Measure to monitor
While farmers are building their knowledge on soil carbon in the Tamworth Regional Landcare Association Benchmarking Soils Project, they are also learning the value of good data.
Environmental management consultants and soil testing specialists have worked with the project participants to build a picture of exactly what is going on in their soil and how to measure and monitor it.
“‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’ would be the key takeaway from the two field days we’ve held with the participants,” said Sophie Kennedy-Gordon from FarmLab, who ran the field days with her co-worker Jade Binks.
“Giving landholders access to software designed to help streamline the process of soil testing, as well as a platform to help analyse their environmental data is the first step in facilitating further understanding of the opportunities for increasing carbon on their land.”
FarmLab provided Landcare members with an Environmental Farm Assessment tool to help assess the environmental condition of their property. This helped identify possible soil sampling locations. Farmers were also trained in using remote sensing imagery to help understand and monitor natural capital, such as soil carbon levels and biodiversity.
Ned Skehan from OptiSoil supported participants in learning best practice for collecting representative soil samples for testing and how to look for clues in the environment, such as geological history, to build soil knowledge.
“My advice would always be to measure. Without measurement, you don’t know what you’re dealing with,” Ned said.
“Soil testing seems expensive, but the insights it provides make it an intelligent investment.”
Ned recommends farmers test soil for more than just carbon levels.
“Measure pH, cations, aggregate stability, texture and bulk density as a minimum. Carbon on its own is the focus of the marketplace and is a great indicator of soil condition, but knowing the full chemical and physical characteristics goes a long way towards understanding soil health and can greatly inform land management, both for more profitable farming and building carbon,” he said.
Read more about the Landcare Farming Carbon Benchmarking Project