Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit

News

24.04.15 US announce partnerships with Farmers and Ranchers to address climate change

Agriculture Secretary for the USA today laid out a comprehensive approach to partner with farmers and producers to address the threat of climate change. The new initiatives will build on the creation of the USDA’s Climate Hubs last year and will use voluntary, incentive based conservation, forestry and energy projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration and expand renewable energy production in the agricultural and forestry sectors.

The 10 building block for Climate Action in the US

Soil health: Improve soil resilience and increase productivity by promoting conservation tillage and no-till systems, planting cover crops, planting perennial forages, managing organic inputs and compost application, and alleviating compaction. USDA aims to increase no-till implementation from the current 67 million acres to over 100 million acres by 2025.

Nitrogen Stewardship: Focus on the right timing, type, placement and quantity of nutrients to reduce nitrous oxide emission and provide cost savings through efficient application.

Livestock Partnerships: Encourage broader deployment of anaerobic digesters, lagoon covers, composting and solids separators to reduce methane emissions from cattle, dairy and swine operations. USDA plans to support 500 new digesters over the next 10 years as well as expand the use of covers on 10 percent of anaerobic lagoons used in dairy cattle and pig operations.

Conservation of Sensitive Lands: Use the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to reduce GHG emissions through riparian buffers, tree planting, and the conservation of wetlands and organic soils. By 2025, USDA aims to enrol 400,000 acres of CRP lands with high greenhouse gas benefits, protect 40,000 acres through easements, and gain additional benefits by transferring expiring CRP acres to permanent easements.

Grazing and Pasture lands: Support rotational grazing management, avoiding soil carbon loss through improvement management of forage, soils and grazing livestock. By 2025, USDA plans to support improved grazing management on an additional 4 million acres, for a total of 20 million acres.

Private Forest Growth and Retention Through the Forest Legacy Program and the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, protect almost 1 million additional acres of working landscapes. Employ the Forest Stewardship Program to cover an average of 2.1 million acres annually (new or revised plans), in addition to the 26 million acres covered by active plans./p>

Stewardship of Federal Forests: Reforest areas damaged by wildfire, insects or disease, and restore forests to increase their resilience to those disturbances. USDA plans to reforest 5,000 additional post disturbance acres by 2025.

Promotion of Wood Products: Increase the use of wood as a building material, to store additional carbon in buildings while offsetting the use of energy from fossil fuels. USDA plans to expand the number of wood building projects supported through cooperative agreements with partners and technical assistance, in addition to research and market promotion for new, innovative wood building projects.

Urban Forests – Encourage tree planting in urban areas to reduce energy costs, storm water runoff, and urban heat island effects while increasing carbon sequestration, curb appeal, and property values. Working with partners, USDA plans to plant an average of 9,000 additional trees in urban areas per year through 2025.

Energy Generation and Efficiency: Promote renewable energy technologies and improve energy efficiency. Through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program, work with utilities to improve the efficiency of equipment and appliances. Using the Rural Energy for America Program and other programs, develop additional renewable energy, bioenergy and biofuel opportunities. Support the National On-Farm Energy Initiative to improve farm energy efficiency through cost- sharing and energy audits.

To read the full news release please click here.

24.04.15 Reducing New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions

The emissions intensity of New Zealand agriculture (the measure of the GHG’s generated per unit of meat or milk produced on-farms) has declined on average by about 1% per year since at least 1990. This has happened because farms have become more efficient through employing techniques such as improved animal genetics, management and better grassland management and feeding practices over the past 20 years.

On the flip side of this however, the reduced emissions intensity has been more than offset by the increased overall product generated by the sector. As such the emissions from New Zealand agriculture have risen by 15%, (although without the efficiency gains this would be much higher, about 30%). So while farmer’s efficiency gains are addressing a large proportion of the problem, they are not enough to counter the extra greenhouse gases being produced overall.

What’s the solution?

Although the drive for efficiency on-farm provides part of the solution, and by continuing to improve efficiencies, New Zealand farmers will continue to reduce the intensity of emissions (per unit of prouduct), in order to stop the total emissions from rising there is a need for practical and cost-effective tools to reduce emissions and achieve economic growth targets.

What are the research priorities?

The priorities that are being investigated in New Zealand are described below.


Low methane animals – methane emissions vary between animals. The level of emission is a genetically heritable trait, so it can be included in a selection index. Lower emissions appear not to affect other production traits so selecting for lower methane emissions would not impact negatively on a farm’s production

Low methane feeds – some feeds help reduce methane emissions and increase nitrogen utilisation. Identifying and confirming these feeds will mean recommended feeding regimes can be developed based on current and new feed options for use in different farm systems.

Methane vaccine – scientists are working on a vaccine programme which could reduce emission by up to 20% without reducing productivity. The vaccine stimulates antibodies to counter key methane-generating microbes within the rumen in livestock.

Methane inhibitors – Inhibitors can knock out methane – generating microbes. Researchers are looking for substances that work in the rumen without side-effects across a range of microbes. Successful inhibitors could be delivered in feed, a bolus or drench, mineral lick or within the water supply.

Reduce nitrous oxide and nitrate leaching – research is looking at novel interventions and on-farm management guidelines that reduce nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions.

Increasing soil carbon – increasing carbon in the soil could offset greenhouse gas emissions. Research is looking at soil carbon levels across New Zealand and techniques to verify changes in carbon content. Work is also exploring management practices that increase carbon sinks.

What are farmers doing now?

At this point the biggest impact on greenhouse gas emissions intensity comes from New Zealand farmers continuing to increase the efficiency of their operations as much as possible. The research highlighted above is the crucial next step as these additional tools are needed soon.

Source: Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, New Zealand.

17.04.2015 Australian Climate champions

Following on from yesterday's blog looking at the Farm 300 programme that is running in Australia, below are a couple of videos of farmers who are 'climate champions' and have already adapted their businesses to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and boost profit.

The Farm 300 project has three aspects:


  • allowing farmers, growers and advisors access to the latest research and development on GHG emissions
  • upskilling advisors with the technical knowledge to help farmers
  • from this pool of advisors 25 are working with 300 producers across the country through a process that will develop a plan specific to their business that will subsequently improve their productivity and also mitigate GHG emissions

Climate champion Farmers

The two videos below highlight how 2 farmers have adapted their business management to improve profitability and reduce emissions.

Improving farm resilience using native grasses

Cattle and sheep producer James Houston from the Upper Murray region has increased productivity on his property by rotational grazing which has increased native grasses, allowed calves to be weaned and sent to market earlier. These changes have not only allowed carrying capacity to be improved but have also reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Heifer management to improve efficiency

Peter Whip and his wife Raeleen, are developing a highly efficient enterprise at Royston, south of Longreach.  As well as managing seasonal variability they are proof that reducing emissions from cattle production does not have to come at the expense of profit.

Source: Meat and Livestock Australia

16.04.15 The Farm 300 project, Australia

The weather down here in Cornwall seems to have turned for the better recently. I for one am enjoying the extended evenings, the sunshine and a general feeling of optimism that seems to be around when the temperature rises. However during international month here at FCCT, I am turning my attention to the other side of the world, (where, let's face it, this would probably be considered cold weather) where climate variability is proving more problematic for farmers trying to maintain profitable businesses.

Agriculture and land management activities produce almost 17% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions with 60% of those emissions coming from livestock. The information below is a few key facts and figures about Australia’s livestock industry to put it in perspective.

Sheep

  • Australian National Sheep flock is 75.5 million head
  • Australia is one of the world’s leading producers of lamb and mutton
  • Off-farm meat value of Australian sheep meat industry is $4.2 billion
  • 42,012 properties with sheep and lambs
  • Sheepmeat industry accounts for 33% of all farms with agricultural activities


Beef

  • National cattle herd stands at 29.3 million
  • 76,807 properties with cattle
  • 13.4 million beef cows and heifers
  • The beef industry accounts for 55% of all farms with agricultural activity
  • Red meat industry employs approximately 200,000 workers across farm, processing and retail

Source: Meat and Livestock Australia


Farm 300 project

The Farm 300 project has been developed by the Meat and Livestock Australia and offers cattle and sheep advisor training and support to build practical knowledge and skills that can boost on-farm production and profitability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

The project is tasked with raising awareness and understanding of the practical options available to farmers in different production systems to improve profitability and efficiency while at the same time reducing emissions by creating groups looking at different areas. Farmers within these groups attend meetings and seminars and try out the methods at home. The project monitors the effect and then reports back.

The website is following 6 producers through creating videos at the start and throughout the year. If you want to watch them then click here. At the moment the website has the introductory videos on it, and as new ones are uploaded I will try and post the link again.

Focus groups

Groups that have been formed include:

  • A sheep farmer who is focussing on increasing stocking rate and matching it to the carrying capacity
  • A cattle producer looking at using a by-product of the wine making industry as a supplementary feed source to improve kg/head and reduce emissions.
  • A sheep producer matching stocking rate with feed availability in a changing climate
  • A cattle and sheep farmer looking at alternative pasture species and feed to fill feed gaps, increase efficiency and reduce methane emissions
  • A mixed farmer who is measuring the efficiency, emissions and profitability of the family’s feedlot.


The last farmer comments in his video:

Talking with a lot of the other group members in our Farm 300 group, it’s quite interesting with the GHG emissions and farm 300 and also where we’re wanting to go in terms of being more profitable and turning stock off earlier, being more efficient. I think that we are all heading in the same direction anyway and it is, if anything, reiterating what we’re doing and enforcing our practices that we’re trying to do because the margin is getting smaller and smaller and we need to figure out ways to increase it.

This group of farmers round here, we’re all pretty conscious of the environment anyway, to be sustainable we have to be; in order for us to be profitable we need to go down this path anyway."

As well as setting up these groups, the project has made videos looking at climate champion farmers who have already started doing things to help improve profitability and reduce emissions. I’ll post those videos up tomorrow.

27.03.15 FCCT Loves Soil

Just a quick blog to round the week off, before a week of peace and quiet next week while I’m away!  While doing some research for the global stuff we are focussing on at the moment, I came across this little project that is focussing on spreading the love of soils around the world.  So here is FCCT’s effort, the gauntlet is thrown down – I’m sure that you can all do better!  At the moment there are no pins on the map from the UK, so lets change that.


It also got me thinking about all the great functions that soil performs; soil underpins life.  Below are some of the things that I came up with.

Have a great Easter.

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