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Soil Carbon the Focus of Innovation

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Sustainable Industries

Wheatbelt NRM will introduce local farmers to an innovative digital tool designed to make estimating soil carbon more accessible at an event in Pingelly next week.

The SWARM Tool is an automated, Excel-based program developed using data from the South West growing region.

It will be unveiled publicly on-farm at the UWA Future Farm Ridgefield at a free field walk and workshop on April 21 hosted by Wheatbelt NRM.

Jolene Otway developed the SWARM Tool as part of her thesis with UWA’s school of Agriculture and the Environment.

The project developed out of her belief the wealth of data developed around South West agricultural systems could be used to model soil carbon without relying on manual field sampling.

Otway said soil carbon content was ultimately a reflection of soil health

“The more carbon you have in the soil, the more life within the soil, which reflects the resilience in the system,” she said.

“Essentially in my mind it’s a reflection of the resistance of the soil to climate change.”

Conducting the same process to measure soil carbon manually over large areas could be prohibitively expensive.

Otway says a range of metrics commonly used and understood by farmers like clay content or soil water repellency can be fed into the tool to work out an estimate.

This data can then be used to zero in on the major factors influencing soil carbon and assist land managers to decide where to focus soil improvement efforts.

“You can then identify areas on the farm that have the greatest potential to improve carbon, and that might be the area worth hitting first if you’re looking for a significant change,” Otway said.

Participants at the event will also learn about a UWA Future Farm trial of bio-amendments and controls on shrubs at Farm Ridgefield during a field walk.

To register for the April 21 workshop in Pingelly contact Bonny Dunlop at bdunlop@wheatbeltnrm.org.au or 9670 3100.

This project is supporting by funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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