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Healthy soil from regenerative farming delivers resilience

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Agreena exists to support farmers in joining the green economy. We’re working to make farming more financially and environmentally sustainable.

My ground has coped pretty well with the awful wet weather we have experienced,” says Agreena farmer, Toby Simpson who farms 730 ha at Stilton, Peterborough.

Toby Simpson

Toby Simpson © Agreena

“The rain has drained through my soil better and there has been little runoff.

“This is because my soil is in good health as a result of the regenerative farming techniques we use.

“No-till and min-till means that the soil and the worms are able to do what they do best. And they do it for free!” Simpson added.

Of course, it is a completely different story for those farmers whose land is completely under water and the whole farming community feels for them.

With evermore extreme climate patterns, whether heavy and unrelenting rain or long dry spells, farmers should consider very carefully what they can do to protect their and our most important asset, soil, by taking steps to make it as healthy as possible.

Healthy soil is well structured with a high organic matter content which drives biological activity.

The growth of fungal networks helps with soil structuring and worms create tunnels which become hugely important drainage holes in times of excessive rainfall.

Living roots are key to healthy soils and can be achieved through the growing of cover crops and the controlling of volunteer growth.

These root channels act as another important drainage channel and also add organic matter to the soil promoting biological life and the development of a soil ecosystem.  

Although long dry spells are not top of mind at the moment, when they do arrive healthy biologically active soils are key to capturing and storing much more water.

The really wet weather during autumn drilling has been even more of a major challenge for those farmers who have been unable to get as much of their planned winter crop in.

As a consequence, more spring crops will need to be drilled.

The need to drill spring crops does present farmers with an opportunity to begin to focus on how they can make their soil as healthy as possible by looking at using more regenerative farming methods.

Spring cropping does lend itself to more flexible cultivation options. There is less need to plant seed so deeply as spring crops grow away more quickly.

This provides the ideal chance for farmers to look at min-till or no-till.

Soil health is significantly improved with no-till direct-drilling because it:

  • Conserves moisture
  • Reduces soil erosion
  • Allows better soil biology (back to the worms doing what they do best!)
  • Reduces soil compaction.

As well as improving soil health, no-till direct-drilling also helps farm businesses’ bottom line by:

  • Reducing labour costs
  • Reducing machinery costs
  • Reducing fuel costs.

From an environmental perspective, min-till and no-till prevents trapped carbon being released into the atmosphere, thereby helping to reduce and limit greenhouse emissions.

Farmers moving to regenerative and climate-friendly farming methods are not only preserving soil, they are playing a key role in delivering climate mitigation services.

They should be recognised and rewarded for their actions. 

With the agricultural transition, and the reduction in and eventual phasing out of the BPS, financial rewards and access to new revenue streams are key for farmers as they change how they farm for the benefit of us all.

One revenue stream which already rewards farmers for the move to more regenerative and climate-friendly farming is available through carbon farming and the sale of carbon certificates.

AgreenaCarbon, Europe’s largest soil carbon platform, has more than two million hectares, which equates to 2.8million football fields, registered with its programme and has already paid farmers more than EU6 million.

Farmers who joined AgreenaCarbon in time for the 2022 harvest earned EU36 per carbon certificate.

Farmers joining AgreenaCarbon commit to adopting a range of regenerative carbon farming practices, which include reduced soil disturbance i.e. min-till, no-till, the addition of organic matter and the inclusion of cover crops in their crop rotations.

These practices sequester carbon, turning the farm’s soil into carbon sinks, which play a key role in delivering climate mitigation services.

Agreena quantifies the farm’s reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of carbon which has been captured in the soil via its internationally accredited and third-party validated AgreenaCarbon programme, and then issues verified carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) certificates.

Each carbon certificate is equivalent to one tonne of CO2 emissions and on average 1ha can generate between one or two carbon certificates per year.

Carbon certificates can be retained by the farmer or traded on the voluntary carbon market (VCM), or Agreena can sell them on behalf of the farmer.

If you would like to learn more about moving to more regenerative and climate-friendly carbon farming, which will not only improve the health of your farm’s soil but also provide access to a new revenue stream from the sale of carbon certificates, then talk to Agreena.

You will have the opportunity to increase your farm’s business resilience to climate change as well as increasing its financial sustainability.

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