Tag: carbon

Net Zero Carbon Course for Upland Farmers & Advisors – Free Places Available in Cumbria

University of Cumbria is offering their part-time short course ‘Upland Farming for Net Zero’ delivered in partnership with Farm Carbon Toolkit, across 5 weeks from 9th September 2024. The course will take place in Cumbria, with sessions at the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside Campus, at upland farms across the county, and online. 

Participants will learn where and how greenhouse gases are emitted, captured and stored on an upland farm. Farm visits and theory sessions will enable a comparison of farming practices and land management options, with climate impact in mind. In-person workshops will build skills and confidence to enable each participant to complete a quantitative farm carbon audit and make practical recommendations for actions towards net zero emissions.

To apply for the course and for more information, please visit https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/study/courses/cpd-and-short-courses/upland-farming-for-net-zero-/

Up to 12 full bursaries, subject to eligibility, are offered by the Foundation for Common Land via their Our Upland Commons project, with details available here

Farm Carbon Toolkit supported the development of this accredited course for farmers, advisors and new entrants and worked with the University of Cumbria to enable delivery of the course for the first time earlier this year, in Dartmoor. Comments from participants included: 

  • It was really worthwhile and I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and practical skills from attending
  • Plenty of on-farm, real-world teaching and examples
  • Becky was a fantastic tutor- incredibly engaging and knowledgeable
  • Very hands-on and easy-to-follow material

Soil Biodiversity

By Stefan Marks, Farm Carbon and Soil Advisor

One gram of soil can contain one billion bacteria and up to 10,000 different species of bacteria with only 1% of organisms estimated to have been identified.

The soil functions as part of a vital living system which supports crop and animal health, underpinned by massively complex interactions between the biological, chemical, and physical properties of the soil. Life in the soil is often underestimated, spanning millions of species and billions of organisms which account for the highest concentration of biomass from anywhere on the planet. Fertility and crop performance are at risk of being distilled down to the chemical or physical constraints of the soil in isolation. This encourages an oversimplified approach to soil management. Sustainable Land Management, and the move towards regenerative agriculture encourages a more holistic management of the soil, resulting in enhanced biological diversity and so delivering the key benefits. It is important to recognize the importance of soil biology without overthinking its complexity, after all, we cannot manage for individual microbial species.

Soil Microorganisms

Soil microorganisms describe both bacteria and fungi, whose abundance makes up much of the biological biomass in the soil. Bacteria and fungi produce a range of enzymes which can break down and absorb inorganic and organic matter which is later made readily available as nutrients to plant roots. Fungal communities form larger hyphae ‘networks’ which are beneficial in mobilising nutrients in mutualistic exchanges with rooting structures. These fungal hyphae can extend over great distances and further help with the aggregation of the soil, improving soil stability, water holding capacity and therefore a greater resilience to droughts and waterlogging.

Bacteria exudates form the ‘glues’ which facilitate the formation of microaggregates from soil particles and as well as increasing the cycling of nutrients with a particular focus on the nitrogen cycle. Both fungi and bacteria are responsible for the breakdown of organic matters within the soil profile and so populations benefit greatly from manure applications. 

Due to their short life cycles, the population of these organisms may shift rapidly as a result of changes to their environment including the soil temperature, moisture and chemical composition. A healthier soil will generally have higher microbial biomass and will benefit from a larger fungal-to-bacterial ratio. Applications of agrochemicals and fertilisers can impact populations with overapplications of nitrogen promoting a more bacterially dominated soil. Likewise, tillage can break up the fungal hyphae which are more sensitive to physical disturbance.

Soil Macrofauna

The macrofauna are larger organisms which inhabit the soil with perhaps the most notable being the earthworm. Not only do earthworms operate as ecosystem engineers to enhance the soil and provide a better environment for other plants and animals to reside but they are an excellent indicator of soil health. Whilst it can be difficult to measure soil biodiversity the presence of earthworms indicate, on a larger scale, a healthy operating food web with a distribution of organisms across all trophic levels. As such earthworm numbers have become a good metric for biological soil health which are a result of and have an impact upon the chemical and physical properties of the soil. Earthworms fulfill different functions based on their niche, with the three main groups being:

  • Epigeic –  Inhabit litter layer and cycle carbon
  • Endogeic – Topsoil dwelling and enhance soil aggregation and nutrient mobilisation
  • Anecic – Deep burrowing improving porosity, water infiltration and root development

Considerations for Biological Soils

  • Feed the soil: amendments of organic matter will benefit soil organisms as it provides a feed source for them to thrive on. Conversely the greater the soil fauna populations the quicker and more available the nutrients. Over applications of inorganic fertility sources can have a negative impact causing the soil to become too bacterially dominated.
  • Crop diversity: the greater the crop diversity the greater the diversity in below-ground populations as there is a greater range of plants to feed and interact with in the growing environment. This necessitates the implementation of more diverse crop rotations into arable systems and will benefit from greater diversity in grassland with the inclusion of legumes and herbs.
  • Reduced tillage: tillage can have an adverse effect on established populations of soil organisms from the fungal hyphae all the way up to the earthworms. A move towards less intensive tillage through the adoption of no-till or min-till establishment at suitable parts of the rotation will help to maintain soil biological populations.

Overall, the biological component of the soil should not be overlooked as it is an essential part of a vital, living soil. Allowing soil to function properly will bring a host of benefits which can result in real world cost savings. Chief among these benefits may be the increased resilience in a changing climate.

Farm Net Zero April 2024 update

Welcome to our April Farm Net Zero newsletter, sharing updates for our farmers, growers and the wider community this project supports.

(Image above: Dr Hannah Jones/FCT presenting at the ORFC)

Recent news and events

Oxford Real Farming Conference: January 2024

An intrepid band of Farm Net Zero farmers and project staff made their way to Oxford for the Real Farming Conference where we were presenting a session called “It Takes a Farm Community to be Net Zero: A Case Study from Cornwall”. This was a sell-out, with people queuing to get in, and helped to demonstrate the excellent work the FNZ farmers are doing as part of their communities. The film we produced was well-received, even earning a “whoop” from the crowd! It is available to watch here: https://farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk/2024/01/18/five-farms-in-cornwall/.

As well as the impressive range of sessions we were able to attend (covering everything from the role of vets in ecological sustainability to farm succession planning), we watched the premiere of “Six Inches of Soil” – a new film about farming starring Farm Net Zero monitor farmer Ben Thomas and featuring Farm Net Zero’s own Hannah Jones.

Premiere of “Six Inches of Soil”

Community film screening 25th March

On Monday 25th March, we showed the Farm Net Zero Community Film at Stoke Climsland Parish Hall. This event was very well attended by members of the local community, drummed up by Bonny Lightfoot and Martin Howlett, FNZ monitor farmers and stars of the film. Following the screening, there was a panel session with the farmers where attendees were able to ask questions on climate change, biodiversity and how the project farmers are working together to address these issues.

We ended the session with the farmers’ visions of farming in the future, with all agreeing that there will be more of a mix and integration between farming and nature.

Community film screening

“Filming on Your Phone” Workshop

We ran our second “Filming on Your Phone” workshop with Down to Earth Media just before Christmas. This gave a group of farmers the opportunity to learn about how to share their stories and the good work they are doing. Since the start of the project, 12 farmers have now received media training.

“Filming on Your Phone” workshop – Sam Roberts of Blable Farm being filmed!

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

Agri-Carbon Kernow

The success of Farm Net Zero has led to a short project funded through Cornwall Council’s Shared Prosperity Fund, to work with farms in Cornwall on carbon, biodiversity and water management plans. This project is a collaboration between the Rural Business School, Farm Carbon Toolkit, Westcountry Rivers Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust. If you are a farmer interested in taking part, please contact [email protected]

Falmouth Climate Change event

The Farm Net Zero team was present at the Climate Change Exhibition held at the Polytechnic (“the Poly”) in Falmouth on March 8th and 9th. The event, which was organised by Falmouth Rotary Club, was aimed at raising awareness amongst the general public. We were able to share some of our great work with passers-by, and as a result of our presence at the event, we have been asked to host a visit by two Cornish MPs this Spring.

Demo farm and field lab update

Inter-cropping cabbage

The inter-crop sampling for the cabbages has just been completed at Ennis Barton, one of our FNZ demo farms. This is a  collaboration between Andrew Brewer and Andy Williams of Riviera Produce Ltd. Soil samples have been sent away for assessment of soil organic matter, but it is the impact on soil aggregate stability, and water infiltration that is of particular interest in this short term winter cover crop. A mix of buckwheat , phacelia, white clover, plantain and chicory was broadcast between cabbages in 4 blocks across 4 fields and compared to the control treatment of no cover crop. More data to follow.

Winter cover crop between harvested Savoy cabbages ready for grazing until reseeding with grass in May.

Farm Net Zero maize trials

This is the second year of the FNZ – Innovative Farmers maize field lab.  This trial is evaluating the effects of different establishment methods, such as strip till and under sowing, on maize yield and soil health.  For example, at Duchy College the trial plans involve splitting a maize field between conventional establishment and reduced cultivation and then trialling undersown mixtures in the opposite direction across the field.

This year we have teamed up with Plymouth University who will be carrying out some more in-depth soil testing.  If you’re interested in taking part in the trials please do get in touch: [email protected].

We have a meeting planned for the triallists and researchers on 3rd April near Bodmin.

More information on last year’s trial can be found here: https://www.innovativefarmers.org/field-labs/fnz-maize-field-lab/

Maize plants and bare soil

Diverse covers and leys to reduce worm burden at weaning

Weaning shock in lambs can cause physiological stress and slow growth rates.  But this effect could be offset by enhanced forage protein content.

Two of our monitor farmers, Matt Smith and Anthony Ellis, have teamed up with the Farm Carbon Toolkit to launch a new Farm Net Zero trial, examining the effect of protein rich cover crops on lamb growth rates. This Innovative Farmers field lab will test a bespoke chicory-rich mixture for lamb weaning.  The farmers hope it will improve growth rates, reduce lamb production footprint, improve soil health and lamb welfare, as well as reduce the need for wormers.  

For more information see the field lab page on the Innovative Farmers website: https://www.innovativefarmers.org/field-labs/diverse-covers-and-leys-to-reduce-worm-burden-at-weaning/

A chicory ley

Farm Net Zero field lab – herbal leys for dairy

This spring sees the launch of the Farm Net Zero and Innovative Farmers dairy field lab. In this trial Andrew Brewer, Farm Net Zero monitor farmer, will be exploring the question of whether different pasture species impact milk yield and constituents.

Andrew will split his dairy herd, grazing one group on standard ryegrass and clover leys, and the other on diverse swards/ herbal leys.  Forage samples will be taken ahead of the cows moving in to graze.  The milk yield and constituents from the trial cows will then be measured regularly throughout the 2024 growing season.

The project is being carried out in collaboration with the University of Bristol

and Cornwall Wildlife Trust and will deal with the big question many dairy farmers want answered. Dr Daniel Enriquez Hidalgo of University of Bristol, has been leading the study design and will be carrying out the results analysis. We are grateful to Andrew for all the extra hard work the trial will involve.

For more information on the field lab, see the Innovative Farmers website page: https://www.innovativefarmers.org/field-labs/fnz-herbal-leys-and-dairy/#

Conor Kendrew from Cornwall Wildlife Trust sampling forage at Ennis Barton farm

Dock Control Field Lab

Last years ‘How to rejuvenate pastures’ hosted by James Barrett has led to a new field lab. James rotaseeded a dock-infested grassland and destroyed docks just by addressing surface compaction.

Dock infestation of pasture

Calcium levels were also found to be at good levels in the soil. The new field lab will be recruiting up to 10 farmers, a field each, to test out the impact of optimising soil structure through mechanical intervention and the use of granular and foliar calcium application. Please contact a member of the FNZ team if you would like to be involved.

What next?

Workshop “Gardening & Trees” – with FNZ & Nourish Kernow,

Sunday April 21st,  1:30pm – 4pm, Higher Culloden Farm, College Road, Camelford, PL32 9TL

As part of our community engagement activities, Westcountry Rivers Trust’s Farm Net Zero team are joining Nourish Kernow for the project’s next climate-friendly gardening workshop.

Learn about the environmental benefits of planting trees, shrubs, and perennial plants alongside food crops. The event will include a hands-on soil health assessment that you can try at home, plus ideas to help you manage your garden to best sequester carbon and adapt to a changing climate, as well as boosting biodiversity.

We will be taking a look at the trees recently planted at the farm to support its habitat management plan and hearing about the inspiration and challenges behind the farm’s wider Community Supported Agriculture project to create a regenerative market garden on the edge of town.

Have fun as you learn about the environmental benefits of planting trees, shrubs, and perennial plants alongside food crops at home.

Book here

Farm Net Zero farm events

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.

You’ll find a full range of relevant events on our website.
Click here to view our full events page

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 CollegeThe Farm Carbon Toolkit, Duchy College’s Rural Business SchoolWestcountry Rivers TrustInnovative Farmers and Innovation for Agriculture.

New Calculator Updates – April 2024

The FCT Calculator team has released a significant update to the Farm Carbon Calculator, designed to ensure that your reports reflect the latest emissions data and understanding available. This update, which will affect any reports ending after 1st April 2024, encompass a range of improvements aimed at enhancing report accuracy, flexibility and calculator usability. Below are some of the main changes you will see to the calculator.

Updated emissions factors

We want to ensure that your reports align with the most recent scientific research and methodologies, and to that end we have updated our emissions factors across various categories, including: 

  • Updated UK GHG Inventory factors to the latest data (affects fuels, materials, distribution, processing, inventory and waste)
  • Updated the livestock, cropping and input emissions factors in line with the most recent IPCC standard refinements
  • Updated woodland sequestration factors in accordance with the latest Woodland Carbon Code

Numerous other emissions factors have been updated across the calculator, and for a more extensive breakdown of these changes, see Table 1 of our “What’s new for April 2024 update” document on the Calculator resources page.

New factor options

In this update we have also expanded the options available when report building to offer more comprehensive coverage of farm businesses. The new factors we have added include:

  • New fuel options such as alternative diesels and purchased heat and steam
  • Diverse new material options, such as more fencing materials, piping options, packaging choices, and agricultural consumables.
  • Expanded imported organic fertility and cropping options, including whole cropping
  • New fertiliser (including liquid fertilisers) and spray options, with provisions for unlisted items
  • Inclusion of hay and haylage as livestock feed options
  • Expanded distribution options, including electric vehicle haulage and various air freight options

Alongside adding new options, we have provided some more refined options for existing factors in the calculator, including: 

  • New managed hedgerow options, to allow reports to reflect the higher biomass accumulation of young hedges
  • We now have a non-UK electricity option for international users, allowing you to input your emissions using your nation’s specific emissions conversion factor
  • More options for structures, including new agricultural building size options and various new complete fencing options

A full overview of the new additions and refined items are available in Table 2 of the “What’s new for April 2024 update” document, as well as flagged in the new data collection sheets available on our Calculator resources page.

Accounting for Capital Items

With this update we have provided more flexibility in how capital items (such as farm machinery or agricultural buildings) are accounted for to ensure that your reports are in line with your desired reporting approach. You can choose to account for capital items in two ways:

  • Depreciating over 10 years” – The legacy method with emissions “spread” over a 10 year period
  • Upfront” – an approach which is compliant with the GHG protocol agricultural guidance. This way embedded emissions from capital items are associated with the year they were purchased, and only the emissions from your reported period will be included in your report

Not all standards require the inclusion of capital items, so if you are producing a report for someone else you should check whether they want capital items included. 

You can also switch between inventory reporting options by going to “Edit Farm Details” and you will not lose any data switching between the two.

Reporting waste

A new waste disposal reporting approach has been developed to ensure there is an accurate assessment of emission and these are accounted for in a GHG protocol compliant manner. How waste is reported can be selected on the report information page as with the new inventory options:

  • Legacy” is the existing approach which compares emissions from disposing of wastes to what would have been emitted had the waste been sent to landfill (i.e. it includes “avoided emissions”)
  • GHG protocol compliant” is the new recommended option as it discounts any “avoided emissions” and accounts just for the emissions resulting from the disposal method selected

New Data Collection Sheets

To facilitate data collection, we provide updated sheets with all new calculator items flagged for easy reference. You can find these on our Calculator resources page.

More information

For a more detailed overview of these changes and the methodologies behind them, please visit our Calculator resources page. Additionally, our website offers various help and guidance to assist you in reporting your farm businesses’ carbon footprint.

We are dedicated to providing an accurate and user-friendly carbon calculator that can help farmers improve their business and environmental resilience. This update has been the product of the hard work from our team in response to contributions and feedback from our users, so if you have any queries or insights for the calculator please email us at [email protected], and we will work to make this the most accessible and informative tool for you.

Farm Net Zero at Oxford Real Farming Conference 2024

An intrepid band of Farm Net Zero farmers and project staff made their way to Oxford for the Real Farming Conference where we were presenting a session called “It Takes a Farm Community to be Net Zero: A Case Study from Cornwall”. This was a sell-out, with people queuing to get in, and helped to demonstrate the excellent work the FNZ farmers are doing as part of their communities. The film we produced was well-received, even earning a “whoop” from the crowd! It is available to watch here: https://farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk/2024/01/18/five-farms-in-cornwall/

As well as the impressive range of sessions we were able to attend (covering everything from the role of vets in ecological sustainability to farm succession planning), we watched the premiere of “Six Inches of Soil” – a new film about farming starring Farm Net Zero monitor farmer Ben Thomas and featuring Farm Net Zero’s own Hannah Jones.

Premiere of “Six Inches of Soil”

Farm Walk with Carbon Farmer of the Year Finalist, Thomas Gent, Oakley Farm – 23rd May 2024

We are delighted to be able to invite you to attend this Farm Walk to hear from the team at Oakley Farm about how they run their arable farm following regenerative agriculture principles.

Farming with greenhouse gas emissions in mind, as well as all the other targets farmers work to, is fast becoming the norm.

Oakley Farm in South Lincolnshire has been in the Gent family for four generations. Now with father and son team Edward and Thomas managing the 800 ha business, they run their arable farm following regenerative agriculture principles.

Having already fully adopted minimal cultivations and the incorporation of cover crops across the farm, the team are now turning their attention to the potential to incorporate agroforestry and livestock onto their holding. Through continuously refining the management system Edward and Thomas have managed to produce 10 tonne/ha wheat crops with 150kg N and 30 litres diesel per hectare.

Event details

Location to meet/congregate : https://maps.app.goo.gl/UhwiPfPmZQYmCD8i6

What3Word: ///crank.frantic.rules

The farm walk will begin at 1.30pm and will provide an opportunity to find out more about Edward and Thomas’s strategy to reduce emissions on the farm and how this has benefited the business, leading Thomas to be named as one of FCT’s finalists in our first Carbon Farmer of the Year Competition.

The event will take place outside, please wear suitable clothing and footwear. Light refreshments will be provided.

How to book

This event is free but spaces are limited. Please book via our Eventbrite page by following this link

Farm Walk with Carbon Farmer of the Year Finalist, Craig Livingstone, Lockerley Estate, Hampshire – 14th May 2024

We are delighted to be able to invite you to attend this Farm Walk to hear from the team at Lockerley Estate about how they are working to reduce farm-based emissions whilst storing more carbon into soils and non-crop biomass.

Increasingly farming with greenhouse gas emissions in mind, as well as all the other targets farmers work to, is becoming the norm.

Lockerley Estate & Preston Farms, based near Stockbridge in Hampshire is a 2,000ha diverse estate which champions an approach to agriculture where biodiversity, soil health and the wellbeing of the community and future generations is at the heart of everything they do.

Craig Livingstone, Director of Farming & Estates, has four key aims to enable the estate to reduce emissions which are focussed on maximising soil carbon sequestration; reducing reliance on chemical inputs; using the wider estate to sequester more carbon and increasing the natural capital on the estate.

Event details

The farm walk will begin at 1.30pm and will provide an opportunity to find out more about Craig’s strategy to reduce emissions from the estate and how this has benefited the business, leading him to be named as one of FCT’s finalists in our first Carbon Farmer of the Year Competition.

The event will take place outside, please wear suitable clothing and footwear. Light refreshments will be provided.

How to book

This event is free but spaces are limited. Please book via our Eventbrite page by following this link.

Sustainable crop rotations

Looking back at 2023, it can safely be defined as a challenging year with the wettest autumn / winter we have seen for decades. Farmers have not only faced the challenge of maximising yields and optimising soil health, but also battling against the elements to drill crops into the ground. Hoping for a kinder 2024, this blog explores options to build resilience into crop rotations aiming to cultivate a balance between high yields and optimum soil health.

Minimising cultivation

First things first, this blog is not telling you to get rid of the plough. All machinery serves a purpose, it is just about knowing when to intervene. Within systems that have reduced their cultivations or those that have been adopting conservation ploughing (i.e. ploughing one year in three or more), soils tend to be more resilient through improved soil structure. Good soil structure has a matrix of small, medium, and large pore spaces able to retain and drain water as well as provide pockets of air for respiration and gaseous exchange and water for nutrient exchange. When we till the soil, especially when ground conditions are sub-optimum, we run the risk of squashing the pores and causing compaction and soil degradation, reducing water infiltration, increasing anaerobism (lack of oxygen) and building up toxic gases, all contributing to poor soil health and disappointing crop yields.

Carry out a VESS: Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure

It is important to get out there and dig holes; get to know your soil and how it behaves under certain environmental conditions. When you assess the soil structure, look for compaction and note its depth. Can this be remedied by deeper rooting species, or does it require mechanical intervention? Always keep the depth in mind as it’s no good going in too deep or too shallow.

Diversity

Sustainable rotations begin with diversity. A multipronged approach combining arable crops, legumes and cover crops takes full advantage of all the tools we have in the box as arable farmers. Diversity in species above ground matches diversity in species below ground: helping to break pest and disease cycles and improve soil health through provision of various rooting architecture, root exudates and crop residues. The soil is alive and many of the nutrients available to crops and plants come from the activity of soil-dwelling organisms that are busy stabilising, consuming and releasing nutrients for the benefit of the crop. Diversity in crops and roots therefore contribute a rich source of food for soil fauna to feast on, enhancing soil fertility and subsequent crop health and crop yield. 

Where pests and disease more commonly thrive is within monocultures e.g. continuous cereals. We are seeing an increasing reliance on chemicals to control and abate problems within these systems, depleting our soils of beneficials in the process. Similarly, a lack of diversity in roots are only supporting a limited community of microorganisms. This is not sustainable; therefore, we must explore how we can incorporate more species within the rotation. OSR is one of many good examples. It has deep roots and is easily diversified with companions e.g. vetch / buckwheat / berseem clover. Maximising the number of crop species in a rotation will optimise the diversity of organisms below ground.

On farm, an easy way to measure how biologically active our soils are is by monitoring earthworm numbers. Earthworms are at the top of the soil food web and will travel to and reside where there is lots of food; they are also brilliant at breaking down residues and redistributing nutrients throughout the soil profile. How many worms do you count in a spade full of soil? Where are you finding the most? And can those numbers be replicated elsewhere on farm?

Legumes

The blog wouldn’t be complete without talking about legumes. Approximately 78% of the air is nitrogen. If we can harness the power of leguminous plants to fix some of that nitrogen, we can cut costs by reducing the amount of artificial fertiliser whilst also minimising our environmental impact. Consider incorporating peas or beans into the rotation as stand-alone crops, clover as a companion crop or include legumes as part of a cover crop mix. Farmers are often able to reduce the amount of bagged fertiliser used after legumes.

Legumes to build fertility: field beans in an arable rotation

If possible, trial a small reduction across a proportion of the field first and see how your yields fare – you might be pleasantly surprised.

Cover Crops

Utilising cover crops between winter and spring cropping is an excellent approach to building soil health in between cash crops: stabilising soil structure by maintaining living roots in the soil throughout the year, feeding the soil biology and acting as a buffer protecting the soil from adverse weather conditions. 

On top of this, one of the biggest advantages of cover crops is that they are great at scavenging and holding onto residual nutrients left over from the previous crop, reducing losses from leaching. Once destroyed, the nutrients will be released back into the soil, improving nutrient use efficiency, and potentially enabling a reduction in artificial inputs required by the next crop. 

Cover crop mixes should be tailored to your needs and soil type. It’s better to choose species type based on what you are trying to achieve: building fertility, keeping the ground covered, and/or alleviating compaction. 

If possible, conduct trials and aim to include 3 or more species in the mix to capitalise on diversity in both the above-ground biomass for optimised photosynthetic potential (think assortment of leaf shapes to increase surface area from which to harness the sun’s energy), and below-ground biomass through varied rooting structures, depths, shapes and sizes (pumping sugars and carbon into the soil, building soil organic matter and feeding the soil biology).

Livestock Integration

Integrating grazing livestock into your rotation offers an alternative technique to destroying cover crops whilst also adding valuable organic matter to the soil in the form of manure. Including grass and clover leys also gives the ground a break, allowing time for recovery and offers another income stream from grazing or silage / hay making. The benefits of perennial roots in the ground over an extended period, especially if a mix of roots at different depths, will help to improve soil structure and build fertility for future crops.

Grazing livestock returning soil organic matter and building soil health.

Explore the Sustainable Farming Incentive options to see if herbal leys or a 2-year legume fallow could be economically viable.

Monitoring and Adapting

It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach; be adaptive and tailor options to local environment and conditions. Trial different methods and see which suits your system best.

Regularly monitoring soil health, accounting for all nutrient sources, and keeping an eye on pest and disease prevalence alongside crop performance and weather is crucial to make informed adjustments to rotations as needed.

In summary, farmers are in a unique position in that yes, we produce emissions in the process of producing nutritious food however, we can also build soil health and boost biodiversity simultaneously contributing to offsetting our own emissions and future proofing our farms and landscapes. Implementing a sustainable crop rotation in the UK is not just about growing crops; it’s about promoting a future where productivity and soil health co-exist. By diversifying crops, integrating legumes, embracing cover crops, minimising tillage, incorporating livestock, and tailoring practices to local conditions, it is possible to achieve a resilient and sustainable agricultural landscape supporting local and wider communities for years to come.

How to avoid ‘double counting’ your carbon

Carbon accounting is a fast-moving space, and here at FCT, keeping on top of best practices is one of our top priorities. We commission regular external reviews of all our emissions factors to make sure we’re as compliant and up-to-date as possible. And yet even with the best data available, there’s always the possibility of human error (we all do it!) cropping up in a carbon report. 

One area we’re particularly keen to address is how to avoid ‘double counting’ when it comes to farming footprints. This refers to counting the same carbon/CO2e in different places, often (but not always) in the same report. 

For example, you might record all your freight and logistics fuel use in the ‘Fuels’ section of our Calculator, only to duplicate the entry under the ‘Distribution’ section. This would result in counting the same emissions twice, artificially inflating the total emissions figure. 

These errors can be subtle and easy mistakes to make, so it’s worth reading on to find out how to avoid them and embrace best practices.

How is double counting possible?

Our Carbon Calculator has many different emissions factors that you can record, reflecting the wide variety of needs and business profiles in modern farming. Because of the need for informative metrics and KPIs, our Calculator sometimes offers the option to record an emission or offset in more than one section. 

You can therefore choose to either record all of the carbon in one section, or to split it out for better insight in your final report. For example, you may want to be able to see the amount of fuel used in farming operations vs. the fuel used in the distribution of goods. Being able to record the carbon in more than one place is crucial to business insight, but it does introduce the risk of error. 

If we want to use these informative metrics, then it’s important to be aware of when you might double-count your carbon. 

Where in the Calculator might I be double counting?

We’ve listed below some of the most common areas where double counting may occur in our Calculator. For each one we’ve given an example of how it occurs, and the best practice in order to avoid it. 

Animal Feeds – Home grown vs. Bought in 

If you are growing your own animal feed on-farm, then you don’t need to account for this in the ‘Livestock’ section. To do so would overestimate your emissions. The Livestock section is only for feeds that are specifically bought in.

To avoid the double count: Make sure that anything recorded as a feed in the Livestock section is a bought-in feed. If not, it doesn’t need to be counted there!

Materials vs. Inventory

The Materials section of our Calculator allows you to record a wide variety of items that are used in construction and repair work. Our Inventory section, on the other hand, is there to record larger capital items such as new outbuildings or farm machinery. This difference is key, as any items within the Inventory section will have their carbon impact depreciated over a period of 10 years.

It’s also possible to record your own custom building projects inside the Inventory section. For example, you might choose to record all the materials associated with a new outbuilding. This might be done so that you can achieve a more precise footprint for a non-standard construction. 

Where materials are purchased for running or regular repairs of existing installations, record these in the Materials section.

To avoid the double count: Make sure you’re not recording any custom-build projects in both Materials and Inventory. They only need to be recorded in one of these sections!

Sequestration – Double Counting Offsets 

If you have previously sold any carbon offsets, for example through soil organic carbon sequestration, then you should not count the offset in your report. To do so would be an example of double counting as the benefits are no longer attributable to your farm business. 

To avoid the double count: Make sure you’re only recording potential sequestration that hasn’t been sold or accounted for elsewhere. 

Sequestration – Double Counting potential sequestration

If you have entered an area of land under the sequestration option: “Soil Organic Matter” or “Soil Organic Carbon” (using information from soil sampling), you should not also enter those areas of land under other sequestration options (such as Countryside Stewardship Schemes, even if the land is receiving payment for that scheme). Direct soil sampling is preferable in this scenario. Similarly, whilst in practice you can “stack” the payments you receive from stewardship grants, you must only enter areas of land for sequestration under one potential sequestration option (so if “My field” is 5ha, I can enter soil sampling data from those 5ha OR the fact that they are under a Countryside Stewardship Scheme).

To avoid the double count: Include each field area under only one potential ‘Sequestration’ option.

Fuel Use – Distribution vs. Farming Operations 

If you want to split out your fuel use into distribution and farming operations, you have the option to record these separately. Any farm fuel use such as red diesel can be recorded under ‘Fuels’. Any fuel used in moving goods can be put under ‘Distribution’. 

To avoid the double count: We recommend splitting out fuel use between ‘Fuels’ (i.e. farm operations) and ‘Distribution’.

The Exceptions

As with all good rules, there are some apparent exceptions:

  • you CAN add multiple crops that have been grown on the same area of land in the same year (but only include those that have been harvested or terminated within the reporting period). 

Free-to-Use Equine Carbon Calculator

Taking The Reins: Equine Carbon Calculator Launched to Inspire Environmental Action

A consortium of equine organisations is rallying the industry to play a leading role in addressing the climate crisis and shaping a better future, with the launch of the first nationwide equine carbon calculator today.

Pioneered by equine environmental sustainability specialists White Griffin and the Farm Carbon Toolkit, in partnership with Derby College Group, Hartpury University and Sparsholt College Group, the calculator has been developed to empower equine businesses and horse owners to better understand their environmental impact and take meaningful steps to mitigate it.

The free-to-use tool – accessible here – also identifies opportunities for businesses to minimise their energy costs and maximise their potential to regenerate the countryside.

While carbon footprint tools are prevalent in the agricultural sector and play a pivotal role in government carbon reduction targets, no such tools have been available at scale for equine premises until now.

Without insights into the scale of the challenges and opportunities, the equine industry is hindered in setting meaningful targets. The equine carbon calculator seeks to bridge this gap, empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions for a sustainable future.

Director of White Griffin, Ruth Dancer said:

“The equine community holds a deep connection to the natural world, so we have a unique opportunity to safeguard it for future generations. By implementing the equine carbon calculator, we can better understand our emissions and find innovative ways to reduce them, saving money and paving the way for a better future.”

The launch of the carbon calculator marks the beginning of a comprehensive campaign to educate and inspire the equine industry on environmental sustainability. This initiative will be complemented by a suite of resources set to launch in autumn, offering support to stakeholders across the horse racing and equestrian sectors.

It follows a broader industry shift toward a more sustainable future for equestrians and horse racing, underscored by the tangible impacts of climate change on the industry. Following the hottest year on record in 2023 coupled with significant flooding, the UK equine industry suffered multiple cancellations across the full spectrum of events, highlighting the urgency of addressing these challenges. 

White Griffin’s previous reports for the British Horse Racing Authority and the British Equestrian Federation, have laid strong foundations for these sustainability initiatives, emphasising the need for tools and resources to support businesses in their sustainability efforts.

Farm Carbon Toolkit project lead, Lizzy Parker said,

“After years of supporting agricultural farms with reducing their environmental impact through a clear and easy-to-use tool, we know how important measuring to monitor is. Our calculator allows equine businesses to properly understand their carbon footprint and make the necessary changes to reduce their emissions.”

The equine carbon calculator is the result of a collaborative effort among academic institutions committed to driving real change in the industry.

The project began when Assistant Principal of Derby College Group, Jon Collins, began work on their own carbon footprint and discovered that while the tool had everything they needed to understand the farm’s footprint, they struggled to use it for their equine yard. Speaking with Sparsholt College Group and Hartpury University, Collins discovered that both organisations were also seeking to develop a tool to support their equine students and businesses and therefore a collaboration was formed in order to pool resources. Collins said,

“I chose Farm Carbon Toolkit to develop the resource because I found their tool to be easiest to use and provided the best user experience. Understanding the busy lives of equine business owners, we knew that we had to develop something that was clear, useful and also provided invaluable insight and comparisons with other equine businesses. We are proud to be delivering this with the support of Landex and will be rolling the tool out to all students, organisations and interested individuals who are seeking to make a difference in their day to day lives to the environment we all depend on.”

Project lead for Hartpury University, Rachel Collins, said: “We’re passionate about sustainability at Hartpury and have worked with both White Griffin and Farm Carbon Toolkit to deliver the most up-to-date training and knowledge to our students on equine sustainability. This tool represents an important step in our commitment to drive the industry forward towards a sustainable future. We are proud to be part of this collaboration, leveraging our expertise to empower stakeholders and effect meaningful change.”

Mark Treagust, Vice Principal of Sparsholt College Group said: “Collaboration within the equine sector is vital to address our industry’s greatest risk – the climate crisis. Leveraging our collective wealth of knowledge in land management and equine welfare, we must support businesses in making impactful changes. This tool initiates a large-scale process for thousands of individuals all over the country. By uniting as academic institutions and utilising the Landex network, we can effect real, much needed change.”