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The Soil Carbon Project

Information about our new project, working in partnership with Duchy College and funded by Agri Tech Cornwall and the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust.

The Soil Carbon project is an innovative project that aims to help farmers manage soils in a more sustainable and profitable way. Interest in soils has risen dramatically in recent years, with the prospect of farmers receiving payments for environmental goods and serives becoming ever more likely. 

The Soil Carbon project is a collaboration between FCCT, Duchy College, Rothamsted Research North Wyke and the University of Plymouth with funding from Agri Tech Cornwall and the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust. It aims to develop protocols for measuring and valuing soil health and carbon sequestration that are scientifically robust and practical at a field level.

While interest in the subject continues to increase, a great deal of uncertainty around measurement and management of soil health remains. This project will uncover what is happening underneath farm soils and develop practical solutions to valuing this hidden asset that puts farmers at the forefront of this emerging science.

The project will concentrate on three main strands in a bid to remove these uncertainties:

  • Investigating a methodology that could be used to test for soil organic matter and carbon
  • Learning more about the impact of farming management practices on soil health
  • Financial modelling to understand how a potential government payment system for protecting or improving soil health and carbon sequestration might work

Project update February 2019

During February we held  two farmers meetings for our project farmers to attend and discuss the preliminary results.

Click here to access the report and presentations from the event. 

Where are we working?

This map shows the location of our farms that are involved in the project. Each of the farms is having some of their fields assessed for soil organic matter, as well as a range of proxy measures and will have its carbon footprint calculated to show the value of carbon sequestered in the soil against the farm's emissions.

What are we measuring?

Each field that is invovled is measured for:

  • The soil organic matter content at three different depths down the soil profile
  • The bulk density
  • The infiltration rate
  • The number of worms
  • Its structural stability
  • How stable the aggregates in the soil are
  • Its biological activity (by burying pants)

The idea behind doing both lab analysis and 'in field' tests is that we can see whether there is a relationship between these two different sets of analysis. There is more information on these protocols on the SWARM Hub website, which you can visit by clicking here

How are we doing?

We are almost at the end of year one sampling and have sampled over 250 fields! The results from year one will be shared with farmers and businesses engaged in the project, and also via this webpage as soon as they have all been processed.

Why is it important?

This project is aiming to be the start of something. We don't have all the answers when it comes to soil carbon, testing and how to value your soils, but this is the start. We are monitoring all of our farm sites using a consistent method which is a big step forward, as is separating out the orgnaic matter and carbon to the different depths. Although we recognise that building soil health is a long term aspiration, we are making a start and crossing our fingers that we can continue in the long term.

I want to get involved in the project - how do I sign up?

At the moment we are fully subscribed for test sites, however our ambitions are big. If you are planning on testing your soils for organic matter or are doing something interesting and would like to be part of the project or use our testing methods so that you can compare your results then please get in touch. Contact Becky on 01579 372376 or by email at [email protected] for more information.

Thank you to the funders

                Agri-Tech Cornwall

Agri-tech Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly is a 3 year £10m project to increase Research Development and Innovation in the Agri-tech sector across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It is part- funded by the European Development Fund


The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation

This project has been part funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.