Agriculture has a multiple role to play when it comes to climate change. It is vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by climate change and at the same time, it is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. However, organic farming, with its emphasis on soil health, biodiversity, and animal welfare, could offer a potential solution to this crisis through the implementation of carbon farming.

What is Carbon Farming?

Carbon farming
refers to agricultural practices, which store carbon in the soil, preventing its release into the atmosphere. Practices like cover cropping, reduced tillage, diverse crop rotations, and rotational grazing are good examples of carbon farming. These practices not only promotes the accumulation of soil carbon, but also enhances the overall soil health.

Benefits for organic farmers

Organic farmers, by implementing climate friendly carbon farming practices, can actively participate in the global effort towards mitigating climate change. They can reduce their farm’s net greenhouse gas emissions while further improving soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Additionally, implementing these practices also offer the farmers with new economic opportunities by becoming part of the emerging carbon markets and being rewarded for the valuable ecosystem services they provide.

Agroforestry alley cropping as a carbon farming practice in an organic mixed farm in Germany

Challenges and Opportunities

There is a potential challenge in the fact that many organic farmers already practice climate friendly practices through their effort to maintain soil health. This means that there is less room for “additionality” compared to conventional farms when it comes to the reduction of net greenhouse gas emissions. However, this challenge also presents a significant opportunity. Through extensive research into region-specific agricultural practices, there is a possibility of exploring the untapped potential for organic farmers to further reduce their carbon footprint. This could potentially uncover innovative approaches that go beyond the current farming practices.

To accurately measure and incentivize these additional efforts, more nuanced carbon accounting methods tailored for organic farming are needed. These methods could then enable a precise assessment of a farm’s carbon balance, which recognises both the existing and the new, additional efforts. Additionally, exploring region and farm-specific practices can further enhance the mitigation potential of organic farms. By identifying and implementing practices that are suited to their regional conditions, organic farmers can maximise their impact on net greenhouse gas reduction.

Going forward

Carbon farming presents a promising business model for organic farmers and with the right support and incentives, it can be a win-win scenario for both organic farmers and the environment. By embracing this opportunity, organic farmers may lead the way in building a more sustainable, resilient and climate-conscious agricultural ecosystem.

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