Brookton, Western Australia
Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.
If you take a scenic drive southeast from Perth, traveling 138km through the Darling Scarp and Flint State Forest, you’ll reach the rolling farmlands of Brookton. The small Wheatbelt town is on Balardong Noongar country.
The Shire of Brookton is a predominantly broadscale agriculture area producing wheat and cereal crops. The sites of these carbon plantings are to the east of town and are of close proximity to the Yenyening Lakes Nature Reserve.
The greater district has land affected by salt and erosion due to the clearing of native vegetation and grazing of stock over many generations.
The Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund is working with two local farming families to plant out at least 53 hectares of land that is showing signs of agricultural decline.
Is this land a working farm?
Yes. The planting sites are located on two separate landholdings owned by two families. A total of 53 hectares is included in this project, on two working professional farms that focus on broadacre cropping and sheep farming.
By participating in this project, the owners have shown a commitment to improving degraded areas of their farm. In the past, they have also undertaken planting trials in saline areas with varied results.
The landowners are concerned with the rising water tables and the salinization of valuable cropping land. Together with the Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund and FarmWoods, the project aims to restore land currently in agricultural decline under two separate projects:
- Saltland Carbon Planting
- Biodiverse sandalwood
These projects will increase 53 hectares of biodiversity on the farm (using specially designed seed mixes to replicate the sort of vegetation that was here pre-European settlement).
CNCF is funding the planting under direction and guidance of Dr. Geoff Woodall and expert agroforestry consultant, Dr. Peter Ritson from FarmWoods. FarmWoods specializes in forest science and in ecological restoration projects for both conservation and carbon sequestration purposes.
Together, CNCF and FarmWoods are working to develop and test new carbon farming systems. These systems have the potential to be used at a whole farm level to reduce water tables, stabilise, and regenerate eroded land, creating shelter and mixed grazing fodder for livestock.
This carbon farming initiative is an example of how agriculture, leading environmental science, and a charitable organisation can collaborate to create a legacy for future generations.
What is ‘Saltland Carbon Planting’?
The landowners are showing a commitment to land restoration by dedicating 20 hectares of salt-affected land for rehabilitation in our ‘Saltland Carbon Planting’ project. In 2019, 10 hectares were planted, followed by another 10 hectares in 2020.
They are also keen to continue the rehabilitation of saline land over the next few years. The hope is that these parcels of land can be improved for water use, stock shelter, and mixed grazing in the future.
Ritson is leading the challenging task of rehabilitating salty country by hand planting 6, 000 seedlings across the project sites in 2019, and 10,000 plants in 2020.
The plants are grown from locally collected seed from species that can tolerate salt. Not much is known about the potential to offset carbon on land that has been degraded by dryland salinity, especially using a mixture of trees and shrubs on land used for grazing.
This experimental planting will test how well-assorted trees can grow in areas of differing salinity and how well they can sequester carbon. CNCF is hopeful that on these Brookton sites, this project will show how converting low productivity saline land can turn into well-functioning and usable land that supports native biodiversity while sequestering carbon. It is hoped that the land can also be able to support mixed agriculture.
The Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund takes great pride in being partnered with projects that have the potential to change how carbon farming on salt ridden land is seen across the world.
What is biodiverse sandalwood?
Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) once grew plentifully in the soils of this area. In the 1840s, sandalwood was Western Australia’s biggest export earner- at one time providing 30% of the State’s export income. Unfortunately, overharvesting and exploitation meant the trees became scarcer and isolated to smaller pockets of stands. As a slow-growing tree, this severely restricted the industry. Sandalwood is still prized today for its aromatic oil and wood.
Biodiverse sandalwood planting means that here, 33 hectares have been direct seeded with different species of plants and not just sandalwood nuts. Sandalwood is a hemiparasitic plant, which means it needs other trees like Acacia (wattles) and Allocasurina (sheoaks) species to act as a host so it can grow.
In 2019, 25,000 host plants were planted via seedlings (Acacia acuminate ‘jam’) and direct seeding, and in 2020, 65 kgs of sandalwood nuts will be planted over the same site. The ratio of sandalwood plants to other native species is 30:70. The good thing about Acacias is that even though some are short lived, they have an important job of storing nitrogen in the soil which then helps to improve soil health as well as taking carbon from the atmosphere.
Seed stock was sourced from Nindethana Seed Service & the Seed Shed, and out host Acacia ’jam’ species were grown locally at Parnell’s Nursery. CNCF is dedicated to using local suppliers to keep money from these projects in the region. We believe this is an essential part of the sustainability of our projects.
The landowners are interested in including other species in this planting like Melaleucas (tea-trees/paperbarks) and Banksia- creating middle and top layers to the revegetation which will help to bring back biodiversity to these areas. Restored areas with high biodiversity mean that they can act as wildlife corridors, providing more habitat for animals which in turn helps spread the seed of native local plants. There is also the potential for heavy flowering plants to be useful in cut flower production and beekeeping.
In time, the landowners will be able to harvest the sandalwood trees for production— either harvesting the nuts to sell or harvesting the entire tree— and bringing in additional income from land that was compromised prior to planting.
CNCF and FarmWoods have been fortunate to receive grant funding to cover the costs of the work on the land here through the National Landcare Program: Smart Farm Small Grants and State Natural Resource Management Program.
How can you, as a landowner, benefit from something like this?
When you work with us to rehabilitate your land, you are bringing the land back to health. Every plant in the ground helps to take carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into physical biomass (the plant’s body). Not only are you helping to mitigate the excess of carbon in the atmosphere, but you are also:
- creating additional biodiversity values for the farm/landholding
- lowering the water table
- fighting land salinisation
- stabilising erosion
- restoring your soil health
- providing shelter and mixed grazing fodder for livestock
- adding an extra income stream (in the case of sandalwood)
Landowners participating in a project with CNCF are creating a healthy farm which provides benefits for the environment and supports the local economy.
CNCF are currently seeking expressions of interest for landowners and groups in this area for future projects. So, if you think “maybe we should do this to our land,” please contact us to see how we can help you.
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