Country Infos

Country Profile Manager:
Johanna Huber
Suske Consulting

Humus-Program of the Ökoregion Kaindorf




Farmers follow recommended measures to build up humus (=soil organic matter) in soil, sequester CO2 and receive a fee per ton of stored CO2. Companies finance humus build-up and soil carbon storage by buying CO2 certificates. Contracts and the carbon verification is organized and managed by the association "Verein Ökoregion Kaindorf" while emission trading is managed by an own Ltd.

All information concerning the Humus-Program presented on this website derives from the CONSOLE project.

On-site know-how transfer during a field day (Photo: Verein Ökoregion Kaindorf).
Humus-farmers receive their success fees in a public ceremony each January (Photo: Verein Ökoregion Kaindorf).

Location of the scheme

whole country

Duration of the scheme

Since: 2007
Until: ongoing

Objective(s) of the scheme / project

  • Erosion control
  • Water quality
  • Other

Main objectives:

  • Humus (soil organic matter) accumulation and soil carbon sequestration
  • Higher soil fertility: soil organic matter supports life in the soil, which is the basis for vital crops and reduces the need for mineral fertilizers and pesticides
  • Erosion control: humus-rich soils are more restistant against erosion by heavy rainfalls, flooding or wind
  • Water quality: humus-rich soils can fix more nitrate and prevent groundwater pollution
  • Climate change mitigation through CO2 fixation: soil organic matter contains about 60 % carbon, hence building up soil humus removes CO2 from the atmosphere

Which indicators are used?

  • Other

Humus content

Humus content is measured at the start of the contract and after a period of three to seven years (according to the farmers needs). An increase in humus content is converted into additional tons of CO2 stored in soil. A third soil sample is taken five years after the second sample to guarantee that increased humus levels have remained stable.

Design of scheme / project

  • Pure Result Based Payments

Based on an initial soil sampling at the start of the contract (by a certified civil engineer and accredited national laboratory), farmers set own measures to increase the humus content in their soils. After a period of three to seven years (according to the farmers needs), humus content is determinded again by a second soil sampling. An increase in humus content is converted into additional tons of CO2 stored in soil. Farmers receive a success fee of 30 € per additional ton of CO2 stored. After the payment, farmers must guarantee that the increased humus content remains in place for at least five years. This requirement is verified by a third soil sampling taken five years after the payment. Decreases in humus levels lead to partial or complete refunding of the success fee.

By which fund(s) is the scheme / project implemented?

  • Others

Companies and private persons by buying CO2 certificates

Payments are financed by companies and private persons who voluntarily compensate their unavoidable CO2 emissions. The amount of CO2 purchased by the companies cannot be traded. 

How are the incentives (payment levels) calculated?

  • Other

The humus farmer receives a success fee of currently 30 € per ton of CO2 sequestered in humus (i.e. two thirds of the certificate price, for legal reasons the absolute price per ton is not guaranteed).
Companies pay 45 € per ton of CO2. The difference of 15 € (before taxes) remains with the Ltd. for administration of the contract solution.

Is there a top up in case of reaching the goals?

  • No

How many hectares are in the scheme?

  • 2.001 – 5.000

How many farmers take part in the scheme?

  • 101 – 500

How are participating farmers supervised/advised?

  • Advisors visits (obligatory)
  • Information documents (pamphlets, reports, etc.)
  • Website
  • Information meetings/workshops (voluntary)

Advisory visits: The participating farmers commit themselves to pay for the first soil sampling. They can leave the program at any time, except in case a success fee has been payed after the second sampling. Then, the third sampling becomes mandatory. Each field registered for the program is thus subject to minimum one soil sampling, which is carried out by a certified civil engineer. Soil samples are analysed for soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, pHCaCl2, CAL-extractable phosphorus and potassium by the Departement for Soil Health and Plant Nutrition, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Saftey (AGES). In addition, samples are analysed according to the method of Albrecht/Kinsey for exchangeable cations, total sulphur, available and total phosphorus as well as a range of trace elements.

Via the Humus-Program, farmers get access to educational events and network meetings to exchange with other farmers on the subject of sustainable soil management.

Are there any evaluation results?

  • No

There are no scientific evaluation results of the Humus-program so far. But the program is part of the CONSOLE project and was rated as a successfull contract solution.

The number of participants clearly increased since its initiation in 2007 and is still increasing. On the demand side, the demand for certificates at the moment exceeds the provision by the farmers. There is huge potential for climate-regulation via soil carbon storage. Measurements from over 100 agricultural fields in Austria show that humus accumulation and carbon sequestration removes CO2 from the atmosphere in relevant quantities (on average 9 tons CO2 per hectare and year).