Farm Compare was delighted to attend the Farm Walk at Simon Best’s farm as part of the ARCZero initiative. It was really impressive to hear what lengths farmers are going to to measure the net carbon on their farms.
Once again information is king and once again a good starting point for any farm is to measure the Ph of the soil.
Thank you to the Best Family for their welcome and their hospitality and to Professor John Gilliland and his team for their excellent delivery of the talk.
Let’s first discuss what ARCZero is all about….
Accelerating Ruminant Carbon Zero (ARCZero) is a farmer-led, European Innovation Partnership Project made up of a co-operative of 7 farms across Northern Ireland from a diverse range of enterprises seeking to measure and manage carbon flows at the farm level in order to empower farmers to make positive change towards carbon zero farming.
Actual individual net farm GHG footprints are currently unknown as most current methodologies calculate gross GHG footprints for farm enterprises and do not accurately assess on farm carbon stocks and their potential for annual carbon sequestration.
In addition, current Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) calculators focus mainly on enterprises, and not on a whole farm basis. The exceptions, such as SRUC’s AgReCalc, better reflect inter-enterprise transfers and allocations of overheads, allowing public claims to be made on any positive change that occurs.
ARCZero will focus on producing an accurate, individual, whole farm carbon balance sheet, through the precise measurement of the on-farm carbon stocks within soils and in trees and hedges
It will then combine the stocks with the results of the farm having been put through a whole business LCA calculator, to allow an accurate creation of a base-line GHG position. In doing so, this project intends to inform how farms across Northern Ireland could accelerate the move towards net carbon zero.
Having assessed the current carbon stocks and annual greenhouse gas position, future management practices will be examined and prioritised to identify the most impactful positive behaviour-change needed, while simultaneously making each business more economically resilient. The seven farm businesses' experience will be communicated to help inform other farms across Northern Ireland on how they might accelerate their move towards net zero carbon farming.
Simon Best Farm Walk
Simon Best of Acton House Farmis one of the 7 commercial farms in the project consortium who will each supply output and input data for their whole farm to SAC Consulting who will run their data through SRUC’s AgReCalc calculator. This will be done at both the start and the end of the project, to see if positive change has taken place and if so, by how much.
It was interesting to learn how each farm will also undertake 2 GPS soil analyses, with the first analysis to 7.5cm depth covering pH, P & K (RPS providing the sampling & NRM providing the analysis) and the 2nd analysis to 30cm depth measuring carbon content and bulk density of the soil.
In addition a LiDAR survey and analysis to identify above ground Carbon storage and, routes of overland flow of excessive rainfall carrying with it, nutrients and soil, which then subsequently pollute our water courses will be undertaken for each farm. The data entered into the SRUC/SAC AgriCalc calculator will determine overall gross farm emissions, rather than the gross emissions from an individual enterprise.
The LCA results will then be added to the carbon stock results by Devenish to create a Net farm carbon balance for each farm. Future management practices will be assessed and the most impactful behaviours identified & agreed.
Simon farms in Acton House Farm, Poynzpass, Co Armagh with his father John and brother Rory, where they have 1200-acres predominantly arable land, as well as an Aberdeen Angus herd and green waste compostinig facility.
The Best family understands the importance of environmental standards and Simon and his family have been involved in Agri-environment schemes for over 20 years, increasing hedgerows, planting trees, managing soil health and water quality on the farm. A member of both a CAFRE Arable and an Environment Business Development Group, Simon is also a member of the Nature Friendly Farming Network NI Steering group.
Acknowledgments & further information:
►Learn more about ARCZero here
►Learn More from CAFRE here
►Learn more from AgriSearch here
►Hear more from Professor John Gilliland here
This website was developed with support from Priority 6 (LEADER) of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas