Green Horizons Blog
April 29, 2021
Thinking forward to net zero
Like others within the industry, we are actively looking at how farmers can work towards net zero targets as part of our Green Horizons Initiative. Our net zero iFarms are proving just how varied the impact these ambitious targets will have on each farm. Some will have a long way to go to achieving net zero, whereas others will already be there, or be well on their way towards it. Unsurprisingly, there are key areas that are consistently appearing to be a net contributor to emissions. These include fertiliser inputs and fuel consumption in most arable systems, and intensively reared livestock on mixed and livestock farms. The fertiliser emissions come as no surprise to many, being a hot topic when talking about net zero. The instant reaction is that we need to reduce our inputs; however, by looking at the emissions pathways, we can begin to target management strategies:
- What is the footprint of the fertiliser is before it arrives on farm? Around 50% of the emissions associated with fertilisers is from the manufacturing process, so choosing the correct product is just as important as the method of application.
- How is the product applied? Are you applying to match crop demand? Using inhibitors to maximise uptake and reduce loss to the environment? Are you applying at the correct timing? These are the sort of questions we will have to start considering more as the Government tightens down on emissions.
One area that plays a huge role in the farm’s overall carbon balance is soil organic matter (SOM), which is currently used by the various carbon calculators to measure carbon sequestration. With this, we are not just looking at figures from one year, but instead, a number of figures over time (you will need a minimum of two years for most calculators). This is simply because we are looking at how much is being actively sequestered, rather than that which has been stored for years. Either maintaining or improving soil organic matter is probably where the industry will go in terms of quantifying carbon storage. Seeing a decline in your SOM could potentially see a reduction in future payments, not just for the loss of carbon, but also the reduction in environmental stability as viewed under ELMS (ie. For mitigating run-off and soil erosion).
If there is one thing to take away from our work so far, it is the importance of having baseline figures on soil organic matter available to show any improvements that are made from a carbon and environmental perspective. There is still a way to go, with numerous assumptions and a lot of unanswered questions, but we should be looking at the net zero targets as a huge opportunity for our industry – one which may be able to help improve efficiencies whilst replacing the loss of BPS along with ELMS.
You will be able to find further information to any of the above content in our Environmental insight report, which will be available on the 11th May here.