31-PAGE DIGITAL SPECIAL What Net Zero means for UK farmers
First published in Farmers Guardian on September 25, 2020 October 2020 | FGInsight.com
NET ZERO - WHAT IT MEANS FOR UK FARMING
K agriculture is at a critical juncture with decisions being made about the industry now which will shape its future for years to come. At the heart of the political change facing food producers is a move to more ‘climate friendly’ and ‘low carbon’ farming methods. And with a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2040, a charge led by the NFU, the industry is already making headway, but as the results of our survey (p4-5) show, there is still a long way to go.
This net zero publication aims to cut through the jargon often associated with net zero, showcase some of the measures already having positive results on farms up and down the country and, importantly, dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about agriculture’s role in the climate change debate. It shows how retailers and processors, being driven by an ever more environmentally conscious consumer, are seeking ‘greener’ supply chains, which is in turn prompting change at the farmgate.
INTRODUCTION By Olivia Midgley, Head of News & Business 01772 799 548 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Climate friendly farming makes good business sense
ords and phrases such as ‘net zero’ and ‘carbon calculation’ have b come part of the farming lexicon over the last few years, in a similar way to those brought by the coronavirus pandemic and its ‘social distancing’, ‘Zoom’ and ‘bubbles’. While they may have seemed a slightly alien concept six months ago, a need and desire to bring these elements into our everyday lives to tackle the virus has seen us switch to a new way of living and working, almost overnight. But unlike the virus, which will dissipate at some stage, the threat of climate change and farming’s role in it will not. And that is why agriculture is being urged to act now. The good news is the industry is in the unique position of being both a carbon source and a carbon sink, meaning that as well as being part of the problem, it can be a big part of the solution. And the other good news is that UK farming is already on its path to achieving net zero – the point at which any greenhouse gas emis-
sions are balanced by an equivalent amount absorbed from the atmosphere – by 2040. We know while some farmers are already at net zero, some see it as an unattainable goal and others think that the focus should be on bigger polluters, such as the fossil fuel and transport industries, rather than pointed at farming’s door. But as this Farmers Guardian special supplement shows, the path to net zero and this notion of climate friendly farming makes good business sense. For example, reducing beef finishing times which reduces inputs, saves costs and boosts productivity while cutting methane emissions, to rainwater harvesting which can help businesses pivot to deal with both flooding and drought – weather events we often now see in just one season. Tweaks at the farm level can make big changes as a UK-wide collective and with the public’s and politicians’ eyes on farming like never before, there is no better time for farming to act.
In association with Special thanks to our sponsors CF Fertilsers and Lloyds Bank for their support of this Farmers Guardian independent content. The sponsors’ own feature contributions can be read on pages 6-7 and 22-23.
The UK’s journey to a net zero future
Livestock’s Long Shadow report. A United Nations’ report claimed livestock was responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate Change Act created to tackle climate change, setting a long-term target for an 80 per cent reduction of emissions by 2050 against 1990 levels.
Committee on Climate Change (CCC) established. The first meeting of an independent advisory body responsible for recommending the five-year carbon budgets.
The Paris Agreement. The agreement aimed to limit greenhouse gas emissions ‘as soon as possible’ and keep the global temperature rise to below 2degC.
The Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food recommended imposing huge taxes on meat and milk to reduce emissions and ‘save half a million lives a year’.
Farmers need support on net zero journey By Hannah Binns
ore than 90 per cent of farmers believe they have a role to play in mitigating climate change, but only 62 per cent feel prepared to meet the industry’s net zero target by 2040, a Farmers Guardian survey has found. Of the 114 farmers surveyed, 63 per cent cited a lack of understanding about available options as the main barrier to uptake, along with time, cost and a lack of guidance. One farmer said: “Without a consensus on baselines in the industry, coupled with targets and incentives to achieve them, net zero will remain ‘blue sky’ thinking for many farmers. “At the moment, there appears to be very little immediate financial benefits but an awful lot of potential costs.” Others told FG while they were keen to partake, there were too many options and opinions with no uniform process or metrics to follow, and called for a ‘clearer
roadmap’ with the right tools and knowledge to help them on their net zero journey. Will Dickinson, an arable farmer in East Anglia added: “Fertiliser, pesticides and fuel are the three biggest costs and contributors to my carbon footprint. I have plenty of factors to look at but concise, consistent advice is hard to find.” For tenant farmers, a lack of authority to make improvements to the land was a further barrier. “I only have the field for one year so can only make improvements to productivity, rather than the wider environment,” one tenant farmer revealed.
Trees The survey also found 81 per cent of farmers were aware increasing onfarm productivity reduced greenhouse gas emissions, with 75 per cent planning to adopt more measures on farm, citing genetic improvements, min or no till and culling poorest performing animals. A move towards renewable energy
Farmers called for a ‘clearer roadmap’ to help them achieve net zero targets in a Famers Guardian survey.
sources and additional planting of trees and hedgerows were also listed. And there was plenty of optimism. “Net zero is a vital ambition for our industry, given the climate crisis we face as a society and the moral imperative that all of us must face in playing out part,” said one respondent. Charles Goadby, a mixed dairy
Economics of carbon storage stack up for farm businesses AS Prince Charles warned the window for action on climate change was ‘rapidly closing’ as he addressed the opening of Climate Week held virtually
Glossary of net zero terminology n Carbon offsetting: An action or process of compensation for greenhouse gases made from human or industrial activity by making equivalent reductions of greenhouse gas levels elsewhere n Carbon sequestration: The removal, capture and storage of carbon from the atmosphere n Carbon sink: Any process, activity or mechanism that removes carbon from the atmosphere n Climate change: Long-term changes in the Earth’s climate
n Global warming: An increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature from human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions n Greenhouse gases: Gases that trap heat from the Earth and warm the surface, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane n GHG footprint: A term referring to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation, service or product, expressed as a carbon dioxide equivalent. Often also described
farmer from Warwickshire, added: “We have been the easy targets for others to point the finger and given that farming will be one of the first to feel the effects of climate change, we should be leading the way and showing others how it should be done, both globally and other industries close to home.”
as a carbon footprint, but using the phrase GHG footprint ensures everyone understands that all GHGs are included in the calculation n Net zero: Achieving net zero means reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to a much lower level than today – and balancing the remaining emissions by reabsorbing the same amount from the atmosphere n Water footprint: Measurement of the amount and impact of water used to produce each of the goods and services we use
this week, NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said every farm business had a unique part to play. And with few industries able to store carbon in a natural process, Mr Roberts said carbon storage will have massive economic value once it is understood. “We have already seen other people interested in farmland to offset their carbon footprints so it is important agriculture has a seat at the table and does not allow the rest of the supply chain to take advantage,” he said. “Carbon sequestration is an inherent part of producing food so farmers must be the beneficiaries of the work they do to offset carbon. “Measures will need to be developed to build that value into tenancies to ensure those farmers are able to benefit from their work as well.”
NEWS Continues over the page
CCC warned parts of southern, eastern and central England could become ‘unviable’ for some farming activity due to the effects of climate change.
Report calls for tax on meat and dairy. An Eating Better Alliance report called on Government to explore all avenues to change people’s eating habits, including taxing meat and dairy.
SIMON Bainbridge farms 160 Black Baldies, 1,500 breeding ewes and eight flocks of 3,000 organic free-range layers on his 650-hectare organic upland farm in Northumberland. Moving to spring calving has been a hugely effective advance for us, offering better use of our pasture resources and fodder, driving the accompanying animal growth and health gains. We also breed maternal high health status cattle with a comprehensive vaccination programme and our yearling bulling heifers are weighed and pelvic measures taken.
The Clean Growth Strategy. Government announced a set of policies and proposals to deliver economic growth while decreasing emissions.
Genetics are used to find a ewe which produces two healthy lambs, can live in the hills, eat very little and produce excellent meat.
The UK’s third carbon budget is set at 37 per cent. A carbon budget places restrictions on the total amount of GHGs the UK can emit over a five-year period.
TALKING CARBON STORAGE
DOMINIC Gardner, West Sussex, is a first-generation farmer contract farming or holding Farm Business Tenancies on more than 1,000ha of land, mainly arable, with 1,000 breeding ewes. The fundamental thing is to have the right crop in the right field in the rotation, as growing a crop which does not make a profit or benefit your rotation is the most damaging thing for the environment. After experimenting for years, I have opted for simple cover crop mixes which give continual soil cover, leaving the lowest possible
Government published its 25-Year Environment Plan setting out its goals for improving the environment within a generation and leaving it in a better state.
nitrate in the soil at the end of the season. Stubble turnips also provide quick winter cover which is grazed by sheep, and absorbs excess nitrate. Net zero is an inclusive journey for all farmers and requires an attitude of mind rather than one of resources. Agriculture can be a master of its own destiny and deliver the positive change above and beyond what is expected, but farmers need to take the first step. Identify the small steps you can take within your business to be more efficient – it does not have to be a ‘big’ change and everyone’s contribution is unique.
With the NFU setting the ambitious target of reaching net zero by 2040, Lloyds Bank says it is ready to help agri-businesses move towards a greener future.
Supporting agriculture to become net zero
limate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the UK today, and as such, sustainability is increasingly playing a key part in business strategies. The UK Government has set the ambitious target of achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, which will require the country’s carbon footprint to be halved by 2030. Agricultural land makes up 70 per cent of UK’s land area, so it is crucial that the industry plays its part in helping meet these targets, and the National Farmers Union (NFU) has set the agriculture sector the even more ambitious challenge of transitioning to net zero by 2040. While the sector contributes 10 per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, the
bulk of these are nitrous oxide and methane, with carbon dioxide making up a significantly smaller proportion.
Agriculture’s unique challenge The sector has a unique ability to take action to tackle climate change due to its ownership of 70 per cent of the UK’s land stock. Adjustments in land use, soil restoration and woodland creation are all great ways of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. But despite these natural advantages, Lloyds Bank says there is no denying the scale of the challenge ahead for agri-businesses and the business is ready to help its clients navigate the risks and opportunities climate change presents in order to move towards a greener future.
7 steps to help agri-businesses transition to net zero Measure your carbon 1According footprint to a report carried out by Lloyds Bank earlier this year ‘Shaping Agriculture’s transition to a net zero future’, 87 per cent of farmers polled do not know the annual carbon footprint of their business, yet almost two-thirds – 62 per cent – feel very or somewhat confident they will be able to reach the 2040 net zero target. Every business will start the journey to net zero from a different point, so Lloyds Bank says it is important to assess your current carbon footprint to help you create an action plan for lowering it. Using a carbon calculator like Farm Carbon Calculator, Agrecalc or Cool Farm Tool can help identify sources of emissions, benchmark your emissions against other similar businesses,
create a baseline of emissions so you can monitor your progress and gain a better understanding of low carbon farming practices. Plant trees and 2 hedgerows Reforestation is one of the most
natural and powerful ways to fight climate change, with trees and hedgerows acting as a ‘carbon sink’ and naturally absorbing carbon emissions from the air. Almost three-quarters – 74 per cent of farmers surveyed – said they had neither taken any steps towards reforestation nor planned to. This could be a missed opportunity. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended that the UK increase its woodland cover from 13 per cent to 19 per cent by 2050 – the equivalent of 90 million trees. Increasing the trees on your land can also protect valuable topsoil from be-
SPONSORED CONTENT Taking steps to improve productivity can also have a positive impact on emissions levels LLOYDS BANK ing eroded as well as offering protection from drought and floods and helping boost biodiversity. Lloyds Bank’s partnership with the Woodland Trust can help agricultural businesses plant trees and hedgerows at heavily subsidised rates. Take steps to improve 3 productivity and efficiency Many new farming practices have
sustainability at their heart, so taking steps to improve productivity can also have a positive impact on emissions levels. Precision farming, using controlled-release fertilisers and increasing use of organic manures can contribute to a reduction in nitrous oxide emissions, while gene editing and breeding, as well as improving livestock health, can lower methane emissions.
Invest in low-carbon agri-technology Agri-tech solutions are increasingly seen as critical to improving farms’ productivity and Lloyds Bank believes investing in
the right technology can also lower environmental impacts. For example, vertical farming can provide up to six times the growth surface of polytunnels or greenhouses, but also lowers carbon dioxide emissions by between 67 and 92 per cent. Other agri-tech solutions which can help lower carbon footprint include cloud-based tools for measuring and monitoring inputs and outputs, autonomous vehicles and drones. Boost renewable energy 5 generation Nearly 40 per cent of UK farmers are
currently producing clean, low carbon energy, with popular methods including wind, solar, biomass boilers and ground source heating. Of those farmers surveyed, 75 per cent had either already taken steps to make their farm more sustainable through renewable energy, or were planning on doing so in the future. Anaerobic Digestion (AD), which involves converting animal manure food waste and crop by-products into energy is also becoming more popular, with almost 500 AD plants operating in the UK in 2019 and a further 343 under construction. As well as helping generate clean energy, AD plants can also offer opportunities for generating extra income and help improve waste management.
Improve soil health 6 Soil is the UK’s second largest carbon sink after the oceans – the
country’s soil currently contains the equivalent of 80 years of carbon emissions. However, with figures showing that fertile topsoil levels are depleting, improved farming practices are needed to help rebuild the soil’s carbon stores and prevent the loss of greenhouse gases from the soil. 78 per cent of the farmers surveyed said they had either already started improving soil to become more sustainable or planned to.
A word from the sponsor: How Lloyds Bank is supporting agri-businesses towards net zero JAs agri-businesses embrace a low carbon future, it is our ambition to be the sector’s partner of choice as we move towards net zero. All of our agricultural relationship managers have received sustainability training from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability and are ready to work with farmers by: n Providing discounted lending through our Clean Growth Financing Initiative for a broad range of investments in sustainable agriculture, from renewable energy generation such as solar and wind, to green agri-tech solutions. n Supporting farmers to measure their carbon footprint, using a free carbon calculator tool and then introducing them to either the Cool Farm Tool, the Farm Carbon Toolkit or Agrecalc. n Providing regular sustainability information sessions with recognised leaders on a wide range of issues related to the low-carbon agenda, from Steps to improve soil health include management and timing of cultivation and grazing pressure to reduce soil compaction, planting more trees in ‘shelterbelts’ along field boundaries to help prevent soil erosion, and introducing minimum till cultivation and regenerative grazing practices to improve soil structure. Restore peatlands 7 Peatlands are a key part of the UK landscape, covering 12 per cent of the nation’s land area, and have historic-
regenerative agriculture to managing your soil health, to help you in your transition. We have also partnered with the Woodland Trust and are helping to fund the MOREwoods and MOREhedges schemes, which provide landowners with partial funding for planting 0.5 hectares or more of new woodland. This can reduce the cost by as much as 75 per cent. n To find out more about the support available, read the research report Shaping Agriculture’s transition to a net zero future and the accompanying sector factsheets visit lloydsbank.com/ sustainable-agriculture References: Shaping Agriculture’s transition to a net zero future, Lloyds Bank, 2020 Lloyds Banking Group, Agricultural Research, March 2020 ally acted as a significant carbon sink. However, as a result of modification, drainage and damage over the years, UK peatlands have switched from acting as a sink to being a source of carbon emissions. Restoring peatlands is therefore key to reducing emissions. Landowners can help by using cover crops within crop rotations to help maintain organic matter, adapting grazing routines and considering grip blocking, drainage and re-wetting of peat soils to restore natural functioning of peatland.
The UK’s journey to a net zero future (continued)
IPCC report recommends move away from eating meat. The panel recommended people move away from eating meat to stop global warming reaching a dangerous level.
NFU launched Net Zero by 2040 ambition. NFU president Minette Batters launched industry’s Net Zero by 2040 ambition at the Oxford Farming Conference.
EAT- Lancet recommends lower intake of animal products, with the aim of reducing consumption of red meat by 50 per cent. The report was later torn apart.
Offshore Wind Energy Revolution. Government announced £40 billion would be spent on infrastructure during the next decade to deliver 30GW of offshore wind.
CCC recommends new emissions target for UK, setting a net zero emissions goal for 2050 to keep the global temperature increase under 1.5degC.
Prof Judy Buttriss, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, tells Hannah
Sustainable food delivering for
n recent years, growing concerns about climate change have seen more consumers make conscious choices about the types of food they eat, with red meat and dairy products facing increasing criticism for greenhouse gas emissions. But sustainable nutrition, a term for dietary patterns which deliver nutrients for health while limiting detrimental environmental impacts, could benefit UK agriculture. Prof Judy Buttriss, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “Comprehensive data over the past century has informed us which nutrients we need to be healthy. “But the challenge is finding dietary patterns which deliver appropriate nutrition without resulting in irreparable damage to the environment, and are also affordable, acceptable and accessible.” Prof Buttriss warned consumers must also consider other factors besides greenhouse gas emissions when assessing the environmental impact of dietary choices. “A recent report (Pauline Scheelbeek, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), which
Consumers are opting to reduce environmental impacts through food choices.
looked at the health impacts and environmental footprints of diets in the UK in relation to Government’s Eatwell Guide, noted an increasingly large proportion of plant-based food is imported and originates from countries highly vulnerable
WHY CALCULATE CARBON? CHANGES to farm payment systems and satisfying supply chain company requirements may require a closer look at carbon balance in future and farmers are being increasingly asked to assess their own business’ carbon footprint. Becoming familiar with such tools such as carbon calculators (see page 20) farmers will become better informed when speaking to others in the supply chain. Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief adviser, climate change and renewable energy, said: “It is a confusing landscape and some farmers are grumpy about what
they see as more bureaucracy and admin. It is not clear whether the supply chain will pay any premium, but it will become ‘the new normal’, rather like Red Tractor.” Carbon calculators can be used to determine the whole farm carbon footprint or that attributed to a product such as a tonne of wheat, or to benchmark and defend UK farming’s position compared with overseas competitors. “If we can show British farming is more resource-efficient than many of our competitors elsewhere we may not be so heavily criticised in the media,” added Dr Scurlock.
to climate change and water stress,” she said.
Trade-offs “So, while increasing fruit and vegetable intake in alignment with the Eatwell Guide improved all-cause mortality rates, the report found it was likely to increase water usage, which could have a detrimental effect. “Therefore, trade-offs need to be managed when determining a dietary pattern that is both healthy and environmentally sustainable and these implications must be
considered in future global food strategies.” Prof Buttriss added the relatively new science of life cycle analysis (LCA), which measures the environmental impact of a food’s production from start to consumption, was progressing, but further work was needed. “LCAs provide a sense of a food’s footprint, but at the moment there are large variations in the published LCA values for individual foods, linked to where or how the food has been produced, emphasising the
Low Carbon Agriculture event PRACTICAL solutions to tackling climate change including the latest technology as well as seminars with industry leading experts and advice on the new Environmental Land Management scheme will be on offer at the Low Carbon Agriculture event on March 9-10, 2021. Formerly the Energy and Rural
Business Show, the event has rebranded and moved to the National Agriculture and Exhibition Centre (NAEC), Stoneleigh, and also includes the Low Emission Vehicles Expo. MORE INFORMATION Find out more and register for free at lowcarbonagricultureshow.co.uk
NEWS July 2019
Myles Allen, a professor from the University of Oxford, said a 20 per cent drop in methane emissions would cause global cooling.
IPCC describes plant-based diets as a major opportunity for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Panel also recommends policy to reduce meat consumption.
NFU hits out at BBC’s Meat: a Threat to our Planet?, saying it was the latest attack from the media which singled out red meat production as a leading cause of climate change.
Year of Climate Action. The Government outlined a year of action in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). The conference has been postponed until 2021.
Prince Charles warns climate change is a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of Covid-19 in a virtual message ahead of Climate Week.
Binns how messaging around sustainable nutrition could support UK agriculture.
nutrition and the environment importance of using geographically relevant values,” she said. Despite acknowledging the growing relevance and interest in plantbased eating, Prof Buttriss explained there was an important distinction to make between diets that comprise only plants and those, such as the Eatwell Guide, which are predominantly plant-derived, but with moderate amounts of animal products. “Moving towards an EatWell
Guide-based diet, plant-derived but with moderate amounts of animal protein, is expected to benefit the environment, reducing impacts by 30 per cent according to the new analysis of Scheelbeek and colleagues, as well as benefit health,” she said.
Diets “Meat, milk, eggs and fish are all concentrated sources of essential nutrients such as vitamins and
minerals, so if these foods are excluded, substitute sources need to be consumed in adequate amounts. “We already know diets of adolescent girls and young adults are often relatively poor, and as a nutritionist, I would say cutting these food types out entirely to ‘save the planet’ may have a detrimental impact on their health and nutrition, especially if the important nutrients are not substituted.”
In association with FARMERS Guardian’s Net Zero special is brought to you in association with CF Fertilisers and Lloyds Bank.
To set the record straight about agriculture and climate change, Hannah Binns asks Dr Ceris Jones, NFU climate change adviser, to dispel the most common myths.
Busting climate change myths MYTH ‘THE EARTH’S CLIMATE HAS ALWAYS CHANGED’
MYTH ‘LIVESTOCK ARE TO BLAME FOR CLIMATE CHANGE’
BUSTED: Yes, the Earth’s climate has always changed and, during the last million years or so, the Earth’s climate has had a natural cycle of cold and warm periods. This cycle is influenced by greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other things such as volcanic eruptions and changes in solar activity, but the latter two things alone cannot explain the changes in temperature seen during the last century. More GHGs in the atmosphere leads to a warmer planet. An overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists say human
BUSTED: Across all sectors of our industry, ruminants emit the most greenhouse gases. More than 50 per cent of agriculture’s emissions are methane, while more than 30 per cent are nitrous oxide and 10 per cent are CO2 emissions. In perspective, cattle and sheep only account for 5.7 per cent of the UK’s total emissions, and 3.7 per cent if you consider soil sequestration. New science from Oxford University suggests methane should be treated differently in carbon calculations to better reflect
activities are estimated to have caused about 1degC of global warming above pre-industrial level. The same group of scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has said climate change, including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes, has adversely impacted food security. Farmers are already seeing the effects of this change in the UK through longer growing seasons, seemingly more frequent severe weather and new crops and new pests and diseases, such as bluetongue, appearing.
its impact on global temperature. This research suggests slowly decreasing methane emissions, for example 10 per cent over 30 years, does not cause any additional warming of the planet. However, faster reductions in methane emissions lead to cooling, which perhaps gives some people more ammunition to call for a fast reduction in livestock numbers. Conversely, increasing methane emissions cause a lot of warming, equivalent to very large emissions of CO2, but only while those increases are happening.
MYTH ‘LAND USED TO GRAZE LIVESTOCK COULD BE USED TO GROW CROPS INSTEAD’ BUSTED: About 65 per cent of the UK’s farmland is best suited to growing grass if the country wants food from these areas, and this is utilised by farmers to produce protein-rich products. But this soil and pastureland is also a good store of carbon. It is important to maintain
and manage this store as many grassland farmers have done for years and such stewardship should be rewarded. However, science tells us that eventually the amount of carbon which can be stored in soil reaches a plateau. This means that opportunities for further significant increases
MYTH ‘FARM ANIMALS USE TOO MUCH WATER’ BUSTED: Water footprint is another interest of consumers to measure the environmental impact of a product. It can be broken down into three categories: n Green is water from rain stored in the roots of soils and transpired by plants. n Blue is water sourced from surface or groundwater. n Grey is water required to assimilate pollutants to meet specific water quality standards. It is estimated about 57,000 litres of water is used to produce 1kg of English lamb, of which only 0.1 per cent is blue water
and 96.6 per cent is green. About 1kg of beef takes 17,000 litres of water, consisting of 84.4 per cent green water and 0.4 per cent blue. So, the hydrological impact of beef and sheep production in England is small, since it mainly uses green and grey water, rather than water sourced from surface or ground. It is important to consider the water use behind the products we import, especially if they are from drought-prone countries extracting blue water for production, as it could make them more water-stressed in the future.
of carbon in permanent grassland are probably small, but changing management, for example alleviating compaction, could lead to small amounts. In contrast, our arable soils have lost carbon over time. It is interesting to see some arable farmers bringing livestock back into their rotations for their soils – a real
opportunity for different sectors to work together. Plants take CO2 out of the atmosphere every day, but the carbon stored in the above-ground/green part of plants, whether arable crops or grass, is harvested and eaten in relatively quick, short cycles and does not reduce our impact on the climate.
MYTH ‘ALTERNATIVE ANIMAL-FREE PRODUCTS WILL LOWER MY CARBON FOOTPRINT’ BUSTED: Animal products, in particular beef, lamb and dairy, do have higher greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints per kilo or per litre than other livestock and plant products. People eat because of nutrients they need, so Bristol University researchers have suggested a different way of calculating emissions from livestock products which better reflects the nutritional content of the food eaten. Including recommended dietary intakes in the calculation accounts for the higher nutritional value, allowing better comparison. But every type of food production, even plant-based products, has some GHG and wider environmental impacts and these will be different depending
on the products and where they come from. It is difficult for farmers in the debate, especially livestock farmers, because it must feel like everyone is saying it is all their fault. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said ‘balanced diets featuring plant-based foods, such as coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and animal-sourced food produced sustainably in low GHG emission systems, present opportunities for adaptation and mitigation’. Farmers should be proud and confident about the range of things they are doing and want to do, not only to reach net zero, but also to provide for their families, support rural economies, look after the countryside and importantly feed the nation.
NOTHING BEATS NITRAM Best for yield, best for quality, best for British weather. Nitram® performs to a 36m wide product spread with a 40% reduced* carbon footprint. That’s why it’s been the British farmer’s choice for over 50 years. Visit www.cffertilisers.co.uk/nitram to learn more.
Enriching British Farming *40% reduction in Nitram production emissions from a 2010 baseline.
onsumer demand for more environmentally friendly produce has led retailers and processors to seek more sustainable supply chains. Fast food restaurant Burger King has launched an advertising campaign in the US about lowering its carbon footprint by feeding lemongrass to cows, and other retailers and restaurants were also looking at the supply chain to boost their environmental credentials. And processors were looking to clean up their own environmental records as well as encouraging suppliers to do the same. In the dairy sector, Dairy UK’s latest benchmarking survey showed processors making ‘positive progress’ on their environmental goals. Its members reported a 20 per cent increase in primary energy efficiency, a 17 per cent decrease in energy-related carbon per kilo of milk and a 20 per cent increase in water efficiency. Ninety-four per cent of their ex-factory waste was recycled or recovered, with a 23 per cent average recycled content by weight across all packaging. Muller said as a ‘consumer-centric business’ it was working to ensure business growth was realised through ‘responsible and environmentally sustainable practices’.
Reduction A Muller spokesperson said: “We have already reduced our carbon footprint by 30 per cent since 2015 and we are aiming to get to 40 per cent by 2025 and net zero by 2050. “To achieve this, across our network of dairies and depots in the UK we will continue to use green energy and introduce more renewable energy generation, reduction benchmarking and efficient logistics practices.
We will work closely with our supplying farmers to create carbon reduction plans, ensuring the entire supply chain is taking action MULLER SPOKESPERSON 12 |
Processors and retailers seek ‘greener’ supply chains “We will also work closely with our supplying farmers to create carbon reduction plans, ensuring the entire supply chain is taking action.” Graham Wilkinson, agriculture director at Arla, said consumers were becoming more aware of where their food came from so its customers were looking to work with suppliers to be more sustainable. He said: “Across our 9,700 European farmers, we already produce milk to half the emissions of the global average per litre compared to global dairy production, but we know we can do more.” Arla was aiming to be carbon net zero by 2050 and had introduced initiatives including on-farm climate checks. Farmers get an overall environmental score and identify areas where emissions can be reduced by looking at everything from herd size, feed, housing, energy and fuel to milk volumes. Mr Wilkinson said with retailers also under increasing pressure to meet consumer demand, the Arla 360 programme enabled them to trial new technologies and innovations. He said: “Working closely alongside Morrisons and Aldi, we are experimenting with leading sustainability techniques and world class animal welfare programmes.” This included a ‘Project Pollinator trial’ supporting wildlife and biodiversity. He said: “Working with the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, we have access to science which will help farmers make better decisions for managing land, such as where to plant flower-rich pollinator habitats and creating woodland.” First Milk said it was ahead of schedule on its target to reduce its emissions by 65 per cent by 2025.
Farmers can now draw down loans to encourage tree planting.
The co-operative’s First4Milk programme included working closely with our members to help them better understand factors contributing to on-farm carbon emissions and the level of soil carbon on their farms and how this can be enhanced.
Carbon store It also highlighted how grass-based dairy can act as a carbon store which presented an opportunity for dairy farms to change land management practices and potentially offset emissions. It was also exploring how it could become an ‘aggregator’ for carbon trading, where farms can be paid for the ‘public good’ of carbon sequestration. In the meat industry, an ABP spokesperson said its carbon reduction strategy spanned the supply chain from farmgate to end consumer. The spokesperson said: “At farm level, the company’s Blade Farming initiative has paved the way in combining science and good animal husbandry in helping rear cattle more efficiently and sustainably.” The processor has now developed research and development farms in the UK and Ireland, focusing on how genetics can impact emissions. It said it had applied its findings in a collaboration with Dale Farm dairy in Northern Ireland, which provided a market for selectively bred dairy calves and also reduced emissions through an earlier age of slaughter. All ABP processing sites were powered by green electricity with a circular economy at ABP Ellesmere which has seen carbon output reduce by 7,000 tonnes a year. The spokesperson added: “All ABP’s sustainability strategy is driven by doing what is right for the environment and operating as sustainably as we possibly can.”
Move towar BANKS have committed to helping agricultural businesses reduce their carbon footprint by offering new tools and lending schemes specifically for environmental projects. Using audit tools was a useful place to start, according to Brian Richardson, UK head of agriculture at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank. The tools allow farmers to test ‘what if’ scenarios, assessing how emissions can be reduced. Mr Richardson said they allowed farmers to look at what could be achieved in the short- and mediumterm, including ‘quick wins’ and allowing businesses to begin planning how to make changes, such as cultivations, rotations and cropping. He said: “It is important to note that these audits cannot be done in isolation. They must be viewed as part of a whole farm plan, factoring in considerations of how the individual business can remain profitable, while also becoming more sustainable over the medium to longer term.” He said the bank had consistently
BUSINESS LPG industry looking to be part of the solution LIQUIFIED petroleum gas (LPG) could provide a solution for agricultural businesses looking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels as the industry looks to move to 100 per cent bioLPG by 2040.
Emissions Liquid Gas UK chief executive George Webb believed the industry highlighted LPG produces 33 per cent less carbon emissions than coal and 15-20 per cent less carbon emissions than oil. He added with the industry looking to move to the bioLPG, farmers replacing machinery and crop-growing infrastructure could convert now and would not need to convert again.
ds ‘sustainable lending’ by banks supported farming and would continue to do so. Mr Richardson said: “There is always the recognition that farming is a long-term business and loan products take account of that and are tailored to an individual farm’s specific needs. “However, before these loans are approved, farmers must be proactive and have a clear plan of what they want to achieve, detailing what impacts they expect the new plans will have on their business.”
Investments He said they were still lending to farm businesses while generating their own understanding of how they can support green investments. “I do believe the net zero agenda will help refocus farm operations as they also consider their business post-Brexit and the policy changes that will bring.” Lee Reeves, head of agriculture at Lloyds Bank, said they were committed to helping businesses reduce their environmental impact.
Farmers must be proactive and have a clear plan of what they want to achieve BRIAN RICHARDSON He said: “Farmers can access discounted lending through our Clean Growth Finance Initiative to support a broad range of investment in sustainable businesses.” This ranged from small improvements to large-scale renewable energy infrastructure. Mr Reeves said: “We polled farmers across the UK on their sustainability plans earlier this year and found a tiny minority, just 1 per cent, currently use green finance solutions. More than half report never having heard of green finance at all.”
He said to encourage more farmers to utilise these options, they had lowered the minimum lending amount to £25,001 from £50,000. He said: “We have also widened the breadth of what we will finance to include agritech solutions, soil health and peatland protection.” Mr Reeves said there was other support which may not have been considered, such as the bank’s partnership with the Woodland Trust to subsidise tree and hedgerow planting. Ian Burrow, head of agriculture and energy at NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland, said the banks had robust agriculture policies and had made ambitious commitments to tackle climate change. Mr Burrow said: “These include undertaking sector-specific analysis to understand the climate impact of our lending and halving it by 2030. “We continue to work closely with leading industry bodies in the sector and intend to do what is necessary to achieve alignment with the 2015 Paris Agreement.”
ABN creates circular economy COMPOUND feed manufacturer ABN was looking to make better use of organic waste materials as it looked to meet net zero targets. It was diverting all waste to an anaerobic digestion plant owned by its sister company Amur which produces two-thirds of the gas to power its feed mills.
Unique Amur said the agriculture industry was in a unique position to be able to make good use of much of its waste and there were opportunities to create a circular economy for businesses.
In association with FARMERS Guardian’s Net Zero special is brought to you in association with CF Fertilisers and Lloyds Bank.
As farmers are encouraged to cut their carbon footprint, Alex Black takes a look at how improving environmental standards could also boost the balance sheet.
Productivity gains key to environmental progress
ackling the farm’s carbon footprint could have positive implications for the balance sheet as the industry looks to move towards net zero. A drive for sustainability was also coming from processors and retailers, as they looked down the supply chain to improve their own environmental footprint. Consumers were increasingly looking for sustainable options, with a recent Kantar study, ‘Who Cares, Who Does’, discovering onefifth of consumers said they had acquired more environmentally friendly habits since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Kantar said adopting more sustainable practices would help win over a ‘growing eco-active consumer group’. Increasing productivity could help agriculture tackle its carbon footprint, as well as potentially having a financial benefit. Graham Redman, author of the 2021 John Nix Pocketbook, said becoming more productive decreased the carbon output per tonne, litre or kilo. He said: “Otherwise you could reduce the size of the farm and tick a box saying I am now producing less carbon. We need to look at raising output without raising costs.” Emily Norton, head of rural research at Savills, said there were various reasons why farmers should be interested in their carbon footprint. She said: “Carbon is expensive. Where we are using excessive energy on-farm, there is a direct cost and a carbon cost.”
Renewable energy In places, she said this was as simple as replacing traditional lightbulbs with LED units or using renewable energy to power refrigeration needs. Ms Norton said there would be government policy coming down the line, so it was good for farmers to know where they stood. She said: “Supply chains are increasingly interested in the
The sustainability drive from processors and retailers comes as they look to improve their environmental footprint.
environmental impact as well. Whether that is processors or supermarkets.” She added there was not a right or wrong way of doing things, but simply having the information on the farm’s footprint could start to inform decision making. Mr Redman added there was lots both individual farmers and the industry as a whole could do. He said: “Geneticists can focus on cows and lower levels of methane emissions. Manufacturers can look at tractors which are more efficient.” Entrepreneurial spirit would be important as new opportunities might arise for farmers to tap into as other industries looked to lower their carbon footprints. But Ms Norton said specific market mechanisms were not yet there, but investors had the appetite to buy and farmers had the appetite to sell carbon products. She said: “If we have to wait for Government to tell us
what to do they will do it with a stick, rather than a carrot.” Mr Redman said there were potentially big opportunities for those with the land to sequester carbon, but it was not just about planting trees. He said: “It might come with government support or incentives
Supply chains are increasingly interested in the environmental impact. Whether that is processors or supermarkets EMILY NORTON
for other companies with larger emissions to pay farmers to do sequestering on their behalf.” In the uplands, there were also ways for farmers to play their part.
Opportunities NFU uplands forum chairman Thomas Binns said protecting the carbon already stored in grassland, alongside looking at opportunities to increase sequestration or rewetting peatland, could be done in the uplands with grazing livestock, ‘without sacrificing a valuable source of food production’. Mr Binns said: “There are a number of farmers recording farm productivity to identify where best to focus efforts on improving genetics and so reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and, despite challenges in the planning system, farmers are investing in renewable energies where possible, such as solar panels, wind farms and anaerobic digesters.”
BUSINESS Three of the most commonly used carbon calculators in the sector are Agrecalc, Cool Farm Tool and the Farm Carbon Calculator. NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay and the union’s vice-president Tom Bradshaw tested them on their farms.
Carbon calculators compared AGRECALC TB: Agrecalc looks daunting at first glance, but once you navigate around the website it becomes easier. Urea is specified rather than all N fertiliser and there is no differentiation between straw chopping versus baling in the model. It does not consider sequestration from hedgerows or soil. Result: 225.45 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e), with no sequestration and no machinery accounted for. RF: It allows a very comprehensive accounting of inputs into livestock systems and accounts for productivity by looking at fertility and mortality. However, to calculate methane emissions it required you to work out your livestock numbers in the same
way as the Farm Carbon Tool Kit. It covers by-products, such as wool, and allows a yearly comparison so you can see the progress being made. My top tip is if you are not 100 per cent sure about some of your data, you can hover over the input box and it will give you industry standards as a guide. Results produced at the end give useful charts to show your situation and provide tips on how you can go about improving your footprint. Agrecalc provides the most in-depth look at your business with the ability to record information tailored to your system, without asking impossible questions. When sequestration of soil is included it could be a popular system for livestock farmers.
COOL FARM TOOL TB: Cool Farm Tool is a commoditybased carbon calculator. The tool allows you to conduct a maximum of five assessments free of charge, making it difficult if you have more than five crops on-farm. It accounts for the impact of land use change (from forest to arable or vice-versa) and of reduced tillage for crop assessments. Cover crops are also considered in its calculations. Result: 249.56tCo2e; calculates on a crop by crop basis. No machinery is accounted for. RF: The simplest tool of the three and most of the information required you will already know or it is at least easily accessible. A spreadsheet helps you collate your information.
Results are clearly displayed with graphs to show you the source of your emissions which helps you focus on where greenhouse gas reductions can be made. The main issue with this calculator is it does not include carbon sequestration. This is a really important factor for livestock farmers as by grazing our grassland we are protecting a very important carbon store and this has to be quantified in our calculations. Productivity questions and gains are also limited for livestock, so it would be difficult to track progress year on year. In addition, it only gives you the carbon footprint of each product and not the entire farm.
FARM CARBON CALCULATOR TB: Farm Carbon Calculator provides live results as you input data, allowing it to be used as a decision-making tool. The sequestration section includes hedgerows, soil bulk density and soil organic matter, although the figures for sequestration seem larger than is realistic. The materials and infrastructure/inventory section is not particularly relevant to arable farms. Result: 456.01tCO2e before sequestration, -1669.43tCO2e with sequestration; machinery accounted for, but entire machinery across contracted area, so would only be a percentage of machinery emissions. Sequestration counts for an enormous reduction and we are unsure how accurate this large sequestration value is. RF: It has the most in-depth approach to carbon sequestration and provides a live updated chart of your emissions, so can you see it changing during the process. You can easily change your data to see how it will impact your emissions. It allows you to account for
DATA NEEDED TO ENTER INTO YOUR CARBON CALCULATOR: n Basic Payment Scheme records for hedges and precise areas of
renewable energies which have been used and exported. It also includes capital items on-farm. But it appears to lack productivity related questions. For example, it does not take mortality and fertility into account. Methane emitted is calculated over a year, so they ask you to ‘include the average number of all types of livestock on-farm at any one time; for example, for one batch of 200 lambs for six months a year, input 100 lambs for the year’, which could get confusing when working out finishing cattle.
Net Zero: Farm Status Indicator NFU’s Net Zero: Farm Status Indicator has been designed to provide an introduction to carbon calculation. It is not a comprehensive calculator, but aims to provide a quick guide to practical measures growers can put in place on-farm to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. MORE INFORMATION Visit nfuonline.com
Getting started THE process is relatively straightforward providing you have all the data to hand, so it is crucial all farm records are up-to-date and accurate in order for the calculators to be as effective as possible.
cropping/fallow/environmental/ forestry n Soil bulk density and soil organic matter measurements n Fertiliser and spray records; it helps if these are as precise as possible, although some calculators may aggregate the applications into number of passes through the crop n Waste and water records; recycling of spray cans, for
example, scores favourably and it is also important to input fresh water use, if available n Energy and fuel use; diesel for tractors, drying and heating are all accounted for n Yield data and infrastructure inventory; some of the calculators ask for machinery and kit, while others ask for new buildings and their materials
In association with FARMERS Guardian’s Net Zero special is brought to you in association with CF Fertilisers and Lloyds Bank.
‘Our carbon footprint has been on our radar for many years’
eleriac, potatoes and daffodils are the main crops grown by Jack Buck Farms, at Moulton Seas End, Lincolnshire. These are interspersed with many others, some mainstream, some niche, to ensure that the maximum output is achieved from top quality land, while at the same time, fully utilising machinery, buildings and staff. Company director Robin Buck says: “As well as the main crops, we grow onions, wheat, peas, fennel, and recently have added squash. Over the years we have tried a lot of other niche crops, such as kohlrabi, pak choi, Jerusalem artichokes, and globe artichokes.” And while carbon zero might be the current buzz words, measuring greenhouse gas emissions has been underway on the farm for a long time. Robin says: “Our carbon footprint and the need to reduce it is something which has been
on our radar for many years. “So, as a starting point, I developed my own system to record our greenhouse gas emissions, as we work towards reducing them. “We use gas oil [diesel], electricity and propane [North Sea gas] on the farm and so I convert the litres or kilowatt hours of each to the carbon dioxide equivalent of each fuel. “Diesel is by far the biggest contributor at about 63 per cent, which is used for tractors. “The major use of electricity is for chilling, drying, washing and grading so crop yields and ambient temperatures during storage have an enormous impact. “December is the peak time for electricity use and last year the combination of a mild winter and a wet harvest saw electricity costs increase by £30,000. “However, last year, we changed to a new supplier of all renewable electricity, so that should make a big difference to our emissions figures in the future.
PICTURES: TIM SCRIVENER
Measuring greenhouse gas emissions is nothing new at Jack Buck Farms, Lincolnshire, where the process has been underway for more than 15 years. Angela Calvert reports.
“These figures can then be charted against each tonne of farm output. As this increases, so do emissions, but not at the same rate, which shows the overall trend is downwards, as a result of the changes we put in place.
Emissions “For us, one of the biggest changes we can make is increasing output from the same or less inputs, but these figures do give us a means of comparing emissions year on year and we can build on this. “I appreciate that this is not the full story because we import on to the farm, among other products, nitrogen fertiliser, which demands high energy from gas to produce and, therefore, contributes to CO2 emissions. “Farmers are under the spotlight, but perhaps it is time we started to ask some of our suppliers to show
We have worked hard to grow the celeriac market and promote it ROBIN BUCK their policies to their customers.” Jack Buck Farms is probably best known for its celeriac, marketed under The Ugly One brand, with about 160 hectares (400 acres) grown each year, of which a bit more than half goes to DGM Growers, which markets it to all the major supermarkets, while the farm sells the remainder to wholesalers and processors almost all year round.
The farm’s year January Start cropping the earliest daffodils
February Continue with the main daffodil crop
Start drilling peas and sugar beet and planting onions
Plant potatoes, the early celeriac under plastic and the first fennel
May Plant the main celeriac crop
June Planting fennel each week to ensure continuity of crop. Possible irrigating of potatoes and celeriac. Start cutting fennel
FARM PROFILE Jack Buck Farms business facts n Owned by the Buck and Perowne families n 647 hectares (1,600 acres) – 486ha (1,200 acres) owned 162ha (400 acres) rented or contract farmed n The Grade 1 land varies from medium to light silt and is below sea level
n Crops grown include celeriac, potatoes, daffodils, wheat, onions, sugar beet, fennel, squash n 14 regular staff and up to 250 seasonal workers n Leaf member, Marks & Spencer Field to Fork, Tesco Nurture, Assured Produce (Red Tractor) and Select Lincolnshire accredited
Left to right: Robin Buck and Julian Perowne.
Robin says: “We started with two acres of celeriac in 1989 and it has gone from there as awareness of the crop has increased. Celeriac is low carbohydrate and has half the calories of potatoes. We have worked hard to grow the market and promote it, providing recipes, working with chefs such as Rachel Green and attending the BBC Good Food Show.”
Celeriac Celeriac planting starts in April, with plants which have been raised under glass and are initially grown under plastic. The remainder of the crop is planted in the open in May. Lifting starts in August/September and is completed by November, with the crop going into store to be sold right through winter. Taking a long-term view, the company has just completed a £2.7million project to build a celeri-
July Daffodil bulb lifting and pea vining
August Harvest onions and wheat, lift early celeriac
ac washing and packing facility. Managing director Julian Perowne says: “You have to plan ahead. Demand was growing and we were beginning to find pinch points in our existing system at peak times. “We currently produce about 8,000 tonnes of the raw product, but this will enable us to take production up to 20,000t a year.” The new facility soaks, washes, polishes, dries, grades, weighs and packs the celeriac and has been built with the focus on energy efficiency. It has a water treatment plant which recycles all the water, meaning no waste water, but, Julian says, this means the celeriac is now being washed in cleaner, sterile water resulting in a cleaner vegetable. The new weighing system provides more accuracy and reduces the amount of waste. There are solar panels on the roof, as there are
September Start lifting potatoes
The business has recently started growing squash.
The new facility washes, polishes, dries, grades and packs the celeriac.
October Finish potato harvest and start ploughing
November Harvest main celeriac crop and put into store and continue ploughing. Drill wheat
December The last crop to be harvested is sugar beet and the land work finished. A busy time for celeriac sales
on many of the other buildings, and 80 per cent of the electricity produced is used by the business, with the remaining 20 per cent exported. Julian says: “Fortunately, we were able to start using the new facility in mid-January as we had a massive spike in sales during the first three weeks of the pandemic when there was panic buying. “Food service sales did fall but retail sales made up for it and, although things have settled down somewhat, sales are still at higher than usual levels.” Daffodils are one of the other main crops, with about 101ha (250 acres) grown, specialising in the early variety, Tamsyn, which is unique to the business, as the entire stock of 10kg was bought in the 1980s and now three million bunches are sold every year. Cropping of the daffodils begins in January, depending on the weather, and goes through to April. Robin says: “Because of the varieties we grow we are one of the first to market. The UK is already three weeks ahead of Europe, so a lot of the crop is exported and there is some uncertainly, as a result of Brexit, how this will be affected going forward.”
Cropping Cropping is all done by hand with an additional 250 staff taken on for the season. Most of these are regulars who come from Romania for the 10-week season. “It is all piece work and although hard work, a good cropper can earn more than £1,000 a week,” says Robin. “Another consequence of leaving the EU is that it is unlikely these people will be allowed to come so we will have to rethink what we do as automated cropping is not an option for daffodils. “We have a workforce of 14
The farm grows about 121 hectares (300 acres) of potatoes but is seeing a difficult retail market.
One of the next things we are looking at is carbon sequestration in soil and improving organic matter ROBIN BUCK regular staff but sourcing seasonal staff is becoming increasing difficult and we have, along with a neighbour, Matthew Naylor, set up a labour agency.” Historically, daffodil bulbs have been left in the ground for two or three seasons and then lifted in June and July, after the flower season, with the bulbs graded and
some are sold. The remainder are hot water treated for pests and diseases, then replanted in September. However, this practice is now less common and the bulbs are often now left in the ground for up to five years and then destroyed. Robin says: “There is less demand for bulbs than there used to be, with less interest from parks and gardens, so we are selling less.” Another crop facing challenges is potatoes. Robin says: “We grow about 121ha (300 acres) of potatoes but we see are seeing a difficult retail market. Meat and two veg is no longer the staple diet, which is a worry.
Potatoes “In addition, growing potatoes is becoming more difficult due to the withdrawal of a number of chemicals. This season we have had no chlorpropham for sprout suppression and no diquat for haulm destruction. The first fennel is planted in April and cutting starts in June.
This is a problem facing many other crops. Julian adds: “All we are asking for is a level playing field. It is unfair we are unable to use certain products when other countries can. “There possibly will be alternatives available in the future but one problem is that the UK is very slow at licensing new products.” Robin explains that the farm has had to look at other methods of weed control and has taken an interest in a weeding robot company. “While there are some mechanical options, these do not work for all crops and hand weeding without good herbicides is very expensive, about £120/acre,” he says. Other options are being looked at, both in terms of improving efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint of the farm. This year a self-propelled harvester will be used for lifting celeriac and potatoes which will save four tractors. GPS is also helping. The purchase of a rewinder is also enabling plastic crop cover to be reused for longer and rainwater is collected from buildings and reused. Robin says: “One of the next things we are looking at is carbon sequestration in soil and improving organic matter. We are growing more cover crops, but we cannot leave them in over winter. We have to plough and we need frost and weathering on the plough ready for the spring crops. “We now only grow about 300 acres of wheat and it is good cleaning crop for us. Sometimes we chop the straw but we are also being encouraged to bale to help out livestock farmers. We have also planted a lot of hedges and trees. “Although we have been keeping our own unofficial records, the next step is to move to an approved carbon audit system which will allow us to directly compare ourselves to other farms.”
Changes to farm payment systems and the need to satisfy supply chain requirements may require a closer look at carbon balance in the future. Marianne Curtis finds out more about carbon auditing systems.
What carbon auditing could mean for growers W ith businesses in the supply chain now being challenged to deliver carbon net zero, farmers have a role in helping them do this, says Steve Cann, director of Future Food Solutions and founder of Sustainable Futures. “Brands are keen to reduce their carbon footprint and set benchmarks to become carbon net zero within a certain time frame. “They can be innovative around electric vehicles, green energy and recycling, but they do not have direct control of carbon in the agricultural supply chain. There is an opportunity to buy into the front end [farming] with respect to carbon,” says Mr Cann. Graham Potter, who farms near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, is one of four farmers selected by Sustainable Futures to help develop carbon auditing.
He says: “Given we are losing the Basic Payment Scheme and the Government is having to reform what we do and how we are paid, there could be benefits if we can prove we are farming carbon neutrally here. “If we can sell carbon credits, this would be another income stream.”
Records The fact Mr Potter has good farm records on Gatekeeper has helped him develop the carbon audit. Mr Cann says: “We wanted to find out the scale of the carbon issue, set benchmark values and understand how we can influence things at farm level. “We wanted to look at cropping, the farm and rotation, and put together core information about where carbon is generated and how we can manage this. The numbers help us identify where the prob-
Graham Potter’s 2019 cover cropping produced 30-40 tonnes per hectare above ground biomass over 10 weeks.
We wanted to find out the scale of the carbon issue, set benchmark values and understand how we can influence things STEVE CANN
lems are and what the quick wins are, which could simply be choosing a different type of nitrogen. “Then we can look at everything else we may have to do to meet the requirements of the new Agriculture Bill, or the needs of the supply chain.
“We can take a hectare of arable land and convert it to woodland, which captures carbon but will not feed anyone. “Mr Potter is showing us it is possible to catch carbon and produce food, by looking at the soil side of things as well as carbon emissions associated with diesel use, fertiliser and agchem.”
Research For the carbon audit research, Mr Potter sends digital crop records to independent soil scientist Neil Fuller. He says: “We analyse the data using Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change values for carbon, our own field data and information
Cover crop mix MIX developed by Kings for Mr Potter – quantities given per 25kg bag per hectare: n Vetch 5kg n Siletina oil radish 5kg n Phacelia 1.5kg n Berseem clover 1.25kg n Buckwheat 2.5kg n Winter oats 9.75kg
ARABLE Supply chain carbon audit Carbon footprint of wheat (0.3-0.6kg CO2e per kg)
Source: Sustainable Futures Carbon footprint of bread (1.2-1.6kg CO2e per kg) 17%
23% 55% 10%
Crop protection Harvesting, storage Nitrogen use, in-field Seed, drilling Nitrogen manufacture
Transport, distribution Operational Farming activities Packaging Baking
What is Sustainable Futures? Benefits of carbon auditing Neil Fuller examines soil at Graham Potter’s farm.
from suppliers, for example carbon certificates from Yara for each of their products.
Management “The results show us carbon management is more about optimising inputs than simply reducing them. “Using less nitrogen and crop protection products may reduce carbon emissions per hectare, but
n Opportunity to establish true value for carbon n Helps focus on resource use on-farm, such as nitrogen use efficiency n Proving to Government your farm is carbon neutral n Carbon credits Source: Neil Fuller and Graham Potter
if yield is compromised, carbon emissions per tonne can increase significantly, which affects the entire supply chain.”
SUSTAINABLE Futures is a programme initiated eight years ago and delivered by Future Food Solutions, a firm of specialists with more than 15 years of experience working across the whole supply chain. It links global brands such as Heineken, food processors and about 250 farmers together along the supply chain. Its goal is to deliver more resilient and sustainable food and drink in the UK and beyond.
Practices The Sustainable Landscapes programme, launched in July 2018, brings together groups of forward-thinking arable farmers to explore sustainable farming practices which will positively benefit soil health and ultimately
Sustainable Futures’ carbon audit system STEVE Cann says Sustainable Futures has developed a workable system which can generate the necessary numbers and is now taking steps to gain accreditation so industry partners can incorporate carbon audits into their farm record systems. “We can fine tune it. We need to make it as quick and easy to use as possible. Results need to be meaningful, valuable and informative,” he says. improve water quality in specific river catchments. Yorkshire Water is also involved in the project.
MAKING THE MOVE TO NET ZERO FARMING WHEN Graham Potter began making changes to his farming system, carbon was not being measured. He says: “Nine years ago, we were not chopping straw or growing cover crops, but we were ploughing and using lots of diesel. We decided to make the change to precision agriculture and seven years ago started direct drilling. “Five or six years ago we started growing cover crops and for the second time around, we have cover cropped everything, even between first and second wheats.” Soil organic matter has improved by 3-4 per cent over the last six years, a gain of five to six tonnes per hectare of carbon a year. “Straw chopping helped a lot and cover crops boosted it even more,” says Mr Potter. He only uses fertiliser where it is needed, using the N-Sensor,
Farm facts: W. Potter and Sons, Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Last year wheat averaged 12t/ha with some doing 14.5t/ha GRAHAM POTTER N-Tester and a drone to monitor crops and variably apply Omex liquid, 24 per cent N + 7.5 per cent S.
Establishment Mr Potter says he has seen yield benefits following his conversion to a different crop establishment system. “When we started with the Claydon system we saw yield increase in the first year, then drop
W. Potter and Sons farms a total of 200 hectares arable, including: n 85ha winter wheat n 32ha spring beans n 9.6ha grass ley, rented to sheep farmer and used for the Deer Shed Music Festival n 44ha oilseed rape – high erucic acid content
off over three years. Now it has started to rise again, going up and up in the last three years. Last year wheat averaged 12t/ha, with some doing 14.5t/ha.” Also, despite the wet autumn and winter in 2019/2020, surface waterlogging is rare and Mr Potter was able to drill most of his winter wheat. He says: “The soil is like a sponge – it can absorb more water and
The farm serves markets including: n Wheat delivered 2.5 miles away from farm to KW Alternative Feeds for animal feed n Spring barley sent to Muntons for malting n OSR delivered to Frontier n Spring beans, destination yet to be decided
hold it without losing structure.” Mr Fuller says Mr Potter’s cover cropping in 2019 produced 30-40t/ ha above ground biomass over 10 weeks. “That is a carbon input of 3-4t/ha, but less than 1t/ha is needed for Mr Potter to declare he is carbon neutral. It is everything else Mr Potter is doing that makes this achievable.”
Use of all agricultural inputs is under increasing scrutiny as the race to decarbonise all aspects of UK life to achieve ‘net zero’ gains momentum, says Dr George Fisher of CF Fertilisers.
Five ways to make your fertiliser use more carbon friendly
s one of the food industry’s main drivers behind the high levels of production we have come to rely on, nitrogen use is very much in the spotlight and will continue to be so, believes Dr George Fisher. He says: “As far as manufacturing and management of nitrogen onfarm is concerned, much has already been achieved.
“I do not think any of us should downplay the size of the task ahead and there is a lot to be done across all aspects of our lives, but the journey is well and truly underway as far as fertiliser use is concerned. “According to the UK Office of National Statistics, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture dropped from 58.9m tonnes CO2 equivalent to 45.6m tonnes between 1990 and 2017 – a drop of nearly 23 per cent
and sound evidence that the agricultural industry is taking carbon reduction seriously.” While new legislation and guidelines will develop quickly over the next few years, there are some basic steps all producers should be taking now to ensure their nitrogen fertiliser use remains as carbon-efficient as possible, he says. abated fertiliser 1Choose products Fertiliser production is a complex
process with varying efficiencies of manufacturing so whether the fertiliser being applied is from an abated production site is the first stage of being Carbon responsible, Dr Fisher points out. “CF Fertilisers have made major steps in recent years to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our fertiliser production through investment and working with the Carbon Trust. “The simple fact is that nitrous oxide (N 2O) is an unavoidable by-product of the fertiliser manufacturing process and it is a significant greenhouse gas so an important area of focus has been to install state-ofthe-art N2O
SPONSORED CONTENT abatement technology on the nitric acid plants at Billingham. “A multi-million pound investment programme in manufacturing facilities has reduced production of N2O emissions by 3,000 tonnes every year. “As a greenhouse gas, N2O is 300 times more powerful than CO2 in terms of its effect as a greenhouse gas, so that is equal to a reduction of 900,000 tonnes of CO2 . “This is equivalent to the whole of the 30 per cent CO2 reduction required by UK agriculture by 2022, so it is a sizeable amount and a major achievement. “All told, we have reduced the carbon footprint of nitram production by 40 per cent since 2010.” Use only fertilisers with 2 independently verified carbon footprints
Carbon audits will become an increasingly important part of life for all agricultural producers in the future with the robustness of data used in these being essential in achieving compliance and maximising the value of farm produce, Dr Fisher says. “We took the decision some years ago to look into the carbon footprints of our products and that in order for these to carry maximum credibility we should work with the independent Carbon Trust to produce these. “To make the major improvements in manufacturing and emissions reduction as practically useful as possible to customers, it was also decided to produce business-to-business - or cradle to farmgate - fully audited and certified carbon footprints for our entire range of fertilisers as well as the ammonia and nitric acid used in their manufacture.” Today, CF is the only
Every producer, whether livestock or arable, should now carry out and follow a Nutrient Management Plan DR GEORGE FISHER fertiliser manufacturer in Europe to have 100 per cent independently-verified carbon footprints across all its products and manufacturing processes, he says. “Not only does this mean our carbon footprints have undergone rigorous independent scrutiny, they have also been calculated using the standards set out in the demanding internationally recognised PAS 2050 protocol and that is a first in fertiliser manufacture.” Use only products suited to 3 the UK’s maritime climate Nitrogen fertiliser has the greatest
return on investment of all inputs at around 5:1, so with a focus on making every kg count from an environmental perspective, product choice is now even more critical, Dr Fisher says. “Key factors affecting N utilisation include weather variability, application method and the form in which the nitrogen is delivered to the crop.
“Ammonia nitrogen can be lost to the air following urea application through volatilisation and according to the definitive Defra research programme NT26 into UK fertiliser use, this can cut the amount of urea nitrogen available to crops by 22 per cent on average, with the worst case recorded being 43 per cent and it was even higher in grassland.” With AN, nitrogen is available to the plant as soon as it is applied whereas with urea, nitrogen release relies on the complex process of hydrolysis which is dependent on soil bacteria and the weather, he explains. “Defra funded studies say that to maintain crop yields, the optimum N rate using urea would have to be, on average, 10 per cent higher than with AN. “In a carbon-focused future targeting net zero, efficient use of every kg of N produced will become critical making product choice equally so.” Ensure you understand 4 NfUE Optimising N-use will mean an
understanding of Nitrogen Fertiliser Use Efficiency (NfUE) will become increasingly important, Dr Fisher explains. “NfUE gives growers a clearer picture of the impact their fertiliser choices are having on their production efficiency and carbon footprint – the higher the value the better. “Crop NfUEs typically range between 50 per cent to 80 per cent with AN-based solid fertilisers tending to be at the top end of this scale and urea-based products, including liquids and blends, tend, towards the lower end.” In independent trials, Nitram (34.5% N) outperformed straight urea in terms of NfUE across all trials conducted over two very different production years with an average of 74 per cent compared to 66 per cent for urea. “This is the equivalent of an additional 16 per cent total loss of nitrogen from urea and in crops with an application rate of 200kg/ha N this would be equivalent to a loss of 32kg/ha N.” An important aspect of NfUE is apply-
ing the right amount of nitrogen fertiliser, at the right time, he adds. “For arable crops and maize, CF Fertilisers’ N-Min service tells you how much nitrogen will be supplied by your soil over the season and calculates the best rates and timings, making sure that over or under application of N does not compromise your yields or carbon footprint per tonne of production at farm level.” Focus on how fertiliser 5 decisions will affect the value of what you produce
It is a good idea to start putting carbon-focused thinking at the forefront of your management thinking now, Dr Fisher advises. “Every producer, whether livestock or arable, should now carry out and follow a Nutrient Management Plan and Carbon Audits will become increasingly important in the future, so it is a good move to start thinking this way now. “Fortunately, decisions to improve the efficiency of your farm are also ones that will help increase its economic performance too. This will be of rising significance in the years ahead as premium prices will become increasingly linked to the carbon footprints of production. “Some milk buyers are already asking their suppliers to provide this information and one of the biggest elements of this is your fertiliser use. “It is something we have been aware of for some years now and while the international standard figure is 6.6kg of carbon dioxide for every 1kg of N you use. With CF ammonium nitrate (Nitram) it is almost half this at 3.4kg for every 1kg of N used. “This is a result of the investment we have made in de-carbonising the manufacturing process and is tangible evidence of how fertiliser product choice will increasingly affect a farm’s overall viability in the future.”
Dr George Fisher
Farming with the environment at the forefront of planning and decision making can have economic and practical benefits, suggests one Aberdeenshire farmer. Alex Heath looks at the technology employed on the farm.
Hydrogen helps in whole farm approach to cutting emissions
ether Aden, owned by David Barron and wife Nicola, is a mixed farm near Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire. The farm occupies 210 hectares, put to grass for grazing, silage and hay, winter barley, for feed, and spring barley destined for the malting market, as well as wholecrop mixes with new grass leys undersown. The farm is currently carrying 140 suckler cows and more than 350 total head, predominantly Aberdeen-Angus bred, with the aim of targeting markets where a premium can be gained. For the past eight years, Mr Barron has been investigating the use of renewable and more sustainable techniques that can be employed on-farm, not only benefiting the environment, but also the overall efficiency of the farm and, consequently, its bottom line. The first adopted technology was the use of solar and biomass to dry grain. A 200kW ETA Hack biomass boiler and grain dryer unit was installed, providing an efficient
way to dry grain, in addition to generating extra income via renewable heat incentive payments. In addition, the farm boasts a 10kW solar array. Pockets of woodland on-farm are used to power the boiler, in conjunction with a planting campaign, creating shelter belts while locking up more carbon. Mr Barron says: “Renewables are a good way of cutting fuel bills and utilising clean energy, especially on tasks such as drying grain. “They are cost-effective and equal to conventional fossil fuel systems, so it makes sense to utilise them.”
The farm has been using renewable energy for eight years, with solar and biomass for drying grain the first examples.
Invited to compete for funding from the Scottish Government through the Farming for a Better Climate project, co-ordinated by SRUC and its advisory arm SAC Consulting, the farm was successful, and subsequently fitted a hydrogen electrolyser onto its JCB telehandler in 2017 at a cost of £6,000. The Water Fuel Engineering HydroGen electrolyser fitted is the size of a small suitcase, says Mr Barron, and can be placed nearly anywhere on a vehicle; it is behind the cab on the telehandler.
Efficient The premise of the electrolyser is to split water into its component parts of oxygen and hydrogen, by passing an electrical current through distilled water with a potassium hydroxide electrolyte and collecting the gases. By introducing the hydrogen rich ‘oxyhydrogen’ mix into the engine, at a rate of approximately 6 per cent, a faster burn and more efficient combustion process takes place, thus reducing the amount of fuel used and consequently lowering the amount of emissions produced. The electrolyser manufacturer suggests a reduction of 20-25 per cent in fuel usage can be achieved, and a reduction in emissions by 80 per cent. The 1,000 hours the telehandler is in operation each year sees a fuel saving of 1,083 litres, with an equivalent of 43,440kg of CO2 not being released as a result. It adds that in many modern engines, up to 30 per cent of fuel introduced into the engine is not used, and instead is burnt in the exhaust system. By increasing the amount of oxygen and hydrogen into the air mix, the burn in each stroke is
We are saving 20 per cent on our fuel bill, worth around £600 per year, just on the telehandler DAVID BARRON quicker, without increasing the engine temperature. The system is only in use while the engine is running and draws six to eight amps from the battery to work. “We are saving 20 per cent on our fuel bill, worth about £600 per year, just on the telehandler,” Mr Barron says. “It also appears to have more torque when driving and servicing costs are falling as the engine is burning cleaner. It does not have the carbon build up like before.” Cost of the technology is also lessening, now currently about £1,000 per unit, leading to the farm investing in two more electrolyser units. The second has been fitted to the
MACHINERY Farm facts n Size: 210 hectares n Crops: Grass and clover leys, barley, wheat, peas n Livestock: 140 suckler cows, 350 total head n Machinery: JCB 525-56 telehandler, NH TS115 with hydrogen electrolyser, NH T6.180, Ford Ranger with hydrogen electrolyser
Nether Aden has equipped three of its machines with hydrogen electrolysers, saving fuel and reducing emissions.
farm’s New Holland TS115 tractor, while another has been added to the farm’s Ford Ranger pickup, with Mr Barron reporting similar results in terms of fuel saving and increased performance. Mr Barron says maintenance is simple. The units are topped up with distilled water every six weeks. The farm replaced its telehandler in spring, and as of yet, has not fitted the new machine with the electrolyser box. “We had an AdBlue issue with the new machine,” says Mr Barron. “I am a bit reluctant while the loader is in its warranty period to fit it, as if anything does go wrong with the machine, the finger will be pointed at it, so I am holding off for the time being.
“We have already cut our fuel usage by a fifth and through a few different management techniques with the crops, fertiliser usage is down by around a third.” This includes several changes to grassland management. “We now operate a paddock grazing regime, similar to rotational grazing dairy farms, where we keep moving the cows onto younger fresher grass, which is more nutritious and encourages better growth, both of the cattle and the grass itself,” says Mr Barron. The farm is also taking advantage of leguminous crops.
New grass leys are now undersown into pea crops, with the growing peas feeding the grass. Likewise, an increasing amount of clover is being included in swards, by up to 30 per cent. “We use grass mixes designed for the conditions in the North East and include white clover, which will last for about three years and provides the equivalent of 150kg/ha of nitrogen,” he says. “In addition, the crop contains more protein for the growing cattle and has a higher digestibility. “Whereas we used to buy in two lorry loads of fertiliser, we are now
Technology “Instead, we have a New Holland T6.180 which will be out of its warranty period at the end of harvest, so the spare box will go on that. “From my experience so far, they improve the engine, so I have no worries about adding it to this tractor.” The technology has made a large impact on the farm, according to Mr Barron. “Our two biggest bills come from fuel and fertiliser purchases, both of which are now being remedied,” he says.
The hydrogen electrolyser is the size of a small suitcase and can be placed nearly anywhere on the machine.
using one and a quarter, just putting on 50 units per acre in spring. “We are also liming the fields more regularly, in line with what the arable fields would be getting, and testing for phosphorous and potassium as well.” The farm’s breeding regime on has also changed, as have cow numbers. Historically the farm ran 110 cows, but, with a greater influence of Aberdeen-Angus genetics rather than Charolais, producing a lower mature cow weight (650kg) with lower nutritional needs from both cow and calf, as well as increased grass growth from the same acreage, the farm has been able to add an additional 30 cows. However, Mr Barron thinks the farm could handle an additional 25 cows or 250 sheep in the near future. Cows are fed on ammonia-treated straw while housed in winter.
Bulls The herd is effectively closed, only buying in bulls from selected farms, with an emphasis placed on naturally reared bulls with good feet and decent figures for calving ease and milk. He aims to have cattle away to a local butcher at an average age of 18 months, with a 350kg well marbled carcase, and predominantly reared and finished off grass. While Mr Barron says he would prefer to rear bulls, as they are quicker to finish, thus reducing emissions, bulls do not command a premium, meaning steers make better financial sense In the future, Mr Barron hopes to investigate further the feasibility of a local co-operative, producing ammonia and hydrogen fertilisers from a similar principle to the electrolysers currently used on farm, further reducing the reliance and impact on the environment of compound fertilisers. With an eye on reducing the farm’s environmental impact, Mr Barron says profitability on the farm has increased, with fewer inputs required, while outputs are greater in terms of quantity and quality.
After the loss of a large portion of their herd to bovine TB (bTB), Henry and Bryony Andrews decided to change the direction of their business to follow a carbonneutral path. Rebecca Jordan reports.
Producing carbonneutral beef
p until 2018, Henry and Bryony Andrews were running a relatively intensive beef business. The couple moved to Leworthy Manor, just outside Pyworthy, Devon, in 2014, and the 48-hectare (120-acre) farm was down to permanent pasture on heavy clay typical to the area. They set up a 58-head suckler herd comprising North Devons, South Devons and Stablisers, which were crossed with either an Aberdeen-Angus or North Devon bull. All calves were finished. However, when 30 per cent of their herd reacted positively to bTB tests in 2018/2019, they had to look again at their business. Mr Andrews says: “We were running an intensive business and, when we took that hit, we could not afford to pick up from there and carry on in the same vein.
“Since then we have been looking more at farming with nature, rather than overruling it. The concept fully dawned on me after reading books written by Frank Freeman Turner, the 1950s pioneering organic farmer, writer and broadcaster. “I have nothing against using artificial fertilisers and sprays responsibly, but I can now clearly see the advantages of spending more time thinking about what nature has to offer and working with it. “I am not a zealot. Every day most of our farmers are doing their part to look after the environment. In fact, what livestock farmers have been doing on a day-to-day basis for generations has and does create a negative carbon footprint. “Unfortunately, we as an industry have not been good at coming back at all the negative press farming has received on this issue.” There are now 40 breeding cows
at Leworthy. In order to re-establish the herd, 10 heifers were retained last year, but this will level at five replacements a year to calve as two-year-olds. Spring calving sees the herd turned out as soon as the ground allows. A paddock grazing system has been introduced with cows moved every three days. Mr Andrews says: “They always have fresh grazing, as we do not want them to poach the ground and damage the soil structure. Electric fencing is used to divide fields into paddocks to effectively utilise grazing in front of the cows.”
Herbal leys The couple are slowly introducing herbal leys into their grazing system. They are interested in deep-rooting varieties, such as sainfoin and lucerne, which will improve soil structure, as well as other legumes, such as birdsfoot trefoil and clovers, to fix nitrogen
Round-up of areas to concentrate on to help achieve carbon-neutral beef production n Utilise farm data such as fuel and electricity consumption in carbon calculators to measure, manage and mitigate farm carbon emissions, as well as calculate volume of carbon sequestered on-farm through soil organic matter analysis n Improve soil organic matter and therefore nitrous oxide capture through use of deep-rooting plants, such as chicory or plantain n Spreading biochar (by-product from biomass plants) improves soil structure and therefore ability to sequester carbon n Fumaric acid, encapsulated in the shell of hydrogenated vegetable oil
in animal feed, reduces livestock methane production; birdsfoot trefoil also contains fumaric acid n Naturally occurring tannins in lucerne, sainfoin and birdsfoot trefoil significantly reduce methane production; same tannins also proven to reduce livestock worm burden, reducing reliance on synthetic anthelmintics and their associated resistance n Including 0.5-1 per cent biochar in cattle ration reduces methane production by 10-17 per cent n Clovers and legumes, such as lucerne, birdsfoot trefoil and sainfoin, fix nitrogen out of the atmosphere,
thereby reducing reliance on artificial nitrogen to fertilise grassland while reducing nitrous oxide levels n Biochar spread in bedding captures ammonia (therefore nitrous oxide emissions) in slurry and farmyard manure; in soil also locks up nitrous oxide from manure and artificial fertiliser n Deep-rooting herbs, such as chicory, ribgrass, yarrow, burnet and sheeps parsley, are mineral rich; reduce need for bought-in mineral supplements n Silvopasture: simultaneous production of tree crops, forage and livestock; provides environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration
so as to reduce their reliance on artificial fertilisers. Mr Andrews adds he is keen to include many clovers in his seed mix and is not afraid to rely on red clover for liveweight gain. He says: “Sainfoin is included in the mix and it is well known for reducing the chances of bloat in cattle. We also rely on it, chicory and birdsfoot trefoil to reduce worm burden. “Research has proven the tannins in sainfoin positively control haemonchus and trichostrongylus worms in sheep and ostertagia and cooperia worms in cattle.” To date they have overseeded 12ha (30 acres). Drought-resistant plant varieties are to the fore in the mix, despite farming on ground well known for growing grass all summer. However, Mr Andrews says cattle cannot be out-wintered here. He adds: “We are experiencing extreme weather patterns, we cannot control them and have had a run of very dry summers. I believe we need a species-rich mix to create a ley including plants with differing growth rates throughout the season because we are so reliant on the weather. “Deep-rooted plants obviously have a better chance of drawing on moisture, but they have two other advantages. Deep-rooted herbs, such as ribgrass, chicory, yarrow and burnet, are mineral rich. “They have helped us reduce our reliance on bought-in mineral supplements and are known to improve cow fertility and growth rates in youngstock. “The second plus point is their increased root structure. This is vital for improving soil organic matter content. Just a 1 per cent increase in
There are now 40 breeding cows at Leworthy.
Left to right: Bea, Henry, Bryony and Alfred Andrews.
We do all we can to reduce our carbon emissions and create a negative carbon footprint. But I know we can do more HENRY ANDREWS organic matter results in a 37-39 tonnes/ha increase in carbon capture.” The overruling objective at Leworthy is to prove it is possible to farm to make a living while the business produces a negative carbon footprint. Mr Andrews says: “Although very difficult to quantify on a balance sheet, herbal leys go a long way to easing financial outgoings, as well as carbon emissions.” This is analysed using a carbon calculator which takes into account the amount of carbon released by the business through outgoings, such as diesel, electricity, artificial fertilisers and bought-in feed. The result is offset against the volume of carbon absorbed by plants and soil on-farm. The former is calculated by recording the area of the farm covered in woodland, hedgerows and crops. The latter by a soil organic matter test. Mr Andrews says: “Farmers are already thinking about how to cut their carbon emissions, but we need to do more to show that. There has been so much work done on proving livestock
n 48 hectares (120 acres) of which 2.4ha (six acres) is planted to trees n Calves finished before 24 months old; a bullock sold every fortnight to catering outlet and beef sold online through farm’s business website Carbon Neutral Beef Company n Permanent pasture with 12ha (30 acres) a year overseeded or reseeded with herbal ley varieties proven to reduce livestock
methane production can be reduced and yet that information is not in the public eye. The pubilc only hears the bad press associated with this subject.” Research has proven biochar (a charcoal-based product produced during biomass production) reduces methane production by 10-17 per cent when included in a ration at a rate of 0.5-1 per cent. Mr and Mrs Andrews have bought a charcoal ring kiln and plan to use it to produce biochar to include in the youngstock’s winter ration. Mr Andrews adds that fumaric acid can also reduce ruminant methane production. Research has proven when encapsulated in hydrogenated vegetable oil in feed it cut lamb methane output by 70 per cent. This organic compound is also found in herbs such as birdsfoot trefoil. He adds: “And tannins in lucerne, sainfoin and birdsfoot trefoil also have a significant role to play in this area.” But there are still areas of livestock production which are counter-intuitive. About 650 round silage bales are wrapped each year at Leworthy. Mr Andrews says: “This is very costly in terms of plastic production, but we cannot afford to build a silage pit and the associated expense of effluent control.” The first cut is taken off 20ha (50 acres) in early May, following a dressing at 224kg/ha (90kg/acre) of 20:10:10. A month later, 16ha (40 acres) are cut and a third cut 12ha (30 acres) in August. This is over-seeded with clover. Calves are weaned at housing and split by sex. They are fed a 14 per
methane production, improve soil organic matter content and reduce use of artificial fertilisers through inclusion of legume varieties n Silvopasture practised with farm used as trial for Woodlands Trust, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and Soil Association n Two shepherds huts available as holiday lets
cent protein blend plus silage and are finished by two years old at 700kg liveweight. Previously, all male calves were kept entire and creep fed from turnout. Now neither is done in order to reduce costs and keep the system simple. Cows are just offered silage during winter. Mr Andrews says: “Everything we are doing at the moment is fairly ‘normal’ in terms of how we manage our stock and the land. “In that management system, we do all we can to reduce our carbon emissions and create a negative carbon footprint. But I know we can do more.
Trees “Today, 5 per cent of the farm is covered in trees. We plan to increase that by 10 per cent in a couple of years and use those trees to practise silvopasture here” Leworthy is working on a trial with the Woodlands Trust, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and the Soil Association. Shelter belts which
are 91 metres by 274m have been planted on field boundaries. Mr Andrews says: “The woodland here saved our skin in the drought. Trees are fantastic at storing and releasing water so the grass remained lush under them. “But we do not want to just plant trees. We want those trees to work with the grassland. This is an age-old practice. The shelter belts provide cattle with shade and shelter, help retain water within the soil structure, absorb carbon and enable cattle to browse on the leaves and bark which they did for centuries prior to monoculture farming taking hold of our industry.” In 15 years these plantations will be mature enough for the introduction of livestock. In that time, Mr Andrews wants to be a positive voice for the industry and highlight the good aspects of farming in this country. He recently contributed to a documentary for Earth Minutes, which will be shown in schools and universities and the couple’s meat business, The Carbon Neutral Beef Company, has a strong Instagram following in the 18to 30-year-old bracket, with 70 per cent of those followers male. He says: “We must all keep putting out the message farmers are part of the solution, not the problem. “We must question every negative report released and create positive talking points.”
Chicory and clover in ley.
Proactive slurry management can be an effective method in helping the agricultural industry reach its net zero emissions target by 2040. Farmers Guardian reports.
Reducing emissions through improved slurry management
PICTURE: JONATHAN PAGE
airy farmers can take practical steps to reduce their farm’s emission contribution by tailoring on-farm slurry management practices. Andrew Sincock, Agriton UK, says early management of slurry is vital in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He says: “When discussing slurry management, most people talk about the storage of slurry and do not realise that a lot of emissions can be released within cubicles. “Many farmers will use lime as a bedding powder to help prevent mastitis. However, the reaction between the ammonium in slurry and the lime can lead to the release of large volumes of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. “There is evidence to suggest that 1,000kg of lime can react with am-
monium in the slurry to release up to 440kg of carbon dioxide, and 280kg of nitrogen, in the form of ammonia. “Farmers need to have an understanding of the significance of these numbers, and the considerable environmental impact of such products which have been commonplace on farms for years. “Having access to products that do not produce such harmful emission levels will be key as we aim to reach the 2040 net carbon emissions goal.”
Natural Instead, farmers might want to consider the use of a natural antiseptic as a replacement for lime as a bedding powder. Combined with early slurry management, the addition of a slurry inoculant to cubicles, slurry
or farmyard manure can help reduce on-farm emissions. “When you add effective micro-organisms, which contain a mixture of bacteria, yeast, fungi, actinomycetes and phototrophic bacteria to slurry, they work synergistically to break down and ferment organic matter. “Compared to the natural rotting process, which many will be familiar with, fermentation helps retain key nutrients within the slurry and decreases the release of harmful emissions such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane.” Mr Sincock explains that for the microbes to work effectively, any chemicals from parlour washings or foot dips, for example, as well as naturally occurring salts in the slurry, should be removed. “A weekly application of a product that can nullify these chemicals
is recommended. A slurry inoculant can then be added to cubicles or slurry stores every three months for the best results,” he says. “The nutrient rich slurry can then be spread as an alternative to artificial fertilisers.” Prioritising the management of stored slurry is also key to dealing with emissions contributions on-farm. “Many people will be familiar with slurry pits being a big emission source on-farm but are not confident in how to manage this effectively,” Mr Sincock says. “Maintaining an anaerobic environment within slurry pits is key, as too much oxygen can speed up the rotting process, leading to a greater release of emissions. “Therefore, keeping the slurry store airtight with a floating cover is key.”
The addition of a slurry inoculant to cubicles can reduce on-farm emissions.
W O ! N LIVE Register FGInsight.com
Find out more at www.FGInsight.com/FG-Rewards FGinsight.com
Arable farmer Martin Lines has a specific interest in farm conservation and management and is UK chairman of the Nature Friendly Farmer Network. Hannah Park reports.
artin Lines is a thirdgeneration farmer from St Neots, Cambridgeshire, growing mainly arable crops over 165 hectares (408 acres) on the family farm, together with contract farming, taking the overall area to 540ha (1,334 acres). Ground is predominately clay-type soils and the system has progressed from traditional cultivations and winter planting to a more diverse rotation. Martin operates a no-till system and has a specific interest in farm conservation and management. He first entered his farm into a countryside stewardship scheme 18 years ago, followed by Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship agreements eight years ago and, in the last three years, has begun running stewardship agreements on some of the rented blocks of land.
steps have you taken Q What within your own business to
implement a nature friendly ethos? We have taken out the unproductive corners, widened and straightened field edges out to incorporate pollinator margins and we are concentrating a lot on soil health and biology. All our future production comes from our soil. We haven’t used insecticides for seven years now and have stopped cultivations over a number of years. We have introduced sheep to graze cover crops, alongside applications of horse and chicken manure to promote soil biology and fertility. We’re moving into our fourth year of direct drilling cover crops and we have also started to include pollinator margins in the middle of some fields, in strips in every fourth width of the sprayer (every 120 metres) because of the positive effect we’re seeing these have for pollinating and predatory insects.
do you feel are some of Q What the key benefits you take away
as a farm business from adopting this approach? We are using the sustainable productivity potential of the whole landscape and, as a result, have made our business a lot more resilient. We have cut our overhead costs greatly, but crucially our soil quality has become healthier, which is
It’s not just productivity of food, it is productivity of all the inputs as an asset manager of a landscape MARTIN LINES evident especially during spells of increasingly extreme weather we have been experiencing. We’re not seeing standing water where we once saw it 10 years ago on fields, and when we have dry periods, soil is retaining moisture more effectively. We can also travel better over fields now. Not only this, but our workload and stress have reduced. It’s about being patient and building an understanding of the whole system, from soil health to pollinators to fertility, rather than focusing on one part of the landscape. do you view productivity Q How within this approach?
Productivity for me is making my business as sustainable as possible, using the landscape I have available. It’s not just productivity of food, it is productivity of all the inputs as an asset manager of a landscape. I can deliver other outputs, for example environmental, and get benefits over and above the commodity we used to focus on, from financial to the wider paybacks it delivers to the farmland. The farm is becoming more profitable and has a more stable income. Rather than looking at the overall yield as a measure, we’re looking for the best return per part of the field using data so we can tailor our inputs to the output per hectare of a field. We’re not just chasing yield, but the best return for the least amount of inputs.
It’s the direction everyone is going to have to move in. Businesses which choose to only focus on output while degrading soils and the environment will, over time, degrade their business, by way of losing the asset they need for future production. As we see the policy direction in England move towards a public money for public goods model, and a likely similar direction for the rest of the UK, there is a growing focus on the global footprint of our food. Many farmers are already starting to adjust their businesses and outlook, but the wider industry is only just starting on this journey.
any changes in this area Q Are needed to move this up the agenda for grassroots farmers? As farmers, we need a clear framework and timetable of policy decisions regarding environmental land management schemes.
what extent do you feel agriA Q Toculture as a whole has got on board with this ethos?
In England, we know Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money will be reduced from next year and the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme will replace BPS and Countryside Stewardship funding from 2024, but what about the gap in-between? Crucially, farmers need to understand what they can do within their own business. We need to know what the registry baseline of environmental standards will look like, as well as rewards which could be received for going above and beyond this and how that transition for their business will work over the next five to 10 years. These need to incorporate measures which recognise all the benefits Government deems we can get from a landscape. I am hopeful we will see a sustainable farming payment coming soon to help farmers transition and be ready for the ELM scheme.
FARMING: THE BACKBONE OF BRITAIN
Farming sustainably for the future
more be done to engage Q Can farmers with this ethos, and what kind of messaging might be used? There is a huge opportunity, but as an industry we have a lot of baggage. Since the post-war period, the focus for farmers has mainly been an ‘increase in production only’ mindset, which has had little regard for our soil health and our environment. There are many examples of this making businesses unviable and becoming overstretched. We are seeing landscape degrade and soil lost; we’re in a climate crisis. If we don’t tackle it, the UK’s food security will rapidly decline and it will be hard to reverse, therefore as a nation we may go hungry. We need to shift thinking to focus more on how our landscapes can be used to get the best return
for a business, where output and return is measured as more than just yield alone. interest in farming Q Isandpublic where food comes from growing? There is a growing interest from the public to where and how their food is produced, along with the environmental and climate impact this has. I believe whatever dietary choice people have, we should embrace this, and talk about where and how we can grow most of this food here in the UK, while at the same time, improving our environment, nature and climate. Crucially, we need to explain to the public how UK taxpayers’ money is supporting farmers in delivering public goods, sustaining the UK’s environment and how the landscape is used to produce the
food they purchase. This responsibility falls to everybody, from the individual farmer to farming organisations and bodies to associated business. We all need to be doing something to explain what we’re doing to produce food and improve our landscapes, but we need Government support to be able to do that though, and ultimately it falls back to fair trade policies. There is recognition of UK farmers having high welfare standards, but we have a UK Government which isn’t supporting these by turning a blind eye to imported products that are produced at lower standards, then sold cheaper than UK-produced products.
Martin Lines is UK chairman of the Nature Friendly Farmer Network.
MORE INFORMATION Visit FGinsight.com/proudtofarm