ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Enabling landholders to adopt profitable and sustainable carbon cropping practices, (2012-2015)

ILWS Strategic Research Area

A cross-centre project with the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation


Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries


Project leader Prof Deirdre Lemerle (Graham Centre), Dr Iain Hume (NSW DPI), Ms Toni Nugent (Graham Centre), Ms Deb Slinger (NSW DPI), and Associate Professor Vaughan Higgins (ILWS)


wheat crop stubbleThis project, which was managed by the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, broadly involves conducting field trials on a select number of farms across NSW and Victoria (Holbrook, Condobolin, Geelong, Temora, Jerilderie and Wagga) to test stubble management practices to see which work best at sequestering carbon. Project Details

A/Prof Higgins, a social scientist, undertook the social science component of the project. He  conducted pre-trial interviews with six growers groups and 11 growers with the main purpose of obtaining baseline data on landholders' stubble management practices, and their views on the relationship between stubble management and carbon sequestration.

Findings from initial interviews and focus groups were:

  • Despite widespread interest in, and the use of, stubble retention, burning remains an important management tool for many landholders
  • Burning remains an important option for landholders due to a range of challenges associated with stubble retention
  • The use of stubble retention to sequester  carbon is a low priority for landholders

Further interviews were conducted in 2015, after the trials were completed. A final report has been provided to the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture.


Higgins, V., Love, C., Dunn, T. and Lemerle, D. (2015) Why do farmers partially adopt conservation farming practices: A sociological study of stubble retention in NSW and Victoria, Proceedings of the 17th Australian Agronomy Conference, 20-24 September 2015, Hobart. Available online at

Preliminary results of Phase 1


Demonstrations of the latest research, locally, has provided knowledge, confidence and capacity for practice change and landholders will understand possible impacts on soil carbon. The project outcomes will enable policy and inform the practical adoption of profitable and novel techniques to increase soil carbon.


A/Prof Vaughan Higgins,

February 2016