A sustainable business for the wheatbelt

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Our Bencubbin project is a bit of a prototype for us, it aims to offer farmers a further incentive to turn land over to carbon farming (creating a carbon sink by planting trees on their land), by adding native australian sandalwood to the planting mix.  Our planting partner for the Bencubbin project is Sandalwood Solutions which is headed up by Ros MacFarlane the wife of the late Bob Huxley.  Bob was from an established wheatbelt family, who have been farming the area since 1922. Bob was instrumental in pioneering revegetation with sandalwood in the NE wheatbelt. He started experimenting with biodiverse plantings including sandalwood on his farming properties in 1999, planting around 20 to 40 hectares per year of less productive land mainly deep, acidic, “gutless” Wodjil sand which were(not yielding a return from grain growing). Bob found that it was just these areas that the Sandalwood particularly likes, and has focused ever since on helping restore  wodjil soils of the region by this method. ‘Sandalwood grows in harsh but very varied conditions’  Ros is continuing the great work in addition to conducting revegetation programs with Avongro Activate she is also on the committee of the Australian Sandalwood Network and a board member of the newly formed Australian Sandalwood Cooperative

 

Sandalwood (Santalum Spicatum) is not new to the wheatbelt of WA, it is a native plant which has historical links to the local aboriginal people and pioneers. In 1840 to 1910 it was an industry that would have generated over $2.25billion in today’s economy.  West Australia has the world’s largest natural sandalwood resource, but unsustainable harvesting and turning over land to other industries such as wheat farming and mining has reduced its prolificacy.

Sandalwood is a hemiparasitic plant, which means it, requires a host plant to grow and to really thrive in the 300mm rainfall zone it likes a biodiverse system (multiple native species). Best results are achieved with a combination of direct sown seed and a mix of seedlings.

Growing sandalwood is a great way to revegetate and conserve the landscape.  A balanced ratio is generally around 25% sandalwood and 75% native host species .  This is the principle behind our Bencubbin project, the farmer is working with us to restore 25ha of their marginal land with over 20 species of native trees and shrubs, including sandalwood, eucalypt and acacia. After 25 to 30 years the  sandalwood maybe farmed but the 75% remaining vegetation remains to store the carbon.

 

If you would like to read more about the potenital of carbon farming in Australia, click below

Storing carbon through reforestation and other land use changes becomes a more profitable revenue earner than some existing farming, providing income that more than makes up for reduced fossil fuel exports or the costs of Australia meeting its own deeper greenhouse gas reductions.