$2m wheat power partnership to fight climate change
Initially piloted by Mars Petcare in 2017, the Cool Soil Initiative is now welcoming major Australian manufacturers Kellogg’s and Manildra Group, as well as a Charles Sturt University research team, to form a collaborative Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) project with a $2 million commitment to help grow the program over the next three years.
The Cool Soil Initiative will see key players along the grain supply chain invest in reducing GHG emissions by supporting 200 farmers across Australia to test and investigate new management practices that deliver a win-win for productivity and sustainability.
Professor of Food Sustainability Niall Blair said climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing Australian farmers today, and improving soil health is one of the top three management priorities on the agenda of growers in the region.
“Over the next three years, if we can achieve a 0.1% increase in soil carbon across 700,000 hectares of land, the impact could be close to removing 1.2 million cars from the road,” Blair said.
“We’re excited to collaborate in this paddock to product partnership, working with industry and grain growers in regional farming systems groups, to improve our understanding of how crop management practices can mitigate GHG emissions on-farm.”
While Mars and Kellogg’s continue to reduce their factory GHG emissions, they have identified that over 50% of their emissions happen upstream from their manufacturing sites from production and processing — including growing and milling as well as transport of materials used in their products.
Blair said the farmer-first initiative is a prime example of how industry-wide collaboration can offer valuable support to the farming sector as they strive to mitigate GHG emissions and improve soil health without compromising farm productivity and profitability.
“The Cool Soil Initiative also provides a framework for the food industry to support farmers as part of their mission to reduce GHG emissions,” he said.
NSW farmers Craig and Fiona Marshall said they could only see benefits for their business in the town of Rennie to be involved in the project.
“The soil tests performed as part of the project are measuring the carbon in our soils but also measuring other soil factors which may limit crop production so we can identify and ameliorate the problems and hopefully boost production,” they said.
“This is a long-term project, so we will have the opportunity to track our soils over time and identify changes in response to different farming practices we might try. Soil is a complex living ecosystem, and the more we can learn about it, the better off we will be.”
Founded by Mars and the Sustainable Food Lab, the Cool Soil Initiative provides agronomic support to wheat farmers in Australia, with the goal of minimising supply chain GHG emissions.
The program engages with farmers to identify opportunities to reduce inputs (costs) and increase productivity while also ensuring the long-term health of their most valuable asset — soil.
The project gathers data using online greenhouse gas calculator the Cool Farm Tool to quantify on-farm emissions and measure and track changes over time.
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