Achieving net zero on farm is entirely possible – and it can deliver significant benefits in terms of improved soil resilience, reduced input costs and potential new income streams.
That’s according to speakers in the seminar programme at the Dairy Show (4 October), which was curated around the theme ‘Carbon Talks’. The focus was on farmers harnessing their land in order to sequester carbon and reduce emissions, with the aim of reaching the industry’s net zero goal by 2030.
Under the Farm Carbon Toolkit’s (FCT) Farm Net Zero project, three demonstration farms aim to fully reach net zero, said Dr Hannah Jones. “It is achievable – we have farmers who have done it already.” Taking place in Cornwall, the five-year project is being run on 43 farms, 40 of which aim to achieve a carbon reduction of 30%, while the final three plan to completely eliminate emissions. “The project is successfully demonstrating the ability of farmers to create carbon solutions.”
There are many practical solutions available for farmers to preserve and increase their soil carbon. “It’s like a bank account, we’ve got to make sure we are putting more CO2 into the soil than we are taking out,” said Mole Valley Farmers’ Lisa Hamley. Opportunities include correcting the soil pH to optimise nutrient availability, eliminating soil compaction, and increasing the variety of roots in the ground, as well as regular soil and carbon testing to identify the direction of movement. “Managing our soil carbon storage is the most important thing we can be doing. Collectively, we [as farmers] can make a difference: We are looking after our future.”
It can be valuable to use a carbon calculator like Trinity Ag-Tech’s ‘Sandy’ to collate and analyse data gathered on farm, said the firm’s Oliver Rubenstein. This can then be used to add value to the farm product, as well as countering misinformation in the industry through positive environmental statistics. “There is a disconnect between farmers’ ambitions for carbon targets and actually taking ownership of reaching them,” he explained.
At a time when basic payments are being phased out while the sustainable farming incentive has been delayed, the natural capital market can seem like an attractive alternative, said Caroline Waller at Clarke Willmott solicitors. “Natural capital is everything environmental that has a value for society,” she explained.
Although the market can seem like a minefield, the financial possibilities include trading in areas like biodiversity net gain, carbon sequestration, nutrient neutrality and water neutrality. But it is important to meet the needs of your business first and take legal advice to avoid any pitfalls, she stressed.
The Dairy Show also featured talks on capturing and re-using methane from slurry stores, and considerations when installing solar PV and battery storage. It attracted over 6,000 visitors from across the UK, and next year’s event will be held on Wednesday 2 October, 2024, at the Bath & West Showground, Somerset.
For more information visit www.bathandwest.com/the-dairy-show.
About the Royal Bath & West of England Society
The Society was founded in 1777 in Bath by a group of philanthropists led by Edmund Rack. We are a registered charity organisation (Registered Charity Number 1039397). The Society was formed with the aims of encouraging agriculture, arts, manufacture, and commerce.
Our charitable activities provide:
- Agriculture, veterinary, educational and art scholarships
- Technical events and seminars
- Practical farming advice and conferences
- Countryside education
- Diversification advice for farmers
- Education for children
- A marketplace for countryside products