Cutting carbon emissions through better land management
Land management research helps farmers cut carbon emissions.
Farmers are helping UK and European governments meet greenhouse gas
emission targets, thanks to extensive research by University of
Hertfordshire’s Agriculture and Environment and Research Unit (AERU).
Since 2005, AERU has examined the effect of farmland management
practices on climate change. While some practices can lead to more
carbon being captured from the atmosphere through natural processes and
stored in soil and vegetation, others can have a negative effect, with
stored carbon released as soil is disturbed.
AERU’s research into the most effective practices has widely
influenced high-profile agricultural guidance materials and policies.
For example, it highlighted a number of practice alterations to the
Environmental Stewardship scheme, which pays English farmers to protect
and enhance biodiversity and the environment.
These included reducing soil cultivation depth to decrease fuel
consumption, encouraging springtime manure application to improve crop
nutrient availability, and increasing the width of non-cropped margins
around woodland to eliminate soil disturbance.
AERU’s methodology has also been used by the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the National Trust and the EU to
improve a variety of farming practices.
It’s difficult to quantify the impact on reducing greenhouse gas
emissions. However, in 2009 2.44 million hectares of farmland were managed
under Environmental Stewardship agreements.
If improved management of just five per cent of this land shows a
modest 0.5 per cent increase in soil organic carbon in the top 10 cm of
soil, around an extra 2.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would be captured
and stored. That’s the equivalent of 500,000 passenger flights around