Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit


23.11.15 Farmers day at Paris climate talks

Source: United Nations Framework on Climate Change

Coordinated by the World Farmers' Organisation in collaboration with the UNFCCC Secretariat, Farmers Day brings together farming groups, researchers, civil society, and other advocates to share perspectives on agriculture in light of the United Nation climate change negotiation this December in Paris.

Events will take place on 2 December in the official conference venue - a "blue zone" delegate pass is required but no further registration is needed. Further event details will be added here shortly. Join the conversation online using #FarmersDay and #COP21

For more information contact Ceris Jones, World Farmers' Organisation.


11:30—13:00, Observer room 03

Partnerships to improve agricultural resilience and productivity in a changing climate

Farmers from around the world and experts from science, finance and the market will discuss the possibilities and practicalities of improving agricultural resilience and productivity as the climate changes, and examine the value of partnerships

Speakers: Victor Biwot, tea producer Kenya. Luis Martinez, coffee producer Mexico, Romualdo Noble, Sugarcane producer Philippines. Fabian Waldmeier, Max Haavelar Switzerland. Mariana C. Rufino (TBC), CIFOR. Zaheer Fakir GCF Board. Andy Jarvis CIAT(TBC), Farmer representative WFO (TBN).

Organisers: Asociación Coordinadora Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Pequeños Productores de Comercio Justo (CLAC); The Fairtrade Foundation; World Farmers' Organisation (WFO) 

15:00-16:30, Observer room 03

Partnering to scale-up climate-smart agriculture in Africa: from policy to tangible impact

This session will explore innovative partnership approaches to achieve climate-smart agriculture (CSA).

Organisers: International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development (ForUM), Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), University of Copenhagen (KU), World Vision International (WVI)

16:45—18:15, Observer room 03

Agroecology as a viable solution to create climate resilience and a sustainable food system

Agroecological practices, in particular agroforestry, can deliver many important services that will be vital in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular we will speak about nutrition and food security, integrated landscape management and energy.

Speakers: ICRAF, IFOAM, UN Standing Commission on Nutrition, WeForest, country negotiators, donors

Organisers: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)

16.11.15 Soil Organic Matter, sharing Mediterranean experiences

Four Tips to improve organic matter content in Mediterranean soils

Compared to other European areas, Mediterranean regions suffer from distinctly lower organic matter content in their soils. However there are practical solutions to increase soil organic matter content and secure soil functionality and fertility. Philippe Hinsinger is the coordinating expert for the Focus Group on soil organic matter content in Mediterranean regions set up by the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP - AGRI). He elaborates "This is a concern that farmers have had since the very start of agriculture. Few of the solutions that are available are actually new, as many of them were rather common before the intensification of agriculture in the 1950s. The Focus Group analysed pros and cons of the current solutions, resulting in concrete tips for farmers.

Use local manure

Animal manure and organic waste - for instance transformed to compost can influence soil organic matter. Philippe Hinsinger: "Animal manure is most likely the largest resource of organic carbon suitable for application in agriculture. In Mediterranean areas where there is little large-scale animal production it would become very expensive for farmers to pay for manure transportation as large amounts are needed. Promoting the use of sources available on or near the farm, or using dehydrated or composted materials is important to decrease the cost of transportation, thus improving the cost-efficiency of the application of carbon rich inputs."

Avoid ploughing

Tillage techniques have been widely practiced for centuries, so completely stopping this practice would require a considerable shift. Reduced tillage or no-till practices can be used to maintain or increase soil organic matter content. Soil surface cover by mulching can efficiently reduce the runoff and subsequent soil erosion. Mulching can also help to combat weeds and improve the ability of the soil to bear the impact of vehicles such as tractors without damaging the soil structure.

Choose your cover crops wisely

Crop residues are a major source of organic inputs in agriculture and should be part of a farmer's strategy to increase or maintain soil organic matter content. The way crops are managed in space and time also plays an important role in securing soil functionality: more diverse rotations and longer soil coverage by living plants can help to protect the soil and increase organic matter content. These practices are less common in Mediterranean regions, in spite of their positive impact on soil fertility and water conservation.

Seek other novel solutions

The Focus Group also looked at opportunities to further investigate how to improve soil orgnaic matter content in Mediterranean regions and identified 16 research priorities. On top of that the focus group experts proposed subjects for innovative projects, so-called Operational Groups, funded by the European Commission and by the EU Member States and regions via Rural Development Programmes. The Focus Group suggestions included the development of diagnostic procesdures and recommendations on the management of soil organic matter and organic resources from tree based cropping systems, such as olive or fruit orchards. 

Source: EIP Focus Group Soil Organic Matter

For more information or to read the factsheet on Soil Organic Matter in Meditteranean Regions click here

09.11.15 Minimising nitrous oxide intensities of arable crop products; the MIN-NO project

The information in this blog comes from the end of project report from the MIN-NO project, which is a Defra funded project looking at minimising nitrous oxide intensities of arable crop products. To read the full report and find out more click here.


The MIN-NO project (2009 - 2014) used multi-site industry data, field experiments and modelling to improve estimates of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions associated with major UK arable crops and their products. Of 24 field experiments conducted in widely contrasting rainfall, soil and crop conditions, 21 showed direct N2O emissions due to fertiliser Nitrogen (N) to be less than the 1% default emission factor (EF) assumed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A simple model summarising these emissions predicted a 30 year average EF for arable land across the UK of only 0.46% of N applied.

A set of 'smart' EFs was devised for consideration by UK stakeholders, based on the MIN-NO model, other MIN-NO results and associated evidence. The smart EF for fertiliser N predicted a decrease in emissions of almost 10% of the previously estimated total N2O-N emissions from UK agriculture (which excludes fertiliser manufacture). The greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity estimated with the MIN-NO smart EFs (which include reduced GHGs from fertiliser manufacture) expressed as emissions per tonne of UK feed wheat was 20% less than the 'benchmark' GHG intensity using a current default methodology.  Smart EFs also gave reduced GHG intensities for harvested rapeseed, similar intensities for sugar beet and increased intensities for vining peas. Thus most arable food products are likely to have smaller GHG intensities than are being estimated at present. Also, bio-fuels made from N-fertilised crops could be considered more effective in reducing GHG emissions than is currently assumed.

However prospects for mitigation of N2O emissions associated with UK arable cropping are less than was thought previously. Farmers already using abated N fertilisers and following good practice lack any easy means of further mitigation. Feasible approaches tend to have economic costs, so further mitigation depends on the arable industry finding ways of capturing financially some of the value. Four feasible options were identified and, if all of these were aggregated, a combined GHG emissions mitigation potential of around -30% was estimated for the harvested produce of most crops, and from -5% to -25% for their food or fuel products. The best mitigation options appeared to lie in employing more sophisticated crop nutrient supply systems, and/ or growing more N - efficient crops through better informed selection of species and varieties. Other options such as cultivation strategies to improve soil conditions, cannot be advocated without further research.

Key messages for industry and policy

Most arable food products have significantly smaller GHG footprints than are being estimated by or on behalf of industry at present.

Biofuels made from N-fertiliser crops grown in the UK are more effective in reducing GHG than was previously thought. The impact of this finding will be enhanced further if the UK defines NUTS2 regional emissions estimates for biofuels in a similar way to that suggested by the MIN-NO model, e.g. depending on regional rainfall.

Mitigation of arable GHG emissions by reduced use of fertiliser N was estimated to be largely ineffective if indirect effects on land uses elsewhere were acknowledged.

As proposed in recent UK reviews, many potential GHG mitigation methods may be applicable to arable crops; these can be classed into four distinct themes.

i. Fertiliser systems (method of manufacture, formulation, application and timing) with low GHG emissions per kg nutrient 

ii. Selection of species, varieties, and/or fertiliser systems that convert soil and fertiliser N more efficiently into harvestable biomass

iii. Sourcing of crop produce from regions with low rainfall and light soils hence low N2O emissions.

iv. Removal of crop residues if green, this applies to a minority of crops

Individually these approaches were estimated to have maximum mitigation potentials (on GHG intensities of crop produce) of -25%, -23%, -23% and approximately -16%/

The maximum GHG mitigation potential derived by aggregating all four mitigation approaches was around -30% for the harvested produce of most crops (grain, seed or root) hence from -5% to -35% for their food or fuel products, depending on the contribution of crop produce to total GHG footprint of the product.

This there are opportunities for industry to help further mitigate the GHG footprints of arable products through improved fertiliser systems (better regarded as crop nutrient supply systems), for example incorporating chemical inhibitors within fertiliser products, but their exploitation will depend on finding means of capturing some of the value e.g. through economic incentives offered by the supply chain.

Any improvements that the plant breeding industry can make int he N Use Efficiency of crop varieties will prove beneficial to GHG mitigation, but the scope will be modest, especially if further progress is made in fertiliser technology, because mitigation is multiplicative not additive.

The main opportunities for farmers to mitigate N2O emissions lie in selecting crop species and fertiliser systems. Unfortunately farmers using abated N fertilisers and following best practices have few other means of effective N2O mitigation at present (at least that could affect calculated GHG emissions). Even under- fertilising with N is counter - balanced by GHG effects through indirect land use change.

Thus the scope for the UK arable industry to further mitigate GHG intensities of its products is less than previously estimated, and GHG mitigation maxima could only be achieved if adequate and sustained incentives became available to support development and use of all the appropriate technologies.

Source: Minimising nitrous oxide intensities of arable crop products (MIN-NO), Defra Sustainable Arable LINK programme

05.11.15 The Science of Soil Health Video

The Science of Soil Health: Using cover crops to soak up nutrients for the next crop.

No farmer wants to lose precious nutrients in the cool season, but this is exactly what happens when the field is left fallow.

This video produced by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, visits Penn State University and talks to Dr Sjoerd Duiker about how they use cover crops to ensure that those nutrients stay where they belong.

Source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

02.11.15 The Goals of the Paris talks

Following on from my introductory blog last week about the upcoming Paris talks, this blog looks in a little bit more detail about what will be being discussed at the event.  This information comes from a report written by the Green Alliance entitled Paris 2015, Getting a global agreement on climate change.

This agreement that will happen in Paris is set to be different from what has happened previously.  In the early climate change talks and negotiations the focus surrounded 'top-down' targets which drove national action. However in the lead up to Paris, individual countries have been required to present their own ambitions and plans for carbon reduction. Each countries pledged contributions will need to be agreed at the global level to ensure that the pledges add up to sufficient global action.

A good agreement will help provide a framework for change, which will allow individual countries to do more than they could alone.

Agreement is needed on the following elements of a global deal:

Ambitious action before and after 2020

The agreements in Paris will focus on a deal that comes into force from 2020. However at Durban talks in 2011, countries also agreed to accelerate action before 2020. Limiting climate change in the long term depends on cumulative emissions reductions so if less is done now, more is needed later. 

All the agreements are concerned with limiting temperature rises to less than 2 degrees C above pre-industrialised levels.

A strong legal framework and clear rules

To ensure action on the ground and to make sure countries deliver on promises made.  This includes having processes in place that deal with accounting and reporting methodologies, are transparent and measure change.

Central role for equity

The deal needs to be fair for all.  The agreement must therefore recognise the different contributions of countries to climate change and the changing nature of the global economy. It needs to acknowledge where nations have more responsibility and where they have more capacity to tackle climate change.

Long term approach

The aim is to use Paris to establish a framework on which to build with rolling commitments to reduce emissions on a 5yr cycle.

This will allow for the flexibility to include revised carbon targets as new science and technology emerges and increasing evidence of social and economic benefits of low carbon action once countries start implementing low carbon strategies.

Public finance for adaptation and low carbon transition

An agreement is more likely to be effective if it provides finance to support action on adaptation and mitigation. Funds can be delivered through the Green Climate Fund.

A Framework for action on deforestation and land use

Forest protection and support for sustainable land management should be a crucial part of a new agreement.

Any new agreement covering forest protection, land use and agriculture should be properly financed, have clear rules for emissions accounting and involve local communities.

The report also includes some quotes from politicians and officials about what these talks should achieve.

Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary General)

" I challenge you to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale up, co-operate, and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement."

Christiana Figueres, (Executive secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change)

"We are the first generation to understand the consequences of a high carbon economy on the planet, on future prosperity and , in particular on the most vulnerable around the world. Let us be the generation that stands up and takes responsibility conveyed by that knowledge."

Source: Paris 2015, Getting a global agreement on climate change. Green Alliance.

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