Carbon Neutral Farming: Assessing opportunities and challenges
Land management and farming activities are both great resources that can sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Farmers are also responsible for the protection of the greatest carbon stock we have – the soil. Climate change is an evolving challenge with consumers and those in the supply chain active in the debate and seeking solutions with considerable pressure and challenge being placed upon farmers. Government policies and targets are also changing and green house gasses (GHG) reduction targets have now been replaced by a ‘net zero’ target for the UK by 2050 and the NFU setting a 2040 target for ‘net zero’ for farming.
The key elements this project aims to address are:
- Understanding what net zero is and what it means for farmers in Wales
- Creating the baseline from which action can be taken and measured
- Improving evidence to generate a clear narrative that describes the valuable role that farming plays in meeting climate challenge and environmental priorities.
The 6 farmers from the Brecon area involved in the project represent a variety of farm enterprises including crop production, dairy, beef and lamb systems. They will work closely with Bangor University to assess their GHG emissions and sequestrations to determine the current position (baseline) in relation to ‘net zero’ targets.
The data collected on farm GHG emissions will include:
- Livestock numbers, management and feed inputs to provide information on enteric fermentation emissions.
- Nutrient management information relating to fertiliser and manure management to provide information on soil nitrification and de-nitrification leading to nitrous oxide emissions.
- Information relating to other inputs such as fuel, electricity, lime and animal bedding
The data collected on farm GHG sequestration will concentrate on carbon stock above and below ground:
- Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) stocks and stock exchange determined from soil sampling fields
- Above ground carbon stocks such as hedgerows and woodlands
- Assessing the opportunities for woody biomass accumulation such as leaving hedgerows hedges uncut, and also assessing options for managing harvested wood such as chipping for biomass, compost or bedding.
This project will hopefully provide farmers with a more accurate understanding of a commercial farm carbon balance and what can be done within agriculture to contribute towards achieving a net zero target.