Home' Grower : June 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- June 2013
Good humus levels in soil are the manifestation of a healthy microbial
Soil better option
for carbom credits
By JOHN NORTON
THE introduction of carbon
credits for sequestering carbon
into soil is now on the political
agenda and may well herald a golden
era for agriculture.
Scientists and politicians are slowly
realising that there is simply no alter-
native but to reward and motivate
farmers to undertake this urgent task.
Even if the entire world was to total-
ly reduce carbon emissions, in 200
year's time we would have reduced
atmospheric carbon-dioxide only to
levels found in our atmosphere in
1975 -- still too high.
We are locked into self-destr uct
mode but, there is an escape -- humus.
There are carbon credits for planting
trees but in fact, the soil offers a better
investment. Carbon remains in bio-
mass for an average of 10 years but can
be stored in the soil for 35 years.
The Americans raise the hackles of
the developing world with their green-
house vandalism -- 300 million people,
who make up just 5 per cent of the
planet's population, generate 8 billion
tonnes of the 30bt of CO2 we spew
into the atmosphere each year.
But if we were to build organic mat-
ter by just 1pc in US agricultural soils,
we would remove 4.5bt of the offend-
ing gas from the atmosphere, repre-
senting a 50pc offset of their emis-
Humus is the single most important
determinant of success in high-pro-
duction agriculture. It seems a
remarkable stroke of luck that we are
destined to be paid to increase our
profitability through payment for
sequestration of soil carbon.
Several years ago, the National Bank
researched the reason for so many
failed loans in the rural sector.
In a study involving several hundred
properties in the Hillston region of
New South Wales, they were seeking
to determine the key criteria for finan-
cial success when embarking on a new
Researchers found that soil carbon
was the key to business success and
they went as far as to link levels of
organic matter to farm value.
If one property featured soils with
1.4pc organic matter and another had
soil averaging 1.6pc, then that extra
0.2pc increased land value accordingly
and it was suggested that future loans
should be evaluated on the basis of
carbon-based productive potential.
The benefits of organic matter are
many. Water is an increasingly scarce
resource and it is so much more effec-
tive to store water in humus than in
Good humus levels are the manifes-
tation of a healthy microbial work-
The plant produces glucose through
photosynthesis and gives away 30pc of
its total production to the army sur-
rounding the roots. It is these invisible
workers who fix nitrogen from the
atmosphere, solubilise locked-up
phosphate in our soils, and protect the
crop from disease.
The Rodale Institute in the US has
researched carbon-building for the
past 20 years.
It has shown that a combination of
minimum till, compost and cover
crops can steadily build soil carbon.
They are calling for a payment of
US$250 a hectare for every 0.15pc
increase in organic matter.
I believe that there are two other key
humus-building strategies -- the use of
microbial inoculums, and the utilisa-
tion of humates.
Global soil-life analysis reveals that
most soil lack cellulose-digesting fungi
and these are some of the creatures
responsible for creating the stable,
long-term carbon that is so desperate-
It is ridiculously simple and inexpen-
sive to "brew" these creatures and
reintroduce them to the soil.
Similarly, we have seen remarkable
results with the use of humates to trig-
ger humus building.
Raw humates, in the form of partic-
ular types of brown coal, applied at
500kg/ha can ser ve as a powerhouse
stimulant. Similarly, soluble humic
acid granules applied at rates ranging
from just 5kg/ha to 20kg/ha also
offer a potent humus-building
The chief reason for the effectiveness
of humic acid, in this context, relates
to the fact that it is such a good food
for cellulose-digesting fungi.
Details: Bio-Tech Organics 08 8380 8554
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