As the world continues to see and experience the physical impacts of climate change, the agriculture industry is in the hot seat – not only for contributing to around 24% of global green house gas emissions, but also for actively combating with this crisis with a series of climate-conscious practices, called carbon farming.

The impact of climate change is drastically changing the world and the agriculture sector is no exception. Farmers and agribusinesses are constantly struggling to maintain efficiency and increase yields while battling extreme weather conditions, which results in increased crop diseases and uncertainty in market prices. On the other hand, there is growing pressure on agribusinesses and growers to adopt precision agriculture to increase sustainability and efficiency while mitigating risks and loss.

Farming and livestock raising account for more than half of the Earth’s inhabitable land. Many of the agriculture practices release significant amounts of two powerful green house gases – methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is mainly produced by livestock through their digestion and waste (stored manure and organic waste in landfills). Nitrous oxide emissions, on the other hand, release from pastures and crops that use organic and mineral nitrogen fertilisers. Carbon farming, also known as regenerative farming practices, covers a variety of agricultural methods aimed at taking excess atmospheric carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it in soil, where it helps with the growth of plants.

CARBON FARMING BASICS

Carbon farming comprises a set of farming practices that are implemented across a variety of farm types with an objective of gaining more carbon dioxide than is lost in the process- which results in increased storage of atmospheric carbon in the soil and vegetation. This approach includes both land and livestock techniques and can occur in various forms, such as organic farming benefits, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and other food production methods. The amount of carbon stored in the soil depends on the soil type and climate. During the photosynthesis process, plants pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while storing it into the soil.  When plants die, the stored carbon is either released back into the atmosphere or remains in the soil for long periods of time. Many traditional farming practices lead to the release of carbon, while those classified as carbon farming practices do the opposite.

Listed below are some practices that can be implemented as part of carbon sequestration:

  • No-Till Farming: Conventional tilling process involves digging, ploughing and overturning soil in order to prepare it for cultivation of seeds or crops, which causes carbon to release back into the atmosphere. To eliminate carbon emission, consider planting perennial crops that don’t require tillage, or using a no-till drill for large-scale annual plantings. You can also go for mulch farming which involves covering soil with wood mulch, helping reduce carbon footprints.  
  • Composting: Spreading compost directly over the surface of the soil instead of tilling it in can help significantly limit release of methane as microorganisms in the finished compost oxidise methane before it is released into the atmosphere.
  • Livestock Rotation: Cattle produce methane during their digestion process, and both methane and nitrous oxide during decomposition of manure. Instead of leaving animals to graze over one area of pasture continuously, which can disturb stores of carbon, you can allows them to rotate between a series of small paddocks, so that carbon stores can remain intact, reducing further emissions from those areas.  

BENEFITS OF CARBON FARMING

In addition to aiding land and livestock management to reduce GHG emissions, carbon farming system provides the added benefits of improving the farmer’s bottom line by improving soil health and increasing crop yields.

Another lesser known fact about carbon sequestration, which could potentially be of benefit for many small farmers and agribusinesses, is that increasing organic soil carbon through methods like no-till is relatively cost-effective. Some agricultural studies indicate that carbon farming costs 10-100 USD per ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere as compared with 100-1,000 USD per ton for advanced tools and technologies that mechanically remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Moreover, carbon farming also opens an additional revenue stream for farmers and ranchers who take up carbon farming practices. By reducing carbon emissions from their agriculture practices, carbon farmers get the opportunity to earn Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) which can be sold either to the Australian Government or in the secondary market to create additional income. What can be better than doing your part in reducing the release of harmful green house gases from your farm while converting carbon into funds.

Here’s a sum up of benefits of carbon sequestration other than actively removing carbon from the atmosphere:

  • Increased microbial activity and soil biodiversity
  • Enhanced soil structure, health and fertility, decreased salinity
  • Reduced risk of soil erosion and nutrient loss
  • Diversified farm income streams which prove to be of great significance especially in agricultural crisis and extreme conditions like drought.   
  • Improved agricultural efficiency and productivity
  • More efficient use of water and fertilisers
  • Better native vegetation, habitat and animal health
  • Improved biodiversity
  • Reduced pollutions and improved air quality

CONCLUSION

Carbon farming is an agricultural way to combat climate change by limiting GHG emissions. While it is a beneficial and exciting farming approach, especially given that Australian farmers and agribusinesses are incentivised to cut the amount of green house gases they produce and release into the atmosphere and undertake activities that promote carbon sequestration, successful implementation of carbon farming requires extensive research and professional guidance.

Being a leader in agriculture market online, KG2 helps farmers and agribusinesses understand the potential and possibilities of the carbon farming system before they integrate it into their farm operation. In addition to that, we offer you robust Australian farm software to implement and manage your carbon farming practises. Our expert team combines comprehensive agriculture data with market research and innovative satellite technology to help you identify GHG reduction opportunities in your farm and undertake carbon farming approach with an aim to increase farm efficiency and productivity while becoming an environmental-friendly business. 

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