Cool Soil Initative replaces Australian Cool Farm Initiative (ACFI) under expanded partnership to support farmer-led investigation of GHG emissions
In 2018, Riverine Plains and Central West Farming Systems partnered with Mars Petcare to develop an industry program, the Australian Cool Farm Initiative, to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from wheat production, and to identify avenues to support farmers in reducing emissions, with a focus on soil health.
Technical support for this project was provided by the Sustainable Food Lab, an international agency with experience in supporting effective sustainability projects across supply chains.
The program has now been expanded, with a $2 million investment over three years and a plan to work with 200 farmers. A part of the expansion, Kellogg’s and the Manildra Group have joined the project, with Charles Sturt University providing research and administration support. There will also be additional funding through innovation hub, the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
The emphasis is still on wheat production, as that’s a commodity shared by all partners, with an aim to expand to other crops of interest. The key aim of this program is to create a platform for the food industry to support grain farmers in the reduction of GHG emissions, leading to increased long-term sustainability and yield stability, through the adoption of innovative agronomic strategies to increase soil health and related function.
Soil health has been recognised as a key driver in mitigating GHG emissions on farm, while supporting increased system resilience across variable seasonal conditions. To reflect this focus, the name of the program has been changed to the Cool Soil Initiative.
The Cool Soil Initiative will continue to support engagement within the Riverine Plains and Central West Farming Systems regions, with the geographical gap between the two regions being spanned by FarmLink Research, who have also joined the Initiative. The program supports informal peer learning within each region and also supports farmers to trial new practices and strategies. The connections between the Farming Systems groups also means that the project will also be working towards cross-region learning.
The support of Charles Sturt University, through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, and additional funding through the Food Agility CRC, also means that additional research activities will be conducted to provide further value to the project, and ensure the credibility of the GHG data collected.
These additional research activities will initially be focussed around better spatial estimates of soil carbon and how to refine soil sampling methods, the provision of spatial data to participating farmers, and how to capture the economic value of practice change on farm. As the value of the GHG emission data, both from an on-farm and industry perspective, is better appreciated, the equations behind the Cool Farm Tool will be reviewed (the Cool Farm Tool is an online GHG calculator that is used to predict GHG emissions on each paddock – to learn more visit https://coolfarmtool.org/). This is to ensure the generation of credible GHG data, which is likely to become more valuable over time, as the role of agriculture in national GHG accounting becomes more prominent.
How the Project works for farmers
To calculate on-farm GHG emissions, participating farmers share paddock input data with their respective farming group, who then ensure the data is anonymised before it is added to a collective dataset. Through the initial project with Mars Petcare, all farmers involved in the project shared this data through an agreement with their farming groups. As the scope of the project is changing, these data access agreements will also be reviewed, to ensure that farmers maintain both ownership of their data and maintain anonymity of data entry.
Farmers who participate in the program receive GPS located soil testing services on up to 5 locations on their farms each year, along with technical support for interpreting Cool Farm Tool results and soil tests. Farmers also receive advice on management options that address key limiting factors in their farming systems, focusing on recommendations that result in productivity, managing for weed resistance, water availability in dry years, and short and long-term carbon benefits.
How can you be involved?
Farmers interested in this program can contact Jane McInnes, Riverine Plains Inc on 03 5744 1713 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.