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Carbon Farming in the Rangelands – What does it mean for the landholder?

Posted by Bestprac on May 31 2012

By Jane Garrett

The WA Group ran it’s Climate Change Workshop at Hamelin Station on 18th and 19th May with session leader David Galloway from Ferart Design & Northwest Carbon.

Session leader David GallowayDavid opened the session by talking about climate change. Whether one believes in climate change or not, the predicted changes to the climate in the rangelands is that the cycle of dry years and wet years will continue but weather events will become more extreme and the landscape will become hotter and wetter. The tropics are predicted, over time, to expand to the southern rangelands; the growing of wheat at Wiluna may become possible! Consensus scientific projections estimate that average global temperatures will rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius, by the year 2100, if the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas emissions is not curbed (source

Greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide and methane, are a factor in the reduction of the ozone layer in the atmosphere and, to preserve our planet, we must find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The greenhouse gases are ranked according to their ‘potency’ as units of carbon dioxide equivalents, or Global Warming Potential. For example, one unit of methane has the same ‘damaging’ effect as twenty-one units of carbon dioxide. Reduction in greenhouse gases is therefore essential to our planet.

For the rangeland farmers the changing climate provides opportunity to diversify their business and some emerging opportunities include:

  • Improving water retention in the landscape to rebuild biomass and store carbon,
  • Growing fodder crops,
  • Growing biomass for fuel,
  • Algal and pond culture projects,
  • Avoided emission projects,
  • Biodiversity enhancement projects.

Group introductionsIn May 2010 the WA Group’s Climate Change Forum, at Monkey Mia, had introduced carbon farming and this topic has held both mystery and interest for the group members.

The Carbon Farming Initiative has been set up by the Federal Government and is a carbon-offset scheme to provide new economic opportunities for farmers, forest growers and land managers to help the environment by reducing carbon pollution by generating carbon credits that can then be sold to companies, such as the airlines, wanting to offset their carbon emissions.

Carbon credits represent reductions in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through:

  • Increasing the amount of carbon stored in soil or trees (by planting trees or reducing tillage on a farm to increase soil carbon),
  • Reducing emissions from landfill and livestock.

Credits generated that are compliant or non-compliant with Australia’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol:

  • Those generated under the CFI, which are compliant include reforestation, savanna fire management and reductions in pollution from livestock and fertilizer can be sold to companies with liabilities under the carbon price.
  • Those that are non-compliant include vegetation and soil carbon projects, although this area is rapidly changing as the government recognises more land-based activities on the land that reduce pollution.

Whilst still an emerging market, carbon is a tradable commodity with a value assigned relative to carbon dioxide equivalent, in Australia at ~$23/tonne (other countries have their own set value, China is ~$10/tonne for example). Carbon could become an income stream for the pastoralist as it has for plantation owners elsewhere in Australia.

In terms of setting up a project under CFI, the steps are relatively simple:

  • Set up a recognized legal entity,
  • Set up a ‘carbon’ project,
  • Adopt a recognised methodology to generate carbon (the recipe),
  • Set up the accountability,
  • Create carbon credits,
  • Receive a certificate,
  • Register it,
  • Trade carbon.

In practice the process is somewhat more complex, as the government establishes recognised methodologies that ‘qualify’ for carbon credit trading and ‘politics’ remains a barrier to establish qualifying processes. In terms of fossil fuel based power stations, for example, the calculation of avoided emissions, if it were to turn to photovoltaic systems, is a relatively simple calculation. The calculation for the rangelands is not quite so simple, however possible carbon projects might be savanna burning, reduction of stock emissions from improved animal efficiency, regeneration of a landscape through retention of water to provide better biomass and better grazing.

The barriers to the setting up of a carbon project mainly fall around the lack of methodologies and the need to understand the business case. As an example, a recently approved methodology is the shooting of feral camels in Central Australia. In its lifetime a camel creates a large amount of greenhouse gas through burping and flatulence (a camel is classed as a full ruminant); each camel has been decreed equivalent to 8 carbon credits per camel. So the removal of, say, 6 camels at a price of $28 per tonne of carbon creates a potential income of:

              6 camels x 8 carbon credits x $28 = $1,344

In the rangelands setting up a methodology may not be so simple; a CFI recognised project must be:

  • Measureable,
  • Conservative (realistic),
  • Based on good science,
  • Internationally consistent,
  • Avoidance of leakage (e.g. water run off),
  • Permanent (carbon stored for 100 years),
  • Additional, (not the normal business).

Also in the rangelands there is still the question of who will own the carbon, under the pastoral land tenure, and any implemented project cannot have a negative impact on the land. Other barriers include economic variability, carbon auditing (training and license), purchases and the international linkages. However carbon is a huge market and the legislation is in place for both avoidance and stored carbon and represents an opportunity.

The outdoor classroomHenk de Graaf then introduced the group to technologies from his companies, Waterman Irrigation and Industrial Automation, which enable control of irrigation systems using mobile telephony and internet. The irrigation systems include the central pivot watering system, an overhead ‘Floppy Sprinkler System’ that creates it’s own microclimate and an algae control which is in use in Kings Park, Perth. As well as irrigation systems, Henk has developed monitoring systems for water level and salinity in bores and RFID tags that can track a calf from birth to slaughter (retaining critical information about the animal throughout its life). These systems may also be able to be applied to automated watering and feeding systems.

See and

Greg McGuinness then presented Cocky Smart – a natural organic product that protects livestock from lice, flies and ticks. The product is currently undergoing APVMA registration and it is expected to be on the market in 14 months’ time. Eight years ago, while shearing in a particularly hot year with a severe fly infestation, John Chamberlain, the founder and CEO of Cocky Smart, noted that the caged Sulphur Crested Cockatoo in the shearing shed was not bothered by the flies. The flies were so bad that the shearers could not talk for fear of getting a mouthful of flies. Eventually, after much trial and error, John, with the help of a chemist, discovered that the cockatoo naturally produced a skin secretion, made up of more than 30 compounds, identified as Triphenyl Phosphate (TPP). Cocky Smart has since discovered that a synthetic TPP, sourced from Germany, can replicate the bird's skin secretion to a high purity.

See cockysmart website

Peter Dougan then introduced his training program ‘Building Farm Business Capacity’ from Holistic Rural Management and his desire to get the program established in the rangelands for the pastoral farmers. The program is built around holistic growth and profitability to drive strategic change; it looks at setting a 12 year vision and building the steps towards achieving that vision.

See Peter’s linkedin profile

Having started a conversation with the group on carbon credit trading 2 years ago and stimulating their interest, this session built upon that initial knowledge and clarified a possible future diversification. As is usual with this group, the members love to talk and discuss, the set agenda was soon ‘blown to pieces’ and the scheduled tour was replaced by further discussions on issues and the future.

Pastoral issues appear to be the need to influence government with fragmented government departments and the lack of consistency of project funding (a number of projects remain unfinished due to removal of funds).

The opportunities for the group, in terms of carbon farming, present the possibility to characterise land systems and understand what they have on their properties to make unproductive land a carbon store; or to ‘trap’ water and plant an acreage of trees or, alternatively, to look at technologies such as the production of biodiesel from biomass, if the regulations allow.

For more information on carbon credits see:


Jane Garrett: Global Composition 21st May 2012

Last changed: Jun 01 2012



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