Australian grain growers are being encouraged to get into the carbon market, with a new partnership linking farmers to soil carbon technology.
The partnership, between GrainCorp and biotech company Loam Bio, was announced on Tuesday at a national carbon farming expo in Albury.
“We’re working across NSW and Victoria … looking at ways we can co-design these projects to run with farmers at the centre of these programs,” Loam Bio co-founder and chief product officer Tegan Nock told the conference.
The collaboration includes a pilot project that has paid a number of barley and canola growers to implement the technology, which increases a plant’s natural ability to store carbon in soil.
“We introduce microbes into the system that are designed especially to capture greater amounts of carbon,” Ms Nock told AAP.
“We’re drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, using plants basically as a straw and we’re storing it in our soils for the long term.”
The technology introduces fungi seeds to allow the plant to sequester more carbon.
“They’re (farmers) planting their crops as they would normally but they’re applying a seed inoculum …so they’re coating that on their seeds and sowing them within their soils, at the same time we’re base-lining to understand what the level of carbon looks like.”
Loam Bio has already trialled the technology by planting 150 small plot trials across Australia and the US, with the GrainCorp pilot project to expand that to 1500 hectares.
GrainCorp chief innovation and growth officer Jesse Scott said the technology could eventually be expanded to company’s 11,000 Australian growers.
“It’s one of the most exciting programs that we have on … this is a way for growers to diversify their earnings, to generate a carbon crop on top of their existing broadacre crops,” he said.
“Applying this inoculum has a twofold benefit; one it increases the productivity of the crops … and that same inoculum is creating the soil conditions to sequester the carbon.”
Mr Scott told AAP the technology can improve the crop’s yield by up to six per cent.
“In the future, taking part in this Loam offering with GrainCorp is going to generate significant financial returns.”
He said the inoculum provided immediate crop benefits and would assist growers to keep up with the increasing demand for carbon neutral products.
“If you can take what is a relatively low-cost inoculum and apply it to your seed and you get a better yield and carbon credits, why wouldn’t you do this?”
John Connor from the Carbon Market Institute said increasing soil carbon was important for agricultural productivity and a great opportunity for reducing carbon in the atmosphere.
“It’s exciting to see new technologies and approaches being stimulated by the opportunities in the carbon markets,” he told AAP.
(Australian Associated Press)