Carbon farming: How it's good for the environment, farmers and biodiversity?

By 2050, it’s expected there will be over 9 billion people on the planet. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and it’s estimated that the agricultural industry will need to produce twice as much food as it does now to meet the demand. But there’s a problem – agriculture is one of the main culprits for producing carbon emissions worldwide. Methane from cattle and rice farms, and nitrous oxide from fertilizer, make agriculture among the biggest contributors to global warming. So, how do we balance the need to produce more food without destroying the planet? Carbon farming could be the solution that not only protects the climate but also restores biodiversity and benefits farmers.

What Is Carbon Farming?

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Carbon farming describes a variety of methods farmers can use to capture and store the carbon emissions they produce from their farming activities in the soil or in vegetation through photosynthesis, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. Through this form of carbon offsetting, farmers can create a net loss of carbon from the atmosphere, making their activities net zero.

Here are a few examples of carbon farming:

  • Livestock rotation: Regularly rotating livestock around different paddocks gives each paddock time to rest and recover between grazing periods.
  • Organic mulch: Covering the soil with mulch, like wood chips or straw, improves moisture levels in the soil while allowing the organic material to interact with microorganisms, producing healthier, more fertile soil.
  • Agroforestry: The practice in incorporating trees alongside farming activities– trees will store carbon emissions produced from farming and provide a range of benefits both above and below-ground. 
  • Cover crops: Species like clover and vetch can be used to keep soil covered and carbon-rich through the winter or planted alongside cash crops during the growing season to offset carbon lost at harvest time.
  • Reduced tilling: Tilling mixes soil with the air, which releases carbon back into the atmosphere. Tilling also breaks up the structure of soil, making it less fertile. Regenerative tillage techniques help preserve soil quality and keep carbon in the soil. 
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Why Is
Carbon Farming Good For The Climate?

Carbon farming is the champion when it comes to protecting the environment. It allows farmers to store their carbon emissions in their fields (in soil, trees, hedgerows, and grasses) rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, where it would contribute to the devastating climate change we’re already seeing in some parts of the world. We as a species need to put sustainability at the heart of all our future activities if we’re to continue living comfortably on this planet. Carbon farming allows farmers to do just that – farm in a way that is sustainable but productive.

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Why Is Carbon Farming Good For Farmers?

Farmers can make impressive savings through carbon farming because it requires fewer resources. For example, using less fuel-powered machinery for tilling crops means less money is spent on fuel. Capturing more carbon in the soil also makes it more productive, eliminating the need for fertilizer, which isn’t just harmful to the environment but also costs money. And if we’re going to feed an extra 2 billion people in the next few decades, we’ll need farms around the world to be as productive as possible.

Carbon farming doesn’t just save farmers money - it can make money too. Farming can be an expensive business, and many farmers and their families often live on a financial knife-edge. Additional income streams, alongside more traditional ones, give farmers the chance to diversify without having to rely too heavily on one product. In an industry where success or failure can depend on a single growing season, extra income streams are essential. Carbon farming offers farmers another form of revenue through carbon offsetting. Effective carbon sequestration through farming produces carbon credits. These can be sold to other businesses that are looking to offset their own carbon emissions. So not only can farmers offset their own emissions, but they can also help others to the same.

Why Is Carbon Farming Good For Biodiversity?

Over the years, we’ve cleared millions of acres of grassland and forest from the face of the planet for agriculture. When these habitats are destroyed, the wildlife that depends on them struggles to survive, and many species are pushed to the edge of extinction. Sadly, many species have already been pushed over that edge. Carbon farming practices like agroforestry can go a long way to repairing some of the damage caused by agriculture by giving nature safe places to live. Reduced reliance on chemical fertilizers allows delicate ecosystems to repair and thrive.

Biodiversity isn’t just good for animals and plants – it’s good for humans, too; in fact, it’s integral to our survival. We rely on the planet’s delicate ecosystems to grow our food, keep our water clean, and even produce the oxygen we breathe. Carbon farming reduces the impact farming has on local ecosystems, so the delicate balance of nature is supported. Carbon farming works with nature rather than fighting against it, which is really what sustainability is all about.

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Final Thoughts

Carbon farming has a whole host of benefits that go beyond cutting the carbon emissions of the agricultural sector and enabling farms to operate with net zero emissions. It allows farmers to diversify through the sale of carbon credits, a welcome new income stream in an industry where success isn’t always guaranteed. Carbon farming also gives us the ability to repair the damage done to the environment in the past and create a more sustainable industry that can still meet the demands of a burgeoning population. 

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