What is carbon farming?
All agricultural production originates from the process of plant photosythesis.
With energy from the sun, plants combine carbon dioxide CO2 from the air with water and minerals from the soil to produce carbohydrates, building their bodies and the soil around them. Carbon is recognized as a key energy currency of biological systems, including agricultural systems. Agricultural production depends on plant photosynthesis to move carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into the plant, where it is transformed into agricultural products: food, flora, fuel or fiber.
Common agricultural practices, including driving a tractor, tilling the soil, overgrazing, clearing forests and degrading water sources, result in the return of this soil and biomass carbon to the air. It is estimated that as much as one-third of the surplus CO2 in the atmosphere that’s causing climate change has come from agricultural and land management practices.
On the other hand, there are certain commonly used agricultural practices through which photosynthetically derived carbon can be sequestered and stored in the soil. Carbon farming involves implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and soil organic matter. Carbon farming is successful when carbon gains resulting from enhanced land management or conservation practices exceed carbon losses.
Carbon farming in Marin County
From the original three demonstration farms, MCP has supported the creation of 20 full carbon farm plans covering 14,000 acres. Six more ranches will be selected for plans in 2023, with the goal of sequestering 55,752 MT CO2e by 2030. Over 20 years, the potential carbon reduction associated with these plans when implemented is 256,585 MTCO2e.
If you are an agricultural producer or landowner seeking assistance in development of a Carbon Farm Plan (CFP), contact your local RCD or NRCS office.