July 1, 2013
MEAT & Livestock Australia (MLA) will use proposed research on soil carbon sequestration as an opportunity to gain more extensive knowledge on techniques for management and improvement of Australian grazing soils for cattle, sheep and goats. The Australian Financial Review reports MLA’s tender is one of a string of research tenders put out by the group, which is planning a strong program of studies during 1913. It wants to improve conformance of southern pasture-fed beef to market preferences, add $25 million a year to on-farm value by 2020 through pasture improvement, and develop a plant variety testing network trial design and analysis service for the southern feedbase. It says it wants to update the 2006 Holmes Sackett livestock disease survey, which didn’t include goats and was completed before the emergence of bovine theileriosis as a problem in NSW and Victoria. This ailment stems from blood parasites that have recently been causing mortalities of up to 30 per cent when cattle are moved to new areas. In northern Australia, periodically touted as the next big development in Australian agriculture, the corporation wants to upgrade the currently indifferent reproductive performance of breeding herds, and improve the quality of pastures including the digestibility of tropical pasture grasses. Melbourne-based tenders specialist TenderSearch says researchers keen to investigate opportunities and constraints for soil carbon sequestration for red meat grazing systems should have their applications in by December 21. The possibilities for large-scale sequestration of carbon dioxide in soils have been among the more technically problematic techniques in the palette of proposals for slowing the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. However, from the point of view of MLA, and indeed of beef, sheep and goat meat producers generally, the proposed research could assemble a lot of valuable incidental information about soil management, as a byproduct of the carbon sequestration drive. In 2009, researchers Sanderman, Farquharson and Baldock of the CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship prepared an analysis, Soil Carbon Sequestration Potential: A review for Australian agriculture. The paper characterised the broad opportunities as follows: “Currently, there is much uncertainty and debate, particularly within Australia, as to the total potential of agricultural soils to store additional carbon, the rate at which soils can accumulate carbon, the permanence of this sink, and how best to monitor changes in soil organic carbon stocks.” The greatest potential in existing systems could come from large-scale additions of organic materials such as manure and green wastes, maximising pasture phases in mixed cropping systems (less time growing crops, more on grazing animals) and shifting from annual to perennial species in permanent pastures.