Carbon Farming

Interest and activities: Co-creation session in Hamburg very successful

20 March 2020 - Published by Paula Nijman
On March 5th, 2020, the German Carbon Farming partners Thünen and 3N met with some 25 people, representatives of consulting organisations, farmers, researchers and members of stakeholder associations.

At the beginning the different approaches to implement and reward carbon sequestering farm management and various concepts for valorisation of efforts of farmers and land owners to sequester and protect carbon in soils in business models were presented. Then intensive discussions started. It was stated, that there is a willingness of many people (especially the LOHAS: Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability) to pay for more sustainably produced goods. To get their money for a more sustainable production farmers and people in marketing have to make reliable and easy to understand offers. Communication and trust are very important. The methods how to increase soil carbon are basically known but demand fundamental changes in management. Examples of measures suited to enrich soil carbon are agroforestry; introduction of cover crops, undersown crops or multiannual green forage crops; changing of arable land to grassland and reducing soil cultivation. A very powerful tool to protect carbon in soils is rewetting of drained moorland. Generally organic fertilisers are suited to increase soil carbon, but they are already part of agricultural systems and a transfer from one place to another is a zero-sum game as the organic matter cannot be used at the place of export. Therefore organic fertilisers are difficult to include in those concepts and should only enter the balances when produced additionally on the site of use.

All changes in land management and area use are risky and costly, since they need practical experience, new equipment and they need to be continuous. Additional constraints may be leasehold contracts and fertilization regulations.

Finally, it is hardly possible to take precise and comparable measurements of soil organic carbon and make predictions on the general trends soil organic carbon contents develop in a changing climate and on sites with different history. Therefore the uses of soil analysis values as outcome variable to reward carbon farming activities in business models or as carbon credit is very doubtful. But nevertheless the above-named measures to protect and enrich soil organic carbon (humus) in farmland are valid and should be optimised or enhanced on farm level.

In spite of the named constraints, a number of projects are ongoing. Soil & More Impacts B.V. presented the example of „Biomessen“ which organizes local organic trade shows in East, West, North and South Germany. In order to offset their event’s emissions they started a cooperation with local farmers in each of those regions via improved farming practice. They worked with a 7 farmers accounting for a total of 1849 hectares. (More details:

Another approach is to start with an analysis of a farm´s carbon footprint. The Farmer´s Association of North-East Lower Saxony is doing this with a couple of member farms in order to detect the most effective approaches for greenhouse gas mitigation (  There is an Excel-based calculation scheme (TEKLA) which uses easily available data of the farm management. Some of the results lead to even cost-saving measures for the reduction of emissions, but there is the idea to earn carbon credits by other management changes in addition.  

There were some other ideas and approaches which will become further evaluated and followed in the course of the Carbon Farming project.  


Text: Ernst Kürsten, Zaur Jumshudzade, Hans Marten Paulsen                Picture: Hans Marten Paulsen