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10 May, 2021

FNQ Farmers working to mitigate climate change

Far North farmers are driving research into the best ways to mitigate climate change and build soil health through agricultural systems.

A group of Tablelands farmers have begun soil testing on their properties to measure and compare carbon levels and other soil health indicators as part of a three-year project including different crops, forests and soil types.

 Rainforest Bounty’s Geraldine McGuire said evidence of both carbon sequestration systems in agriculture and soil health improvements could help the region to build a reputation in carbon farming and improve its ‘carbon sink’ status with investors.

 A partnership between landholders and natural resource management organisation Terrain NRM is behind the research.

 “Some of my orchards are 20 years old; some others are just being planted,’’ Dr McGuire said.  “Because carbon takes a long time to build up, we are testing over a number of years. In my case we are comparing native fruit orchards with a control site in reforested land on the property.”

 Other properties include native fruit orchards, an avocado farm and pasture.

 Terrain NRM’s Rowan Shee said the research was part of a larger Digging Deeper Plus project focused on helping farmers to improve soil health on their properties through on-farm workshops, free soil tests and customised soil management plans. This project is supported by Terrain through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 He said building carbon levels in soils had multiple soil health benefits – from improved soil structure, water infiltration and nutrient cycling to reduced soil compaction and erosion.

   “The end result is better plant growth and better long-term soil health and productivity,’’  

 “The end result is better plant growth and better long-term soil health and productivity,’’ Mr Shee said.

 Dr McGuire has been transforming a former dairy farm into re-forested land and an award-winning rainforest fruit venture based on regenerative orchard systems for the past 25 years.  

“When we bought the property, the dairy farm hadn’t been operating for about 30 years. The land was full of weeds and the soil was badly degraded,’’ she said.  “We decided to plant a rainforest and we started as part of a Queensland Government reforestation program. The first 10 years were tough but once we had a (rainforest) canopy everything changed.

 “Now we have 80 acres of forested land and a regenerative native fruit orchard system in the flatter areas around the house. All the good organic matter (from grass cutting) keeps getting put back into the soil. We don’t use chemicals.

 “We came at land management and farming from a biodiversity perspective. And now we see it as a key part of the solution to climate change. Getting the soil as healthy as it can be and having the science to explain why our regenerative systems work is something that we are loving working on.”

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