Carbon Farming- Agriculture’s answer to Climate Change

Carbon farming is a form of agricultural practice or land use to increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil. Carbon farming also known as Carbon sequestration stores the greenhouse gases and reduces the gases that are released into the atmosphere. Carbon farming is turning out to be a good business for agriculture companies that are offering climate mitigation services and products.
carbon farming, carbon sequestration, carbon traceability, carbon supply chain, food traceability, food supply chain
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Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified two major climate mitigation pointers to keep the global temperatures under check 

Cut emissions by 45% levels from 2010 to 2030 

Achieve net-zero by 2050 

Solutions identified 

Organizations must commit to decarbonization plans that align with the Paris climate agreement 

Carbon capture strategies and scaling-up carbon markets faster and getting them right will reduce the emissions. 

According to the results published in the leading Nature journal, Reforestation has the potential to absorb 8.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year through 2050. 

Carbon farming is a form of agricultural practice or land use to increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil. It is a farm approach to optimize carbon capture through practices that improve the rate at which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored in plants or soil organic matter. Carbon farming also known as Carbon sequestration is a system of agriculture management that accumulates and stores the greenhouse gases and reduces the gases that are released into the atmosphere. 

Carbon farming also offers the landholders financial incentives to reduce carbon pollution. Farmers can be encouraged to follow these agricultural practices and lower the environmental footprint and generate carbon credits. 

What is Carbon Farming? 

It is a way of farming that sequestrates carbon in the soil. This carbon otherwise is released as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting in climate changes. Farming practices like No-tillage, growing cover crops, crop rotation, agroforestry, and using carbon-rich fertilizers are a few of them. The farmers use the soil to sequestrate carbon emissions from industries and households nearby, thereby helping climatic stress and enriching the soil fertility. 

Carbon sequestration is the capacity of land and forests to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants during photosynthesis and stored as carbon in tree trunks, roots, branches and soil. Forests and grasslands are referred to as carbon sinks because they store carbon for long periods of time. Employing farming practices with minimal disturbance can increase sequestration and reduce loss of carbon from fields. 

Agriculture contributes to 11% of GHGs, mainly coming from agricultural soil, livestock, and rice production. 

Carbon Sequestration Agriculture and Climate  

Farming practices and technology can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent climate change by carbon sequestration, preserving existing soil carbon and reducing carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane emissions. 

Common methods employed 

  • Agro-Forestry 

Forests absorb and hold carbon dioxide emissions produced from other sources and help in sequestering carbon. Carbon offsets can be created through reforestation and improved forest management.  

  • Conservation of grasslands 

Grasslands provide a natural way of sequestering carbon emissions. Avoiding overgrazing of pastures. 

  • Renewable energy 

Alternative to fossil fuels for the production of electricity by wind or solar energy helps to generate carbon offsets. Farmers need to increase the energy efficiency and find alternatives for low-cost fuel which can be profitable.  

  • Conservation tillage 

Reducing tillage reduces carbon disturbance and mitigates the release of soil carbon. Conservation tillage improves the carbon sequestration capacity of the soil. It also helps in soil erosion and water conservation. 

  • Organic Cropping 

Organic systems with the use of compost manure and cover crops increase organic matter in soil and eliminate emissions from synthetic fertilizers. Usage of nitrogen fertilizers boosts production and reduces N2O emissions. 

  • Avoid burning crop residue and retaining stubble wherever possible 
  • Livestock management, especially waste minimizes nitrous oxide and methane emissions. Feeds also need to be optimized for digestibility. 
  • Improved irrigation practices help in saving energy costs, conservation of water and reduction of GHGs. AWD is one such method employed. 

Value of Soil Carbon Sequestration 

Carbon farming provides economic rewards to farmers who reduce the GHGs. Under carbon farming, they are able to earn carbon credits through these activities 

  • Enhancing carbon in soil 
  • Reducing livestock emissions 
  • Increasing efficiency of fertilizer use 
  • Promoting Reforestation for carbon sequestration. 

Carbon farming could be the solution for climate stabilization. A new crop that farmers could grow in the near future is carbon. Farmers need a market and price for this crop. USDA has been a promoter of managing carbon in efforts to improve soil quality. Voluntary private carbon markets exist in the USA. The role of agriculture in carbon sequestration will assess the value of carbon for the farmers and society at large.

Carbon farming can create opportunities for several players in and outside the agriculture value chain. Companies can work together with farmers and promote the use of carbon farming in their products. Other companies can buy carbon certificates to compensate for their own emissions. The incentivization due to carbon sequestration helps the farmers to get financial compensation and the companies benefit by the carbon offsets. It enhances brand image and showcases sustainability to the consumers. In other words, carbon farming goes beyond just carbon sequestration, it provides a collaboration between farmers and organizations to reshape the environmental landscape. 

The carbon farming framework has gained popularity in local, state, and federal natural resource agencies and has triggered supply chain sustainability, corporate sustainability initiatives, and value addition in markets. Carbon farming provides land holders an opportunity to earn carbon credits through carbon storage or reducing GHGs. The emissions can be offset by selling the carbon credits to the Government nominated authorities. Carbon farming is a voluntary carbon offset scheme that incentivizes landholders to reduce GHGs. 

Carbon Credits and Carbon Market 

Carbon sequestration is quantified by Carbon credits. Carbon credit is a tradeable certificate that represents the right to emit one metric ton of carbon dioxide(CO2) or the equivalent amount of another greenhouse gas like methane, nitrous oxide .etc called a carbon dioxide- equivalent (CO2e). Instruments like carbon credits and carbon offsets were introduced to encourage organizations to be more environment friendly. Organizations that are over their quota must buy carbon credits for excess emissions while those below can sell their credits. This exchange of credits has spurned the growth of carbon markets globally. The carbon credit system was ratified in conjunction with the Kyoto protocol.

There are two types of carbon markets, the Compliance market, and the Voluntary market. In the compliance market, the government uses a cap and trade system where pollution permits are allotted to organizations and they have to purchase more permits if they overstep the pollution limits. The voluntary market allows organizations to voluntarily purchase carbon credits to offset their emissions. 

The amount of global emissions can be controlled through buying and selling of carbon credits in the carbon trading method. It allows global carbon emissions to stay within permissible levels nurturing sustainable ways of growing their business. Presently the market of carbon credits has a direct impact on the organization’s financial analysis. 

Carbon Farming – A way towards Climate Resilience 

Soils are a major part of the planetary carbon cycle, the second-largest pool after the oceans holding more carbon. When properly managed, farms are a powerful tool to fight against climate change. In view of this, Carbon markets are one of the necessary routes to building carbon storage in soil. Carbon farming is a crucial mitigation strategy to combat climatic stress. Farmers considering selling carbon should be careful while selecting a market and should understand the conditions and requirements of the company. Carbon prices need to be at least $50-100 per metric ton of carbon dioxide by 2030 to reduce emissions to the temperature goals set by the Paris agreement. There are uncertainties about costs and returns for carbon farming practices. 

Carbon farming is turning out to be a good business for agriculture companies that are offering climate mitigation services and products. To gain ground, this practice has to be supported by appropriate standards. The third-party climate standard organizations like Verra and Climate Action Reserve maintain an inventory of practices that scientifically boost the ability to transfer carbon from the atmosphere to the soil. To generate credits, the program must show the implementation of these practices and how when measured affects the GHGs.

Blockchain has a pivotal role to play with transparency, secure trading, and decentralization based on smart contracts. Smart contracts help in designing globally accessible and automated incentive systems that can reward individuals, organizations, and governments for taking part in sustainable agriculture practices and inching closer to climate resilience. 

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