YouTube webinar on 'Carbon Sequestration and the benefits of good soil health'

The latest Barclays EagleLabs webinar  ‘Carbon Sequestration and the benefits of good soil health’ was broadcast on YouTube on Tuesday 26th May.

The first speaker was Phil Jarvis, who manages the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust Allerton project. Based on a farm in Leicestershire, the GWCT has explored the various changes to farm practices that will have a positive environmental effect. Phil pointed out that good soil is the basis for any sustainable system, but we don’t measure many parameters that enable us to judge the value of the soil.

Farm practices needed to be examined in detail before changes were made and environmentally friendly farming needs a positive attitude on the part of land managers in order to succeed. Food production is still the primary aim and field management, aided by technology, is still focused on optimising yield.

The other important aspect of the project was being able to capture the financial information that would reassure farmers that change would also be profitable. Reducing cultivation work means that less is spent on fuel and reductions in machinery requirements also enable reductions in fixed costs.

Professor Guy Kirk of Cranfield University then looked at the potential for carbon sequestration on a national and global scale.

The first message was again that we need to start assessing soil organic matter as a routine measurement as it gives a good indication of carbon content. He pointed out that most farming systems are actually still degrading soil carbon content so there is a vital need to address that as well as looking at ways of locking up more CO2.

Prof Kirk argued that going organic was not the panacea some suggest as the inevitable yield reductions would result in food shortages and it would require movement of food over longer distances, burning more fossil fuels.

He suggested that the answer may lie in the hills, where peaty soils are more able to act as carbon sinks. With low input management already being practised in such areas, there would be no significant production losses.

Arable farmers will still be encouraged to pursue more sustainable or regenerative farming methods which may encourage CO2 capture, but the conclusion was that there is still more work to do to solve this conundrum.

In summary, both speakers gave a good overview of the issues, covering real farming and the academic research output. There is no single solution that will enable farmers to be the good guys in the global warming story but this event was a great source of information and inspiration for those looking to change their approach.

The change from the previous Webex platform had the potential to limit audience interaction, participants were able to send questions to the host, Roxeanne Martin, who relayed them to the experts, so this drawback was minimised, and the benefits of reaching a wider audience are well worth that small limitation. TheYouTube video content can be viewed here.

For more information about what CHAP is doing to promote Soil Health visit our Soil Health Solutions and the Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility pages.

If you have any questions about working with CHAP, please send us an email using the enquiries form at the bottom of our homepage.