WHILE carbon farming prompts debate and speculation, a Queensland macadamia property has put the idea into practice.
Bundaberg-based Hinkler Park Plantations announced it had achieved total greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and removal of 17,670 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) between 2020 and 2021 across its entire macadamia production system through carbon sequestration, and cutting energy and fertiliser use.
This is the equivalent to offsetting the emissions from 4236 passenger vehicles for an entire year.
The 3000 hectare macadamia farm is a shareholder-supplier of Marquis Macadamias which produces about 22,000 tonnes of nut-in-shell processed, representing 43 per cent of Australia's macadamia production
The environmental achievement is being held up an example of how practices to promote soil health and fertility can significantly reduce GHG emissions, and increase GHG removal, via soil organic carbon (SOC) improvement.
Carbon reductions refer to a decrease in GHG emissions, achieved by using less fertiliser, chemicals, or energy to produce the crop relative to the base year.
Carbon removals refer to the capture and storage of CO2 from the atmosphere, in this case, via soil carbon sequestration.
Hinkler Park Plantations Queensland general manager and Marquis Macadamias director Clayton Mattiazzi said by going back to basics, Hinkler Park Plantations has completely revolutionised its farming operations.
"This time eight years ago, we were struggling with soil health, tree heath and yields," Mr Mattiazzi said.
"By implementing biological farming practices, we have completely reinvigorated the health of our farm and quality of our macadamias.
"We did this by creating a media of nutrient rich material to optimise growing conditions for our macadamia trees.
"The key to this was repurposing the excess organic matter within the farm: prunings, inter-row grass clippings and nut husk were all moved back under the tree into soil to compost this material into food for our trees.
"This activity is supported with large anaerobic composted mulch that is made from excess farm waste.
"What we have created now is a farm that sequesters more carbon than it produces, preparing us for climate change by building a biologically healthy and more robust farming system."
An independent audit conducted by sustainable food certifier Carbon Friendly found the GHG emissions intensity of macadamia nuts produced at Hinkler Park reduced from 302 to -2816kg CO2e per tonne of macadamia between 2020 and 2021.
The Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions & Removal Enhancements Report found that soil carbon improvement contributed to the removal of 2935kg CO2e per tonne of macadamia nuts during this period.
Marquis Macadamias CEO Larry McHugh said growers across the global macadamia industry were taking advantage of the macadamia trees' natural resilience to improve sustainable growing practices and productivity.
"It is vital that Marquis Macadamias and our growers work together to not only meet the needs of the present but preserve the land for future generations," Mr McHugh said.
"The initiatives focus on ensuring healthy land and soils, optimising water, energy and electricity usage, waste management, and orchard management.
"Not only do macadamias taste good and have a multitude of health benefits, but their sustainable production can also have positive impacts on the environment.
"As strong advocates for the sustainable production of macadamias, our facilities and growers are leaders in setting industry standards."
Marquis Macadamias growers utilise various on-farm sustainability initiatives including water use efficiency; compost, woodchip and woodchip manure blends to improve soil health; waste minimisation; integrated pest and disease management (IPDM); and integrated orchard management (IOM) which incorporates drainage, orchard floor management and canopy management.
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