Christine Jones, PhD
Founder, Carbon For Life Inc.
The health of soils, catchments, rural communities, urban populations –
and indeed, the future of the planet – is in the hands of farmers and
graziers. Their understanding, innovation and implementation of
regenerative land management practices will be fundamental to the
well-being of all.
The nutritional status of soils, plants, animals and people has fallen
dramatically in the last 50 years. We are all part of a food-chain that
begins with the air. Grasses and crops provide the link between the
atmosphere and the soil – and then between the soil and our food (meat
energy required to fuel the soil engine comes from photosynthesis
(capture of carbon dioxide) and is transferred into soil (as carbon
compounds) by the roots of actively growing green plants. The
rhizosphere (the area around the roots) is where the action happens.
Plants determine who lives and who dies in the soil. When plants are
absent, most soil life is absent too. Without life, new topsoil cannot
be built and the topsoil that is already there rapidly deteriorates,
losing structure and water-holding capacity. Unprotected soil is also
highly vulnerable to wind and water erosion.
better than we found it.
Perennial groundcover is very
closely linked to the water cycle – both
as a cause and as an effect. When the amount of green leaf in a region
is reduced, the rainfall declines. It would be impossible for this not
to happen, because the loss of actively growing green plants takes
water out of the landscape.
Loss of perennial groundcover also increases run-off (when it does
rain) – and causes waterlogging in lower landscape positions. This
alters the hydrological balance and exacerbates dryland salinity. The
diaries of the first European settlers report there were extensive
tracts of perennial grasslands across the Australian continent in the
early to mid 1800s. The demise of this productive yearlong cover, with
its ability to respond to rain at any time, can be linked to many of
the ‘problems’ now facing agricultural enterprises.
When perennial groundcover is lost, the energy, carbon and water cycles
are compromised. Further, if soils have low levels of biological
activity, the mineral, trace element, vitamin and anti-oxidant content
of plant material falls markedly. This reduces the ability of the
immune system to function, both in the livestock grazing the plants and
in the people consuming the farm produce.
the Pastures for Profit workshops I will explain how we can better
manage our grasslands and croplands to turn air into soil and soil into
dollars – both in terms of the nutritional value and productivity of
farm enterprises – and also in terms of Soil Restoration Credits
(carbon credits) under the Australian Soil Carbon Accreditation Scheme
It will be argued that improvements to agricultural and
silva-pastoral practices offer highly effective methods for long-term
greenhouse gas abatement.
Articles on ‘Building new topsoil’, ‘Grazing management for healthy
soils’ and the ‘Australian Soil Carbon Accreditation Scheme’ (ASCAS)
can be found on the Amazing Carbon website http://www.amazingcarbon.com/