In our most recent FCG training session, we were pleased to be addressed by Becky Wilson of the charity that supplies the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit. Currently, UK agriculture produces around 45.6MT equivalent pa. of CO2. This is around 9% of the UK total. The NFU has been leading from the front with its aim to cut this to net zero by 2040. The aim is to reduce CO2 emission by a) boosting productivity & cutting emissions by 11.5MTe CO2 pa; b) to store 9MTe CO2 pa on farms; and c) to use bioenergy to capture C, use better, and store 26MTe CO2.
Importantly, a huge 8.9 tonnes of CO2 per hectare pa can be stored in soil if the soil organic matter is raised by just 0.1%. Furthermore, when the soil organic matter rises this much, each hectare can hold an extra 16,800 litres of water, assisting flood protection. I am sure you will soon be incentivised (i.e. paid) to assist the UK in this endeavour.
In our training session, we worked out several dairy farm’s ‘carbon footprints’. This showed us how variable one farm is from another in terms of its net carbon output. Plainly, this has to be the start for any farm or business, as if you cannot measure something, you cannot manage it. It showed us that woodland, hedges, recycling and solar energy (for instance) can all help as they contribute to the ‘sequestration’ (capturing) of carbon onto the farm.
We were convinced by the value of such a calculation to helping UK agriculture react to the climate emergency. But one point was hugely relevant. That is the effect of methane. Our calculations all showed high levels of carbon emission from dairy farms. But as much of the emission is in the form of methane, and as methane breaks down in the atmosphere to less ‘warming’ chemicals (e.g. CO2 itself) after 12 years, it stands to reason that a stable dairy farm is not actually adding to its global warming effect from the methane-producing actions of the ruminant at all!
So maybe the reduction in CO2 from agriculture will not be so difficult to achieve after all. If you want to know more, or are thinking of assessing your own farm’s emissions of CO2, contact Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org or your nearest FCG office.