Research shows macadamia industry is ‘carbon friendly’

Published 21 October 2008

The North Coast macadamia industry is ‘carbon friendly’ and provides significant benefits in carbon sequestration, according to a research project completed by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Regional Climate Change Studies.

The study, led by Associate Professor Graham Jones, found that macadamia trees were able to store four tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare, per year. At the same time, preliminary research indicates the industry emits only 0.5 tonnes per hectare per year.

Across the industry, which consists of more than 900 growers who collectively farm 17,000 hectares in Queensland and northern NSW, this equates to around 68,000 tonnes of gross sequestration per year. At $20 per tonne this could be $1.36 million dollars per year to growers across the industry if they were able to claim it.

“This is a significant benefit in terms of carbon sequestration but it’s not recognised
at the government and policy level,” Professor Jones said. “This industry will be feeling the impact of increased energy prices, but at the moment horticulture is not included in the emissions trading scheme for 2010.”

The research was completed using 38, 23-year-old macadamia trees at Knockrow, supplied by Greg James at the Deenford macadamia farm near Ballina. The trees were measured, weighed and analysed for timber and carbon properties to determine the sequestration rate.

Professor Jones said this research project had led to the development of a framework for measuring carbon sequestration which could now be used in other horticultural industries in Australia.

“We want to apply this across the nut industry and also the citrus industry. This is vital for finding sustainable industries that are appropriate for a low carbon economy,” he said.

“We still have some work to do on measuring ‘on-farm’ carbon emissions, but what we are aiming for is a cradle to grave carbon assessment for the industry. This will be vital in enabling the horticultural industry to be involved in the emissions trading scheme or any voluntary carbon market in the future.”

The results of the research will be presented at the annual Australian Macadamia Society conference in Ballina on October 30 and 31.

As part of its work on emissions trading and links to carbon audits, the Centre for Regional Climate Change Studies is also hosting a one-day course on November 17, designed to help business and industry understand the impact of emissions trading.

“The course will take you through from the science of climate change to an understanding of the emissions trading proposals for Australia, then on to the monitoring/reporting requirements and strategies necessary to participate in trading, and finally how agriculture and other industries can take advantage of the scheme,” Professor Jones said.

The course is being held at the Byron at Byron Resort Spa and Conference Centre, Byron Bay, on November 17. For information and registrations email graham.jones@scu.edu.au or phone 0421 281 257, or r.passey@unsw.edu, phone 6688 4384.

Photo: Sylvain Caurla, an intern student who assisted in the research, measures a tree’s diameter.

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.