Opportunities for the vegetable industry

Vegetable growers have no liabilities under the Direct Action Plan.  

There are opportunities for the vegetable industry.

By avoiding emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil, agriculture can play a role in Australia’s greenhouse gas mitigation activities. In 2009, agriculture, fisheries and forestry accounted for 19.5% (109.8 Mt CO2-e) of Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions. The vegetable industry is a very small part of this. However, opportunities exist to take advantage of Government grants, reduce costs and play a part in reducing emissions.

Carbon credits can be earned and sold by following Emission Reduction Fund (ERF) approved methodologies. As of 2016, there are no ERF methods specifically designed for the vegetable industry.

However, there are currently two methods to be compensated for sequestering carbon in soil. ​​​A soil carbon project involves removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soil primarily by increasing the amount of decomposing plant material and microbes in the soil. This is done by setting up specific project management activities and management actions that change agricultural soil conditions to improve crop and pasture growth.

Measured Soil Carbon Sequestration

This means undertaking soil preparation, sampling and analysis to estimate baseline soil carbon stocks before the project starts. After an agreed timeframe, soil is then re-sampled to estimate any changes in stocks. Emissions are calculated depending on the activity within the project, such as synthetic fertiliser, lime or residue management, and a baseline emissions scenario is identified.

The level of abatement is calculated for the reporting period by measuring the sequestration or the net change in emissions for the project area. The emissions are subtracted from the sequestration to arrive at the project’s net abatement level.

Techniques such as no-till, reduced tillage and cover cropping might be the most effective for the vegetable industry due to the intensity of cultivations. Full details of the method can be found here.

Estimated Soil Carbon Sequestration

This means taking default values and software (CFI Mapping Tool) to estimate baseline soil carbon stocks before the project starts and how they would change throughout the project. This method will cost a grower less as no soil samples need be taken or measured, however, one of the following prescribed methods must be followed:

  • permanently converting land from annual cropping to pasture
  • retaining crop residue that was previously removed through burning or baling in field
  • increasing biomass yields (sustainable intensification) through inputs such as fertiliser, lime and water by undertaking two of the following activities:
    • nutrient management
    • new irrigation
    • managing soil acidity, or
    • pasture renovation

Full details of the method can be found here.

Both carbon sequestration methods are subject to a permanence obligation. This means that the level of soil carbon must be maintained or carbon credits issued must be returned. The permanence obligation can be set to either 25 or 100 years, if 25 years is selected there will be a 20% reduction in carbon credits issued. Anyone buying land can check with the Clean Energy Regulator if land is covered by a permanence obligation.

There is also a 5% risk of reversal buffer applied to sequestration projects. This means 100t of sequestered carbon will earn 95 carbon credits.

Other methods

There are also energy efficiency and vegetation management methods that may be applicable to the vegetable industry, such as:

The ERF also includes approved methods for the broader agricultural sector, mainly focused on methane from livestock (dairy, cattle & pig) and nitrous oxide emissions from cotton growing.

The Department of Environment and the Department of Agriculture are tasked with developing new methods over time and in the longer term there may be opportunities in the areas of:

  • Variable speed drives on water pumps (method currently in development)
  • Biochar, both as an addition to soil to increase soil carbon (currently in development) and using crop residues as feedstock in the biochar process
  • Nitrogen fertiliser management and nitrous oxide emissions reductions
  • Biofuels from crop residues


Woolworths are committed to:

  • Maintaining 2006 emission levels – effectively a 40% reduction on projected growth by 2015
  • Reducing carbon emissions by 25% per m2 for all new stores compared to existing stores
  • Reducing carbon emissions per carton delivered by a Woolworths-owned truck by 25%

Coles also have a stated commitment to significant energy savings in their stores across Australia.