BCarbon and Future Food Solutions launch programme to encourage farmers to plant cover crops to remove carbon from the atmosphere

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Yorkshire Dales

US-based carbon credit registry BCarbon has partnered with British agri-food supply chain consultancy Future Food Solutions (FFS) to launch a programme that helps farmers earn money by removing carbon from the atmosphere by planting cover seeds.

Based in Yorkshire, FFS has developed a carbon bank to sell credits on the voluntary carbon market.

The Sustainable Futures Carbon Bank encourages farmers employing no-till practices to plant cover crops that remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. Before crops are sown, FFS conducts soil analysis, and afterwards it conducts test to determine how much carbon has been removed from the atmosphere.

The stored carbon absorbed in the soil is then sold to large organisations looking to offset their carbon footprint. Farmers get paid money using their carbon storage credits.

According to a Government statement, in the Yorkshire region, a hectare of cover crops and no-till practices will produce two to three tons of carbon to trade.

Cover crops, which are becoming more common on UK farms, are planted between the normal crop rotation, meaning they won’t affect food production.

The system can only be used by those practicing no-till farming.

Till-farming typically involves turning over the first six to ten inches of soil before new crops are planted. Over time, this disturbs the soil, removing plant matter, making it less able to absorb water and nutrients, as well as damaging its health and making it more dependent on added chemicals.

As soil naturally stores carbon, tilling practices can expose it to oxygen in the atmosphere, which turns it into carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to global warming. Tillage is still a popular practice as it allows for more seeds to be planted and lets roots grow further into the ground.

No-till farming on the other hand improves soil structure, cover, overall health, and reduces the chance of soil erosion. It also does not need chemical herbicides to manage weeds and thus prevents pollution of land and water.

Embracing more regenerative farming practices is one of the key recommendations mentioned in the Government’s recent Food Strategy.

Steve Cann from Future Food Solutions says: “This is a step change in carbon removal providing a real opportunity for major organisations to reduce their carbon footprint. This approach also offers global reach as soil stock in all farming environments around the world could provide significant capacity to become a huge carbon sink.

“Plus, if we do it right, food gets better. Water and flood management improve because the cover crops transform below-ground soil structure, which in turn helps to reduce leaching and water run-off. Because CO2 is actually being sequestered back into the soil from the atmosphere, the planet starts to heal as well”.

“Everyone can contribute by eating smarter and actively choosing to buy food products sourced from land where this remedial process is being undertaken by farmers.”

The first verified carbon credits have come from a farm in Bridlington in the North Yorkshire Wolds, belonging to farmer Tom Mellor. They were bought by multinational information and analytics giant RELX.

Mellor said in a statement: “Farming is about achieving a balance, similar to the challenge the planet is facing, with regard to climate change. If we take out more than we put back in, future generations will pay the price.”

“Knowing now that farming can be the solution, not the problem, is encouraging us to rethink both our practices and mindset.”

FFS worked with the British Consulate in Houston, Texas to form the partnership with BCarbon. “Addressing the challenges of climate change requires an international approach,” said Her Majesty’s Houston Consul General Hyde. “The Consulate in Houston has been proud to catalyse this collaboration between BCarbon and Future Food Solutions which models the innovative approach necessary to tackle our shared challenges.”

Steve Cann added “Working with the team at BCarbon is a real trans-Atlantic technical partnership, resulting in farmers receiving credit for their positive actions in removing CO2 from the atmosphere and ultimately being part of the solution to climate change.”

To join the carbon bank, farmers can apply on the Sustainable Futures website, where their eligibility will be determined. If successful, they will be awarded certification as a Sustainable Futures Carbon Bank farm.

The global market for carbon credit trading is predicted to reach $50 billion by 2030, and the Futures Carbon Bank hopes to bring 10,000 carbon credits to the voluntary market in the coming months by involving farms from the UK and EU in the programme.

It also hopes to involve agricultural land worldwide in the future, creating millions of carbon credits to be traded with international organisations.

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