What is carbon farming?

The term ‘carbon farming’ refers to managing land or agriculture to maximise the amount of carbon stored, and/or to minimise greenhouse gases emitted (mainly carbon dioxide and methane).

A large flock of sheep stands in the sun on dry grass.

Livestock on a Greening Australia landholder’s property in Bookham, NSW.

Because carbon is utilised, stored and released in various ways by plants and animals, in what’s called the carbon cycle, carbon can be ‘farmed’ through a variety of methods.

Land managers can increase the amount of carbon their land stores by integrating plantings of native plant species into their system, for example, or changing the way they manage grazing to ensure year-round groundcover and protect soil structure.

Minimising the amount of greenhouse gases emitted might involve, for example, feeding livestock differently to reduce their methane emissions.

Aerial shot of South Australian Great Southern Landscapes program site, Morella. An expansive view of trees lined up in a circular pattern.

Aerial shot of South Australian Great Southern Landscapes program site, Morella.

What are the benefits of carbon farming?

Farming in ways that retain carbon can generate many benefits both for people and nature.

A female landholder in a white shirt and tan, wide-brimmed hat reaches for a healthy, green leaf. Accompanied by a male Greening Australia staff member, laughing, with a yellow, high-vis shirt and tan pants.

A Greening Australia landholder and staff member inspecting growth on a property in NSW.

For landholders, carbon farming can deliver benefits such as improved soil health and water quality, less erosion, better water infiltration, boosted on-farm biodiversity, and greater resilience to drought. Carbon farming creates healthier land, which means more resilient, productive land as well.

At the same time, landholders who practice carbon farming are delivering benefits to Australia (and the world) by helping tackle the cumulative pressures of climate change, land degradation and food insecurity.

A man stands at the forefront of a drone shot overlooking tree growth on a large carbon planting site in WA.

Aerial view of Western Australia Great Southern Landscapes program site, Peniup. A carbon planting. Credit: Rowan Edwards

If they choose to farm carbon by integrating plantings of native plant species on their properties, for example through shelter belts, or by establishing native perennial grasses and groundcover, landholders can also restore incredibly important biodiverse habitat to help Australia’s vulnerable native animals.

“We need to recognise the valuable role that landholders play in supporting biodiversity and tackling climate change, and provide support and incentives to help them conserve and actively manage these matters of national environmental significance for all Australians.” – Brendan Foran, Greening Australia CEO.

 

How does it work?

That depends. Every farm is unique, so to maximise the benefits from carbon farming, projects need to be tailored to each landholder’s business, preferences and priorities – and also the landscape they are operating within.

A female Greening Australian staff member in a bright-orange, high-vis vest inspecting a carbon planting site in South Australia.

Canopy team members recording data from a South Australian site.

If landholders want to earn an income from carbon farming by producing and selling Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs), the carbon must be farmed through one of the methods endorsed by the Australian Government’s Clean Energy Regulator. For example, Greening Australia supports projects with landholders that are registered under the environmental plantings method.

However, landholders don’t have to be generating ACCUs to undertake and benefit from carbon farming. Integrating broad belts of native browse species, for example, can provide shade, shelter and fodder for livestock, increasing their wellbeing and value – while those same plants are also storing carbon in their growing trunks and branches.

Any work landholders undertake to protect and restore degraded areas on their properties, improve soil health and water quality, and restore vegetation cover, will return a benefit for broader ecosystem health and improve the health and productive potential of their holdings.

If we want healthy, productive landscapes where our unique plants, animals and communities can thrive, we need to recognise the pivotal role of the carbon cycle and how landholders can contribute – through carbon farming – to restoring the balance.

We encourage landholders who are interested in working with us to improve the carbon potential of their properties to register interest via our landholder portal.

Landholder Portal