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Carbon Farming & Your Bottom Line – Why Carbon Matters for Your Agribusiness

Carbon Farming & Your Bottom Line – Why Carbon Matters for Your Agribusiness
September 26, 2022
Why is carbon the metric of carbon farming

Carbon Farming & Your Bottom Line

Why Carbon Matters for Your Agribusiness

Vol.1, No.4 8/29/2022

Everywhere you look farmers are being urged to consider carbon in their management practices, yet there’s not always an explanation given for why they should care. Depending on who is doing the talking, messages can range from a light suggestion of engaging in carbon capture, to implying a full-blown catastrophe if farmers don’t immediately transition their farm into a carbon sequestering oasis. Mixed messages aside, there are significant data-backed economic and ecological reasons to implement carbon farming practices that will provide long-term benefits to the productivity and resilience of an agricultural system.

Why is Carbon the Metric?

Carbon is sometimes referred to as the building block of life on earth. That’s because the complex molecules that comprise living creatures, like proteins and DNA, are bonded together in long carbon chains. The carbon cycle is the process that moves carbon between plants, animals, microbes, minerals, oceans, and the atmosphere. While the amount of carbon within the system is fixed, carbon is constantly moving. A long list of undesirable impacts result from too much carbon being released from on-earth reservoirs, called “carbon sinks,” and into the atmosphere. Scientists estimate that at least 50 percent of the carbon previously stored in Earth’s soils has been released into the atmosphere.

The element of carbon is found in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas (GHG). Earth’s greenhouse gasses are the naturally-occurring and synthetic gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the planet. Carbon dioxide isn’t the most potent GHG by far–in fact methane has a heat trapping power 25 times greater than carbon over a 100-year period. Yet carbon remains the GHG of highest interest, because it is so abundant: carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. Carbon is also the primary GHG emitted by human activities, accounting for 77 percent of GHG emissions, and that trend over time has led to devastating consequences for Earth’s ecological systems, including agricultural systems.

As a living system, soil depends on the presence of carbon to function in the areas of biological productivity, ecological vitality, and plant and animal health. Soil carbon is the primary component of soil organic matter, which encompasses all organic components of the soil system including living and dead plant and animal tissues, and soil microbes. Soil microbes break down plant organic matter to carbon dioxide, or convert it to dissolved organic carbon (DOC) compounds. As DOC binds to soil particles, it allows for long-term carbon storage, making the soil an effective carbon sink. While plants take in the majority of their carbon from the air, organic matter is the food and energy source for soil bacteria, fungi, worms, and other members of the soil food web.

The Incentives of Carbon Farming

“Farms can participate in carbon market programs, where they receive additional revenue for providing the service of carbon sequestration.”

Carbon is not the end all be all of climate change. But it is the currency of climate change. That’s why carbon sequestering practices are being increasingly incentivized in agriculture. Regenerative agriculture, or carbon farming, are practices that enhance soil fertility and productivity while simultaneously removing carbon from the atmosphere. These practices are ones that increase the capacity of the farm system to capture and store more carbon (with important co-benefits), and include multi-species cover cropping, low or no till planting, the holistic management of livestock, among many others.

Optimizing carbon capture in the soil reaps many below and above ground rewards, including:

  • Improved soil aeration
  • Improved soil structure and stability
  • Higher water drainage and retention
  • Greater nutrient absorption
  • Increased biological productivity
  • Increased yield / net productivity
  • Higher overall agroecosystem resilience

Farms can participate in carbon market programs, where they receive additional revenue for providing the service of carbon sequestration. There are various forms of carbon markets across the country, as companies attempt to reduce their own carbon footprint by offering payments to farmers to offset their emissions through carbon sequestering farming practices.

The Time for Action is Now

Making informed decisions on soil management practices will bestow the greatest outcomes for crop production. Locus Agricultural Solutions (Locus AG) has a globally recognized carbon farming program called CarbonNOW, leading growers through the process of monetizing practices into premium carbon credits.

CarbonNOW has changed the carbon farming market with industry-leading benefits:

  • Upfront payments
  • Guaranteed minimums
  • Performance bonuses
  • No program fees
  • Third-party verification
  • Broad eligibility

Carbon measurements form the basis for the payments farmers receive for participating in the CarbonNow program. Most carbon programs do not take physical soil samples from individual farms, instead relying on soil modeling averages. Soil tests provide the science necessary to formulate a treatment plan with the highest benefits to specific crop types. Locus AG performs free soil testing on any farm enrolled in the program.

Every dollar counts for farmers. Focusing on soil carbon will help get the most out of the dollars that are put into the soil, and add additional dollars through new carbon credit payments. Enrolling with Locus Ag’s CarbonNow program is low risk with zero fees and can help maximize financial earnings with additional bonuses. Learn more about how CarbonNOW works and start planning for your farm’s future.

Interested in more information about Locus AG soil products? Have a question for our agronomist? Contact us below.