Filling the Research Gap - Soil Carbon Research

​The following projects are being funded under round one and round two of Filling the Research Gap to undertake research in to the sequestration and measurement of organic carbon in soil. Those funded under round one are part of the National Soil Carbon Program coordinated by the Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts.


[expand all]

Coordination of the National Soil Carbon Program and soil carbon increase through rangeland restoration by facilitating native forest regrowth—Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts — Ram Dalal.

Funding of $1,500,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will coordinate and manage the soil carbon projects as a national program. In addition, it will also use standardised sampling and measurement methods in previously cleared Queensland rangelands to quantify increases in carbon and carbon pools in soil and biomass under native forest regrowth up to 50 years old. Through modelling, the project will quantify the optimal soil carbon sequestration and pasture production for rangeland. The project will also contribute to developing a Carbon Farming Initiative methodology for managed forest regrowth for rangelands.

Environmental plantings for soil carbon sequestration on farms—CSIRO — Keryn Paul.

Funding of $1,000,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This national project will support the extension of the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) methodology for mixed-species environmental plantings to include carbon in soil. It will target agricultural-environmental planting sites for diverse climates and soil types and study how management of farmland with low opportunity costs affects soil carbon. The project aims to give land managers the required knowledge for CFI reforestation participation on marginal farm land.

Native perennial vegetation: building stable soil carbon and farm resilience—CSIRO — Jonathan Sanderman.

Funding of $350,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will quantify changes in soil carbon stocks and composition with the re-establishment of native perennial grasslands through adoption of rotational grazing and include measurement of soil carbon and its allocation to major fractions. The project aims to deliver the knowledge and tools needed for these extensive grazing systems to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Soil carbon benefits through reforestation in sub-tropical and tropical Australia—Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry — Tim Smith.

Funding of $1,677,632 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will assess soil carbon sequestration under reforestation to enable accounting of full mitigation benefits (biomass and soil) and assist land managers to participate in Carbon Farming Initiative reforestation projects with increased confidence. It also will collect soil and biomass carbon data across hardwood, softwood, savannah and rainforest ecosystems in sub-tropical and tropical Australia to develop relationships of changes in soil carbon pools over time following reforestation of agricultural land. Finally, it will refine sampling protocols for improved measurement of soil carbon, develop a decision support calculator and provide economic case studies, enabling land managers to determine the feasibility of carbon farming through reforestation.

EverCrop® Carbon Plus: perennial forage plants in cropping systems to mange soil carbon—Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre / NSW Department of Primary Industries — John McGrath.

Funding of $1,000,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will assess the role of perennial forage plants in improving the management of soil carbon in major cropping regions of southern Australia, provide data to improve soil carbon models and enhance farmers’ decision making. It will use existing EverCrop® farming system and long term perennial forage trials to research if including deep rooted perennial forages into cropping systems can sustain or increase soil organic carbon relative to current annual based cropping systems.

Compost and biochar amendments for increased carbon sequestration, increased soil resilience and decreased greenhouse gas fluxes in tropical agricultural soils—James Cook University — Michael Bird.

Funding of $1,000,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will trial compost, biochar and COMBI-mix (biochar mixed with organic waste prior to composting) soil amendments to North Queensland tropical agricultural soils. The trials will consist of business as usual, compost alone, biochar alone, COMBI-mix and compost mixed with biochar at a number of field sites. From the trials, the project will determine the impact of each on carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas fluxes and crop performance.

An assessment of the carbon sequestration potential of organic soil amendments—CSIRO — Mark Farrell.

Funding of $802,797 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will quantify the relationship between the chemical composition of organic carbon and how it decomposes in a variety of potential soil organic amendments. Spectroscopic techniques will be used to measure carbon chemistry and long-term incubation experiments will quantify degradation dynamics. The data generated will be used to define the relationship between chemical composition and potential longevity and/or stability of different types of organic amendments in soil. The results of this analysis will be used within FullCAM (the model used to construct Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions account for the land sector) to provide consistency with Australia’s national inventory and Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies.

Quantifying temporal variability of soil carbon—CSIRO — Jeff Baldock.

Funding of $1,000,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will re-sample soil from 60 sites within the New South Wales Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) program. Samples will also be collected from selected National Agricultural Nitrous Oxide Research Program field experiments to quantify the influence of applied management treatments on soil carbon stocks. Statistical analyses will quantify the magnitude and certainty of measured soil carbon stock changes. This project will support development of robust Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies.

Improved measurement and understanding of soil carbon and its fractions—CSIRO — Jonathan Sanderman.

Funding of $150,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will build on the research started in the Soil Carbon Research Program focused on developing techniques for rapidly and routinely measuring numerous soil properties at a lower cost. This research is to provide proof of concept to measure soil carbon fractions using visible near-infrared (vis-NIR) spectroscopy.

A method for efficient and accurate project level soil organic carbon determination using in situ spectrophotometry and advanced spatial analysis—Geo Carbon Services Pty Ltd — James Schultz.

Funding of $195,550 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project aims to demonstrate a commercially cost-efficient method to measure rangeland soil organic carbon (SOC) content and composition. The pilot project will be undertaken on 65 000 hectares of central Australian rangeland. It will utilise remote and ground based spectrometry, geospatial modelling using satellite derived soil with vegetation and landform indices to improve the basis for spatially stratifying soil types or land management zones to further improve sampling efficiency and confidence in SOC estimates.

Maintenance of soil organic carbon levels supporting grain production systems: the influence of management and environment on carbon and nitrogen turnover—Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia — Frances Hoyle.

Funding of $1,009,884 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will investigate the stability of soil carbon under variable climate and management practices. Established research sites with different (or altered) soil organic carbon contents will be used to determine maximum soil carbon storage, the influence of carbon on critical soil functions and long-term viability of sequestering carbon as an emissions management practice. This evidence based approach combines field-based research with database analysis to provide information to landholders on beneficial and/or perverse outcomes associated with changing soil carbon levels in grain production systems. This will enable landowners to determine the profitability and risk of managing carbon from a sequestration versus production perspective.

Increasing soil carbon in eastern Australian farming systems: linking management, nitrogen and productivity—Department of Primary Industries, Victoria — Fiona Robertson.

Funding of $2,782,312 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will determine the effectiveness of a range of management practices for increasing soil carbon in cropping and pasture systems across eastern Australia, focusing on enhancing carbon input and permanence in key soil types and climatic zones. Soil carbon will be measured in farm paddocks and field trials. Simulation models, validated with measurement data will be used to extend experimental findings across eastern Australia. The project will support development of Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies to help landholders increase soil carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Increasing carbon storage in alkaline sodic soils through improved productivity and greater organic carbon retention—The University of Adelaide — Glenn McDonald.

Funding of $1,068,022 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will increase the present understanding of organic carbon accumulation in alkaline soils and improve farmers’ capacity to store organic carbon. The project will identify options to increase storage of organic carbon in alkaline soils by studying the soil chemistry, surveying soil organic carbon on alkaline soils and conducting field experiments to ameliorate pH to improve carbon storage.

Understanding the influence of grazing pressure changes on soil organic carbon in the semi-arid rangelands of western NSW—NSW Department of Primary Industries — Graham Denney.

Funding of $316,365 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will compare the carbon sink potential of alternative management activities in the southern semi-arid rangelands of southern Australia. A series of economic analyses of alternative grazing management strategies will be used to examine the relationships between agricultural productivity and profitability; soil organic carbon; and natural resource change. With the cooperation of innovative landholders, case studies will provide a benchmark comparison for soil organic carbon by contrasting the impacts of current best management practice against alternative (traditional) management practice. Current best management practice will be considered in terms of total grazing pressure, fencing and rotational grazing, while traditional management practice will be considered in terms of biodiversity, landscape function, and grazing intensity.

The fate of aboveground carbon inputs: a key process that is poorly understood—Queensland University of Technology — Richard Conant.

Funding of $378,161 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project aims to increase present understanding of surface carbon movement into the soil, improve soil carbon/nitrogen simulation models and work directly with soil carbon and nitrous oxide network modellers to provide greater certainty on the potential for reducing emissions. It will include site-based experimentation that complements other research on how management and climate affect carbon sequestration, nitrogen inputs to the soil and nitrous oxide emissions.

An innovative solution for accurate and affordable estimates of soil carbon—CSIRO.

Funding of $1,227,515 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to June 2016)

This project is developing a proof-of-concept prototype system for measuring soil condition into a field-deployable system. This will assist land managers to effectively measure and detect changes in soil organic carbon stores and will provide reliable data to improve decision making and management.

Managing biological, physical and chemical constraints to soil carbon storage—University of Western Australia.

Funding of $1,216,388 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to June 2016)

This project is assessing the stability of soil carbon under a variety of management practices, including emerging management practices that may increase soil carbon at depth. The project will assess how soil carbon stability will be affected by changing climate predictions.

Importance of ‘deep’ soil carbon to long-term carbon storage—The University of New England.

Funding of $513,414 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to June 2014)

This project is considering the impacts of different management practices on soil carbon. It will improve the understanding of the effect of contemporary management practices on the amount, form and stability of soil carbon. Findings will help identify opportunities for long-term carbon storage through targeted management practices and/or specific land use and soil type combinations.