Kick the $3 Goal Project Update – November 2023

FarmLab, In partnership with UTAS and Perennial, are leading the ‘Kick the $3 Goal’ project to help reduce the cost of sample collection for soil carbon projects across Australia.

The current model uses various Sentinel 2 bands to map the spatial distribution of soil carbon across Australia.

In partnership with UTAS and Perennial, the KTG project aims to reduce the cost of sample collection for soil carbon projects by providing a better spatial understanding of soil carbon across Australia. Six months into the project, we’ve completed the first phase, creating a 10m x 10m resolution grid of Soil Organic Carbon % (%SOC) to a depth of 30cm at the continental scale using an initial ~2,000 soil cores collected to the CER standard across project participants. The spatial model (map) uses machine learning along with Sentinel bands to predict SOC%, with a current R squared of 0.84.

As the project continues, more samples will be collected to improve the accuracy of the map. The next phase will also test this map using the stratification tools in FarmLab to identify its accuracy in predicting the variability of carbon across a farm.

Using machine learning techniques, combined with over 2,000 initial soil carbon measurements, FarmLab have created a soil carbon map for the continent of Australia.

So, what does this mean for soil carbon measurement? In the short term, it’s expected that having a spatially accurate map of soil carbon will reduce the number of soil samples that need to be collected to accurately measure soil carbon stocks by about 50%, significantly cutting lab analysis and sample labor costs too. Longer-term, the project aims to reduce the overall cost of measuring the change in soil carbon stock over time by helping projects indicate whether a change is occurring or not. Our partners at UTAS are already exploring the use of the map in conjunction with APSIM to help farmers introduce management practices that will have a positive effect on SOC% stock.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Current challenges with the model include monitoring the impact Bulk Density has over time on the accuracy of the model. As %SOC increases, Bulk Density would typically be expected to decrease – but will the net effect result in an increase, decrease, or no change at all to carbon stocks? Remember, carbon stocks are a function of bulk density and %SOC, so changing one while reducing the other may mean there’s no net increase. The project is now considering the need for spatially mapping bulk density at farm scale (through on-ground measurements) to determine its impact on carbon stocks.

For more information on the National Soil Carbon Innovation Challenge program, visit https://minister.dcceew.gov.au/bowen/media-releases/joint-media-release-technology-helping-farmers-store-carbon-boosted-albanese-government, or get in touch with us at info@getfarmlab.com to learn more.

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