Carbon Farming, Climate Change & Sustainable Agriculture

GS Paper III (Environment & Ecology):

The syllabus emphasizes climate change mitigation strategies, and carbon farming is a prominent concept in this domain.

GS Paper III (Agriculture):

You can link carbon farming practices to sustainable agriculture and improved soil health.

Essay Paper:

Carbon farming can be a compelling point for essays related to climate-smart agriculture, environmental conservation, or the role of agriculture in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
 

Carbon : Carbon is found in all living organisms and many minerals. It is fundamental to life on earth and plays a crucial role in various processes, including photosynthesis, respiration, and the carbon cycle.

Farming: Farming is the practice of cultivating land, raising crops, and/or livestock for food, fibre, fuel, or other resources.

It encompasses a wide range of activities, from planting and harvesting crops to managing livestock and maintaining agricultural infrastructure.

What is Carbon Farming ?

Carbon farming combines these two concepts by implementing regenerative agricultural practices that restore ecosystem health while improving agricultural productivity and soil health, and mitigating climate change by enhancing carbon storage in agricultural landscapes and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The practice is easy to adopt across various agro-climatic zones. It can also help ameliorate soil degradation, water scarcity, and challenges related to climate variability.

Methods in Carbon Farming

A simple implementation of carbon farming is rotational grazing. It is a pasture management system designed to improve the health of livestock, grasslands, and the overall farming operation.

Agroforestry practices — including silvopasture and alley cropping — can further diversify farm income by sequestering carbon in trees and shrubs.

Conservation agriculture techniques such as zero tillage, crop rotation, cover cropping, and crop residue management (stubble retention and composting) can help minimise soil disturbance and enhance organic content, particularly in places with other intense agricultural activities.

Integrated nutrient management practices promote soil fertility and reduce emissions by using organic fertilizers and compost.

Agro-ecological approaches such as crop diversification and intercropping have benefits for ecosystem resilience.

Livestock management strategies including rotational grazing, optimising feed quality, and managing animal waste can reduce methane emissions and increase the amount of carbon stored away in pasture lands.

CARBON POLICY FOR AGRICULTURE – NammaKPSC

Suitable Areas for Carbon Farming

Regions with long growing seasons, sufficient rainfall, and substantial irrigation are best suited to practise carbon farming because they provide the best conditions in which to sequester carbon, through vegetation growth.

In regions with adequate rainfall and fertile soil, the potential for carbon sequestration through practices like agroforestry (integrating trees and shrubs with crops) and conservation agriculture (minimising soil disturbance) may be particularly high.

For Example, Regions with extensive agricultural land, such as the Indo-Gangetic plains and the Deccan Plateau, are well suited to adopt carbon farming.

Challenging Areas

Carbon farming can be challenging in hot and dry areas where the availability of water is limited, and prioritised for drinking and washing needs.

Limited water availability can hinder the growth of plants, thus restricting the potential for sequestration through photosynthesis. .

Moreover, selecting which plants to grow also becomes crucial because not all species trap and store carbon in the same amounts or in an equally effectively manner.

Fast-growing trees and deep-rooted perennial grasses tend to be better at this task — but they may not be well-suited to arid environments.

Benefits of Carbon Farming:

Climate Change Mitigation: By sequestering atmospheric CO2, carbon farming contributes to reducing greenhouse gas concentrations, mitigating the effects of climate change.

Improved Soil Health: Enhanced organic matter content leads to better soil structure, increased water retention capacity, and improved soil fertility, ultimately resulting in higher crop yields and reduced dependence on chemical fertilizers.

Biodiversity Enhancement: Carbon farming practices create a more favorable environment for soil microbes and other organisms, promoting a healthy and diverse soil ecosystem.

Potential Income Source: Emerging carbon credit markets provide financial incentives for farmers who adopt carbon farming practices. Farmers can earn carbon credits based on the amount of carbon sequestered on their land.

Limitations

Initial Investment Costs: Implementing certain techniques like no-till farming or biochar application may require initial investments in equipment or materials.

Long-term Commitment: The benefits of carbon farming, such as increased soil organic matter and carbon sequestration, often accrue over time. Farmers need a long-term perspective and support to sustain these practices.

Monitoring and Verification: Measuring and verifying the amount of carbon sequestered in soil and vegetation can be complex and expensive. We need standardized protocols and accessible monitoring techniques.

Policy and Infrastructure Support: Government policies like subsidies for adopting carbon farming practices, along with infrastructure development for processing organic matter and creating markets for carbon credits, are crucial for wider adoption.

Global Initiatives

The practice of carbon trading in the agriculture sector has become important around the world, especially in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, where voluntary carbon markets have emerged.

Initiatives like the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Carbon Farming Initiative in Australia demonstrate efforts to incentivise carbon mitigation activities in agriculture. The processes range from no-till farming (growing crops without disturbing the soil) to reforestation and pollution reduction.

Initiatives like Kenya’s Agricultural Carbon Project, which has the World Bank’s support, also highlight the potential for carbon farming to address climate mitigation and adaptation and food security challenges in economically developing countries.

The launch of the ‘4 per 1000’ initiative during the COP21 climate talks in 2015 in Paris highlights the particular role of sinks in mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions.

Some Indian Initiatives

Soil Health Card Scheme: This scheme provides information on soil health parameters to farmers, enabling them to adopt targeted soil management practices.

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY): This scheme promotes organic farming practices, which can contribute to carbon sequestration.

Mission Organic Value Chain Development in North East Region: This mission focuses on promoting organic farming in the North Eastern states, potentially leading to increased carbon storage.

Conclusion:

Carbon farming offers a promising avenue for mitigating climate change while promoting sustainable agriculture practices.

 

 

 

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