NEW UWA research looking at the economic impacts of implementing soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration methods into farming practices, is showing that these impacts may prove impractical for farmers.
One of the study's authors Assistant Professor Marit Kragt says while SOC sequestration has been talked about a lot in public debate, there was little evidence of the impacts it may have on farmers.
“The government is promising a bunch of money to the farmers if they undertake climate change mitigation action,” she says.
“That sounds like a great idea but how much would it actually cost farmers to take these measures?”
All soils contain carbon in organic and inorganic forms and the hope is that by altering practices the amount of carbon held by the soil can be increased.
The authors found that while altering certain practices can be used to increase carbon sequestration it is costly and farmers would require high levels of compensation to make it a viable option.
By modeling the cost of these practices researchers estimate the profit loss for each additional tonne of CO2 stored on the model farm was $80.00 which is far more than the initial buying price of $23.00 per tonne under carbon tax legislation.
A/Prof Kragt says there are also a number of other barriers for the implementation of many practices of carbon sequestration.
“There are a lot of opportunities to increase soil carbon but pretty much most of those are categorised as conservation practices and those conservation practices won’t be eligible for carbon credits under additionality”, A/Prof Kragt says.
Additionality is the requirement that any practices implemented create additional sequestration or reductions in emissions than would have occurred under a business as usual scenario.
She says there is a lot of uncertainty around mitigation efforts and the carbon tax legislation farmers will have to contend with.
“You have the policy uncertainty where you don’t really know how this policy is going to develop”, she says
“The other one is all the environmental uncertainty where you could implement all new management practices. [The] hope is to see carbon sequestration or emission reduction […by…] planting trees is all conditional on weather condition, soil condition and bushfires."
Ms Kragt says the next part of this research will be based around the real experiences of the farmers who are starting to implement these practices to get a more detailed picture of what impacts they are already having.