MAJOR Australian food manufacturers, Kellogg and the Manildra Group, along with researchers at Charles Sturt University and the digital innovation hub Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), have joined the Cool Soil Initiative founded by Mars and the Sustainable Food Lab.
The paddock-to-product partnership will connect key players in the supply chain and grain growers to combat greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and help Australian farmers become more resilient in the face of climate change.
It will see stakeholders along the grain supply chain invest in reducing GHG emissions by supporting 200 farmers across Australia to test and investigate new management practices that deliver a win-win for productivity and sustainability.
Charles Sturt Professor of Food Sustainability and former New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries (2015-2019), Niall Blair, said climate change was one of the biggest challenges facing Australian farmers and improving soil health was one of the top three management priorities on the agenda of growers in the region.
“Over the next three years, if we can achieve a 0.1 per cent increase in soil carbon across 700,000 hectares of land, the impact could be close to removing 1.2 million cars from the road,” he said.
“We’re excited to collaborate in this paddock-to-product partnership, working with industry and grain growers in regional farming systems groups, to improve our understanding of how crop management practices can mitigate GHG emissions on-farm.
“This farmer-first initiative is a prime example of how industry-wide collaboration can offer valuable support to the farming sector as they strive to mitigate GHG emissions and improve soil health, without compromising farm productivity and profitability. The Cool Soil Initiative also provides a framework for the food industry to support farmers as part of their mission to reduce GHG emissions.”
Founded in 2017 by Mars and the Sustainable Food Lab, the Cool Soil Initiative provides agronomic support to wheat farmers in Australia, with the goal of minimising supply chain GHG emissions.
The program engages with farmers to identify opportunities to reduce inputs (costs) and increase productivity, while also ensuring the long-term health of their most valuable asset – soil. The project is gathering data using online greenhouse gas calculator the Cool Farm Tool to quantify on-farm emissions and to measure and track changes over time.
Manildra Group national sales manager, Murray Newman, said that as one of Australia’s largest purchasers of wheat and a major manufacturer, Manildra was passionate about supporting wheat farmers and doing what it could to integrate sustainable practices in the supply chain.
“Growers recognise the value in sustainable farming which could lead to increased yields, be it through efficient nutrient management, increased soil organic matter or enhanced water-use efficiency,” he said.
Riverina farmers, Craig and Fiona Marshall, Rennie, said they could see their business benefiting by being involved in the project.
“Climate change is a major risk to farming businesses all over the world, this project aims to quantify our greenhouse emissions and identify ways to reduce them so we can do our part in slowing down the pace of climate change,” they said.
“The soil tests performed as part of the project are measuring the carbon in our soils but also measuring other soil factors which may limit crop production so we can identify and ameliorate the problems and hopefully boost production.
“This is a long-term project so we will have the opportunity to track our soils over time and identify changes in response to different farming practices we might try. Soil is a complex living ecosystem and the more we can learn about it the better off we will be.”
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) in August came out in support of an aspirational economy-wide target of reducing net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 (see Grain Central story).
Source: Cool Soil Initiative: www.foodagility.com/projects/cool-soil-initiative