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No-Nonsense Carbon Guide for Farmers

Sam Adams - 07 August 2013

low carbon farming bookSince 2011, the Soil Association has run the Low Carbon Farming information project. The aim of the project has been to share practical advice with farmers about climate change and minimising carbon emissions on the farm.

This week, the project is releasing a new practical guide: "Low Carbon Farming - A Handbook for Farmers in the 21st Century". It is a no-nonsense handbook that presents the information in a relevant and practical way.

Monty Don, who writes the foreword, states that “The…practices recommended are beneficial not only to lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, but also to improving efficiency in every area of your farm. In fact, common sense would suggest low carbon farming be embraced by every farmer in the country.”

The handbook begins with a section on soil and grassland management. Farmers are advised to reduce tillage where possible. This is because any soil disturbance significantly increases carbon emissions. Further advice is about converting part of the farm to more permanent, carbon-capturing, vegetation.

Next, nutrients and manures are explored. The main suggestion here is to replace artificial fertilisers (they have significant emissions). Instead, incorporating legumes in the crop rotation naturally increases fertility as legumes absorb nitrogen from the air. Another tip is the use of precision technology - where natural fertiliser can be injected into the soil to minimise emissions even further.

In the section on livestock, the type of feed is discussed. Did you know that some grasses can result in lower methane emissions from cattle? Higher welfare management is also advised, as healthier animals produce milk and meat more efficiently.

Finally, renewable energy is discussed, with numerous options presented including wind, solar and anaerobic digestion.

As the conclusion states, “Each part of low carbon farming has instant environmental benefit, and by doing so, long-term economic benefit. Low carbon farmers can enjoy biodiversity combined with revenue diversity.”

Low Carbon Farming - A Handbook for Farmers in the 21st Century is available from the Soil Association shop for £10.

Sam Adams runs the Low Carbon Farming project, part of the SWARM Hub. He is based at the Soil Association. More information on the project and future events can be found at www.soilassociation.org/lowcarbon

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