Tag: carbon

How to get an accurate farm carbon footprint report

Process of doing your carbon footprint report

When calculating the carbon footprint of a farm business, users should expect a result that is accurate, insightful, representative and replicable. However, farmers and growers can sometimes be unsure what the results from different carbon calculators mean, and why they are different. In general, it is good practice to find a carbon calculator which works for you and stick with it. Many calculators provide their methodology which demonstrates transparency and is a feature which users should look for.  In this blog we walk you through the process, and what affects the reports produced.

Inputting data into Carbon Calculators

Before starting the process of collecting data from your farm business, scoping is an important first step in understanding what’s in and what’s out of the report. For instance, a farm might have different enterprises, such as arable farming, a farm shop and some business units. Reporting on those enterprises separately makes sense from the perspective of understanding the carbon footprint of farming operations. In many instances, it is important to understand who the report is being completed for. Completing a whole farm footprint ensures that no details are overlooked and enables users to estimate farm carbon removals as well as emissions. However, increasingly the customers of farmers and growers are keen to understand the emissions associated with the products they are buying.

It should be noted, however, that producing separate reports that focus on the product can lead to overlooking important parts of a farm as a system – those parts of the farm that keep the system working but don’t directly result in a product.

Time period for the report 

This is generally over a 12-month period and can coincide with business accounting or harvest year, whichever is most convenient. It is perfectly possible to carry out emissions reporting over shorter periods to coincide with, for example, batches of livestock production. If you take this approach, be sure not to leave gaps between your reporting.

Data collection is a key part of the process and is generally undertaken by the business owner/employee. Getting this right is critical, and the quality of the data going in directly affects the accuracy of the results that come out. Our advice is quite simple – collect as much data as possible that is relevant to your business over the period to be reported on. We have a data collection spreadsheet to help with this part of the process https://calculator.farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk/resources

When entering data into the Calculator, it is important to ensure that data is entered correctly and in full. Users need to ensure that they’ve inputted everything collected in the data collection process and that units, decimal points and other important information are filled in correctly. There is much potential for error here, which will have a significant impact on the results!

Once data is entered and results can be viewed, interpretation of the report is very important. Is the report looking at a whole farm or enterprise footprint? Are you looking at the emissions only or the carbon balance? Are results being shown per hectare, per tonne, or for the whole business? Being clear about what has been measured, and what is being reported is crucial – particularly if comparing between different businesses or within a sector. 

Getting our bit right

As a provider of a leading carbon calculator for farmers, growers and food businesses, at Farm Carbon Calculator we take a huge amount of care in ensuring that we are getting our numbers right. 

Alongside your farm data, all Calculators will have a series of formulae and emissions factors which are used to calculate the farm’s emissions. Emissions factors tell us how much greenhouse gas is released from a certain activity – for instance using a litre of diesel in a tractor. At FCT, we do this on thousands of items! We update all our emissions factors on an annual basis, and sometimes more frequently if new and credible research comes along. 

Once we’ve entered the new emissions factors, which have to be backed up by rigorous and credible peer-reviewed science, we then test the Calculator to ensure that everything is working properly. This process is rigorous and any anomalies are corrected before the update goes live. We publish our methodology and references on our resources page. The next update is due in April 2024.

This ongoing process ensures that we are on top of the science, up-to-date, and maintaining a tool that users can expect to get accurate and reliable results from, in order to make informed decisions for their business.

Alongside getting the factors and formulae correct, there is increasing guidance on what needs to be included within any agricultural greenhouse gas audit and how the calculations should be completed. Examples of such guidance come from the draft Land Sector Removals guidance from GHG protocol which sets standards for how GHG accounting should be carried out and the Forest, Land and Agriculture Science (FLAG guidance) from the Science-based Targets Initiative (SBTi). At FCT, our Calculator has been analysed against the requirements of FLAG and our Calculator has been found to be well aligned with its requirements.

As an organisation that exists to help farmers and growers measure, understand and reduce their carbon footprint,  we always operate in the best interests of our users which includes ensuring our Calculator is as accurate as possible at all times. We are independent, providing a free carbon calculator for farmers and growers, and have a process of continual improvement in place. As a regular user of our Calculator you can always compare current and past results using the most up-to-date Calculator, allowing you to track business progress to net Zero.

You can find all you need to know about the Farm Carbon Calculator here If you need more information please contact us at [email protected] or phone us on 07541 453413 

In the next blog we focus on how we get externally reviewed, and are engaged with industry and Government to improve accuracy and standards.

Open for entries: Carbon Farmer of the Year

Announcing the launch of the 2024 Carbon Farmer of the Year Competition

February of this year sees the launch of the 2024 Farm Carbon Toolkit’s Carbon Farmer of the Year Competition. This competition champions UK farmers who are leading the way in adopting farming practices and developing new technologies which reduce farm emissions whilst optimising output, and adapting to climate change. 

After the success of last year’s competition we are delighted to announce that the 2024 competition is now open for entries. Click here to learn more.

The Financial Reward of Reducing Carbon

By Robert Purdew, Farm Carbon and Soils Advisor

There is a growing concern about carbon “tunnel vision” in agriculture, where the sole focus is on reducing emissions without considering the bigger picture. Reducing emissions is crucial, yet it’s important to acknowledge that it is only one piece of the puzzle and focusing solely on carbon can neglect factors such as soil health, water quality, biodiversity and other issues such as pollution. There is also often concern from farmers about how the pressures to achieve net zero targets can impact profitability, especially when incentives to be net zero are limited or non-existent, and investments in the infrastructure and technology required to transition to low-carbon farming are high.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. We can use an understanding of a farm’s emissions to make informed decisions to change management practices that can lead directly to both reduced emissions and increased profitability, and we can point to an increased number of farmers who are doing just this.

Mike and Sam Roberts farm 435 acres at Blable Farm, of which a large proportion is down to herbal leys. After Sam returned to the farm in 2018 a decision was made to review the whole operation and, in conjunction with James Daniel of Precision Grazing, the decision was made to reduce the herd slightly from 180 to 150 cows, implement rotational grazing on diverse leys and to focus on reducing inputs and improving soil health.

Cattle out wintering at Blable Farm

The effects were immediate and obvious. Soil health has seen a rapid improvement with better structure, increased earthworm numbers and soil organic matter is on the rise. The grazing period has been increased from 6 to 12 months and the farm hasn’t bought fertiliser since 2021, with none being used last year. Importantly, animal performance has increased in line with improved soil health and while cow numbers were reduced initially Mike and Sam are looking at increasing numbers again. All of this has seen a significant saving on input costs which has been re-invested into the business, including a full soil audit to better understand how soil health is improving. In line with reduced costs on-farm emissions have been reduced significantly with Mike confident the farm can reach net zero within 5 years, a commitment made as part of being a demo farm for the Farm Net Zero project.

Another example of a farmer using an understanding of their carbon footprint to drive down costs and improve profitability is Tom Burge of Oaremead Farm. Tom farms 760 acres of grassland on Exmoor and runs both a suckler herd and commercial sheep flock. In 2017 Tom began shifting to a more regenerative farming system which predominantly focussed on an improvement in grazing management, once again aided by James Daniel from Precision Grazing.

A person standing in a grassy field with cows

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Over 5 years, Tom has completely cut out the use of artificial fertiliser and reduced his feed use by over 70%. This has been made possible by an increase in dry matter grown of 0.9 tDM/ha, through improved grazing management, and has reduced input costs by 50%, with a similar reduction in emissions from inputs, as shown in the chart below. Crucially the farm is now profitable before taking into account income from subsidies and environmental schemes. In the next 5 years, Tom plans to completely cut out bought-in feed and to have halved fuel use and, like Mike and Sam, be well on the road to net zero while remaining highly productive and profitable.

Oaremead Farm emissions from inputs

These are just two of an increasing number of examples that we are coming across as we work with more and more farmers who are using their carbon emissions as just one metric to help improve their farm businesses. And far from impacting just a farm’s emissions and bottom line, the management changes that are being implemented are having beneficial impacts on those ecosystem services mentioned previously, soil health, biodiversity, water quality and reduced pollution. Proof if ever it was needed of the potential for long-term sustainability within our farming systems.

Five farms in Cornwall on a journey towards Net Zero

We’re excited to share a series of five new videos that showcase some of the farms in Cornwall that are part of the Farm Net Zero project.

Each video shares a different farm’s journey as it works to improve the environment, produce nutritious food, while also responding to climate risks, such as flooding. There is a specific focus in these videos on how the farms are engaging within their local communities, to help tackle these issues. The Farm Net Zero project includes practical advice for farmers on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, showcases innovation, provides robust science through soil testing and carbon footprinting, and inspires other farmers to tell their stories to consumers on the steps that they are taking to address climate change and protect soil health.

The full-length video below includes all of the following five stories. If you prefer to view each story separately, please simply click on each of the links here:

A Day in the Life of… Liz Bowles, Chief Executive

Being Chief Exec of the Farm Carbon Toolkit is a privilege. I have a team of committed, enthusiastic and supremely knowledgeable people working with me who are dedicated to supporting farmers to understand their farm carbon footprint and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, whilst maintaining thriving, biodiverse businesses.  

We are a relatively small organisation, but I always love it when people tell me that they keep coming across the team as this means we are being noticed and, even more importantly, that people like what we are doing. Last week was just such an example. We were involved in a number of sessions at the Oxford Farming Conference including showcasing Farm Net Zero Cornwall and the great strides farmers involved in the group are making towards Net Zero. We also featured in the premiere of the film “Six Inches of Soil”  and were mentioned by a number of other speakers at the conference whom we work with.

There is no such thing as a typical day for me.

I do start off with a list of what I would like to get done during the day and highlight the tasks which are important/ urgent, but then things happen, such as people making contact with me to discuss exciting new activities with which we could get involved. It is just about impossible to know which opportunities are the best to take forward from the great number which come our way every day, but my watch word is to pursue working with like-minded organisations whose first instinct is to think about what they can do to support reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and who, like us, believe that farmers are supremely well-placed to remove carbon from the atmosphere through how they farm.

Over the last few months I have been developing relationships with other popular Carbon Calculators to enable us to work together where possible to harmonise Calculator methodologies, so that farmers’ Carbon Calculator results will be more comparable in future. This, I believe, will increase the uptake of their use. We know that the requirement to provide information on farm emissions and removals will increase over time and we are committed to continually improving our Calculator so that farmers who are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint can see this fully reflected in their reporting. We are also committed to providing our Calculator directly to farmers for free.

Farm Net Zero January 2024 update

Welcome to our January Farm Net Zero update, sharing news for our farmers, growers and the wider community this project supports.

(Image above: Dr Dave Davies from Silage Solutions presenting to Farm Net Zero at our silage event)

Recent news and events

Oxford Real Farming Conference: January 2024

On the 5th of January, Farm Net Zero will be presenting in a session entitled “It Takes a Farm Community to be Net Zero: A Case Study from Cornwall” at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. We are very much looking forward to showcasing the fantastic work our Demo and Monitor Farmers are doing and look forward to seeing some of you there. Hannah Jones will be introducing Farm Net Zero Demo Farmers Andrew Brewer, Mike Roberts and Anthony Ellis, who will be speaking about their experiences of reducing their farm carbon footprint. The session will also include a recent film of some of the Farm Net Zero farmers talking about the benefits of being part of a community. The film will be available on the Farm Net Zero webpage after the conference. Learn more here

Optimising Silage Production

On the 16th November, Dr Dave Davies from Silage Solutions spoke at our silage event hosted by FNZ monitor farmer Phil Kent at Higher Carruan, St Minver. Dave took us through how to optimise silage production to reduce waste and maximise the quality and quantity of feed from the amount of fossil fuel used in silage production. We were also able to look at the Kent family’s self-feed silage clamp; and how this is saving costs and reducing emissions from machinery used for feeding cattle over winter. Learn more here

Self-feed silage in action

Integrating Livestock and Trees

Dr Lindsay Whistance from the Organic Research Centre spoke at our event on integrating trees and livestock at FNZ Demo Farm, Blable near Wadebridge on the 27th September. Lindsay presented the results from a range of studies into animal behaviour in agroforestry systems and emphasised the importance of trees for optimal livestock performance through temperature regulation and feed value. Incorporating trees into the farm system benefits animal welfare and helps to reduce the farm’s carbon footprint. Learn more here

Attendees feeling the benefit of the hedgerow on a windy day

Lessons Learnt at Erth Barton

Lessons Learnt at Erth Barton” on the 18th October summarised the work of Demo Farmer Tim Williams as he prepares to move on to new opportunities. Tim gave us a round-up of the successes and challenges he encountered during his time at Erth Barton, including introducing cattle rotational grazing of diverse herbal leys, pasture cropping and the use of compost as a soil health conditioner. We would like to thank Tim for his contribution to the Farm Net Zero project. Learn more here

Tim Williams and the power of plant roots

FNZ Agronomists’ Workshop

At the end of November, we organised a workshop for agronomists at Trethorne Leisure Farm where we were able to discuss some of the findings of the Farm Net Zero trials.  This was a great chance to develop ideas and bring together the knowledge and experiences of agronomists and the Demo and Monitor Farmers. We had some excellent conversations on the results of the trials and the potential opportunities they present for farmers as the new Sustainable Farming Incentive comes into force. Learn more here

Agronomists’ meeting at Trethorne

Summaries of all these events, and many more, are available on the Farm Net Zero Project Resources webpage.

Demo and monitor farms update

Soil Sampling

This year’s soil sampling is now complete and it has been exciting to see how the soil has changed since 2021. The soil carbon results are now being used to update carbon footprints, and it has been good to see some footprints reduced through soil carbon sequestration. We have a range of farm types on the project, to reflect the variety of farming found in East Cornwall. There are  4 market gardens, 10 dairy farms and 29 mixed livestock and arable producers (ranging from pasture-fed livestock to varying levels of cropping) on the project, and we hope to be able to pick out trends in carbon footprints based on farm type as we build the database year-on-year.

Community engagement

In September, Westcountry Rivers Trust held a Beneficial Bugs ID session at Community Roots market garden, near Porthtowan. On-site, there are many wild boundaries and herbaceous borders running across the beds to encourage pollination and provide year-round habitat for beneficial predators.

Westcountry Rivers Trust – Beneficial Bugs ID Session

Project officer Zoe Smith said: “Even this late in the year, we turned up plenty of interesting specimens from different areas of the garden with our pooters.

We also looked at some companion planting within the polytunnels and participants made a bee hotel log to take home to support bees in their own gardens.”

A Soil Health Indicators session at Loveland, Penryn, in October also took place.  Several enthusiastic people brought soil samples from home to analyse, as well as digging soil pits in the garden itself and comparing compacted areas on the track with less intensively used grassland areas.

We’re still looking for new locations to run climate friendly gardening workshops.

If you have an allotment, community garden or smallholding within east or central Cornwall you are proud of, and are willing to share your story, please get in touch with Zoe via [email protected].

Current farm field trials

A little insight into some of the fab field trials currently underway as part of the FNZ project:

  • Targeting pathogens and weeds with compost managementThe first year of the compost field lab has produced some exciting results.  Making compost on site can help growers capture carbon, retain nutrients, and reduce the dependence on bought-in fertiliser.  But there is always a fear of spreading disease and weeds within the compost. To see if they could safely compost weed seeds and diseased material, one trialist tried burying them in the compost in bait bags. After 12 weeks they found that composting had killed the plant pathogen and turned weed propagules (bindweed and oxalis) to dust.  For more information on how the trial was carried out, and other results, have a look at the Innovative Farmers website: Optimised compost management for productivity and soil health (innovativefarmers.org)
  • Update on Innovative Farmers field lab looking at reducing tillage in maize trialBy testing alternatives to ploughing, farmers are hoping to reduce the harmful impact of maize growing on soil structure, causing less erosion and runoff and reduce costs by using less fossil fuels. Results from the trial are still being processed but our initial thoughts are noted here. There are 3 fields with different systems:
    • The first set of results comparing strip till with ploughing showed that a strip till system didn’t result in visibly lower yields than a standard plough based system. When the weight of the yields were compared they showed that strip tilled plots had 5% less yield than ploughed strips, but with a significantly lower cost of production with less time and fuel use. There were more weeds present in the strip tilled area despite the same herbicide treatments on all plots. However, this was mainly grass weeds and biennial crops like thistles which were not effectively controlled by the pre drilling glyphosate.  
    • In the second field the comparison was between a strip till, light cultivations and direct drilling. Drilling system and pre drill cultivation did have some effects, with the highest yield being a strip till plot followed by Min-till , and the lowest yield being direct drilled although differences were not large. There was again little to see from what the crop looked like to determine which was better without the weights.
    • The third set of results are still to be analysed.

    For more information please see here: https://www.innovativefarmers.org/field-labs/fnz-maize-field-lab/

What next?

Upcoming events:

  • Oxford Real Farming Conference, Oxford (various locations)4th-5th January 2024FCT is proud to be presenting at the famous Oxford Real Farming Conference next January. FCT’s Liz Bowles joins the panel for the ‘Capturing Carbon: Joining the Dots Between Policy and Practice’ session at 11am on Friday 5th January. At 2pm, FCT’s Hannah Jones chairs a panel session with farmers Mike Roberts, Andrew Brewer, and Anthony Ellis, asking ‘How can a farm reach net zero?’, along with a 20-minute video that features 5 farmers from the Farm Net Zero project FIND OUT MORE
  • Rootstock, Westpoint Exeter, Devon14th February 2024Organised by the Devon County Agricultural Association charity and hosted at its headquarters at Westpoint Exeter, Rootstock is a one-day, forward-looking conference for farmers in Southwest England. In its second year, this new conference brings farmers and researchers together to explore how farmers can build sustainable profitable businesses in tune with natural processes. Full details of the 2024 conference will be available shortly, including the topics for discussion and speaker announcements. FIND OUT MORE

You’ll find a full range of relevant events on our website.

Click here to view our full events page

We will be continuing to run a series of Farm Net Zero events in 2024, drawing on the needs and interests from the community of farmers. These will be advertised on our website and through this newsletter. If you have any suggestions for events we could run, please let us know.

Getting in touch

As ever, if you have any questions or ideas that would further support the community of farmers that we are working with, please get in touch with the project team (contact details below).

All information about the project including upcoming events and resources are available on the Farm Net Zero website. If there is anything you would like to see featured please let us know.

This project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, is a partnership between Cornwall College, The Farm Carbon Toolkit, Duchy College’s Rural Business School, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Innovative Farmers and Innovation for Agriculture.

Silage with Dave Davies – 16th November 2023

Improving the quality of homegrown feed is an important consideration for farms looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Dr Dave Davies from Silage Solutions Ltd spoke about optimising silage production and quality at Farm Net Zero Monitor Farmer, Phil Kent’s, Higher Carruan dairy unit. This event was made possible with thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund who fund the Farm Net Zero project.

Dave recommended that the best forage for silage production is young, highly digestible material under a multi-cut regime. This is easier to make into high quality silage than older material, and because it has a higher feed value can help to reduce emissions associated with bought-in feed, as less is required when homegrown forage is improved.

Dave explained that the ideal dry matter for silage is 30-32%, this should be achieved by wilting rapidly and for no longer than 36 hours. When making clamp silage, grass should be layered in at 15cm depths as this is as far down as effective compaction occurs. Side sheets should be used, along with a cling film barrier and then a top sheet. There should be pressure all over the clamp, and especially at the sides where ideally gravel bags should be overlapping. The aim is to seal in carbon dioxide to create anaerobic fermentation and prevent any oxygen entering. For bales, a chopper baler is best and ideally bales should be wrapped at the stack to avoid puncturing the wrap. Bale handlers are better than spikes for the same reason.

Silage with an appropriate dry matter will increase the amount of lactic acid compared to acetic, which is good because lactic acid helps to lower silage pH and prevent dry matter and energy losses. A higher proportion of lactic acid is also important because it locks up hydrogen molecules that can otherwise form excess methane in the rumen. This excess methane is an energy loss for the animal, as well as a greenhouse gas emission.

In the UK, average losses between mowing and feeding out silage can be 25% for clamps and 10% for bales. This waste is obviously a financial cost to the farm, both from the money lost making waste silage and from the cost of buying replacement feed. But it also affects the farm’s carbon footprint per unit of feed, because there are carbon emissions associated with using diesel to make this lost silage. By focusing on methods of reducing waste, a farm can increase the amount of silage it gets for the same amount of diesel used.

Phil Kent then took the group to see the self-feed silage clamp. Phil and his team milk 300 autumn-calving Friesian-type cows on a grazing system, supplying milk for a cheese contract. Three cuts of grass/herbal ley silage, plus wholecrop peas and barley were put into a clamp measuring 80 metres by 20 metres, aiming to fill to a height of 2 metres.

By allowing the cows to feed straight from the clamp face, Phil is reducing the amount of diesel used over the winter. This has a corresponding reduction in carbon emissions compared to using machinery to carry the silage to the cows.

Key takeaways:

  • Reducing waste in silage production reduces the carbon footprint per unit of feed
  • Improving the quality of homegrown feed reduces the need for bought-in feed
  • Self-feed silage clamps can have a lower diesel requirement, with lower emissions.

Soil Farmer of the Year 2024 Competition now open for entries (press release)

The Soil Farmer of the Year 2024 competition is now open for farmers to apply.

The competition, run by Farm Carbon Toolkit and Innovation for Agriculture, finds and champions farmers and growers who lead the way in improving soil health and increasing the resilience of their farm business. The competition, which has been running since 2015, now supports a network of farmers and growers across the UK who are passionate about their soil and the innovations that safeguarding it can bring to their business.

Emma Adams, Senior Farm Carbon and Soils Advisor at the Farm Carbon Toolkit, encourages any farmer or grower who is prioritising the management of soil to apply:

The competition is open to all farmers and growers in the UK, regardless of system, enterprise or business size. If the impact on soil is at the heart of your decision making, with implemented practices driving improving soil health as part of a fully functioning farm ecosystem, this is the competition for you.

Online application forms are available via the Farm Carbon Toolkit website. Applications will remain open until 5th March 2024.

The winners will be announced at Groundswell 2024: The Regenerative Agriculture Festival on 26th-27th June 2024, with the top three farms hosting farm walks later in the year to share ideas alongside demonstrating their practices and approaches.

Deborah Crossan, Head of Soils and Natural Resources at Innovation for Agriculture, explains that the farm walks are a key part of the competition, as it gives others the opportunity to see how each winner has approached soil management:

Nothing beats digging a hole and looking at the soil in the field while hearing directly from the farmer how that field has been managed and seeing the impact it’s had on the soil structure over time.

This competition champions farmers who understand the importance of soil and are using management practices to protect and improve it. Crucially, it also enables others to learn from what they’re doing via the farm walks.

This year’s competition is once more kindly sponsored by Cotswold Seeds and Hutchinsons, with the top three farmers receiving a voucher for seeds provided by Cotswold Seeds.

For more information about the Soil Farmer of the Year Competition – and entry details – visit: Soil Farmer of the Year – Farm Carbon Toolkit

ENDS

Issued by: Emma Adams, [email protected]

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Innovation for Agriculture (IfA) is an independent, charitable organisation working to make UK agriculture more sustainable, profitable and resilient. Through interactive workshops, on-farm demonstrations and practical events, IfA aims to provide UK farmers with solutions of real commercial value. Visit: www.i4agri.org
  • Farm Carbon Toolkit is an independent, farmer-led Community Interest Company, supporting farmers to measure, understand and act on their greenhouse gas emissions, while improving their business resilience for the future.
    • For over a decade, Farm Carbon Toolkit has delivered a range of practical projects, tools and services that have inspired real action on the ground. Organisations they work with include farmer groups, Duchy of Cornwall, First Milk, Tesco, Yeo Valley and WWF. The Farm Carbon Calculator is a leading on-farm carbon audit tool, used by over 7,000 farmers in the UK and beyond. To find out more visit www.farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk
  • The competition is being judged by a panel including representatives from IfA and Farm Carbon Toolkit, Cotswold Seeds, Hutchinsons and previous Soil Farmer of the Year winners.

A Day in the Life of… Becky Willson, Technical Director

One of the wonderful things about working for FCT is that no two days are the same. I am incredibly lucky that I get to work with such a brilliant group of colleagues and some fantastic farmers.  Everyone brings new skills, knowledge and interests, which allow us to learn from each other and share ideas which is really rewarding. 

This week has been an interesting week. I am currently delivering a new course which is being run by the University of Cumbria entitled Upland Farming for Net Zero. We have a great cohort of 15 students who are either directly farming or involved in supporting our upland farmers in the South West. This week, we have had online sessions focussing on storing more carbon in upland environments and measuring emissions from livestock, alongside a farm visit on Monday to discuss what it all means in practice.  What’s great about this course is that it also feeds into a project we are just completing, which has built a version of the carbon calculator specifically for upland farmers to be able to take account of carbon on-commons, which is a welcome step forward. 

I have also run a couple of training sessions for groups within the Royal Countryside Fund, providing an introduction to managing carbon on the farm. Although I do a lot of these types of talks, they never get boring as each session yields a different set of questions. What I get most enjoyment from is the interaction with the farmers and helping them to see how what I’m saying could be put into practice. It’s so rewarding to be able to help in some small way, even if it is just to help empower them to feel part of delivering the solutions. 

Alongside talks, I have been finishing off a couple of reports for projects that are coming to an end: a dairy footprinting project combining farm footprints for the supplier farms with the operational footprint of the processing site, and writing some factsheets for farmers around the importance of managing manures and the opportunities with cultivation. There is always more to do and new projects and ideas to explore.

A Day in the Life of… Dr Hannah Jones, Farm Carbon and Soil Advisor

 No day at work is remotely similar, every field is different, and each farm is unique. However, there are common questions that are raised during a carbon audit, farm event or trial set-up. It is these questions which motivate me to find how we can support farmers’ to build the resilience of their businesses and in so doing reduce their carbon footprint.

Years ago, I worked with one of the UK’s leading agro-ecologist, Professor Martin Wolfe who greatly inspired me. Central to Martin’s teachings was the need to understand the effect of environment on the expression of the genetics of an organism. In the context of the farm, it is the effect of that individual farm environment and the management which alters crop or animal performance. These on-farm trials can have quite different outcomes from average values from national data sets.

In this context, it is the trials on-farm which provide the information for individual farmers or the associated farmer clusters. These trials, which might be just a single pass of a different seed mix or replicated trials over multiple farms, that provide the information to change a farming practice. In addition, and most importantly, these small trials and discussion groups reduce the risk associated with a change in practice and allows collaboration in terms of machinery or technological know-how.

The Farm Net Zero project , funded by the National Lottery, is focused on working with a farm community in Cornwall. It is this funding that has allowed me, as part of a wider consortium, to work with groups of farmers to address common areas of interest. The project is in its third year, and the work continually inspires me because of the evolving dialogue, increases in soil health, reducing emissions and a community network that gains increasing strength.

It is hard for anyone to make a change, but it is particularly challenging for complex businesses that are vulnerable to variability in climate, biological risks from pests and diseases, as well as changing market and policy forces. As part of a community, my favourite working days are those spent with groups of like-minded farmers focused on addressing a common challenge and reducing risks associated with changing to a more sustainable practice. I imagine Martin would approve.