“For generations, the goals of our family has been to improve the soil fertility on the farm. Bayer’s Carbon Farming Program will help me align my farming even better and at the same time optimize my contribution to climate protection” Bernd Ollings, Germany
Is it the reality? Do you think carbon farming is achieving the goal as it has been portrayed? Or beneath the policies and advertisements, comes 6 major problems identified in practicing carbon farming.
- Non-permanence– It has been stated that carbon farming is not a permanent solution for removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The major issue is that the soil’s carbon content can be increased over the years and they can be easily reversed. If the measurements are stopped that the carbon can be released. Even if there is a change in the farming techniques, the released carbon can be a problem.
- Additionality– The concern is on the voluntary carbon market. The farmers need to prove that CO2 is not stored without the money from the certificate and the measures that have not been carried out by the farmer will be subsidised by the market. As per Carsten Paul of the ZALF “But this can hardly be guaranteed, as farmers also carry out humus-building measures for their motivation, for example for environmental reasons or as a climate adaptation measure.”
- Leakage- The need to be careful while moving the organic matter from one field to another. It is better to check the field with biomass availability or if it has been brought back in the same field with manure or digestate. It is necessary to check the increase of the carbon stock. “This would be pure redistribution and not additional carbon sequestration.” Sandra Spielvogel, Unversity of Kiel.
- Fairness issues- The soil is limited with carbon content. Hence, the practice will be to focus on maintaining the carbon content rather than increasing the quantity, as it is not possible. We can call it natural restrictions.
- Measurement and standardisation issues- The soil carbon content is difficult to measure and monitor and also it is error-prone. The private schemes are mainly for setting benchmarks for the carbon credits to be sold in the voluntary market. Hence the standardisation needs to be watertight so that the buyers are not hesitant to buy such credits.
- Target conflicts- The problem is with the no-tillage technique on fields where the farmers need to use more pesticides such as glyphosate due to less tilling or more pests.
So, as we see the concerns are mainly with the maintenance of the carbon content on the field. The measurement maintenance and necessary precautions from the farmer’s side are very important for carbon farming. It is a costly affair and doesn’t seem to be an easy process. You need to follow well-grounded precautionary steps for carbon farming.