A group of seven farmers from across Northern Ireland have started an innovative project, having secured funding through the European Innovation Partnership Scheme, which will investigate practical ways to measure, manage and reduce carbon in ruminant farming.
Led by John Gilliland, the ‘ARCZero’ (an acronym for Accelerating Ruminant Carbon to Zero) project will be spearheaded by Patrick Casement, Roger Bell, John Egerton, Hugh Harbison, Ian McClelland, Simon Best and partnered by AgriSearch, Devenish, Birnie Consultancy and QUB.
With the support of AFBI, NRM and SRUC, employing the latest scientific methods, they will firstly determine how much carbon is held in their soils through soil sampling & analysis. Then, using aerial LiDAR surveying & analysis to fully understand the amount of carbon held in their hedgerows and trees, they will work out their total existing carbon stocks on their farms. Having calculated how much carbon is on each farm, the annual carbon sequestration potential will be calculated
Using SRUC’s ‘AgReCalc’ they will complete a detailed carbon emission calculation, examining all inputs and outputs of their farm. With these baseline figures in hand, each farmer will actively implement measures to lower carbon. Measurements will be repeated in 2023 to detect any measurable differences which result from the work carried out in the project.
Speaking at the launch of the project, John Gilliland said:
“Ruminant farming is often labeled as a pariah when it comes to its drive towards carbon neutrality. ARCZero seeks to scientifically prove what many believe – that it is not a pariah, but is a large part of the solution, being able to lock up carbon within soils, woodland and hedges.
“The challenge confronting production agriculture is that of quantifying the positive impacts of its activities and to use this as a baseline in order to plot a course towards carbon neutrality for the industry as a whole.
“It is our hope that the ARCZero Project will demonstrate that innovative farmers can implement practical solutions delivering nutritious food while reducing their carbon footprint and improving water quality.”
Roger Bell, a sheep farmer on the ARCZero Project spoke about his involvement
“There is so much talk about farming and the environment, and not a lot of it positive so when I was asked to join the ARCZero project I had to say yes.
“Along with the other six farmers I am looking forward to the outcomes of our initial benchmarking so we can better understand where we are at, and how to move our farms towards net carbon zero.”
The EIP Scheme is co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).