Farmer Focus: AHDB carbon audit raises a lot of questions

All crops are now in the ground, with the exception of a few vegetables for the farm shop.

Initially, the cold biting wind was beneficial to dry the land for potato planting in ideal conditions, but now the continued wind and a week of frosty nights have seen soil temperatures drop and our main concern is now a lack of moisture. 

Regular nights of up to -3C set back early potatoes, which were sheltered from the cold by day under the fleece and had motored on where they could be rowed up nicely two weeks ago. Now, they are scorched off from the frost and probably going to be three weeks behind.

See also: Robust T1 wheat fungicides likely after early savings

Winter barley and oats need a good night’s rain and an application of nitrogen as colour is fading and growth is slow.

Spring barley has popped and is thinking “I’m in the wrong month”. Rain and heat needed here.

Winter wheat continues to progress nicely and is sticking conditions best. On the plus, cold weather has meant disease is non-existent. 

The AHDB carbon audit recently carried out has highlighted the major shortfalls that exist in understanding carbon and measuring it.

Hopefully, as we build more data this will improve and I am all for reducing my footprint and welcomed the study with an open mind.

However, my report raises more questions than answers. The disappointing thing is that the carbon auditors can’t even answer them.

A perfect example, is that I invested in a Tillerstar to reduce my carbon release from soil, reduce fuel consumption and improve efficiency.

When I asked what the reduction in my footprint was for this operation, I was told: “we can’t do that much detail. It’s just no-till, min-till, full till.”

This is just not good enough. They tell you to reduce tillage and when you do they can’t quantify it, making my result totally inaccurate. 

It is extremely worrying that with so much focus from governments on reducing carbon and reaching net zero, my fear is they will put measures in place which they don’t know how to measure accurately or understand the consequences of doing so.

And all because it’s the hot topic that looks good and wins votes.

Furthermore, they want to plant more trees on good agricultural land, reducing our ability to grow home-produced food, while importing products from halfway round the world where someone has cut down a rainforest…


Richard Orr farms 160ha in Downpatrick, County Down, on the south-east coast of Northern Ireland with his wife and parents. He is an AHDB Monitor Farmer and cropping includes wheat, oats, barley, potatoes and vegetables. The family business also has a farm shop and beef cattle

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