As featured in Arable Farming Magazine
Identifying a carbon baseline
by Arable Farming Magazine February issue
Following the launch of its carbon mapping service last May, crop production business Hutchinsons provided an update on developments during a Helix Farms review.
Nick Wilson, of Hundayfield Farm, York, is the host of the Hutchinsons Helix North Farm, one of the farms within the Helix Farms network where the TerraMap Carbon mapping service has been trialled.
The service has been launched as part of the TerraMap soil nutrient mapping service and provides mapping of active and organic carbon in the soil.
Hutchinsons service lead Matt Ward explained the service identifies and quantifies variation in soil carbon in the field.
Results from Mr Wilson’s farm showed the carbon in soil under a grass ley in a mixed rotation ranged from 30-60 tonnes per hectare.
Under a grass ley in an arable rotation, the figure was18-25t/ ha, while under permanent pasture, it was approaching 80t/ha.
Mr Ward said: “The challenge for us moving forward is that we now know, using this baseline measurement, what good looks like, so we need to look at what management practices we can put in place to increase the soil organic carbon.
“Unless you have that baseline measurement, you will never know if what you have done has done any good or not.”
Mr Wilson added: “We are quite happy with the carbon figures we’ve got.
We have got a long rotation which is an advantage to us.
The long-term carbon, the organic carbon, is the one that takes some building.
We are fortunate we have been doing that.
“We are focusing on active carbon, looking at ways to manage that; it is quicker to lose, but it is the stuff you can manipulate through the rotation.
We are not just about building organic matter; we are very much on the page of what can we do to prevent the release of carbon.”
Data from TerraMap Carbon can be used to create carbon maps in the Omnia carbon management system, which aligns field carbon measurements against the carbon costs of different machinery operations for that field, incorporating detailed calculations for power, machine width, work rate and fuel.
This means it is possible to create different rotation scenarios from types of cropping or stewardship and management practices and see the projected CO2 impact and financial performance for each scenario.
Mr Ward said: “It struck us that for every operation, there is not only a financial cost but there is a carbon emission cost. And so, if we can map one, we can perhaps map the other.
The module will account for all variable and direct costs to create field and sub-field calculations for all crops based on available layers.
“So, if you have applied variable inputs, it will take account of those spatially across the field as well as accounting for the variable output if you have yield maps, for example.
“The module identifies the embedded carbon within machines as well as the operation carbon, which is predominantly fuel, based on work rate.
This will give a cost/ha and a carbon emissions cost/ha.”
Hutchinsons has worked closely with the Farm Carbon Toolkit to generate this information, he added.
“This starts to allow you to look at productivity in a slightly different way.
So, while we are used to looking at maps from a cost of production perspective we can now compare those to the carbon emissions/t.
“Not surprisingly, they are two sides of the same coin – where cost of production is at its highest, then carbon emissions are also at their highest.
“When asked ‘why should I be bothered about managing carbon’?, well, managing carbon is just good business sense; good for productivity, good for the bottom line,” said Mr Ward.
For more information, visit hlhltd.co.uk