Posted by: tedfloyd | June 20, 2013

Biocarbon in Australia

Cook global charts

What is a soil? My concept of a soil is Solids + Water + Air + Biomass + Plants. Biomass includes both living and dead material. Plants are essential for the creation and maintenance of sustainable natural soils. In the discussion, “soil conservation the need of the day” plants are the key to conservation of soils. Solids and water do not make a soil. Plants producing organic material by photosynthesis are essential for soil formation. Microbes and animals eat organic material returning nutrients back into forms available to plants and help to maintain a healthy sustainable soil. Plant roots help to create and maintain healthy soils.
When new soils are formed they have to be continually renewed by plants.
Many discussions on soils emphasise the importance of healthy soils helping plants to grow. It is more important to remember plants make healthy soils. This does have practical importance, for example “no or reduced till”. Planting vegetation on mine dumps.
How old is a soil? A very difficult question. A soil is dynamic, it is not static. A cycle of degradation and renewal continually occurs. It is important to understand if a soil is becoming less healthy or healthier. Often human activities will cause some degradation from the undisturbed natural state. It is possible to make new soils with lots of compost and new technologies. Reducing the number of stock grazing degraded soils increases plant growth and helps to grow new soils. Do you have a favourite way to grow a new soil?


Natural biocarbon sinks in soils help to produce climate stability.
Resilient humus in soils is considered to be the most significant natural biocarbon sink in soils.
Humus helps to improve soil health.

Product or Process?
What is more important, the product or process?
The product is humus the process is the Soil Carbon Cycle.
Humus in soils is widely accepted as improving soil health and increasing plant growth. To obtain humus with all the desired properties stimulating plant growth many processes occur beginning with the addition of plant material and the decay of plant material. Soil health is improved by the complete soil carbon cycle.
Soil Organic Matter is carbon compounds in various stages of decay. In the soil, organic matter is part of a dynamic, living carbon cycle. Soil health is improved by the presence of dead pieces of plant material. The living carbon cycle is very important in maintaining soil health. Many living creatures, microorganisms and small soil animals eat dead plant material, eat each other and eat the faeces of living organisms. All of this activity adds to the fertility and health of soils.
Growing plants add to soil health.

Sustainable Healthy Soils need to be, Chemical, Physical and Biological Fertile.
Biological Fertility is linked to the Carbon cycle in soils.
The Carbon cycle in soils includes,
Soil Organic Matter
Soil Microorganisms
Root exudates

Often the method of formation of humus in soils is overlooked when measuring climate stability and only the end product is studied. To obtain humus with all the desired properties to stimulate plant growth many processes occur beginning with the addition of plant material and the decay of plant material. The decay of organic matter and the soil carbon cycle improves soil health. Healthy soils improves plant growth and more plant material is added to soils and the possibility of more humus. What is more important, the product or the process? Climate stability and natural biocarbon sinks often only considers resistant carbon compounds and ignore the carbon cycle and the process of humus formation in soils.

Is the cycling of soil carbon more important than attempting to create permanent soil carbon?

Renewable Energy and Soil Biocarbon Sinks Improve Climate Stability.

Renewable energy will reduce additions of Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere in the future. Natural biocarbon sinks absorb Carbon Dioxide from the existing current atmosphere. Comprehensive programs to establish climate change stability should include both natural biocarbon sinks and renewable energy. Soils are a very good natural biocarbon sink.

Soil Cycles


Energy Cycle

Bio char
The addition of bio char to soils often improves soil health and has positive effect on soil microbes and plant growth.
The manufacture of bio char and the distance in transporting bio char to farms need to be considered in the overall sustainability of bio char.
Carbon added to soil by bio char should not be considered as absorbing carbon from atmosphere and improving climate change. If bio char increases plant growth this may be considered as improving climate change.

Animals grazing grasses do they obtain protein from seeds? Is it better to allow grasses to mature and set seed? Does cell grazing allow grasses to set seed?

Water Harvesting
Passive Water Harvesting
Encouraging water to infiltrate into soils during rainperiod.
Active Irrigation in parks and gardens.
Water is stored and soil irrigated when needed. Rainwater captured and stored in rainwater tank.
Water harvesting for use in homes and commerce and industry. Reduces consumption of town water or potable water.

Nutrient Accumulation
Soil formation

Sydney Soil History
Tench map west

tench map north

tench map inner sydney
Sydney Soils

Tench map west
tench map north
tench map inner sydney
Sydney Soils
The 1st fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788. The early history of Sydney was dominated by soils. Government Farm failed miserably. The soil was an infertile, sandy soil and the 1st settlers were heartbroken as they tried to grow wheat, maize and barley with yields less than the seed sown. Their little herd of cattle escaped and found better pastures 20 miles down south. By early 1791 the colony was starving and it was feared most settlers would die of hunger.

In June 1791 the 2nd fleet arrived with stores and hundreds of sick convicts who were cruelly treated on the convict ships. Sydney was saved and many times since Australia has suffered from droughts, floods crop failures, mice plagues, grasshopper plagues, salty soils, water erosion, dust storms, acid soils and many silly politicians. Despite all this farmers have fed the locals and exported food to a hungry world. In past years it was said Australia grew from the wool on a sheeps back. Our economy is now dominated by coal and gold. In the future will global warming dominate the economy and natural biocarbon sinks replace the dominance now held by coal? The greatest asset Australia posses for generating biocarbon sinks is soil.

Sydney founded 26 Feb 1788

map sydney 1788

Early map of Sydney showing 1st Government farm, behind Gov. House on land now part of Botanic Gardens.

gov house 1

Ist Gov. House with extensive gardens in front of house. Many houses maintained vegetable gardens to provide fresh vegetables, especially when rations were reduced because of reduction in Government supplies.

Government Farm established near Farm Cove (present Sydney Botanic Gardens).
Soils were shallow, infertile, sandy soils formed on Hawkesbury Sandstone rocks.
The Officers and soldiers were smart enough on parade, but were useless on a farm. The profession of the convicts was to do no work and to gain an income by dubious means. No new settler was a farmer.

The ground bent the blades of hoes. Timber twisted the the blades of axes. Summer heat was oppressive and giant ants bit everyone. The seasons were confusing and trees never lost their leaves. In many months it never rained and then a violent storm dropped flooding rains. The production of wheat and barley was not sufficient to feed a hungry new settlement. Supplies originally brought out with 1st Fleet began to run out.

2 bulls and 4 cows lost June 1788 (60 head of cattle found Cowpastures Camden 1795)
1st crop failed Sept 1788.
1st Government farm abandoned.

Several food plants grew well in early Sydney. Maize best grain crop. Vines flourished and grapes produced good wines. Melons, cucumbers and pumpkins grew well. Oranges lemons and figs best fruit trees. Most settlers with allotments possessed pigs and poultry. In early Sydney sheep, cattle and horses were rare and only wealthy land owners possessed these stock. Horses and bullocks were not available to pull wagons. There was plenty of convicts who pulled the carts and wagons.

tench map

Captain Watkin Tench published his diaries 1792 “SYDNEY’S FIRST FOUR YEARS”. He was interested in agriculture and soils and his diaries contained good descriptions of farming. Included in his diaries was the very interesting map.

Paramatta settled Nov 1788.
Farming was more successful on the alluvial creek flats and the surrounding Wianamatta shales.
Prospect Hill, west of Paramatta, is basaltic with fertile soils on the surrounding slopes.
James Ruse land grant on 21st Nov. 1788, Rose Hill (Paramatta).
Ruse was very successful and the 1st farmer who grew enough food to feed his family.
Norfolk Island had good soils and settlers sent to the island to reduce the number of starving mouths in Sydney.
Starvation became a reality in the colony.

2nd fleet arrived with stores and averted starvation June 1791.

map prospect 1792

Ponds a settlement North Paramatta, 14 allotments Dec 1791.
Prospect Hill settled 1791, 11 allotments Dec 1791.
Prospect Hill, west of Paramatta is basaltic with fertile soils on surrounding slopes.

Population 26th Nov. 1791
Sydney 1259
Paramatta 1628
Norfolk Island 1172
Total Colony 4059

There were more new settlers in Paramatta than Sydney. In these early years more effort was placed on growing food than building a nation.

13th Dec 1791 Marines left Sydney on Gorgon
Captain Phillip left for England.

Toongabbe Government farm
Hawksbury River. 1st land grants 1794. Macquarie Towns 1810, Windsor, Richmond, Pitt Town, Wilberforce, and Castlereagh. The towns were built on higher ground above floods. This enabled farmers to live above floods and to farm the flood prone river flats. Farm produce by boat down Hawksbury, Broken Bay, and along coast to Sydney Harbour.
Captain Johnston received grant 1793, Annandale on Wianamatta Shale.
John Macarthur received grant 100 acres Paramatta, 1793. and 5 000 acres Cowpastures, Camden 1805.

map sydney 1798
Map 1798, Sydney and surrounding settlements.

windmill 1
1st windmill, Millers point. Windmills were built on ridges surrounding early Sydney to produce flour from wheat and maize. After 1850 steam replaced windmills.

Cowpastures discovered 1795. John Macarthur grant 5,000 acres 1805.

Birth of early civilizations
The birth of civilization occurred where there was fertile soils. Alluvial soils Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus and in China.The great civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, India and China. Early man was often nomadic, it was necessary to move from place to place to find food. Where there was fertile soils ancient man could obtain all his food from the one spot. In these areas where people settled on fertile soils he domesticated animals and cultivated plants. Early agriculture began, only a small number of people were required to produce food. Civilizations began when a large workforce was free from food production and able to build up large and powerful nations. The necessary elements for ancient civilizations was fertile soils and water.




  1. Looks good.

  2. Is there a link between soil biocarbon and human health? Yes, soil carbon creates healthy soils and healthy soils is good for human health.

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