Estimating sequestration of carbon in soil using default values

Closed 18 Jul 2015

Opened 18 Jul 2015


The Emissions Reduction Fund creates a financial incentive for Australian businesses to adopt smarter practices to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they create. Participants can earn carbon credits by undertaking a project using an approved Emissions Reduction Fund method, which sets out the rules for the activity.

Legal Status

The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative-Estimating Sequestration of Carbon in Soil Using Default Values) Methodology Determination 2015 was made on 18th July 2015.

Who could it benefit?

The method allows farmers and landholders to earn carbon credits by sequestering soil carbon under pasture, crops or mixed farming systems, and to estimate the amount of carbon stored using default values. The benefits associated with increasing soil carbon could include higher crop yields, better pasture, reduced erosion and improved soil health.

How does it work

Soil carbon is primarily made up of decomposing organic material. In agricultural systems, the roots, stems and leaves of crops or pasture grasses can be cycled into the soil and broken down, where some remains as soil carbon. Management practices that increase the amount of biomass incorporated into the soil, and/or reduce the amount of organic matter that is released from soils, can lead to improvements in soil carbon levels.

For this method, landholders may undertake one or more project management activities:

  • Increasing biomass yields (sustainable intensification) on crop or pasture areas by optimising fertiliser, applying lime, introducing irrigation, or pasture renovation (pasture only).
  • Converting land under crops to pasture (conversion to pasture).
  • Retaining crop residue in field rather than burning or baling it (stubble retention).

Landholders should seek expert advice before undertaking any ERF project to understand which activities suit their land and which method best fits their business needs.


The following requirements need to be met to ensure a project is eligible under this method.

  • The project must take place on agricultural land that has been cropped, grazed or bare fallowed at least once in the five years before the project application date. Eligible agricultural land can be identified using the the sequestration values maps.
  • The land for the project must be divided into one or more carbon estimation areas (CEA). One of the three project management activities may be undertaken on each CEA.
  • For sustainable intensification, the relevant CEA must have deficient soil that can be improved by undertaking two of the management actions (specified on the previous page).
  • For conversion to pasture, the relevant CEA must be under crops and/or bare fallowed for five years before the land is established as pasture.
  • For stubble retention, no burning or baling can occur in the relevant CEA more than once every five years while the area is under crops.
  • Project management activities must be undertaken for the nominated permanence period (25 or 100 years). Landholders have the flexibility to move between different management actions in recognition of the changing conditions on agricultural land.

Monitoring, reporting and auditing

This method requires monitoring of soil and emission sources to ensure that the activities are undertaken in accordance with the method. CEAs must also be monitored every six months to ensure that vegetation ground cover is maintained. Failing to meet this requirement could impact upon the allocation of carbon credits for the project.

It's important to keep project records because they will be used to calculate the abatement that has been achieved by the project. Projects are required to submit a report to the Clean Energy Regulator every six months to five years.

Projects must be audited by a registered greenhouse and energy (NGERS) auditor. A list of registered auditors is available on the Clean Energy Regulator website.

Method tools

Guidelines and User Manuals

The method has two guidance documents which should be used in conjunction with the Determination:

Supporting documentation

The method requires proponents to derive a sequestration value for their carbon estimation area (CEA) within the project using the sequestration values maps provided.

Conversion to pasture (PDF - 188.36 KB)

Sustainable intensification (PDF - 182.8 KB)

Stubble retention (PDF - 188.19 KB)

If proponents wish to view the map layers in their own mapping software, the following data layers for each management activity are available from

Areas eligible for abatement are specified on each map according to sequestration values. The values for each area can be found in the respective sequestration values maps and are also published in the Project Management Activity table.

Project Management Activity table

Project Management Activity Not Modelled Sequestration value tCO2-e/ha/year
Marginal benefit
Some benefit
More benefit
Conversion to pasture No value 0.22 0.44 0.84
Stubble retention No value 0.07 0.29 0.73
Sustainable intensification No value 0.11 0.59 1.65


Development of this method

Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee (ERAC) advice

The ERAC's advice to the Minister regarding the Determination is published here, in accordance with Section 106(11) (C) of the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011.

Draft determination and explanatory statement

Note: A draft method determination that is open for public comment should not be relied upon for planning an ERF project. Draft method determinations may be modified following public consultation and are not final until made by the Minister for the Environment.

Further information


Departmental resources


  • Emissions Reduction Fund
  • Climate Change


  • Climate Change
  • Emissions Reduction Fund