via the carbon market, the land also benefits from better water retention, reduced erosion and potentially even higher nutrients in crops. It’s a productivity win paid for by ACCUs.
Regenerating or protecting bushland is another common carbon project type in Australia. If your project developer deems your property eligible, increased native vegetation cover can serve to reduce your exposure to seasonal extremities, such as crop losses due to winter frost or overheating stock during summer. It’s important to recognise that regeneration doesn’t have to mean wall to wall trees. Land can still be used for grazing with many landholders reporting heathier, happier livestock as a result of a more natural environment.
One of the more common methodologies for Human Induced Regeneration projects is to upgrade boundary fences in order to protect and regenerate native bushlands affected by overgrazing by feral pests. While the primary objective is to achieve better carbon storage, the project may also make it easier to manage and protect your stock or implement rotational grazing methods, which provides a relatively easy boost to productivity and land health. Similarly, enhanced beef herd management methods like nitrate supplements aren’t just designed to cut down greenhouse gas emissions – they can also improve the general health of your stock.
Whatever project is most suitable for your land, there’s of course also one more immediate productivity benefit of the carbon farming process: a stable income stream that can be reinvested into productivity. By drawing in extra revenue from carbon credits, you’ll be able to invest more resources into improving infrastructure, water points and trap yards – or into additional jobs for the local community. Having this new, diversified income stream will also serve to make your business more resilient in the face of drought and other extreme weather events, as your carbon credits will keep accumulating, even if your crop yield or cattle prices don’t.
This shift from viewing carbon farming as only good for the planet is a welcome one – and allows land managers to really take advantage of the benefits to their bottom line and current farming practices. When we look after the land, we’re looking after ourselves and our livelihoods too.