Yeomans Carbon Still used for scientific research in Italy

The Yeomans Carbon Still has been instrumental for the collaborative research of an international team of environmental management and climate change researchers, resulting in an important scholarly publication.

Led by Professor of Ecology Augusto Zanella from University of Padua, the research project takes the small island of Albarella (near Venice) and asks what might be needed to rapidly minimise its carbon emissions. Transport, housing, food, waste management, and vegetation are all modelled to understand the maximum possible reduction. The research team asks: if carbon emissions could be radically reduced on Albarella, then could this be scaled up to transform the way we live on the entire planet?

This compelling project involved a team of more than 30 researchers from around the world, including Italy, France, Austria, China, Germany, and Australia. The Australian contribution came from Allan Yeomans and Dr Lucas Ihlein, whose art/science research project Baking Earth: Soil and the Carbon Economy brought the Yeomans Carbon Still to wider public attention during the high profile Shapes of Knowledge exhibition at Monash University Museum of Art in 2019.

Following the exhibition, in which a fully working model of the Yeomans Carbon Still was used to demonstrate Allan Yeomans’ system of soil carbon measurement, the University of Padua acquired two of the devices. These were used for baseline testing the soil on the island of Albarella. The resulting research paper, “Tackling climate change: The Albarella island example”, which has been published in the journal PLOS Climate, shows how carbon emissions for Albarella could be cut to a quarter of current levels within ten years, offering a “grain of hope” for global climate change.

Read a Media release by the University of Padova here.

Access the new research paper here.

Read another paper entitled “Land Use, Microorganisms, and Soil Organic Carbon: Putting the Pieces Together” published in the journal Diversity, from the same research team. This paper also uses the Yeomans Carbon Still for soil carbon measurement.

Progressive farmer and free-thinker dies aged 92

This is a re-post from an article by Jamie Brown in The Land, 20 Feb, 2024

Allan Yeomans in the shop where the Keyline Plow is made. Energetic to the end, Mr Yeomans continued to work, think and play until his dying days. Photo courtesy the Yeomans family.

Carbon farming advocate and free-thinking inventor Allan Yeomans died last Thursday aged 92.

Mr Yeomans grew up on his family’s farm at North Richmond, visible from The Land’s long-held print headquarters, where his father P.A. Yeomans trialled his landscape re-hydration techniques, called the keyline system and where he used his own dip-rip claypan cracker, the now legendary Yeomans chisel plough.
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CLIMATE CHANGE TERMINATED – Allan Yeomans on YouTube in 2010

This youtube clip from 2010 has Allan in conversation with his granddaughter Micky. As you can see from this video, all of Allan’s ideas about soil carbon sequestration were already being developed and refined at this point, and he explains the process clearly here. As for what happened since 2010? Well, he created the Yeomans Carbon Still to help make soil carbon measurement possible!

CARBON NATION – article in The Weekly Times

This article appeared in The Weekly Times on May 15, 2019. You can download it as a pdf here. The images in the article are from the exhibition Shapes of Knowledge at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) curated by Hannah Mathews. These photos show the installation by Lucas Ihlein and Allan Yeomans at MUMA, featuring a fully working model of the Yeomans Carbon Still.

By Colin Taylor
The Weekly Times
May 15, 2019

FARMERS hoping to cash in on the Federal Government’s promise to pay them for carbon capture may like to hear about a new pathway that potentially makes the process faster and easier.

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Round-table discussion

Saturday 23 March, 2-4pm
MUMA | Monash University Museum of Art

Ground Floor, Building F
Monash University, Caulfield Campus
FREE /// All welcome
RSVP here.

A round table discussion about soil carbon sequestration, its opportunities and challenges. How to do it, how to measure it, and how to legislate for it.

This is your chance to join with some visiting experts in learning about a positive contribution food production systems can make to help stop climate change. No prior knowledge required!

With Allan Yeomans (inventor of the Yeomans Carbon Still), Louisa Kiely (Carbon Farmers of Australia), Dru Marsh (EPA Victoria), Lucas Ihlein (artist), Niels and Maja Olsen (regenerative farmers).

Field Trip to the Olsen family Farm

Allan Yeomans and Lucas Ihlein gathering a soil sample from Niels Olsen’s farm in Hallora.

On March 9, we hosted a bus trip to Hallora (about 1.5 hours south east of Melbourne) to learn hands-on about soil and the carbon economy.

As the bus hurtled down the highway, Allan Yeomans and I gave a brief history of our own work, telling how an artist and an agricultural innovator came to be working together on this project. We were joined by Damien Lawson (an advisor to Adam Bandt of the Greens) who has done a lot of research on global warming and environmental policy. Damien gave a user-friendly summary of the current federal policy situation around climate change mitigation.

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The Agricultural Solution to the Greenhouse Effect by Allan Yeomans (1990)

In 1990, Allan was invited to the Esalen Congress on Sustainable Agriculture, where he presented this paper entitled “The Agricultural Solution to the Greenhouse Effect”. This is the genesis of his work on the Yeomans Carbon Still and the associated methodology for measuring soil carbon sequestration. You can download the paper as a pdf document here.

Many Questions about Soil and the Carbon Economy

Carbon Capturing Crops – image from here.

Listing some of the things I don’t yet understand about soil and the carbon economy:

  • What happens to carbon when plants photosynthesize? I mean, I (sort of) get it, that they “breathe in” CO2, but then what? I’ve been imagining that they break the CO2 into oxygen (O2) and carbon (C) (how exactly?)- the oxygen goes back into the atmosphere and the carbon goes – where? Into the soil, into the plant’s leaves and roots? How does this work?
  • I get it that “organic matter” is 58% carbon. We use this factor when we extrapolate the carbon mass in a soil sample from the mass of organic matter. (But why 58%?) And is all organic matter the same? I mean, is a piece of jarrah wood the same in carbon content as a blade of grass or humus in the soil?
  • How does the proposed carbon economy work? Here’s a ham-fisted version of how I imagine it: polluters pay money for tonnage of carbon dioxide emissions. That money is put in some sort of trust account, and paid to people who can demonstrate that they are pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. OK, fine. But doesn’t that mean that the emissions of the rich are just written off, getting them off the hook? Doesn’t that mean they can carry on with business as usual?
  • What are some of the possible “revenge effects” of the carbon economy? I dunno, I’m thinking about Kevin Rudd’s ceiling insulation scheme which was meant to kickstart the Aussie economy during the global financial crisis but ended up incentivising a whole lot of shonky operators to set up get-rich-quick businesses installing insulation (and people died as a result).
  • Ecosystem services as a commodity. What are the pros and cons of putting a price on services to the ecosystem?

There are more questions! But those will do for now…
Meantime here is a fairly easy to follow article about the processes of carbon drawdown through agriculture.