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Why Carbon Flows with Alan Lauder

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How carbon and nitrogen work together

We can’t fully understand the process of carbon movement from one life form to the next in a paddock, until we understand how nitrogen fits in. When any living thing dies or is consumed, plants included, it becomes the food source for another living thing. All the nutrients and trace elements are important for the next consumer, but nitrogen is a key player. It has to be passed (along with carbon) in adequate quantities down the food chain to ensure ongoing life. Put simply, nitrogen is always moving just like carbon is always moving. However, carbon can’t move from one life form to the next, driving production and landscape health, if ....

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The different speeds of paddock carbon

Have you ever considered that all the different forms of carbon in a paddock are moving at different speeds? Paddock carbon moves at different speeds depending on what type it is. The first two columns drew attention to the difference between carbon flows and carbon stocks. It was explained why the success of rural producers relies on how well their management promotes the flow of carbon through their paddocks. Now I am going to add another level of refinement to this discussion of carbon flows in the paddock. Given that all carbon in the paddock flows, some quickly and some slowly, maybe we should discuss carbon in terms of the speed of ....

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Why paddock carbon needs ongoing replacement

Did you know that after carbon enters the paddock, it is consumption that allows it to move and, in the process, change from one form to another? During each consumption event, some of the carbon will leave the paddock and return to the atmosphere, hence the need for ongoing replacement. Carbon usually leaves as carbon dioxide (CO2), however some leaves in the form of methane (CH4). Paddocks become bare quicker if the focus is not on 'maximising' flows from any rain that falls. Carbon consumption usually involves living things, however fire also consumes carbon compounds such as those in grass. In the case of fire, a lot of carbon leaves in ....

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Why we make the decisions we do

It is natural that the way somebody sees the world, influences the decisions they make. So, achieving change comes down to helping people see the world differently. We all want to help producers increase profits so we have to concentrate on changing how they see their paddocks by broadening their knowledge base. My journey of seeing things differently When I started as a producer in the 1970’s, I saw sheep and cattle as my source of income. That’s what I sold.  Then I decided that the pasture they ate was the source of my income. I decided the sheep and cattle were really factories and the better the inputs (pasture), the more ....

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Plant energy reserves are built by carbon

This perennial grass plant is struggling to come out of dormancy after good rain. The reason is because it is short of stored energy. The dead plants around it probably looked like this before they died. This is a landscape and a business that is in trouble because the role of flowing carbon is not understood. Energy is stored in carbon compounds. Perennial plants run down carbon as they fire back up after rain then become carbon positive as they become established. In the first column it was discussed how all life can’t exist without energy. The fifth column explained how carbon flows carry energy for all life to call on. The ....

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Think carbon before nitrogen

What is the one thing you can’t afford to run out of? The answer is carbon. Look at the cartoon and you will see that only the right hand side of the fence has carbon available for livestock to consume. A person running a grazing operation can afford to supplement nitrogen (protein) when it is in short supply. However, it is not commercial to supplement carbon when it is short. Hay is expensive. A bare paddock has no carbon while a paddock of frosted or rank grass has carbon but little nitrogen. It is often stated that nitrogen (protein) is the limiting factor. However, this is only true when you are assessing what has grown. Correctly manage ....

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How moving carbon carries energy

When you sit in front of the fireplace does it occur to you that the heat coming out of the fireplace is stored energy from the sun? Likewise, the heat that is given off by burning grass.   The energy of the sun is stored in carbon compounds and then transported around the landscape by these carbon compounds. Grasses which are 45% carbon, store the energy of the sun in their structure as they grow, then pass it on to life above and below ground. The warmth of our body and our ability to move is totally reliant on the energy stored in our carbon based food. How it works The ....

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Why carbon suddenly turned up in extension

Did you know that carbon was not discussed in extension until recent times? For the thirty years that I was a grazier up until 2000, not once was the word carbon mentioned to me. Land management was never explained in terms of carbon management, or more specifically, management of carbon flows. Nobody suggested to me that my day job was recycling carbon. It was never explained to me that the meat and wool I sold were actually carbon compounds. Dr David Freudenberger, a former CSIRO rangelands scientist and now lecturer at ANU, says my claim is true. He said land management simply wasn’t discussed in terms of carbon. Dr Allan Wilson, ....