Farmer Focus: Challenges in reducing our carbon output

The cold weather has finally arrived, and with it less rain.

It was incredibly frustrating seeing the grass grow so well in November, when the ground was so wet that we were unable to cut or even graze it.

With the benefit of hindsight, we should have delayed our final silage cut into early November to take advantage of the late growth.

As part of a local farm cluster group, we have recently completed a farm carbon audit – a process that I think we will get increasingly used to.

See also: AHDB Monitor Farm programme seeks new growers

About the author

Charlie Cheyney
Arable Farmer Focus writer Charlie Cheyney farms more than 480ha land in Hampshire in partnership with his father. They run a mixed arable and 450-cow dairy enterprise, growing cereal and forage crops on varying soils, from chalk to heavy clay.
Read more articles by Charlie Cheyney

We have calculated our carbon score and the results have proven quite interesting. Clearly, lots of cows and lots of nitrogen fertiliser make us far from carbon neutral and leaves a lot of room for improvement.

However, with only one year’s results, it is difficult to establish whether we are doing well or poorly.

Now we have our scores, the next step is improving them.

We currently have minimal woodland or land taken out of production to offset our carbon output, but that said I am reluctant to reduce our production through offsetting.

Taking out productive land seems very counterintuitive and hardly a sustainable route forward. There are only so many fields that can be planted with trees before people start becoming hungry.

That said, filling some gaps in hedgerows with new hedging and trees looks to be an easy win, and at minimal costs if the right grant is used.

The real challenge comes in reducing our carbon output while maintaining production (becoming more efficient).

Fertiliser and feed efficiency are the obvious places to start. This is a big task and something that is already one of our key focuses.

As part of the project, we carried out soil organic matter sampling, which did not yield quite the results we expected.

Building organic matter may not be as simple as just applying more organic manure and is something I will have to understand far better to achieve improvements.

But if mastered, there is potential for huge gains around carbon sequestration.

Need a contractor?

Find one now