Stories: On the Farm
The Kahl Family - Wee Waa, NSW, Australia

A Carbon-Positive Cotton Farm

An increasingly conscious consumer and an uncertain climatic future mean minimising the carbon footprint of Australia’s cotton industry is a high priority. The Kahl family’s 1,200 hectare property “Redbank” near Wee Waa in New South Wales carefully manages land-use proportions in pursuit of carbon neutrality.

However, “Redbank” has gone beyond carbon neutrality to become carbon positive, sequestering more carbon annually than it emits. The Kahls have cut down the emissions on their property through a holistic rotation system, diversifying with crops that generate smaller carbon outputs. Corn, wheat and mungbeans are grown alongside cotton in a four-year rotation, and cattle and sheep are grazed on the soils that aren’t desirable for cropping. The carbon emissions from corn and wheat are approximately half that of cotton, with livestock and mungbeans being a substantially smaller proportion again.

Seventy percent of Australian cotton farms have river frontage, and the benefits of this go beyond irrigation. River red gum ecosystems within riverbank riparian zones are among the most productive in the world, with as much as 300 tonnes of carbon stored per hectare. Of the 839.1 hectares of vegetation on “Redbank”, 153.5 hectares are river red gum riparian forest. The productivity of this vegetation offsets the already minimised carbon emissions from agricultural production.

Successful land use management and the maintenance of riparian zones help “Redbank” sequester approximately 1185 kilograms of carbon per hectare over and above the carbon emitted. Operating a carbon-positive enterprise gives the Kahls a point of differentiation, and the vast riparian zones mitigate erosion, pollutants and pests.

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