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Carbon Storage and Sequestration

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As custodians of 70% of our landscape, farmers have a key part to play in protecting carbon stored in that landscape, as well as combating climate change by sequestering (absorbing) carbon from the atmosphere.

Vast amounts of carbon are already stored in the soils and plants on our farmland; preventing the release of this carbon into the atmosphere will be crucial to avoid exacerbating climate change.

Grassland, hedgerows, trees and soils on farmland can also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting any GHG emissions from farming and contributing to the delivery of net zero agriculture.

Trees, Woodland and Forestry

Trees convert carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into stored carbon in their biomass. 

There are a number of ways to incorporate more trees into the farmed environment:

- Scattered trees in fields and hedgerows and shelter belts
- Small-scale woodland within an arable, livestock or mixed farming system
- Large-scale native woodland / commercial forestry

In addition to the environmental benefits of trees in farmland (e.g. habitat, shade belts, water quality improvements), woodland may offer a business diversification option.

CFE partner The Woodland Trust offer guidance and resources for tree planting on a range of scales and the Forestry Commission can provide information on opportunities, schemes and rules around woodland creation and commercial forestry.

*To check the offsetting power of tree planting on your farm's carbon footprint, add trees into a carbon audit through a Farm Carbon Calculator

Grassland

The science of carbon storage and sequestration is complex and can sometimes be counter-intuitive, and rates vary depending on soil type, climatic conditions, plant species in the pasture, stocking rates and previous soil organic matter levels.

However there are some points of agreement on the contribution of grassland to storage and sequestration which you can take into account when making management decisions:

- Much of the carbon stored and sequestered in grassland is in the soil, so soil health is key.
- Permanent grassland or minimal cultivation works best to retain stores of carbon and build soil organic matter.
- Over-stocking of livestock can damage grassland and soil health, causing compaction and excessive nutrient application and counteracting carbon sequestration.
- Field margins can offer the benefits of permanent grassland in fields which are otherwise part of a rotation.

Hedgerows

Hedgerows offer many of the benefits of carbon storage and sequestration of woodland without taking land out of production.

The biomass of hedgerow plants converts carbon dioxide to stored carbon, whilst offering many other benefits, such as pollinator and wildlife habitat, livestock shelters and soil erosion barriers.

Size and type of hedgerow varies significantly across the country and it is important to both establish and maintain healthy hedgerows to ensure maximum benefit.

CFE partner Hedgelink offer a wealth of advice on making the best use of hedgerows in the farmed environment.

Soils

Agricultural soils are among the country's largest stores of carbon and hold significant potential for increased carbon sequestration.

Carbon can be stored in soil as soil organic matter (SOM) and farming practices which preserve and enhance levels of SOM can minimise carbon emissions from soil and maximise sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere.

Guidance on promoting soil health on farm can be found in the CFE publications:

Soil Management for your Farm Business 
Managing Soils for a Sustainable Future

Watch this space for more information on funded initiatives to promote carbon sequestration on farm.‚Äč

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