Pilot Ambassador

Paul Burgess

Pilot Facilitator

Anil Graves

Can greenhouse gas calculators be
used to promote agroforestry
in England?

Explore the farm

Marston Vale

Bedfordshire, UK

In the Marston Vale region of Bedfordshire, England, pilot farms have been used to explore how carbon and greenhouse gas emission calculators could help to plot out how many trees would need to be planted on livestock, arable and mixed agricultural land in a bid to achieve net zero carbon emissions. The effort comes in line with UK government targets to become a net zero economy by 2050.
Marston Vale (Bedfordshire, UK) Conventional andOrganic farming system Individual farm Components Trees Crops Animals Agroclimatic zone Atlantic Bedfordshire United Kingdom
To study the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions at the farms,
organizers selected two calculating tools — Carbon Calculator and AgreCalc.
The Pilot Facilitator, Anil Graves, a Senior Lecturer of Land Systems at Cranfield University,
tells us more about the challenges they faced:
“The challenges were identifying the carbon balance between different tools because different tools could give different results and if you want to create a net zero system or implement something to encourage farmers to become net zero one of the questions is which tool should you use and do you have by and for that?”
Once the results from each farm are in – and the results vary by farm type – then there are certain actions that can be taken. One of the recurring challenges identified in the study was that on certain types of farms, the area of tree coverage needed to offset emissions to net-zero was expansive.
“If you’re just looking at trees, one of the challenges is, depending on the kind of farm you’ve got, the area that needs to be covered by trees can be quite large. That sort of leads one to the conclusion that trees on their own are not the only things that need to be done. There are other things that need to be done to create a “net-zero farm” as it were.
“What we want to do is go back to the farmer and say ‘these are the implications if you’re going to achieve net-zero just by planting trees, these are the implications in terms of your business and in terms of your land use. What do you think about this? Is that acceptable? Or would you prefer to use other methods? Or would you use this method along with other methods, so I think in many ways there are different instruments, different tools to achieving net-zero. People need to, on a case-by-case basis, identify what is most suitable to them.
As well as tree coverage as a way to offset carbon emissions via the use of a natural carbon sinks, farmers could have other options at hand should they wish to hit net-zero targets on their land.

“You could look at putting additives in cattle fodder, or something, that reduces methane emissions. You could look at zero-tillage cover cropping, they’re all sorts of other techniques that might be useful. Small tractors, robotics, solar-powered tractors, something to replace nitrogen because nitrogen is a very carbon intensive product. If you can replace that with a kind of different fertilizer, maybe an organic fertilizer, or something like that then the initial emissions would be less.”


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