Soil Carbon Project Guide
Let’s break down the basics of a soil carbon farming project.
What is a soil carbon farming project?
Participating in a soil carbon project involves managing your land in a way that increases the amount of carbon stored in your soil. By building these soil carbon stocks beneath the ground, you are removing emissions from the atmosphere. This removal, and the resulting increase in your soil carbon stocks, earn you Australian carbon credits.
What activities can I do to increase my soil carbon?
There are several activities you can undertake to encourage soil carbon increases. A soil carbon project will require you to implement one or more new or materially different eligible practices.
Soil Carbon Eligibility Checklist
Example of a new land management activity
In a cropping system, retain stubble from a harvested crop and let livestock graze. Following this, minimise tillage when sowing the new crop, so minimal disturbance to the soil occurs. Tillage of soil disturbs the fungi connections that form in undisturbed soil, releasing emissions into the atmosphere.
What are the benefits of a soil carbon project?
Increasing carbon levels in the soil can have many benefits to your farming practices including:
Increasing farm productivity
Enhancing soil health
Building drought resilience
Increasing biodiversity on your farm
Boosting your farm’s bottom line
Enabling farms to achieve carbon neutrality
What does farm baselining involve?
To be awarded carbon credits you first need to determine the starting point for your project before you start these new activities. This will be your baseline.
To figure out your baseline, you will need to determine:
Your farm’s operational carbon emissions
How much carbon is already stored in your soil
To figure out your farm’s operational carbon emissions, you need to collate farm records over the five years prior to your project (or make conservative assumptions). This will be used to calculate your ‘typical’ on-farm emissions from livestock, machinery, fertiliser etc.
For the soil carbon side of things, you will need to hire an independent third-party contractor to take soil core samples to see exactly how much soil organic carbon (SOC) is within your soils.
This is called baseline sampling and provides a starting point for your soil carbon project.
Once you have your baseline, the aim of the game is to increase your Soil Organic Carbon (SOC).
After 3-5 years of undergoing your new land management practices, a contractor will measure your soil again to determine if you have been successful in increasing your SOC.
Basically, you get rewarded for net SOC changes:
Net SOC = gains in SOC - increases in on-farm emissions from the emissions baseline
And 1 tonne of net Soil Carbon gained = 3.6 tons of Co2e sequestered = 3.6 Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). Not a bad equation for the bottom line!
An important thing to note here is that any added farm emissions from within your project area (for example methane from grazing livestock) will be calculated in the baseline, and therefore deducted from the net SOC increase.
What are the costs and will it be profitable?
Glad you asked! The costs/revenues of each project will vary according to factors including the size of your project, locations, topography, existing SOC, and your planned LMS.
To get started, our team at Carbon Scout can provide you with a tailored desktop feasibility assessment which estimates costs and returns, specific to your farm, based on several alternative financial scenarios. If you have recent soil tests, we can work off them, otherwise, we use local soil data from CSIRO’s LOOC-C carbon abatement calculator.
View our other project guides to help you gain a broader understand of carbon farming.