Monday, December 28, 2020

Poo-eating beetles and charcoal used by WA farmer to combat climate change

He has solved the problem of feeding biochar to cattle.  Combing this form of supplementation with mob graving has the added benefit of targeted soil improvemnt.  You do not need to do it every day as well.

Manure loaded with biochar will be deep buried by the dung beetles.

All this enhances the soil and improves nutrient retention and lowers carbon loss as well.  We already know about using biochar for crop enhancement.  This allows us to also integrate the protocol with mob grazing. I also suspect that the cattles will eat just what they need..

Poo-eating beetles and charcoal used by WA farmer to combat climate change

Posted ThuThursday 17 OctOctober 2019 at 5:36pm

Mediterranean dung beetles, Bubas bison, help cycle nutrient-rich manure through the soil.(Supplied: Kathy Dawson)

A pioneering West Australian farmer is combining cattle manure, exotic dung beetles, and biochar to help combat the effects of climate change as well as tackling soil health issues.

Key points:

WA farmer Doug Pow feeds biochar to his cattle, and uses dung beetles to work the resultant manure into the soil

He says it reduces greenhouse gases, while improving soil fertility as well as the health of his cattle
A CSIRO scientist also says there's on-farm evidence that liveweight gain is improved if biochar is fed to Angus-cross cattle

Doug Pow has developed the strategy to capture carbon, improve soil fertility, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on his cattle property near Manjimup in WA's South West region.

Mr Pow uses biochar, which is essentially charcoal added to soils, to improve fertility.

Biochar is mixed with molasses and fed to Mr Pow's cattle, then dung beetles take the biochar-infused manure into the soil to feed their larvae beneath the surface.

Mr Pow said his innovative farming system could help livestock producers become more profitable while helping to address the impact of climate change.

"It's of benefit to the soil, of benefit to the atmosphere and, really, of benefit to the animals as well," he said.

His farm has been the focus of academic research that has since attracted interest from scientists in Europe, the United States, and China.

Biochar and dung beetles are improving cattle productivity, reducing emissions and boosting soil fertility on a farm in WA's South West.(ABC Rural: Matt Brann)
Tackling livestock emissions

Research into the use of biochar as a feed additive has so far indicated it can promote more efficient digestion and reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock.

Biochar is also known to boost soil health and fertility by encouraging microbial activity and enhancing the availability of nutrients.

Mr Pow captures the benefit of both worlds by enlisting the help of winter-active Mediterranean dung beetles, called Bubas bison, to work his cattle's nutrient-rich manure through the soil without the need for expensive machinery unsuitable for the rolling hills and ravines on his farm.

Mr Pow said dung beetles could also help reduce emissions from his cattle's droppings that would otherwise be left on the surface of the paddock.

"The nitrogen component [of cattle dung] pretty quickly becomes nitrous oxide and goes straight up into the atmosphere, that's a greenhouse gas," he said.

"The carbon component of it basically just oxidises on the surface and is eventually lost as carbon dioxide.

"If a beetle can bury that dung very quickly then that doesn't become a greenhouse gas, it becomes a soil fertility adjunct in the ground."

Doug Pow has been refining his innovative farming system since 2012, and has attracted the interest of international researchers.(ABC Rural: Jon Daly)
Industry innovator

Mr Pow's innovative approach has not gone unnoticed.

Kathy Dawson is a research officer with the Warren Catchments Council, which is an independent community organisation working with landowners in Mr Pow's local area of Manjimup to improve natural resource management.

Ms Dawson said Mr Pow's work had attracted the interest of international and interstate researchers.

"It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say he's a world leader in this regard," she said.

"What Doug has done has been promoted globally and the uptake is global."

Mr Pow recently received the Innovation in Agriculture Land Management Award at the 2019 Western Australian Landcare Awards.

His work has also helped spur further research into the use of biochar in livestock production.

Rob Kinley, a livestock systems scientist with CSIRO Agriculture and Food, has recently begun a research project looking to quantify and validate the effects of biochar on animal productivity and emissions.

"We know that producers are also interested in feeding biochar to cattle and sheep because there is evidence that soil health is improved through distribution of biochar in the soil, with help from dung beetles," Dr Kinley said.

"We also have some on-farm evidence that liveweight gain is improved in Angus-cross cattle fed biochar, with producers and scientists showing interest in its potential."

Exotic dung beetles help bury nutrient-rich cattle manure into the soil profile.(Supplied: Kathy Dawson)

Making value from waste

Mr Pow sources his biochar from the waste stream of a silicon producer, Simcoa, which operates in the nearby city of Bunbury.

While the biochar comes at a cost, Mr Pow said the reduced use of deworming chemicals, thanks to the sanitary work of his exotic beetles, and fertiliser application because of the enhanced soil fertility, had easily covered the expense.

It also provides a novel way to recycle the organic carbon created from industrial waste streams stemming from forestry production.

"We could end up with a huge industry making biochar out of waste product from agriculture and forestry that could be put in the ground by animals and insects at a profit," Mr Pow said.

"My goal is to have extreme long-term carbon sequestration profitably integrated into all agricultural practice."

No comments: