Australian grain growers are “up for the challenge” of further reducing their carbon footprint after a CSIRO report found cutting greenhouse emissions by 2030 could mean less grain produced.
The study commissioned by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) looked at how the grains sector could help meet Australia’s climate targets.
The Australian Grains Baseline and Mitigation Assessment found the sector could cut emissions by 15 per cent by 2030 with a change to farming practices including regional crop rotations and how fertiliser is used.
GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking says farmers are already aware of challenges around reducing greenhouse gas emissions especially nitrogen use and machinery use.
Mr Hosking, who is also a grain grower from northwest Victoria, says the report is “really useful” as it breaks down how farmers can reduce their carbon footprint further.
“I don’t think a decrease in production is viable, I think what we have to do is reduce carbon intensity in the product we produce,” he told AAP.
The CSIRO report, released on Tuesday, used baseline data from 2005 and determined 315 kg of CO2 was emitted for every tonne of Australian grain produced.
“If we can get that number down and be more efficient in grain production, I think that’s where the answer will lie … Australian farmers have proved they’re innovators in this space,” Mr Hosking said.
CSIRO senior research scientist Maartje Sevenster, who co-authored the report, said it was important for the grains industry to understand the options.
“The Australian grains sector can contribute to managing global climate change by increasing yields and reducing greenhouse gas intensity, but reducing on farm emissions is very hard to achieve,” she told AAP.
The study also concluded the local grains industry produces lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to other grain-producing countries, including the US, placing Australia among the most efficient producers in the world.
Dr Sevenster said it would be a trade-off if Australia had to reduce its grain production.
“If we stop producing it is likely that someone else has to crank up their production, which is likely to be associated with more greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
“With growing food demand from a climate perspective, it’s undesirable for Australia to reduce its grains production.”
Mr Hosking said reducing Australia’s carbon footprint would help reduce emissions globally.
“People still have to eat … so we need to find a way to focus on areas such as Australia where grain can be grown more efficiently in terms of our carbon footprint,” he said.
“Australian farmers have already done a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to a change in farming practices. We’ve kind of led the globe.
“Our growers will be at the forefront of any negative affects from climate change and we don’t want that … so if we can do something now that might reduce the intensity and frequency of those events, that’s going to be better for the farmer of tomorrow as well.”
Grain growers manage about four per cent of the Australian continent with 22,300 grain farms covering an estimated 31 million hectares.
Australian agriculture has recently defined ambitious objectives which aim to reduce the nation’s emissions while keeping the sector competitive on the global market.
(Australian Associated Press)