Carbon Farming, which has been identified by the European Commission as a key element within an enhanced EU commitment to Regenerative Farming, forms part of a wider suite of measures which aims to restore ecosystems and biodiversity.
The release of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere has been accelerated since the industrial revolution through the development of economies the world over, particularly via consumption and the production and use of fossil fuels.
These greenhouse gases (GHG), which first gained significant international media traction in the late 1980s, more widely referred to nowadays as carbon, are heating the planet and contributing to unseasonal weather, impacting on ecosystems the world over.
In response to climate change, EU Member States have committed to reducing carbon emissions by over 50% by 2030, with 2050 established as the Europe-wide target for net-zero emissions.
Agriculture, just like every other industry in Europe, will have its part to play in fulfilling this ambitious and necessary objective with a target reduction for Ireland of 25% by 2030.
By improving efficiencies, adopting to low emission technology and retaining more carbon within soils (soil organic carbon) and flora through increased sequestration. This improves the soil’s water holding capacity and productivity.
Those ecosystems – farmland, forestry, peatland, etc – which store/sequester more CO2 than they release are known as carbon sinks whereas those that release more than they sequester are known as carbon sources.
Ireland is committed to reducing GHG levels by 30% by 2030 but given that agricultural emissions are considered more difficult to reduce, Ireland has been permitted to offset 5.6% of its emissions via sequestration.
Farms emit GHG from a range of sources: livestock, manure, lime, fertiliser, diesel and electricity. As of 2020, according to Teagasc, when it came to the average National Farm Survey suckler beef farm (stocking rate = 1.36 LU/ha), carbon sequestration could offset 46% of such emissions.
Grasslands on peat soils are a major source of CO2 (circa 20 t CO2 /ha/yr) given that it contains large C stocks – approximately 4,000 tonnes of CO2 per ha. Once such lands are drained, its carbon is rapidly decomposed and released as CO2, which such soils accounting for 5-6 Mt CO2 emissions in addition to the 20 Mt CO2 via agriculture.
Farm advisory experts believe that carbon farming will protect soils from drought, improve water quality, mitigate against flooding, restore ecosystems and enhance sustainability.
From an economic perspective, carbon farming represents an integrated agribusiness model which will create fresh income streams for rural communities while enhancing the quality of soil and landscape alike.
In addition, the EU’s ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy is also developing additional carbon farming incentives for landowners.
The promotion of better soil health, as referenced by Dr Stefan Geisen of Wageningen University (Netherlands) during a Teagasc webinar on June 9th, can be realised by “managing your plants, especially for dairy farms”.
Carbon Farming, as noted by Teagasc, rests on four pillars: Agroforestry, Peatland Restoration, Mineral Soil Regeneration and a Livestock Carbon (and Energy) Audit.
This will entail enhancing soil organic carbon in depleted arable land, planting new and restoring degraded forests in addition to managing existing woodlands, supplying biomass to produce longer lasting bio-based products (insulated panel boards from reeds and rushes) and greater protection of grasslands and peatlands.
The rewetting debate, altogether more nuanced now than it was just a few months ago, has seen the European Commission draw attention to non-CAP funding streams which advocate for nature restoration, including the Programme for the Environment and Climate Action (LIFE) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Through the Terra Range, we are committed to enhanced practices through the use of environmentally friendly and sustainable fertiliser use.
Working alongside Brandon Bioscience – a marine biotechnology company based in County Kerry, The Terra Range includes a biostimulant, PSI® 362, which is extracted from Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed which significantly improves a crop’s nitrogen use efficiency.
Verified in three peer review publications and proven in the field across multiple trials, PSI® 362 helps crops utilise nitrogen more effectively, reducing the need for excessive nitrogen fertilisers without compromising yields.
Stimulating nitrate transponders in the plant to take up more of the available nitrogen in the soil than they would otherwise do, these extra nitrates are converted into amino acids which produce more chlorophyll – therefore more photosynthesis takes place.
This leads to then production of similar biomass levels even with 25% less N as well as seeing higher dry matter levels in the crop subsequently. Working side by side, Target Fertilisers and Brandon Bioscience are pooling their expertise to create a more sustainable industry. Founded in 1998 Brandon Bioscience has pioneered the research of marine-based biomolecules and their application as crop-based biostimulants.
As revealed by European Commission Policy Officer Valerie Forlin in early June, a Carbon Farming Framework for Irish landowners will be published prior to next June’s European Elections.
In the meantime, farmers and agribusinesses alike will continue to strive to improve production efficiencies and boost sustainability in the course of their daily activities and outputs.
To browse our Terra Range of sustainable products, click here
Follow us on Twitter
Follow us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram