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Soil Carbon Increases Could Boost Farm Profit

A number of pastoral farmers are likely to earn much healthier profits this year as the result of substantial improvements to their soil carbon levels. One large sheep farm on the East Coast of the North Island has recorded a large carbon increase over the past year, and a goat farm in the Waikato has achieved a similar figure.

If translated into carbon credits, these increases could represent a valuable return per hectare when sold on the voluntary carbon market.

The farmers involved are members of the eCOGENT group and have altered soil, pasture and animal management in ways aimed at growing topsoil. Managing director of eCOGENT, Peter Floyd, says that he anticipated small increases but the higher figures were unexpected.

“A number of our members benchmarked soil carbon levels last spring using protocols designed by soil scientist Graham Shepherd. Sampling is now being repeated and the results are just coming in from the lab,” says Floyd.

“So far we have had increases ranging from 5% to 10%, representing about 10 tonnes of carbon per hectare. The highest figures are extraordinary so we are rechecking them, but even at 5% they could represent a worthwhile lift in profit of around $150 per hectare for the farms involved.”

This potential boost comes on top of profit rises that are already high for eCOGENT farmers. Profit increases averaging 89% for sheep and cattle properties and 56% for dairy units have been achieved every year for the past three years by users of this farm business process that draws on innovative profit indicators and analytical software supported by mentoring, networking and strategic planning.

“Whatever the final figures for carbon are, this approach will drastically change pastoral farming because it has an impact on every component of farming and the implications are huge,” says Floyd.

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