Terry McCosker, an agricultural consultant with Resource Consulting Services believes that, with assistance from the CSIRO, he has succeded in developing a technique for accurately measuring the carbon content of soil.
If farmers can get a baseline measurement on how much carbon is in their soil and then work to increase that amount, they could potentially earn significant amounts of money from carbon credits.
The research team is currently conducting the first commercial-scale, accurate soil carbon baselining project in the world.
The process consists of driving over the country with a very accurate GPS and gamma and electro-magnetic resonance scanners. This maps the soil types and software then locates points in different types of soil at which soil cores should be taken. CSIRO then equipment scans each core at 5 centimetre intervals down to about a metre. The process is repeated over time to determine the change in carbon content.
Once soil carbon can be accurately measured, the main barrier to farmers benefiting financially from credits for carbon sequestion in soil is the regulatory requirement that they must demonstrate that changed practices have locked up carbon for at least 100 years – which is practically impossible.
However, Terry McCosker recommends that farmers establish baseline values as soon as the technique is commercially available, which he expects could be within about six months. This will put them in a position to benefit whenever a more realistic regulation is implemented.