Carbon Farming

First Belgium pilot: project Beernem

18 November 2020 - Published by Paula Nijman
Five farmers from Beernem cooperate in a pilot project to sequestrate carbon in municipal territory. This is a way for the municipality to compensate the emission of their municipal car fleet. This can contribute to obtaining climate goals. Beernem signed their second mayor covenant for Climate and Energy, which amongst others has the goal of reducing CO2 emissions.

The municipality is backed by Inagro in this pilot project, that is partner in a European project called Carbon Farming. In this project, experts guide farmers that want to reduce CO2. Next to that, Boerennatuur Vlaanderen (farmers nature Vlaanderen), the union of agri operators  in Vlaanderen, are also involved.

Farming techniques reinforce carbon sequestration in soil

“On base of scientific research we selected a set of aboveground and underground techniques that a farmer can use to permanently sequestrate CO2 from the atmosphere into the soil.”, tells Evelien Lambrecht, project leader of Inagro, during an information session for farmers. “Plants and crops convert CO2 from the air into biomass. The chosen techniques make sure the carbon is sequestrated as much as possible.

The chosen measures are all implementable in a practical way with the current machine park and deliver as much as possible return on investment. A few examples of used techniques are the use of cover crops, no tillage, and good pasture management. These techniques give free way to nature to do her work and stimulate soil organic matter which binds more carbon to the soil. Also field margins with deep rooted plant species sequestrate carbon from the atmosphere into plant and soil. More carbon in the soil (through organic matter) also gives the advantage the soil is more resilient to climatic extremes.

Optimizing and scaling up

With the applied techniques farmers sequestrate more or less 3.2 t carbon in the soil, which corresponds to the emission of 5 cars a year. This is a small scale start on a good 5 ha.

In future Inagro explores further the best techniques for the specific region and in which soils they can best focus. At the same time they calculate what monetary compensation the farmers should receive as a return on their investment. In the pilot project this monetary compensation is paid by the municipality that wants to compensate the emission from their own car fleet. Further research has to show whether local companies want to become CO2 neutral through paying farmers for their efforts.