SoilCQuest launch resilient soils project in NSW

SoilCQuest team member in the laboratory studying plated microbes being prepared for field trials. Photo: contributed

SoilCQuest team member in the laboratory studying plated microbes being prepared for field trials. Photo: contributed

A new technology that could be a massive breakthrough for a climate change solution is currently being trialled.

To coincide with World Soil Day(December 5), SoilCQuest, an Australian research institute, is announcing a research project focused on building resilience and sequestering carbon into our agricultural soils.

"CO2 is an issue, but at the same time, that excess CO2 in the atmosphere holds a valuable resource to improve farmers' soils," SoilCQuest managing director Guy Webb said.

"Our technology works to unlock that resource."

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The 'Climate Resilient Soils Network', a collaborative project between Australian National University and SoilCQuest, will be trialling a new microbial biotechnology that significantly increases plants' capability to draw down excess carbon and store it in agricultural soils.

SoilCQuest 2031 managing director Guy Webb gets his hands dirty for World Soils Day. Photo: contributed

SoilCQuest 2031 managing director Guy Webb gets his hands dirty for World Soils Day. Photo: contributed

"Here in Australia, we have huge opportunities to improve food security, environmental security and climate security," Australian National University's Research School of Biology Professor Justin Borevitz said.

"The potential to utilise agricultural vegetation and soils as a carbon sink is in the order of gigatonnes, and agriculture has the opportunity to become a major part of the solution, it's very exciting."

The project, that will be promoting a variety of approaches to sustainable agriculture, is funded by the Department of Agriculture and The Ian Potter Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic foundations in Australia.

"The Foundation is pleased to support this science-led organisation taking an innovative and practical approach to carbon sequestration for the benefit of agriculture and the environment," The Ian Potter Foundation chair Charles Goode AC said.

"A genuine partnership of land managers and scientists, SoilCQuest will bring together farmers' knowledge with scientific research to develop more sustainable methods of farming."

Increasing soil organic carbon has well-documented benefits that include increased water efficiency, on-farm productivity, and contribution to sequestration and reduction of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.

"The fungi that we are working with effectively lock carbon in the soil long-term, leading to healthier soil, increased fertility, and drought resilience," SoilCQuest director and farmer Mick Wettenhall said.

Currently, trials are being planned in various locations on farms in New South Wales. In the meantime, glasshouse trials are underway to further test fungi that have already performed well, shortlisting candidates for field trials.

"Globally there are over a billion hectares managed by farmers, if we give them the tools, they'll do the job, no question," Mr Wettenhall said.

"For a farmer, it's a no-brainer: carbon is essential for soil health and fertility, but also dramatically increases water holding capacity. In a drought like we're experiencing now, that can make the difference between life and death."