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PaulS's picture

3Mar2011: Low Carbon Farming Practices - report

Very interesting day organised by Clear About Carbon, Duchy College, with some 15 people attending, most of which were farmers.

Some of the facts and observations that attracted my attention were

UK Carbon budget: 33% comes from power generation, 21% from transport, 14% from private homes,... and just 8% from agriculture.

Greenhouse reporting by companies:
Scope 1: burning fuel incl transportation
Scope 2: purchased electric power
Scope 3: all other sources of carbon, incl purchased products/ raw materials, travel, contractors, waste, ...
Most reporting concentrates on just scope 1 or 1 and 2.

Example of carbon budget for a bag of crisps:
36%: raw materials
34%: packaging (!)
17%: manufacture
10%: transport
3%: waste disposal

International comparisons
USA: 19 tonnes/year/person
UK : 11 tonnes/year/person (excluding carbon embedded in imported goods which brings it up to 15t)
3rd world: 0.1 tonnes/year/person
sustainable world average: 2.2 tonnes/year/person.

So, in the UK we need to reduce carbon by more than 80%.

Farming

Every 0.1% increase in soil organic matter translates to 8.9 tonnes/hectare of CO2 sequestration
Average level is around 4%
Saturation level around 10-12%
So an average there is scope to sequester some 500 tonnes of carbon in every hectar of organic land (i.e. about 100 times that produced annually by the avergae house in the UK)
Soil testing: just £7 per sample

Land to be regarded as a three dimensional space: include depth, which means using plant with varying depth of roots (pasture: various types of grass, herbs, chicory (up to 1m roots), switchgrass (up to 2m of fibrous roots), but not not rye grass.
Useful publication: Profitable Ley Farming by John Laity
Hedges to be regarded as linear orchards

Late start, light lunch, discussion at the end far too short, farm walk. Good day overall.