5 practical tips to get soil carbon credits right
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Soil carbon credits for farming are becoming a hot topic these days. How does soil carbon affect climate change? What are the benefits of using soil carbon? And how can farmers earn carbon credits?
Soil carbon is the organic matter buried deep underground. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted into the atmosphere through human activities such as burning fossil fuels or deforestation. In order to reduce CO2 emissions, governments and organizations around the world have started implementing programs and policies encouraging farmers to improve their land management practices.
This has led to the creation of soil carbon credit schemes that reward farmers who increase the amount of carbon stored in their soils. These programs encourage farmers to take steps to conserve soil carbon.
Soil carbon credits are a way to reward farmers for conserving soil carbon through crop rotation, no-tillage, cover crops, or other practices that improve soil health. Doing so provides new revenue streams for farmers.
A quick primer on soil carbon
How much does soil carbon matter? It’s a question that has been asked for years now. The answer is simple — quite a bit. In fact, soil carbon accounts for approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This means that improving soil quality can have a significant impact on climate change.
Soil carbon is the organic material found in soil. It helps regulate the amount of water and nutrients retained by plants. When soil is rich in carbon, it retains moisture better and prevents erosion. This makes it important for agriculture.
Earning soil carbon credits for farmers
Carbon sequestration in arable lands has gotten significant attention these days because it provides triple benefits of diminishing soil loss, and natural climate solutions while providing farmers new revenue sources for implementing farm practices that focus on soil carbon.
To date, the markets for carbon credits continue to grow and mature, with more demand for soil carbon credits seen over the next few years. Similarly, standardized frameworks are being developed to make sure that the process is robust and ready for mainstream adoption in agriculture.
All of these point to one thing — soil carbon farming is here to stay. In fact, it could become the new norm for crop cultivation, replacing conventional farming.
Farmers need to equip themselves with the right information to navigate carbon farming. Below are some practical advice on soil carbon credits for the modern farmer.
5 tips to farmers on soil carbon credits
1. Carbon farming and data drive soil credits
Practically every farmer knows the value of soil to the farm. And most tend to their fields in consideration of balancing resources to maintain productivity. In fact, many farmers might already be managing their fields with practices that are considered good for carbon farming, such as cover crops or minimum tillage.
What might be new to some is the need to keep an accurate record of farm information. Farmers are in the business of land management to produce crops and it has always been best practice to keep proper accounting of farm records. With carbon farming, new farm data might be required depending on how detailed a farmer is in keeping track of information.
So in reality, one can think of carbon farming as data-driven farm management. It is about producing results that are backed by accurate data in order to generate carbon credits for revenue. Of course, updating farm practices that focus on soil carbon drive the results, but if the information is lacking then there could be issues when generating verified credits for income.
Measurement, reporting, and verification, simply known as MRV, are crucial in producing carbon farming credits. If a farmer encounters a carbon program with limited MRV requirements, it’s a red flag. Farmers and businesses seeking to trade credits should seek no less than high-quality carbon credits only.
2. Generating soil carbon credits isn’t get-rich-quick
When comparing regenerative agriculture, organic farming, and carbon farming, the latter’s biggest advantage from the two is providing a new revenue stream for farmers in the form of carbon credits. Of course, all three share similarities in their focus on sustainable farm practices and to some extent, soil health.
And there is definitely a stronger push to incentivize farmers who shift to soil carbon farming practices. But do not be misled into thinking that getting into carbon farming is to get rich quick. It’s not.
Building carbon in the soil takes time and nothing in farming is ever predictable. This is another reason why MRV is a key part of carbon farming because it’s a process that leads to the accrual of carbon in soils or vegetation over time.
It’s naïve to think that generating carbon credits is easy. While getting into the verification process can take years, eAgronom offers pre-payments for carbon credits to make it easier for farmers to jumpstart carbon farming on the farm.
3. Review agreements carefully
The carbon program that a farmer partners with plays a fundamental role in the success of generating carbon credits. The right one provides expertise and tools to support the farmer’s eventual acquisition of soil carbon credits. And it’s a partnership that lasts for years depending on the length to verify soil carbon sequestration.
This is the reason why farmer due diligence must be exercised when getting into agreements with a carbon program provider. Make sure you understand the contract and what you’re getting into before signing.
→ Free questionnaire on how to choose a carbon program for farmers.
4. Go ahead and ask questions
Related to tip number four, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The right carbon program not only encourages queries but there must also be an open line of communication should the need for clarifications arise. Even better if the people you can talk to are experts in the field, whether they be agronomists or for other technical enquiries.
Communicate your doubts related to the contract, the technical aspects of the engagement, and even agronomic questions. Early on, some questions worth asking about are:
Who can claim ownership of soil credits once verified?
Are there any associated fees?
Are these the right farming practices for my farm and its unique conditions?
How is my data protected?
Who is responsible for verifying my practice changes to generate soil credits?
5. Sustainable agriculture continues the family legacy
Nothing in farming is easy. And carbon farming brings new challenges and opportunities to the farmer. Keep in mind that while soil carbon credits come with practice and management changes, which could take some time to get going well, sustainable practices in the farm protect the environment and the legacy of the farm for the next generation.
Sustainably managing arable land extends yield continuity for years to come. This is due to decreasing pressure on the soil for the short term which works to extend the land’s productive years.
Sustainability in farming doesn’t just concern the environment, it also prolongs family legacies and livelihood in agriculture.
Get soil carbon credits right
Getting soil carbon credits right can be tricky. These tips serve to ground farmers in practical ways to minimize friction and generate favorable results.
To navigate carbon farming, here are 6 practical pieces of advice to farmers:
Carbon farming is data-driven
Generating soil carbon credits isn’t get-rich-quick
Review agreements carefully
Go ahead and ask questions
Sustainable agriculture continues the family legacy
Generating income from soil carbon credits begins with support from a carbon program. Unlike most services, we offer early payments in carbon credits for farmers to ensure the success of the farmer.
Earn high-quality carbon credits and future-proof your farm.
We can help you to generate additional revenue streams, improve soil quality, and access better financing.