What does an investor, a scientist, a conservationist, a student and a rancher have in common?

Why its carbon of course!

 

On Indreland Ranch, Big Timber, MT this week, I had the privilege of joining an inspiring group of people with a passion for regenerative Ag.  This group included ranchers, investors, sustainability groups, land trusts, students, scientists and the sustainability officer from Wrangler Jeans.  Yup, even your jeans could be sourced from regenerative operations.

 

 

(as a side note with Icebreaker NZ now owned by the same parent company as Wrangler Jeans, I hope we’ll see more of this conversation spreading into how wool is being produced in NZ.)

It’s clear that an increasing number of companies, including Patagonia, General Mills, Fibreshed and Wrangler are responding to consumer pressures to produce products that people can trust to deliver on the pillars of true sustainability.

Companies who are asking what are management implications on the land and beyond the ranch gate?

The group visiting the Indreland Ranch had interests which stretched far beyond beef.  Investors from NativeEnergy, specialists in carbon offset projects, are also interested in the ecosystem service benefits which regenerative Ag provides to the wider community. Practices like holistic grazing, range-riding, bio-stimulants and catalysts which lift photosynthesis and plant health, also provide a sink for greenhouse gases, restore watershed function and increase biodiversity in all its forms.

NativeEnergy, with Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE) in Montana, are setting up a pilot project with regenerative ranchers in Montana.  The project focuses on regenerative grazing practices and their projected changes in soil carbon.  The project provides upfront payments to ranchers to kick-start methods improve their grazing practices.  Practices which are often limited by understanding, planning and/or a lack of infrastructure; such as water and fencing.  Studies on Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing (AMP) by Richard Teague in Texas and Alberta, showed annual increases between 1.4-2.6 T/Ha compared to continuous grazing. Once progress has been made with grazing, the team will return to measure soil carbon changes overtime.  This measured carbon will then be available in the marketplace.

 

Richard Teague’s Principles for Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing:

 

  • Aim to improve ecological function to increase profits
  • Flexible stocking to match forage availability and animal numbers
  • Spread grazing over whole ranch, by grazing one paddock at a time
  • Defoliate moderately in growing season
  • Use short grazing periods
  • Adequate recovery before regrazing
  • Adjust as forage growth rates change

Ranchers questioned if they were at a disadvantage when they’ve already been using these practices.  My take is that, no, they’re not.  In degraded landscapes the accumulation of carbon can be slow, before the systems build some momentum.  Overtime there is a plateau … but at what point?  And is there something else missing which if addressed, could lead to more accumulation?  I also wonder; is there anyone in the world who has hit carbon saturation?  I’m sure one day we’ll reach this scientific saturation, for today however, it seems that producers around the world are showing those models just don’t fit Regenerative Ag.

 

For more info on the Montana Carbon Project click here:

https://www.westernsustainabilityexchange.org/soil-carbon/