Partnership shows progress on rural solutions to climate change

Published 05 May 2011

annette-robThe progress of a research partnership between the University of New England and the NSW Department of Primary Industries that is aimed at helping Australia’s rural industries address the challenges of climate change has been on show this week.

The Rural Climate Change Solutions Symposium brought together about 70 people – including the presenters of 37 research papers – for what the Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Jim Barber, said was a “celebration” of the partnership.

Held at Duval College, UNE, the symposium on Tuesday the 3rd and Wednesday the 4th of May was a showcase of research into reducing the greenhouse gas emissions generated by rural industries and mitigating the effects on agriculture of climate change.

Professor Barber pointed out that the UNE/DPI collaboration, launched just two years ago as the National Centre for Rural Greenhouse Gas Research (NCRGGR) based at UNE, had already produced significant research results. NCRGGR is an “offspring” of the “parent” UNE/DPI collaboration – the Primary Industries Innovation Centre (PIIC), also based at UNE.

Rob Young, Director of Climate and Water Research for NSW/DPI, said the UNE DPI collaboration, which involved “a number of formal partnerships and a lot of informal collaboration at the individual researcher level”, had “stood the test of time”.

The Director of NCRGGR, Professor Annette Cowie, explained that the issues being studied by the Centre included the reduction of methane emissions from livestock, the reduction of nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils, the impacts of land use on soil carbon, and the use of biochar and biofuels in climate change mitigation. (Professor Cowie is pictured here with Rob Young.)

“NCRGGR takes a ‘whole systems approach’ to the task of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and is drawing on the work of researchers in fundamental areas of science from throughout UNE and DPI,” said UNE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Annabelle Duncan, who chairs the PIIC Board of Management. “This symposium provides the opportunity for the presentation of research in progress, and will foster the development of new collaborative links between UNE and DPI.”

The variety of the research projects presented over the two days emphasised the Centre’s “whole systems” approach to rural greenhouse gas research, with a paper by Professor Oscar Cacho (UNE) and Robyn Hean (DPI) on “economic and policy aspects of carbon markets” concluding that “interdisciplinary approaches are essential when dealing with climate change policy”.

The many research topics covered included “The impact of climate change on wheat production in different soils in the NSW wheat belt”, “Land-use change options in the Border Rivers-Gwydir catchment”, “Nitrous oxide emissions from dryland cropping soil in north-west NSW”, “Options to reduce methane emissions from livestock”, and “Influence of biochar on soil fertility, carbon storage and biomass”.

After the symposium, Professor Cowie said that it had not only demonstrated the range of industry-relevant results that the Centre’s work had already produced, but had also opened opportunities for further collaboration.