To be honest, when I first heard the term Carbon Farming I did not know what to expect. Carbon farming is a term that sounds like it came straight from a science fiction novel. Despite its futuristic ring, the term however refers to an alternative kind of farming that has been experimented with already successfully in regions such as Australia and California. This is not because I’m ignorant when it comes to alternative forms of agriculture but more as I couldn’t quite tell what this actually means. But I guess stumbling over things can be very inspiring and motivating. I found a lot of good and helpful articles on a website called “Treehugger” and an interview with Eric Toensmeier who published a book on Carbon Farming in 2016. So now I feel like I can explain to you what Carbon Farming stands for. If you want to learn more about it, check out the list of links I attached below!
Carbon Farming is part of an biodynamic kind of agriculture as developed by the Australian Rudolf Steiner. Basically it allows to store carbon in the soil immediately instead of having to wait for the development of new technologies to reduce the global carbon emission. There are several different ways of Carbon Farming, for example agroforestry and the planting of perennial crops. In the latter case, long living plants are chosen which increase the biomass on the ground so that the soil can store more carbon. Agroforestry means that trees are integrated into the fields, so they collect the carbon from their environment and store it in the ground. According to Toensmeier, this form of agriculture proved to be more productive than conventional mono-cultures This in turn provides the other plants with more nourishing humus and actually increases the gain from the field. The additional compost leads to increased plant growth and this in turn allows for more carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere through the natural process of photosynthesis Ironically, this usually happens totally naturally but at the present state requires a different kind of farming. The farmers would have to grow different plants and incorporate as much organic matter as possible, including stubble/straw or stems left over from cropping. As they also have to reduce their tillage, this alternative farming is also call No-till farming.
A chance for the EU…?
So far, it seems to me that mainly Australian and American farmers used the “Carbon Farming” methods to reduce the amount of CO2 circulating in the atmosphere, although by now it seems we still miss overwhelming evidence in its favour. In 2013, an EU project group published a report on a pilot project on the “certification of low-carbon farming practices in the European Union” in which it assessed future policy options for promoting low-carbon farming practices in the European Union. The project also included the development of an EU-wide farm-level carbon calculator. Such a calculator could assess the carbon footprint of a farm and its products and recommend how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Apparently, the EU is aware of the potential of “Carbon Farming” and hopefully it will encourage farmers in the future to pursue this change in agriculture.
I hope I could trigger your interest into this promising way of farming and in case you want to learn more about “Carbon Farming”, check out the following links!
 Report EUR 26378 – Joint Research Centre – Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Title: Final Technical Report: “Certification of low carbon farming practices”
Mona Noé is 23 years old, and a student of applied cultural sciences in Potsdam. She lives in Berlin and is a member of the German Grean Youth and FYEG.