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Hunter Valley carbon project delivers fertile soil for farmers

Published by
World Coal,

A four year partnership between Rio Tinto’s Bengalla mine, landholders, University of Newcastle, BDM Resources and Hunter Local Land Services led to trialling carbon management practices on Hunter Valley farmers’ lands.

Seventeen landholders implemented carbon management practices, such as rotational grazing and improved cropping techniques, as part of the project, and seeing more fertile soils with increased carbon storage. Results from their properties show an average increase in the amount of carbon stored in the top 30 cm of soil of close to 12%, or 7.6 t/ha.

Soil carbon is widely considered an important indicator of soil health, landscape resilience and productivity, while increased levels can help drought-proof properties.

Merriwa landholder Kim Fenley, who implemented the trial carbon management practices at his property, has noticed significant improvements in productivity.

He explained: “The difference between the lands I traditionally graze to the trial area is a two to three fold productivity increase due to the carbon practices put in place. The carbon practices included using rotational grazing to allow better use of the paddocks and using controlled improved grasses and crops to increase productivity while native grasses are allowed to come forward.

“Capturing carbon not only removes CO2 from the atmosphere but it comes with benefits such as helping to manage the impact of drought on the land. Carbon in the soil means water holding potential and the ability to then see out a drought is increased, Fenley added. “We’ll continue on this process to look at what other people are doing. Everyone involved has a better understanding of soil carbon and the benefits of better management tools.”

District Coordinator for the Upper Hunter Local Land Services Steve Eccles commented: “The adoption of grazing rotations and innovative cropping as part of the carbon management practices during the project has resulted in an increase in carbon stored in the soils. This has led to increased ground cover and pasture production, with a reduction in weeds and land degradation issues.”

“Farmers implementing these practices have benefited from improved soil health and resilience of the properties to adverse weather such as dry conditions,” Eccles continued.

Bengalla General Manager Jo-Anne Scarini indicated she was proud of the partnership and said the project was “truly worthwhile” because of the positive results and benefits the landholders are seeing.

The project area included approximately 1100 ha. of Upper Hunter Valley land and resulted in an approximate 8400 t of additional soil carbon present in the project area.

Edited from press release by Harleigh Hobbs

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