Carbon Farming Knowledge


Over the course of the Carbon Farming Knowledge project a range of communication and information resources were produced to assist in the understanding and application of carbon farming practices and policy. These included newsletters, fact sheets, short You Tube style videos and updates on the Latest News blog. These resources can now be found in this section of the web site

As new information becomes on technologies and policy relating to carbon farming and the carbon market, these resources will be added to this site.


Climate Change Science Update

According to Darren Ray, Senior Meteorologist and Climatologist with the South Australian Regional Climate Services Centre of the Bureau of Meteorology, climate change is happening, human influence is undeniable and there is still a window of opportunity to make a difference we can live with. Read what Darren had to say at the first Adviser Workshop of the Carbon Farming Knowledge Project.

Darren Ray – Climate Change Science Update


Effects of climate change on broadacre agriculture

Summary of August 2014 Advisers Workshop presentation by Peter Hayman, SARDI Climate Applications Principal Scientist

Long term records clearly show that Australian temperatures are getting warmer.

  • Mean temperatures in south-east Australia increased by 0.5-1.5°C since 1910 (see figure right).
  • In the past ten years (2004–2013), only 2011 has been cooler-than-average for Australia.
  • Very warm months that occurred just over 2% of the time from the 1950s-1980s have occurred 10% of the time in the past 15 years.
  • The trends in rainfall are less clear than the trends in temperature.

Effects of climate change on broadacre agriculture – Peter Hayman


Reduce nitrogen losses and increase nitrogen use efficiency

Summary of August 2014 Advisers Workshop presentation by Peter Grace, Queensland University of Technology.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG). When it comes to reducing global warming, removing one N2O molecule from the atmosphere is equivalent to removing 300 CO2 molecules. About 1% of applied nitrogen fertiliser is emitted as N2O, depending on the farming system, climate, and management. There are two main ways that N2O is emitted – nitrification and denitrification, although more is lost through denitrification (saturated/water-logged soils). Denitrification occurs in southern Australia in winter.

Most of Australia’s N2O comes from agricultural soils. Losses of nitrogen (N2) are difficult to measure because it is quickly diluted in the atmosphere. However, N2O is easy to measure and is a good indicator of nitrogen use efficiency. High losses of N2O indicates inefficiency in a farming system.

Reduce nitrogen losses and increase nitrogen use efficiency – Peter Grace

Methane management in extensive livestock enterprises

Summary of August 2014 workshop presentation by Ed Charmley, CSIRO Townsville

Methane (CH4) has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane remains in the atmosphere for about 70 years and then gets broken down to CO2.

In livestock, methane produced as a by-product of ruminant digestion. Microbes in the rumen ferment carbohydrate as plant fibres are digested and hydrogen is released in the process. Methane is produced when hydrogen is bound to carbon, which is then belched as methane.

Averaged over all land and ocean surfaces, temperatures warmed roughly 1.53°F (0.85ºC) from 1880 to 2012, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (pg. 3, IPCC’s Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policymakers  – PDF) which climate scientists are linking to an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Ed Methane management in extensive livestock – Ed Charmley


Evaluating CFI reforestation options in dryland farming areas

Summary of August 2014 workshop presentation by Jencie McRobert, RMCG Bendigo

There are a number of benefits in considering trees for carbon sequestration. Trees and plants are often called ‘the lungs of the planet’ and provide food, wood, biodiversity, soil and water improvements. As they grow trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and release oxygen. There can be productivity benefits of on-farm of planting trees, such as provision of shade, reducing wind and water erosion and protection of livestock from cold and hot winds.

Implementing a Carbon Farming Initiative by using an approved methodology can provide credits for practices that reduce the volume of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. One recognised practice is revegetation – not solely forestry type trees but native vegetation too.

Evaluating CFI reforestation options in dryland farming areas – Jencie McRobert


Using models to make informed climate decisions – a Victorian example

Summary of March 2015 workshop presentation by Dale Grey and Graeme Anderson, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Victoria (formerly DEPI).

Understanding the factors which affect annual climate conditions experienced in southern Australia has greatly improved in the past decade. However knowing what tool to use when or which indicator to consider at which time is the key to making forecasts useful when it comes to decision making.

Growers looking to use forecasting tools should consider a suite of models to gain a consensus of what they are all predicting about the season ahead. It is also important to look at the forecasting timeframes of the models – for example whether they are analysing one month or three. It is not possible to choose one model to rely on because they do not all perform the same function with the same accuracy.

Session 1 Using climate models to make informed decisions

Using models to make informed climate decisions – a Victorian example


Climate Modelling 202

Summary of March 2015 workshop presentation by Roger Stone, University of Southern Queensland, and Director, International Centre for Applied Climate, Sciences, Toowoomba, Queensland.

Australia has the highest level of year-to-year climate variability (see graph). Monitoring is showing this variability is increasing, particularly in the pastoral, wheat/sheep and high rainfall zones across the country.

Southern Australia’s two most important climate drivers are the El Nino Southern Oscillation Index (ENSO) and the latitude of the Sub Tropical Ridge (STR). There are also a number of other climate indicators that can be monitored to better understand the season ahead and what it might mean in terms of productivity.

Seasonal climate forecasting has no value unless it changes a management decision. For a farmer, this could be understanding climate forecasts to potentially examine stock rates before the climate event hits, prepare for drought, make decision on selling, agisting or buying fodder, and adjusting a cropping program.

Session 2 Climate modelling

Climate Modelling 202


Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and the future for carbon trading

Summary of March 2015 workshop presentation by Richard Eckard, University of Melbourne and the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre.

The carbon trading landscape changed at the end of 2014 with the introduction of the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), replacing the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI). Landholders can still receive carbon credits for reducing emissions from agriculture and land use and increasing the carbon stored in soils and vegetation. Individuals and businesses can buy CFI credits to offset their emissions. Participation is voluntary.

Under the ERF, the Commonwealth Government has become the buyer of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). Under the old CFI system, companies had to either pay the carbon tax or buy carbon credits to offset emissions. The ERF will conduct ‘blind’ reverse auctions through AusTender a number of times a year. There is $2.55 billion in the fund to buy ACCUs over five years.

Session 3  ERF and carbon trading future

Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and the future for carbon trading


Abatement opportunities under the Emissions Reduction Fund

Summary of March 2015 presentation by Michael Martin and Zoe Sinclair, Commonwealth Government

The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) came into effect on December 13, 2014. Its objective is to help achieve Australia’s emissions reduction target of 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. The government provided $2.55 billion over five years to establish the fund with potential to top-up later. The ERF has replaced the previous government’s Carbon Farming Initiative.

ERF methods available for the land sector include reforestation, biochar from poultry manure, savanna fire management, avoided land clearing and fertiliser use efficiency in irrigated cotton. ERF methods currently under development include beef cattle herd management and sequestration of carbon using default values.

Session 4 Abatement opportunities under ERF

Abatement opportunities under the Emissions Reduction Fund


Carbon trading in practice

Summary of March 2015 workshop presentation by Ben Keogh, Australian Carbon Traders.

Carbon trading is designed to direct investment to the most cost-effective abatement activity. New activities that reduce the levels of greenhouse gas going into the atmosphere may create Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs).

A credit is issued based on a farmer’s ability to prove a reduction in carbon emissions over time associated with a parcel of land. It comes down to ‘what would emissions have been like if the current on-farm practice continued’ versus ‘how have emissions been reduced as a result of making a change to on-farm practices’.

There are many sources of possible reductions, such as fertiliser and manure management, reduction of enteric fermentation, avoided deforestation, crop residue management, rice emissions management, legacy landfill emissions, waste management and savannah burning management.

Farmers are storing carbon in the landscape in a number of ways, such as native plantings, agroforestry, improving forest management and soil carbon sequestration through plant residue management and changing crop land to perennial pastures. For any farmer to earn carbon credits they must undertake their activity using an approved ERF method.

Session 5  Ben Keogh carbon trading in practice

Carbon trading in practice


Carbon Farming Knowledge project advisers at the SCARPE site at Longerenong during the Horsham workshop held in August.


Nitrogen emissions from fertiliser

Summary of presentation at the August 2015 advisers workshop. Presentation by Roger Armstrong, Oxana Belyaeva and Ash Wallace, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources (DEDJTR)

There are a wide range of ways that fertiliser N can be lost including volatilisation of ammonium, denitrification to N2O and N2 and nitrate leaching (Figure 1). Some of the largest losses of N2O are associated with denitrification, however this does vary with soil type and environment. Trials across southern Australia have been investigating losses of N2O from fertiliser from 2012 to 2014. Plots were sown with either no added nitrogen (N) or 50 kilograms of N added. N2O Emissions were measured by collecting and analysing air over the soil using manual chambers at key times during the growing season.

Session 4 Horsham_Nitrogen emissions from fertiliser


Overview of ERF auction

Summary of presentation at the August 2015 advisers workshop. Presentation by Richard Eckard, University of Melbourne and the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre.

At the end of 2014, the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) was incorporated into the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), expanding the scope of the program beyond the land sector. The Commonwealth Government purchases Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) from eligible projects through reverse auctions. To be eligible to participate in a reverse auction, projects must use an approved method to abate emissions or sequester carbon.

Session 1 Horsham_ERF Richard Eckard


Climate update

Summary of presentation at the August 2105 advisers workshop.  Presentation by Graeme Anderson, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Victoria.

At the March 2014 workshop, Darren Ray, forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, said the most probable outcome for the current season was above average rainfall until the end of July, due to Indian Ocean influence, followed by an El Nino in spring, however the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) status was not clear. The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Victoria (DEDJTR) has reviewed the seven July Fast Break forecast models since 2008. Six of the seven were rated as ‘OK’ with one rated ‘Very Good’. This data may be useful in discussions with growers to demonstrate that even though forecasts cannot be 100 percent accurate, they are certainly more useful than rolling a dice.

Session 2 Horsham_Climate Update Horsham Graeme Anderson


Australian Grains Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (AGFACE) Project: Growing crops under raised CO2; and Heat Effects on Crops

Summary of presentation at the August 2015 advisers workshop. Presentation by Dr James Nuttall, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resource.

The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) is testing the effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations at the Australian Grains Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (AGFACE) trial site in Horsham. Trial plots are distributed randomly across the site, incorporating a range of varieties of wheat and lentils, agronomic practices and irrigation. In 50 percent of the plots, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is artificially increased to 550 parts per million (ppm), compared to 390ppm in the remaining plots. The CO2 is pumped out from a hexagonal steel manifold, with a wind direction meter selecting which of the six manifolds pump the gas at any time to ensure consistent CO2 levels across the trial plot. The AGFACE site is one of six FACE sites internationally, and the only site representing low rainfall, non-irrigated production. It is the only FACE site in the Southern Hemisphere.

Heat Initiative

Heat is estimated to cost $1.1 billion in Australian wheat losses annually, not including the costs borne due to frost risk from sowing earlier.From ear emergence to maturity, the optimum temperature is 22-25°C. During hot days (above 32°C) and very hot days (above 36°C), grain size and quality can both be reduced, with estimates of 10-20 percent loss per day on hot days and 30 percent loss per day on very hot days. Climate change is leading to higher average temperature and more occurrences of extreme heat.

Session 3 Horsham_CO2- James Nuttall Neil Fettell


Soil carbon in Victorian cropping and pasture systems

Summary of presentation at the August 2015 advisers workshop. Presentation by Fiona Robertson, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Interest in soil carbon storage is being driven by farmers wanting to obtain the benefits of carbon for maintaining soil productivity and potentially for earning credits under a carbon trading scheme such as the Federal Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). However, in practice, there are knowledge gaps when it comes to carbon in agricultural soils. In order to assess the potential of soil carbon sequestration in agricultural systems, the relationships between environmental factors, agronomic practices and soil organic carbon need to be clearly understood. The Soil Carbon Research Program (SCaRP) was initiated with the objective of measuring soil carbon across Victoria and investigating relationships between carbon and location, soil type and ‘management classes’, involving 420 farmers and 630 sites. Management classes were categorised as continuous cropping, cropping and pastures, dairy pastures and sheep/beef pastures.

Session 5 Horsham_Soil Carbon Fiona Robertson


The emissions story; globally, nationally and locally

Summary of presentation at the March 2016 advisers workshop. Presentation by Richard Eckard, University of Melbourne and the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre.


The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) is a program used by the Commonwealth Government to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the ERF, the Government buys Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) through reverse auctions. To be eligible to participate in a reverse auction, projects must use an approved method to abate emissions or sequester carbon.

A changing climate

Climate change is progressing more quickly than anticipated, with pasture growth rates over the past 10 years representing rates forecasted for 2030 (Cullen et al. 2009). This change is being noticed in all agricultural industries, from viticulture – where maturation dates are advancing by about eight days per decade – to silage – where Gippsland contractors have moved silage baling from early November to early October.

COP21 Paris Agreement

In December 2015, 195 countries adopted a new global climate deal known as the Paris Agreement (COP21). Key components of the agreement relevant to agriculture include (key words in bold):

–        Article 2a: Limit global warming to well below 2oC

–        Article 2a: …to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels

–        Article 2b: …increasing the ability to adapt to … climate change and foster climate resilience and low GHG emission development, in a manner that does not threaten food production

–        Article 5: Take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases.

–        Side event at Paris: “Tackling short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP)” (Methane is a SLCP)

ERF Auctions

A second ERF auction was held in November 2015. As shown in Figure 2, over the two auctions held to date, 92.8 million tonnes have now been contracted at an average price of $13.12 per ACCU. There has not been significant uptake of agricultural methods so far, with the exception of piggeries. It is expected that most of the growth in future auctions is likely to be in the newer methods of energy efficiency.

Emissions Intensity

One key difference between the previous Carbon Farming Initiative and the ERF is the focus on emissions intensity as compared to net emissions. Given COP21 enshrined the requirement to meet world food production requirements, the key focus for producers is likely to become reducing the emissions intensity of farm products. As a result, other industries such as energy and transport will have to bear a larger part of the overall emissions reduction.

New methods

A new beef herd method has been approved based on a range of efficiency improvement measures, though no ACCUs were issued for this method at the November auction. A sheep herd method is in development. It is expected this will require a herd of at least 30,000 sheep and will exclude wool. Modelling has shown the value of ACCUs could account for one per cent of business turnover, so, alone, it will not be a significant driver and economies of scale will be needed.

‘The emissions story; globally, nationally and locally’. Summary of March 2016 advisers workshop presentation by Richard Eckard.


Soil Carbon

Summary of presentation at the March 2106 advisers workshop.  Presentation by Lynne MacDonald and Clive Kirkby, CSIRO and Brian Murphy, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

ERF methods

The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) allows farmers to sell Australian Carbon Credit Units in return for enhancing carbon in agricultural soil. Two methods are approved, one based on direct measurement and one based on modelling by a qualified person.

Soil organic carbon fractions

It is useful to consider soil organic carbon as different components/fractions that have different turnover times;

1.     Particulate (POC): relatively fresh with defined structure, decomposes annually.

2.     Humic (HOC): no identifiable structure, associated with minerals, and relatively stable with slower decomposition.

3.     Resistant (ROC): highly stable with turnover times greater than 100 years.

Soil organic matter

Soil organic matter (SOM) is the active material in the soil with soil organic carbon (SOC) being one component of SOM. SOM also comprises of nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur in generally consistent ratios of 1000C : 90N : 19P : 14S and  also includes oxygen and hydrogen.  Commonly, only the SOC component in SOM is measured and reported.   SOM and SOC are linked with SOM being approximately 1.72 x SOC.

Crop residue breakdown

When crop residues break down, they either assimilate or disassimilate. Disassimilation is the breaking down of complex substances into simpler ones with the release of energy and CO2, while assimilation is the building up of complex organic molecules or organisms and storage of carbon (for example microorganisms in the soil) from simpler precursors (such as the nutrients in crop residues).

Methods to improve soil carbon

The best process to improve soil carbon involves the following strategies:

Maximise biomass production,
Maximise return of the biomass to the soil,
Improve the quality of biomass returned to the soil,
Minimise disturbance, and
Improve soil fertility (nutrition).

‘Soil Carbon Update’. Summary of March 2016 advisers workshop presentation by Lynne MacDonald, Clive Kirkby and Brian Murphy.


Emissions reduction in livestock enterprises

Summary of presentation at the March 2016 advisers workshop. Presentation by Leanne Sheriff, Macquarie Franklin (Farm 300), Anne Jackman, CropFacts (BCG trial) and John Ferrier, Wirrabilla.

Farm 300

A Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) program funded by the Australian Government, Farm 300 involved training advisors to coach 300 producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing profit on-farm. At the time of the project there were no relevant Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) methods for southern livestock producers, so the coaching concentrated on lifting efficiency of livestock production systems with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity and increasing profit.

 Reducing methane emissions by early finishing lambs

Birchip Cropping Group with CSIRO, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and GRDC support, investigated on-farm practices to reduce lamb finishing times and reduce whole-of-life methane emissions. On four farms, the trials compared the current practice to two alternatives over 2013 and 2014. The trials faced challenges, including a period in January 2014 of eight days in a row of heat stress conditions. The number of days between fastest and slowest to reach 50kg ranged from eight to 29, representing additional CHemissions of 240 to 870 g/hd from the slowest animals.

Wirrabilla Experience

John Ferrier’s farm, Wirrabilla, was Farm 3 in the BCG trial, comparing a cereal stubble to pulse stubble on his 5,300 ha farm at Birchip. The key benefit from a pea stubble is in the much higher protein content of the straw and grain.John learnt the importance of regular monitoring of sheep after both mobs lost weight while he was on holidays during the eight-day heatwave in January.

‘Summary on lamb emissions’.   Summary of March 2016 advisers workshop presentation by John Ferrier  and Anne Jackman.


John Ferrier presenting at the fifth Carbon Farming Knowledge advisers workshop.

Emissions reduction in grain farms

Summary of presentations at the March 2016 advisers workshop. Presentations by Elizabeth Meier, CSIRO (modelling) and Marit Kragt, University of WA (economics).

The objective of the project “Achieving least cost greenhouse gas abatement – opportunities for Australian grains farms” was to estimate levels of greenhouse gas abatement and carbon sequestration that are economically feasible in response to different management practices on Australian grain farms.

Ten scenarios were modelled using APSIM over 100 years on six farms across Australia. The scenarios ranged from burnt stubble with a bare summer fallow, to stubble with a summer crop and improved pasture. Two factors affecting greenhouse gas emissions were analysed: increasing soil organic carbon and reducing nitrous oxide emissions. As these outputs were inter-related, a combined global warming potential (i.e. converting both factors to t CO2-e/ha) measure was calculated based on the global warming potential (GWP) of the two gases.

‘Emissions reduction in grain farms’. Summary of March 2016 advisers workshop presentation by Elizabeth Meier and Marit Kragt.

Engaging farmers in south eastern Australia into carbon farming through trusted, independent advisers – Project Summary

The Carbon Farming Knowledge project has proven to be extremely effective in engaging 30 farm advisers, who are the key influencers of farmers across south eastern Australia, in building their knowledge, understanding and attitude to reducing GHG emissions on farm and storing carbon across the farming landscape. In three years, the project has shifted the advisers and a majority of their farmer clients from ignorance and sceptics of carbon farming to where they are now actively engaged in positive discussions on how farm practices can be changed to reduce emissions and build carbon in soils and vegetation.

Carbon Farming Knowledge CFK Final Project Report