Managing carbon on the farm

With careful management farms are in a good position to lower their carbon footprint and lock carbon into the soil and vegetation.

At the farm level emissions arise from the use of fossil fuels, manufactured inputs, manure, as a natural by-product of animal digestion, cultivation of soils and changes in land use and vegetation. Beyond the farm gate agri-food chains also emit emissions through activities such as processing, packaging, waste management and haulage.

Calculate your farm carbon footprint

There are numerous carbon foot-printing tools available for use, including, but not limited to:

  • Agrecalc©
  • Cool Farm Tool
  • Sloagro (JRC) Carbon Calculator

Whichever tool you choose to use to calculate your farm carbon emissions, it is important that you continue to use this annually so that any results are comparable year -on-year.  It is also preferable that the tool selected is PAS 2050 accredited.

Calculating a carbon footprint

Locking-in carbon

With tweaks to current practices, farms are in a good position to lower their carbon footprint and lock carbon into the soil and vegetation. This process is known as creating ‘carbon sinks’ or sometimes referred to as ‘carbon sequestration’.

Some farms participate in ‘carbon offsetting’ schemes through the Woodland Carbon Code.  New woodlands that qualify through the scheme could provide additional income to the farm from the sale of carbon credits.

Farm Woodlands and Carbon

Carbon footprint

There is increasing pressure for producers to increase the efficiency of their business whilst reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Although this may appear challenging, making more efficient use of resources, i.e. inputs, strongly correlates with reduced production costs and emissions, providing the industry with many opportunities. A carbon footprint could also help you to identify the scope for previously hidden savings on routine activities on the farm.

A Carbon footprint/audit is also available as part of an Integrated Land Management Plan (ILMP).  Currently there is funding available for a farm carbon footprint through the Farm Advisory Service.

Farming For a Better Climate has used Agrecalc© for any carbon audits completed during the initiative.

Practical measures to improve carbon sequestrationBlackface sheep grazing on cover crops over winter. There are farm sheds in the background behind a large tree, and in the middle of the photo a single sheep has turned to look towards the camera.

  • Take action to control soil erosion
  • Protect peatland and moorland from damage by avoiding ploughing, drainage and over grazing
  • Consider reduced tillage to protect farm soils and reduce carbon losses – see how the Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group* managed their journey to no-till farming
  • On plough based systems, retaining and incorporating straw and other crop residues will help to maintain soil organic matter
  • Manage existing farm woodlands and consider new planting
  • Create wildlife corridors along water margins, field margins and headlands
  • Retain and conserve semi-natural grasslands
  • Protect and where necessary restore wetlands including floodplain management

*The Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group brought together five farmers who worked together to establish how best to support, enhance and protect their farm soils.

For further information and advice, take a look at our Resources

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