A research team is unlocking the potential of central Victoria's organic waste, as part of a two-year project aiming to improve agricultural practices and mitigate climate change.
Dr Jim Radford, from La Trobe University's Research Centre for Future Landscapes, is taking the kerbside-collected food and garden waste generated by residents in City of Greater Bendigo and Campaspe Shire - and processed by local contractor, Biomix - and spreading it over five local farms.
Dr Radford said he hoped the organic compost would improve the soil enough to increase carbon drawdown from the atmosphere into the soil, where it would remain in solid form.
"We are measuring how the soil responds, particularly how its biology and structure changes," Dr Radford said.
"Our hope is that the compost will increase the soil's ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by super-charging the soil microbes that are already present."
The organic compost was being spread across the trial sites located on cattle farms at Stanhope, Raywood, Kyabram and Arnold. Each site was around seven hectares.
Dr Radford said the project was also examining whether rotational grazing improved the structure and condition of the soil.
In rotational grazing, cattle grazed intensively for short durations on small areas, before rotating to new pastures, thereby allowing pastures to rest and recover for longer.
"We predict that the two treatments in combination will encourage more good soil microbes, like bacteria and fungi, to grow, thereby improving soil quality," Dr Radford said.
"This could improve pasture quality and water infiltration and retention rates and, importantly, enable more carbon dioxide to be absorbed from the atmosphere.
"If successful, we could achieve environmental goals - including reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions - with household waste that was, until recently, dumped in landfill."
The project was funded through the Virtual Centre for Climate Change Innovation, an initiative of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
Collaborators included Biomix, The Green Cocky, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, and five central Victorian farmers.
DELWP Community and Partnerships Program Manager, Geoff Caine, said local research of this kind plays a vital role in addressing climate change on a larger scale.
"If this project yields significant results, it creates an opportunity to reuse waste and create greater resilience for some farming systems, particularly organic farming," Mr Caine said.
Dr Timm Doebert, from the University of Alberta in Canada, visited one of the trial sites to compare similar research he was doing on the Great Plains of Canada.
Dr Doebert was looking at the influence of different grazing regimes on soil carbon, ecosystem processes and biodiversity values.
Biomix processes 100,000 tonnes of garden organics and food organics from various councils across Victoria, to produce a high value compost product.