Tag: farming

Three major farm carbon calculators outline a roadmap to harmonisation

The three major farm carbon calculators featured in the Defra Report Harmonisation of Carbon Accounting Tools for Agriculture – SCF0129 have announced a collaboration by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), intended to harmonise the methodologies used in calculating the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture.

Farm Carbon Toolkit, Cool Farm Alliance Community Interest Company and Agrecalc Limited have reached an agreement to work together to support UK agriculture to measure GHG emissions using the most up-to-date and accurate tools possible, harmonising the methodologies and outputs of their carbon calculation tools.

The three companies are looking forward to their joint work on this major challenge, to fulfil the requirements outlined in the comprehensive Report, compiled by ADAS throughout 2023. It is generally agreed that the overarching goal should be to reduce the overall greenhouse gas emissions  from agriculture through resource efficiency improvements,  optimising production practices and mitigating environmental impacts.

Liz Bowles, Farm Carbon Toolkit CEO, said:

We are not seeking to reach a point where all three calculators will produce the same answer for any given dataset. As the Defra report put it, “ there is no single ‘right’ answer”. Rather we are striving to make it possible for users to fully understand why different calculators produce different answers.

We plan to align with the Science-Based Targets initiative Forestry Land and Agriculture Guidance (SBTi FLAG) and draft Greenhouse Gas Protocol Land Sector Removals Guidance (GHGp LSRG) through our collaborative actions. This commitment underscores our dedication to maintaining high-quality standards and ensuring environmental sustainability in our operations, and in calculation outputs.

Scott Davies, Agrecalc CEO, said:

It is intended that we agree on a common set of data sources which all three calculators will use. All calculators can go beyond these baseline requirements, and all parties to this MOU will retain their commercial independence. We will also involve the relevant government and other organisations’ teams with our work plan as we develop it.

This collaborative approach supports a joint understanding of industry requirements and advancing consistency in our tools and methodologies. Our goal is collaboration with industry, trade bodies, and fellow calculator providers in the UK and internationally, so that we can actively contribute to the development of more consistent approaches to on-farm carbon calculation.

Richard Profit, Cool Farm Alliance CEO, said:

We are looking forward to this collaboration, as it will help align methodologies where that makes sense and that will especially allow us to look into new areas that require attention. How we then incorporate the new information in our calculators will vary from calculator to calculator as a result of our different base approaches.

We will also ensure that the tools include the latest and most robust scientific findings into their frameworks and roadmaps.

The calculators are seeking that this joint work become the “agreed way” and at some point, become a minimum required standard for all calculators to adopt. The companies will engage in consultations with Defra, Welsh Government, Scottish Government, and Northern Ireland Government to reach a practical and realistic form of ongoing validation of their harmonisation work.

Methodologies or other harmonisation solutions developed as a direct result of the MOU will be published transparently, or will otherwise be made available for others to use.

Although this MOU currently only involves the three major companies in this space, the group is open to other calculators joining the coalition so long as they publicly provide transparency in their Calculator methodologies. 

We will be holding a joint webinar on the 11th September 2024 at 1pm – 2pm to share more details of the work we are doing together. Please register here if you would like to join us

Notes to Editors

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. 

The Farm Carbon Calculator uses the IPCC 2019 and UK GHG Inventory methodologies and is aligned with the GHG protocol agricultural guidance. Recent development has allowed us to provide greater interoperability with other data platforms through our Report Export API and Carbon Calculation Engine API. This represents a step-change in the industry’s ability to provide trustworthy carbon footprints with transparent methodologies on platforms where farmers already collect data, thus reducing the data inputting onus on farmers. This new functionality has been warmly welcomed by supply chain businesses who are now using our Calculation Engine to support their customers without need for further data entry. 

The Farm Carbon Calculator is used across the UK and on four continents with global usage growing at around 20% per year. 

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 the 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 8,000 farmers in the UK and beyond. To find out more visit www.farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk 

Media contact: Rachel Hucker ([email protected]; 07541 453413) 

Agrecalc, a carbon footprint tool developed by combining practical expertise with world-class agricultural science, is a precise instrument that offers both breadth and depth of on-farm and through-the-supply-chain calculations of GHG gas emissions.

Agrecalc is the largest source of collated farm benchmark data from thousands of farms, having been used as the designated tool to deliver carbon audits under various schemes since 2016. It is recognised as the preferred carbon calculator in many of the emerging government programmes.

With a mission to increase efficiency and business viability of food production, the scientists, consultants, and developers who work on Agrecalc, strive to constantly upgrade the calculator according to the most up-to-date available research results and recommendations.

Media contact: Aleksandra Stevanovic, Head of Marketing; ([email protected]; 07551 263 407)

Cool Farm Alliance Community Interest Company is a science-led, not-for-profit membership organisation (community interest company) that owns, manages, and improves the Cool Farm Tool and cultivates the leadership network to advance regenerative agriculture at scale.

For over fifteen years, the Cool Farm Alliance has worked to put knowledge in the hands of farmers and empower the full supply chain to understand and support agro-ecological restoration by providing a respected, standardised calculation engine to measure and report on agriculture’s impact on the environment. The Cool Farm Tool has established widely endorsed, science-based metrics for water, climate, and biodiversity, supported in 17 languages and used in more than 150 countries around the world.

Cool Farm Alliance members share the need for a respected, consistent, standardised, independent calculation engine and have joined the Alliance to ensure the Cool Farm Tool meets this need, now and in the future.  To find out more visit https://coolfarm.org/

Media contact: Kandia Appadoo ([email protected])

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

What are Dung Beetles?

Dung beetles are fascinating creatures that play an essential role in breaking down dung, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing vital ecosystem services such as improving pastures, conditioning soils, and reducing parasitic burdens on our livestock. 

What are the types of dung beetle?

There are three basic groups of dung beetles: dwellers, tunnellers, and rollers. Dwellers live and reproduce within the dung, tunnellers create channels underneath the dung pat pulling dung through the soil and storing within the tunnels to eat and lay their eggs, rollers roll dung balls away and bury them underground.

Where can you find dung beetles?

Dung beetles are found on every continent except Antarctica. Their habitats range from desert to farmland to forest, owing their entire existence to dung from an equally wide range of animals. You’ll find most dung beetles in or around dung pats from herbivores that typically pass undigested plant material as well as liquid. Adult dung beetles tend to feed on the more liquid portion of the dung pat and dung beetle larvae will feed on the more solid portion. Hence, it’s important for the animals depositing dung to have a diet containing lots of fibre.

Dung beetles in the UK

There are around 60 species of dung beetle in the UK belonging to the tunneller and dweller groups – rollers are found in the warmer climate of the southern hemisphere. Some dung beetles are active during the day whereas some fly at night. Just like humans, dung beetles have preference when it comes to sniffing out food (dung). Some prefer dung from specific animals, some prefer dried dung as opposed to fresh and some are even picky when it comes to the location of dung within a field, however, mostly are generalists and will reside in any they can find.

What are the benefits of dung beetles?

It has been suggested that dung beetles can save the cattle industry around £367 million a year.

How?

Firstly, they increase soil nutrients. Fresh dung contains nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous; dung beetles eat, bury, and release these nutrients for the benefit of the surrounding soil biology, improving soil fertility and soil structure through channelling and drawing down organic matter. This can reduce reliance on fertiliser and makes much better use of our manures.

Secondly, dung beetles reduce pasture fouling. When dung isn’t removed from the field, the grass underneath it will die and the grass surrounding it will be unpalatable to livestock. If you scale this up, it removes a huge area for grazing as well as wasting an abundance of nutrients.

Thirdly, dung beetles are excellent at reducing pest flies from the activities of mites which are transported on the beetles’ bodies. The value of these organisms can be identified through reduced parasites on your livestock that ultimately impact milk yield and liveweight gains due to energy expended by the livestock to defend themselves or fight against infection. In both cases, dung beetles reduce survival of flies and parasites through competition of resources. 

Why are dung beetle populations in decline?

Unfortunately, despite the benefits of dung beetles, they are in decline due to the intensification of livestock systems – use of pesticides and anthelmintics. During the grazing season, dung pats could be broken down in a matter of days but instead, many lie rotting for a long time (and producing more methane emissions).

How can we encourage dung beetle populations?

Provision of dung is vital. If we’re able to outwinter even a fraction of our stock it provides a food resource all year round, attracting a more diverse array of dung beetle species.

Feeding livestock a more fibrous diet i.e. moving away from a grain-based diet can also help as it’s important to provide that partially undigested fibrous material.

Finally, long-acting anthelmintics can cause catastrophic loss of dung beetle populations. With veterinary support, frequent weighing of livestock and spot-treating animals  offers a more sustainable way of reducing anthelmintic use, reducing the wormer-resistance in intestinal parasites, and protecting dung beetle populations. 

How can we find out more about dung beetles?

There’s a wealth of information online about dung beetles, but to really get down to the detail, Farm Carbon Toolkit  is holding a two-day conference, in partnership with leading vets, dairy cooperative First Milk and Somerset dairy company Yeo Valley, on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 June at Yeo Valley’s Holt Farm near Blagdon, south of Bristol. Event details and registration can be found here

Soil Farmer of the Year 2023 – Farm Walk with Richard Anthony 

Written by Tilly Kimble-Wilde, Farm Carbon and Soil Advisor

Richard Anthony, of R & L Anthony near Bridgend, was awarded Second Place in the 2023 Soil Farmer of the Year competition. He was commended on how he responded to and managed challenges, never veering from thinking holistically, always upholding soil health as a priority, and treating each challenge as something from which to learn.

A majority arable business, Richard farms a 6-year rotation of wheat, maize, oilseed rape and westerwolds intermixed with a diverse array of cover and companion crops which he is passionate about. “The emphasis on farm is the soil, improving the soil and organic matter, and keeping a crop in the ground; keeping the soil biology alive.”

Richard and the team also strive to promote and create habitats for wildlife: planting wild bird seed mixes, establishing wildlife corridors, and bordering all hedgerows with a 3m margin to encourage growth year on year. 2m flower margins have also been implemented around all fields of oilseed rape which has been, to quote, “absolutely fantastic.” Encouraging insects and bees and getting the public on side too.

The farm walk itself took place on 23rd November 2023 and kicked off with a presentation taking us through the past year and outlining the various activities and obstacles the farm faced. We were then treated to a fantastic farm walk whereby Richard gave our group of visiting farmers, agronomists, and advisors a tour of some of what they get up to across their extensive arable and forage business.

A big part of what Richard and his team are trying to achieve across the farming business is to use very little bagged fertiliser. Most of the nutrients applied to the soil come from digestate, conveniently stored in the farm’s digestate lagoon. Tankers come in and fill alligator bags for easy transport and the digestate is spread on wheat, oilseed rape and maize.

So far, Richard has managed to eradicate artificial fertiliser when growing maize and OSR; however, wheat still receives a small amount of early application. This wouldn’t have been possible without the construction of the digestate lagoon, a project which was undertaken at the beginning of last year. Still, as Richard says, there is room for improvement. The farm is looking to reduce its N inputs even further by trialling an N inhibitor, all to build more resilience into the system.

This mindset has been applied to fungicides.  To use less, Richard has changed the sprayer to accommodate the wet and windy weather brought in from the coast. Now at 250cm spacing, the booms can run very low resulting in no drift even if it’s windy. This enables more spray days and a better chance at getting the timeliness right.

As with most farms across the UK, the weather has been the biggest challenge with dry weather in May and June, and then rain as soon as harvest began.

Luckily, Richard had installed a biomass boiler 6-7 years ago for grain drying after a very wet harvest having heard about them in Scotland. It has been a game changer. Their 1-megawatt biomass boiler provides a lot more spare heat than previous methods of grain drying where they used up to 1.2 megawatts of gas on one drying floor. In the old system, if they were on 25% moisture, it took 10 days to dry one side. With the biomass boiler on woodchip, they can dry 2 drying bays, double the output, and never have to run the boiler flat out. With the right combine (Richard uses a MacDon belt header), the corn is cut as soon as it gets to 25% and achieves good output, as Richard emphasises “do not wait”.

Planting OSR in August was a struggle, with some fields too wet to put a tine in and any cultivation out of the question. Instead, Richard planted the wet parts of the field by snipping the OSR with a sprinter drill and planting the dry parts with a farm standard drill and a top down.

To better manage the unpredictable weather, Richard has a selection of drills that he’s held onto rather than sell. The farm will run 2, sometimes 3 drills if they can, capitalising on days when they have the right weather. This was especially helpful during autumn when the farm received 295mm of rain in October alone.

The farm also spends a lot of time on drainage. Ditches are cleaned, dug out, drains put in; all with the aim of evening out patches in fields and making the farm more resilient. As Richard says, it’s great getting 16t/ha on wheat in a bit of field but if you’re only getting 3t/ha in another part because it’s too wet there is space to do better.

Still, the most used bit of kit on the farm is a spade.  By continually monitoring and assessing soil structure, Richard can make a well-informed decision when determining how to establish the next crop.

Farm Walk

During the farm walk, we were shown multiple cover crop and companion crop trials that were taking place on the farm. Steve Corbett from Agrii has worked with Richard for many years, trialling different varieties and combinations, highlighting the importance in being selective. You need good establishment, and it must earn its keep.

What they have found is that OSR, a “lazy rooting brassica”, completely lends itself to companion cropping, in this case with beans, spring vetch and buckwheat. Beans help to get the roots down as well as provide free nitrogen through nodulation. Spring vetch as opposed to winter vetch grows quickly providing biomass and N fixation. Buckwheat adds to the canopy, slowing down flea beetle, making it more difficult for pigeons to land, as well as mining phosphates. When the companion crops die, all the fixed nitrogen and phosphates will be released back into the soil ready for the next crop.

Richard deliberately plants OSR at low seed rates to encourage big branchy plants in spring which will grow away, allowing light through the canopy. By choosing thicker and well-branched OSR types, flea beetle is more contained, damaging only the outer leaves, leaving the middle to branch out. In Richard’s experience it provides a plant that will survive despite a pest living within it.

In terms of cultivation, Richard is a big fan of direct drilling. When direct drilling wheat, he believes it is important to see what is happening underground: what is the root depth? Taking stock of root depth and maintaining that attention to detail during crop growth is essential to determine the next steps in terms of cultivation. At Sealands farm, root depth is critical to survive the winds, Richard has found through monitoring that cultivation disrupts root growth, and that direct drilling fits his system best.

Ultimately, Richard has tried a lot which didn’t work out, but he’s kept at it. One outcome which has surprised him the most was the success of forage rye which he believes is underestimated. In the field, Richard showed us the root mass it was building and the excellent soil structure it yielded. This has provided Richard with an extra income stream, either taken for silage or grazed (ensuring to move stock on in wet conditions to avoid undoing all the good work he’s built up!).

Looking to improve the soil structure even further, Richard planted the forage rye together with westerwolds. He found that they were able to harvest the westerwolds a fortnight earlier due to the ability of the forage rye to get away in the spring creating its own microclimate which Richard believes benefitted the westerwolds.

Finally, we heard about Richard’s problem with persistent perennial ryegrass. In this instance, he introduced an annual ryegrass to outcompete the perennial. “Putting in a bully to outcompete a bully”. It worked and Richard is now able to include it within the arable rotation without generating a loss. This allows a rest period within the rotation to build fertility, stabilise soil structure and generate a bit of extra cash from silage or grazing. Essentially, Richard is maintaining the balance of farming resiliently: optimising soil health and crop yields while sustaining a viable business.

As we’ve all come to realise, we can’t rely on the weather, however, prioritising soil health as perfectly exemplified by Richard, can better equip us to respond and adapt. When we get to know our soils, monitoring how they behave in certain conditions and how they respond to our actions, we are better prepared and forearmed to make decisions that will affect future harvests and pocket.

Through trials and problem solving, Richard together with Steve have implemented more diversity and reduced inputs without damaging profits. A big resistance to straying from our well-known and “safe” rotations is often down to “how will it pay for itself”. Richard and Steve have shown that they’re not radical in their rationale for cover and companion crops, the bottom line is it has to pay. The most exciting take home from the day is they didn’t give up: they’ve found the right species to incorporate, the soil health on farm is improving and crop yields are directly benefiting. It was a truly inspiring day and a masterclass in perseverance. Richard hasn’t made it look easy by any stretch but as he puts it “we’re just learning all the time.”

You can read the full report here.

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.

New Farm Net Zero Trial – Reducing 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: www.innovativefarmers.org/field-labs/diverse-covers-and-leys-to-reduce-worm-burden-at-weaning/

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