ASK farmers what they produce and they’ll answer with a whole range of products including cattle, sheep, wool, grains, fruit and vegetables.
However, according to Queensland based carbon expert Alan Lauder, they’re really producing carbon, and lots of it.
The former rural producer and respected carbon authority says all farmers are carbon recyclers.
“If you’re a grazier or if you’re a farmer, you’re actually producing carbon based products,” Mr Lauder said.
“That’s what you sell. You sell carbon. So your day job is actually recycling carbon.
“Cattle are 18 per cent carbon. The grass that the sheep eat and the cattle eat is 45pc carbon. Grain is about 45pc carbon. Vegetables are carbon based, as is wool and cotton.”
Mr Lauder features in the latest Soils For Life video series.
When you sell sheep and cattle or wool, you’re harvesting some of the carbon that’s flowing through the paddock.
Mr Lauder said the easiest way to understand the concept was to think of individual carbon atoms coming down from the atmosphere.
“They enter the grass and then head off in all different directions,” Mr Lauder said.
“Some are heading above ground getting into the grass, some of the carbon atoms are going into sheep and cattle and then some are going into the ground and feeding all the microbes and worms.”
“When you sell sheep and cattle or wool, you’re harvesting some of the carbon that’s flowing through the paddock.
“You want a paddock that’s going to be full of nutrients and the reason you need the carbon flowing through it is to feed all that soil life, to restructure your soil as they break down the organic matter. And if you don’t have carbon flowing through the whole system, you’re out of business.”
Mr Lauder said soils with more nitrogen cycled carbon more quickly, making nutrients available to plants sooner, and producers more money.
“If you make the carbon move more quickly in cows with more nitrogen, it means that the cow goes to the market quicker and you make more money,” he said.
“The amount of methane produced per kilogram of production is less if you can make the carbon move through the cow faster.
“At the end of the day, all rural producers actually manage short term carbon.”