Carbon farming provides New Zealand farmers and landowners with new business opportunities to increase their farming portfolios economically and environmentally, while reducing the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions profile and decreasing global climate change vulnerability.
The Carbon Farming Seminars were funded by the Canterbury Mayoral Forum.
Carbon farming initiatives have been proven to increase and diversify revenue streams and on-farm profitability, strengthen soil, water and ecological properties, improve conservation, biodiversity, environmental and recreational farm values, and reduce our overall carbon footprint.
In collaboration with the Canterbury Mayoral Forum, The AgriBusiness Group facilitated three carbon farming seminars in Canterbury. At the seminars, the desire for more information to allow farmers to confidently make decisions on whether carbon farming would fit into their system came through strongly. We have gathered together several resources, including filmed presentations, frequently asked questions (FAQs) and useful resource links to help you become better informed and navigate a path to carbon farming applicable to your business. The key message from our farmer speakers at the seminars was to seek expert help with whatever plan you might be thinking of implementing.
Launch of Farming Matters
The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre has just launched a great new website designed to help breakdown the complex nature of greenhouse gasses and agricultures role and impact in New Zealand’s environment. They will be adding to the website with more information as time goes by and you can sign up to get regular updates. To have a look at Farming Matters click on the logo and check it all out!
Action on Agricultural Emissions
With the recent announcement of Agriculture being bought into the Emissions Trading Scheme requiring agriculture to pay for 5% of their emissions, the Ministry for the Environment are running some public information sessions as an opportunity to find out more and ask questions. There is also an opportunity for the farming community to submit feedback on the proposals put forward by the Interim Climate Change Committee and industry bodies. This is a great opportunity for everyone to get involved and have their say, be constructive and inclusive. Submissions close on 13th of August.
The Canterbury public information sessions are:
24th July 2019 - 5.30pm – 7.30pm at the George Hotel, Christchurch, 50 Park Terrace
25th July 2019 - 10am – 12pm at the Ashburton Events Centre, Ashburton, 211a Willis Street
For more information and the submission form, follow this link: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/consultation/action-agricultural-emissions
Quorum Exchange event
At a couple of the carbon farming seminars, the topics of regenerative farming and ways of building soil carbon were introduced through Simon Osborne (see his presentation below).
Quorum Sense, of which Simon is a founding member, is running an event on the 2nd of August in Leeston. The event is aimed at providing farmers with the opportunity to hear from other farmers who are experienced in regenerative practices and give them ideas and benefits of implementing some of theses practices in their own farm businesses.
See the flyer here for more information.
Video and Powerpoint Presentations
David Douglas, Sheep and Beef Farmer, Livingstone
The Science Behind Carbon
The financial returns of carbon and timber was a question that came up a few times during the seminars. Dave Janett from Forest Management Services was able to provide us with some data in this space. This information is mainly North Island based and every case is different and very specific. It is assuming planting trees on marginal land. The key message is:
Timber will in many cases achieve greater financial returns than traditional farming on marginal land;
Adding carbon to timber, and the returns are well above any other form of marginal hill country farming activity – remembering after 18 years on average the carbon returns stop and it is a timber only game after that.
There is an option of permanent forest as well which will suit some sites better than timber harvest, be it in native or exotic.
Click here to see the full comparison of the financial returns of farming vs. timber vs. timber and carbon
Q: What are the carbon farming options available in New Zealand?
A: Tree planting: natives, exotics, scrub, and silvopasture. Tree planting options have direct funding and carbon credit trading revenue sources readily available and are eligible within the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Other options include soil carbon sequestering and the abatement of methane and nitrous oxide through good farm management practices. Although there are no ETS related revenue sources for these activites yet, installing a variety of carbon farming options over farming systems where they apply can be economically and environmentally beneficial.
Q: Is the carbon cycle in New Zealand pasture agriculture a reticulated cycle? Is the carbon released from animals as biological gas then reabsorbed by pasture, creating a carbon equilibrium?
A: This question is difficult to answer in simplicity as multiple scenarios will determine the levels of gas released verses the pasture cover sequestering carbon. However, New Zealand is emitting more biological gas (methane and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere directly from the agriculture industry than what is absorbed by pasture and plants present on the landscape. This is confirmed by the growing statistics of exponentially increasing biological greenhouse gas emissions recorded that is released into the atmosphere in relation to animal stock population. It is evident from this data that more carbon is converted and released to the atmosphere than what is obtained by the carbon abatement of pasture species. Holding New Zealand’s level of emissions of livestock methane steady at current levels would not be enough to avoid additional warming from this source (Reisinger, 2018). You can find more information about this here:
Q: What is soil carbon sequestration and how does it reduce greenhouse gases?
A: All plants absorb and store atmospheric carbon as they grow through the natural process of photosynthesis. Some portion of the carbon migrates from plant roots into the surrounding soil in other organic forms. Depending on how the plant and soil is managed (or not), the carbon can remain in the soil in a stable state, that is, become sequestered within the soil. Measuring soil carbon is a very difficult and complicated process. At an international level, soil carbon stores are ineligible for Emissions Trading Schemes due to the complex nature of measurement. However, managing agricultural lands in more carbon-beneficial ways can directly reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (Carbon Cycle Institute, 2019).
Q: Why are biological emissions (methane and nitrous oxide) not listed on the Emissions Trading Scheme?
A: Biological gases are converted to their carbon dioxide equivalent, which are listed on the ETS. The Government has recently asked the Interim Climate Change Committee on how biological emissions can enter the ETS, which is currently a work in progress. Bringing agricultural emissions into the ETS is one option and very much still a development area, but the question might be about how best we can mitigate agriculture emissions, not offset them as a proactive strategic approach.
Q: How can I apply for tree planting funding and Emissions Trading Scheme carbon crediting?
A: There are many different funding options available for farmers for carbon sequestration in tree planting which primarily include the 1 Billion Trees Programme and the Erosion Control Funding Programme, as well as local and regional councils and other sources depending on your location. All these funding options are best applied for through the help of forestry and rural consultants. More information on funding and grants can be found here:
Q: Do you have to sell your carbon credits each year or can you store them and build them up and sell them later?
A: You can hold onto your carbon credits acquired for as long as you like. It is on the market as a share trading credit therefore anyone can trade carbon credits as they please. Your credits are measured on an annual basis and it is your choice whether to bank/store them or to sell them to the market. You may decide to use your stored credits to offset your own emissions and then sell any surplus.
Q: How do I know if my land is suitable for carbon farming by either tree planting or other methods such as soil carbon sequestering?
A: Every case is different and the most important aspect here is to seek assistance from consultants and experts within the industry. Getting an assessment done by someone who knows the options and understands how it might fit into your farming system is important. Soil carbon sequestering is a practice all farmers can establish on their farms by implementing several different processes. A few of the key practices are reducing the reliance on fertilisers or utilising cover crops to improve plant and microbe biodiversity and overall soil quality and health. This also reduces your risk of losing topsoil through wind or water erosion due to greater soil structure development.