The UK government has committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. As a sink of carbon, the agricultural industry is in a unique position to become part of the solution.
Future schemes like ELM and the Sustainable Farming Incentive will play a key part for UK farm businesses.
Many may be concerned with how this will affect their practices, and whether legislation will create barriers to profitability.
NRM is sponsoring the Farmers Weekly Transition project to ease the shift to greener farming practices and help growers and farmers secure a sustainable future for your business.
Measuring soil carbon levels is beneficial for both farm productivity and the wider environment.
Understanding and benchmarking carbon levels will become essential for the industry and for potential income streams for individual farms.
What is soil carbon and why should I measure it?
The soil ecosystem relies on carbon. Soil organic carbon, made from the decomposition of plants and animals, influences all other properties and functions.
It gives greater physical stability in the earth and increases oxygen levels, improves water drainage and retention, and reduces the risk of erosion and nutrient leaching.
Measuring soil carbon, especially the active carbon element, is an effective way to monitor soil health.
Regular benchmarking allows ongoing assessment of the impact of sustainable farming practices, helping you meet the requirements of environmental schemes.
However, it also enables you to measure progress to help you build organic carbon levels and improve soil health over time.
Doing this will lead to increased microbial activity, enhanced nutrient supply, and greater yields.
Accurate measuring and monitoring of soil carbon will also help you benefit from available income streams relying on sequestration.
Undisturbed land, with permanent cover, will generate a high carbon content, allowing you to benchmark for lucrative carbon markets.
These soils represent profitable and productive sinks for carbon stocks.
The environmental impact of carbon sequestration
Capture and storage are also important in reversing atmospheric carbon dioxide pollution.
So, measuring soil carbon and taking action to raise your levels means not only are you improving the health of your fields for greater productivity, but you can be assured that you are contributing to a healthier planet too.
Soil carbon is at the centre of great soil management. Soil can hold three times more carbon than the atmosphere, and so land acts as a huge sink.
Ultimately, carbon capture and storage can help us reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the next few decades, giving us breathing space until we can implement sustainable practices effectively for a low carbon economy.
Developed by NRM following consultations with industry experts, customers, and government advisors, CarbonCheck is now the industry standard for soil carbon analysis.
As the first and most comprehensive soil carbon testing service available in the UK, CarbonCheck includes the following analyses, which combine to give a stock measurement in tonnes per hectare:
- Organic matter
- Inorganic carbon
- C:N ratio
- Bulk density
- Organic carbon
- Total nitrogen
- Total carbon
CarbonCheck Plus also includes active carbon for those aiming to improve soil health.
This shows the readily available portion of carbon that provides a food source for microbes, and so is considered a key health indicator.
CarbonCheck results are presented in an easy to understand format and are straightforward to interpret.
We will support you with advice on how your results compare with our UK databank of over 5,000 samples analysed during 2021 and 2022 so far.
We will also provide you with a sample kit which contains everything you will need to place an order for CarbonCheck analysis: sample bags, analysis request forms, and postage boxes/bags.
You can order your kit online at cawood.co.uk/order-sample-kits/.
CarbonCheck results to date
While results are based on just one year of measurement and will give a more accurate representation of the UK’s soil carbon levels over time, we have gathered some interesting conclusions so far.
For example, we found that the highest levels of carbon and organic matter are in soils from natural habitats where the ground is undisturbed.
The permanent biomass cover and plenty of natural vegetation above and below ground minimises carbon loss and continuously adds it to the system.
On the other hand, cultivated land generally contains lower carbon stocks and organic matter.
It is unsurprising that the arable sector contains the lowest levels of carbon and organic matter, but we would expect this to improve as more growers embrace regenerative agriculture.
It’s just another fantastic reason to get started and measure your soil carbon levels today.
Average Carbon Stock t/ha
Average Soil Organic Carbon %
Raise your soil carbon levels with expert insight and advice
Significant carbon gains can be made over time by working with advisors to change management practices.
This includes not only using organic manures as part of an effective crop nutrition plan, but also analysing your fields regularly to benchmark and monitor your soil health and carbon levels.
Benchmarking your soils now presents an excellent opportunity to get ahead of the game, enabling you to be prepared for future changes in agricultural legislation before it’s too late.
For more information or to book in your samples, speak to your advisor, contact our customer services team on 01344 886 338, or visit cawood.co.uk/nrm.