"We have got the first useful commercial-scale, accurate soil baselining in the world," announced Terry McCosker on ABC Radio's Bush Telegraph yesterday. Terry's company Resource Consulting Services has been testing new CSIRO technology that promises to give farmers a baseline measurement on how much carbon is in their soil, so they can then work to improve that amount to earn significant amounts of money from carbon credits.
The CSIRO technology is being tested on 10,000 acres in NSW. The system involves mapping the soil types in the paddock by driving over the country using a very accurate GPS and a gamma reader that records the natural radiation off the soils. This process is called 'stratification'. Another reader - an electromagnetic resonance reader - can put a signal down into the soil to a depth of 5m, but in this case measures soil carbon to 1m in 5cm slices. Combining the output of both scanners, a map is produced which reveals the variability of the country. A typical property might have 12 to 15 soil types.
The CSIRO software directs the measuring team where to go to take core samples that are a true representation of the soil carbon held. A 10,000 acre property might need only 120 cores to get a reliable measurement of soil C. Once the cores are obtained, another scanner can calculate the Bulk Density of each 5cm slice to quantify the amount of carbon in the soil. The system can also identify different types of carbon in the soil (fractions) - to separate the more permanent fractions from the more volatile labile fraction which would not be traded. Terry, highly respected for his work in holistic soil management, estimates that significant revenue can be earned by increasing soil carbon levels. For more information about Carbon Farming, visit Carbon Farmers of Australia.