Soil C Quest appreciate the support and endorsement of many individuals and groups in undertaking this project.


I would like to offer my in-principle support for the ‘Soil C Quest 2031’ project focused on the development of a soil carbon fixing fungal inoculum package for broad acre cropping, nationally and internationally.

The project has as its core vision ‘to double soil organic carbon levels in Australian cropping soils by 2031’. Given the importance of increasing soil carbon toward ongoing farming viability, food security, landscape health and climate change mitigation, the importance of the Soil C Quest 2031 project is self evident. It should be supported by anyone who cares about our country’s soils, climate change and the legacy we will leave behind to future generations.


As the Federal Member for Parkes, I have great pleasure in supporting the Soil C Quest 2031 team and their project to develop a soil carbon inoculum package capable of reliably increasing persistent soil organic carbon, whilst delivering agronomic and economic outcomes to Australian farmers.

It is the responsibility of farmers to maintain and improve the health of the land so that future generations have the capacity to grow equal or improved volumes of food and fibre sustainably. It is for this reason that soil organic carbon will have a major part to play in our future and why I support Soil C Quest 2031.

As a farmer, before entering politics in 2007, I spent a large part of my life working to improve the land under my tenure. By working to improve soil organic carbon, I saw almost immediate results in soil health and fertility. Furthermore, many farm management practices that increase soil organic carbon subsequently enhance crop and pasture yields.

Soil C Quest 2031 is an Australian organisation directed by farmers who deliver a practical approach towards developing technology with significant agricultural and environmental outcomes. It is this grass-roots approach that will deliver significant outcomes in this area of sustainable agriculture.

I recognise the importance of soil organic carbon toward improving food security and overall agricultural resilience and sustainability. I offer my strong support to Soil C Quest 2031.


The most pressing problem that continues to haunt all forms of global agriculture is the decline of carbon in productive soils. Organic matter may be maintained in soil using reduced tillage and various other conservation practices. The conserved portion of organic matter, called soil carbon, has only recently come to be understood. Soil carbon modifies essential functions of soil. These functions include conservation of water and minerals, reduction of the effects of high pH and salinity, and stabilization of soil structure. Real increases in soil carbon are essential for the long-term use of agricultural soils, and the production of foods for an ever increasing global population. I have researched soil science for more than 30 years. The emphasis of our team was to develop understanding of how soil carbon is increased in soil. This research has been taken by the MEF Soil Carbon Inoculum Project (Soil C Quest 2031) with the goal of developing inoculum appropriate for productive Australian soils. The Soil C Quest 2031 team seeking to develop such an inoculum to enable sustained use of agricultural soils has my strong and ongoing support.


Soil function is greatly dependent on the amount, distribution and quality of organic matter (particularly organic carbon) in soil. Current methods of soil management that aim to increase organic carbon in soil have unpredictable outcomes primarily due to misunderstandings regarding the effective long-term storage of organic carbon. Organic carbon will only be maintained in soil for significant periods of time if it is protected from oxidation. Oxidation is a process that occurs in the presence of oxygen and one that readily results in the breakdown of organic carbon. Organic carbon will therefore only be protected if it is deposited within soil aggregates, the centres of which are anaerobic.

Currently, a number of soil management practices widely utilised in efforts to enhance soil organic carbon involve the addition of plant-derived compounds (such as lignin) to soil. Though recalcitrant, such compounds remain in the aerobic zone in soil (outside of soil aggregates) and can be readily oxidised. A number of studies have demonstrated that this process can occur rapidly. Plant-derived compounds remain outside of aggregates due to their size. So what other recalcitrant material is readily available and is small enough to be deposited within aggregates? Melanin. Melanin is a complex polyaromatic (recalcitrant) material that is deposited in the hyphal walls of some fungi. Fungal hyphae, unlike plant material, are small enough to penetrate soil aggregates. Therefore, if fungi with melanised hyphae are able to penetrate soil aggregates they can potentially deposit recalcitrant material (melanin) within these aggregates. This material would be protected from oxidation within soil aggregates and the accumulation of such material would contribute to increased levels of soil organic carbon, long-term.

Under the supervision of Associate Professor Peter McGee, I tested this hypothesis as part of my PhD at The University of Sydney (completed 2012). In summary, I was able to identify 20 melanised endophytic fungi (MEF) that increased levels of organic carbon in an agricultural soil over 14 weeks. An increase in soil carbon of up to 17% was recorded within experimental trials using subterranean clover. Increases (up to 32%) in organic carbon were also recorded in a subsequent 1 month field trial conducted on canola (Guy Webb, Gaia2112).

I chose to utilise endophytic fungi in the study as endophytic fungi form mutual associations with plants. Endophytic fungi therefore have a direct supply of energy from plants. As such, the longevity of endophtyic fungi in soil is enhanced in comparison to saprotrophic (freeliving) fungi. Endophytic, however, can also be cultured independently of any plant. Cultures can therefore be independently maintained in the absence of a plant, unlike mycorrhizal fungi, for example. This capability was utilised when carrying out pot-trials in order to determine whether MEF enhance soil carbon. During this process, the isolates were simply grown on sterilised wheat seed in order to bulk up an inoculum and the wheat seed added to soil. This method of inoculating soil was simple and cost-effective, yet produced significant results. The inoculum could be prepared within the space of 2 to 3 weeks (to allow the fungi to grow on the wheat seed) and was done so in a laboratory with basic equipment. With input from experts within the field of inoculum development, I believe that this process can easily be shortened and made more efficient. An inoculum grown on what seed will most likely not be the method by which such fungi may be applied to soil on large scale plots, however, again, this method demonstrated the simplicity by which such an inoculum can be developed.

In conclusion, the research I conducted in previous years has indicated the potential that melanised endophytic fungi have to enhance carbon in soil. In laboratory studies, these fungi significantly enhanced levels of carbon in an agricultural soil within 14 weeks. The results of this study will soon be published in an international peer-reviewed soil science journal. Initial field trials in which select melanised endophytic fungi were applied to an agricultural soil in which Canola was grown further confirmed this potential. I believe that the role of fungi in carbon sequestration may be greatly underestimated. The application of melanised endophytic fungi to soil may be a simple yet efficient method by which organic carbon can be enhanced in soils.

The Directors of Microbiology Laboratories Australia Pty Ltd have worked in soil microbiology and soil health research and practice with over 30 years’ combined experience in this field. We are aware of the scientific and practical evidence of the ability of Melanised Endophytic Fungi (MEF) to increase Humus Organic Carbon (HOC). If the results obtained so far could be replicated on a broad scale, for example, district, State or even nation-wide, the benefits to the environment and agriculture would be substantial, and far outweigh any cost in bringing the current knowledge into practice.

We are proud to endorse the MEF project and are prepared to contribute a considerable amount in-kind to help ensure its success.

In my 15 years of involvement with soils research and land management the proposal by Soil Carbon Quest for inoculation of soils with melanising endophytic fungi (MEF) represents potentially the most significant step forward in soil management and carbon sequestration.

In addition to substantial soil health benefits in soil structure and moisture retention the proposal may yield a critically important technological breakthrough in broad scale carbon sequestration. Mechanisms proposed to date for improving soil carbon have relied on management techniques limited in scale of application and prone to reversal by adverse conditions. If MEF inoculation can be proven effective and persistent then the technology will be in global demand by a world facing accumulating impacts from global warming.

The proposal to advance research and scale in MEF inoculation is an opportunity to enhance agriculture in NSW, build soil fertility and pioneer an industry that may return substantial revenues to the state. I recommend the proposal for funding support.

The Little River Landcare Group is one of Australia’s leading sustainable agriculture focused Landcare groups; with a particular interest in meshing sustainable agricultural practices with natural resource management outcomes in an innovative and grass-roots driven way.

The ‘Soil C Quest’ is a research project that aligns with the objectives and mission of our organisation and offers tremendous potential to develop an inoculum that will contribute significantly towards:

Increasing soil organic carbon levels, which improve soil health and protect one of our nation’s most critical natural assets, humus. Increasing agricultural productivity and the potential to improve the profitability of farmers. Improve ecosystem processes such as the nutrient, water and energy cycles and increase water use efficiency in agricultural systems.

In particular, this project is of significant interest to our organisation for its ability to discover inoculums for mixed farming systems. We are supportive of this project for its grass-roots focus and that it is a farmer driven, research project, which means that the results will be meaningful in terms of its relevance and scale to farmers. We look forward to the long term trial opportunities available to our membership of 180 farming businesses and the agricultural production opportunities associated with this project.


Macquarie 2100 is a Landcare/Community organisation with a 100 year plan for the environmental, economic and social revitalisation of the lower Macquarie Valley in central western NSW.

As well as numerous on ground works, social programs, workshops and awareness-raising activities the organisation is heavily involved in supporting potential projects which have big picture broader implications for the holistic health of Australia.

We have been supporting the Soil Quest project since its inception and believe it has so much potential for the greater good of our national soil bank that it should be recognised at the highest levels as being a national priority and accelerated by government funding.

Guy Webb (of Soil C Quest 2031) has assembled a world-class team of researchers in Soil Quest’s scientific advisory committee, proven people in their fields who have a demonstrated ability to tackle projects of this type.

For a relatively tiny public investment, the Soil Quest 2031 project could have enormous positive ramifications for the nation in the areas of food security, soil health and public health.

The end result could see a re-carbonated Australia which would also be far more resilient to drought, one factor alone which could save billions of tax dollars from being needed to support farms and communities in our current ongoing cycle of dry times.

In World War II the US and Britain spent millions of dollars in bribes to keep Spain from joining Germany’s Axis alliance, and although some questioned the amount of that investment, it was explained that it would cost far more to have to fight that nation for just one week.

The bulk of the R&D investment in Australia is directed at either established industries where levies are used to improve the yields or efficiencies of crops by minute increments, or in programs which are very locally based so that investment won’t translate into a broad-based national good.

We must also have a mix of ‘blue sky’ research where the international research and trials as well as local laboratory research have shown there’s a strong chance that it could come off in a big way.

With a large member base and holistic communications strategy, Macquarie 2100 is well placed to bring in partner organisations, run workshops and awareness-raising activities as well as publicise the results of the trials and research, and stands by to perform any task which may help progress this exciting initiative.


Weddin Landcare is a network of landcare groups surrounding Grenfell in the Lachlan River catchment of NSW. Formed in 1993 to focus on reversing t the degraded state of the the district at that time, the network has since successfully partnered governments, extension bodies and farming businesses to thoroughly plan, then implement the necessary rehabilitation actions.

Weddin Landcare then transformed into an educational and advocacy role, partnering with government research groups & Lachlan CMA in farming trials, presenting grazing management demonstrations, providing education opportunities for its members’ benefit and sponsoring worthy on ground projects.

We active still, over the last few years contracting an Executive Officer to secure public funding, develop partnerships and drive our project concepts to fruition. The showcase of these projects is a community run environmental education institution housed in underused buildings at the local TAFE. The facility manages a commercial native nursery to provide tubestock for on ground plantings and has a focus on plants endemic to the district; and a soil health testing & education service.

These projects are unique initiatives to our region and demonstrates that our network continues to seek out the use of worthwhile innovations that support the land’s natural productive base. The use of selected Plant Fungi to enhance the soil to rebuild and store atmospheric carbon , as developed and demonstrated by Professor Peter McGee, is one such innovation. These Melonised Endophytic Fungi appear to sequester the atmosphere’s dangerous legacy load of atmospheric carbon rapidly and permanently deep in the soil profile, an outcome we want and all need.

Our Executive Officer moved to join with two like-minded peers to conceive and establish an organisation, SoilCQuest2031, to move the research forward, develop it into a product, and produce a methodology that supports widespread adoption and use under commercial food crops. Weddin Landcare participated in initial field trials aimed at proof of concept of the soil based technology.

Taken with the trial results, the concept, the can-do attitude and the research and development team brought together by the SoilCQuest Executive, Weddin Landcare voted to endorse the SoilCQuest2031 Business Plan, as tabled, and to join with other leading natural resource managing community groups and farming legends to advocate and support the plan’s completion as a matter of urgency.


As Chairman of Carbon Link and Director of RCS, I fully support your work with MEF.

This is the kind of innovation that should actually be supported by the R&D Corporations, but my experience with them over the last 40 years is that they are followers not leaders in R&D. You could expect them and the conventional reductionist scientists to want to jump on board for some glory, after you have done the hard work.

The potential of this and related technology to boost sustainability in agriculture, is inestimable. This approach to soil and plant health could do more for agriculture than all the official R&D contributions to productivity combined, have achieved over the last 30 years.

It is also clear that for broadacre cropping to participate in the soil carbon revolution which is just beginning, it will need this type of technology. From a climate change perspective, soil is the only large international carbon sink which can be managed to reduce the legacy load of atmospheric CO2. Therefore what you propose has international implications.

I wish you well and will do what I can to support your project.

3 July 2015

Forbes Shire Council unanimously resolved on 18 June to write this letter of support for the Soil C Quest project and the business plan 2013 presented to Councillors and senior staff in May 2015.

Council recognises the potential benefits of a successful program for soil rejuvenation and increased agricultural productivity.

While the technology requires further development Council is confident that the Soil C Quest team of local and international specialists can bring the project to a successful outcome.

Forbes Shire Council wishes the Soil C Quest team all the very best for a successful development.