A PROJECT called Biochar and Energy from Trees (BETR), conducted by Greening Australia and funded by the Alcoa Foundation, could benefit Glenelg Shire agriculture in the short term, and perhaps someday provide renewable energy for local farms.
That’s the confident prediction of Doug Phillips, South West Seedbank and Revegetation Centre manager for Greening Australia in Portland.
The project is focused on finding new ways of using native vegetation to tackle climate change and biodiversity decline, supported by financial incentives provided by the emerging carbon economy. Greening Australia is exploring the feasibility of integrating mixed native-species bioenergy plantations into agricultural systems that will enhance rather than displace current food and fibre production systems.
It involves assessing the potential of native trees and shrubs to produce energy and biochar, which ultimately may provide an alternative income for landowners.
“With purpose-grown plantations, we are potentially delivering multiple climate benefits such as net carbon gain from the installation of the plantation itself (previously cleared areas), renewable energy production and also storing carbon in the form of stable biochar underneath subsequent rotations and other agricultural systems,” Mr Phillips said.
The project has been launched across the region called Habitat 141, an area straddling the SA-Victoria border from the coast to the south-western corner of NSW. This is one of the few places in Australia where examples of the major ecosystems are represented in parks and reserves within a largely agricultural landscape across such a vast area. These ecosystems are at risk from historic clearing that leads to fragmentation.
Read more in Monday’s edition of the Portland Observer.