Grants to help boost soil carbon projects

By Leah Tindale
January 23 2022 - 10:00pm
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan (left), arrives at Weelhamby Farm, Perenjori, to announcing funding on Thursday, Janurary 13.

SUCCESSFUL recipients of the first round of Western Australia's Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program were announced last week.

On Thursday, January 13, at Weelhamby Farm, Perenjori, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said all the projects would increase soil carbon and farming productivity in exchange for Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU).

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"Through our program we are supporting farmers to explore how carbon farming can future-proof their businesses: improving productivity and profitability, diversifying enterprises, spreading risk and providing a new income stream," Ms MacTiernan said.

"We will see real landscape and business transformations from this first round of funding, helping to pave the way for other farmers to trial these opportunities.

"This program is just one of several initiatives supporting the adoption of land restoration practices in WA, alongside the Southern Rangelands Revitalisation Pilot Project, the new WA Soil Health Strategy and the Soil Systems Master Classes."

One recipient of the funding is David Martin, Director of Weelhamby Farm who had two projects greenlit.

The Weelhamby Farm projects make up one of six Round One ACCU Plus projects and will receive funds totalling 3.3 million, as part of the State Governments $15m Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program.

$738,600 has been granted to Weelhamby Farm, for it's two projects that make up one whole program on the farm.

"We have an operation here where we bought two properties here adjoining, with 5500 hectares of land in total, 1500 which is remnant bushland," Mr Martin said.

"The main game is soil carbon and it's basically restoring soil health, sequestering carbon, and restoring biodiversity - revegetation is just one of the tools that we're using to do that."

Roughly 3000ha of the remaining 4000ha will be part of the soil carbon project, while the second project focuses on revegetation.

"Many of the ideas are not new, but the way they are being applied is very new for Western Australian Wheatbelt, particularly on this scale and in this low rainfall environment," Mr Martin said.

"Somewhere between 7.5 and 10 per cent of the cleared land will be put into revegetation.

"We will be planting some native indigenous species in corridors - these will act as both wildlife corridors, windbreaks as well as using them to divide paddocks."

The farm receives an annual average rainfall of 300 millimetres and Mr Martin hopes to demonstrate the viability of carbon farming in a low rainfall area while operating a profitable mixed-farming operation.

Growing up near Kalannie, Mr Martin owns an organic vineyard in Margaret River.

Through his research, and practices implemented on his vineyard he could see that building soil carbon was a great way to restore both soil health and sequester carbon.

"I could see that there was a good opportunity to change the way agriculture works in this country, and I also knew from knowing farmers that if you simply sat on the sidelines and gave them advice you would just annoy the hell out of them," Mr Martin said.

"So rather than doing that I started putting my money where my mouth is and actually bought a farm in a difficult low rainfall area to demonstrate that it works."

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Weelhamby farm is set to become a public demonstration farm as Mr Martin hopes to share his passion with other farmers who might be interested.

Longer term, the farm will have a website that will have information about the practices used and how it's progressing, so that farmers or other interested parties can follow along virtually, or at field days.

"It is very pleasing that it is one of the first projects to receive funding under this State-government scheme," he said

"I hope this will encourage more farmers to apply for funding for carbon projects under the next phase of the scheme."

The other four projects green lit as part of the grant ranged from implementing year-round rotational grazing and cropping practices, to intensive revegetation programs and as a whole should deliver improved biodiversity and soil health, increased agricultural productivity, salinity mitigation and Aboriginal cultural, employment and business opportunities.

Based in the South West, Great Southern and eastern Wheatbelt, the projects cover 7000ha and will remove a projected 140,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over 10 years.

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The second round of funding is planned for early 2022 and information regarding the grants can be found by visiting https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/carbon-farming/western-australian-carbon-farming-and-land-restoration-program.

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