The rollout of a carbon farming framework is being stepped up with a major investment in a national soil observatory focusing on greenhouse gases (GHG).

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has allocated €2.7 million to expand the National Agricultural Soil Carbon Observatory (NASCO).

The facility was established in 2020 to accurately reflect the actual carbon emissions and sequestration from grasslands and to verify progress on climate targets.

It aims to address the lack of data and research on changing soil carbon stocks in grasslands on organic and mineral soils.

The new investment will allow for the purchase of additional GHG monitoring equipment to increase the range and type of soils and land uses being monitored by observatory.

Carbon Farming

On December 15, the European Commission launched a plan that would see farmers and landowners rewarded for playing their part in decarbonising the atmosphere.

Communication on Sustainable Carbon Cycles includes carbon farming, which has been described as a “green business model” that targets and rewards actions that remove carbon and store it in our soils.

Minister McConalogue said that the investment in the NASCO reaffirms his commitment to provide the research and data needed to underpin the development of a carbon farming model.

“Our strategic investment in this technology will benefit Irish agriculture and society at large through the better understanding of our GHG emissions and the highlighting of pathways through which we can achieve significant emission reductions.

“Carbon farming is an area that will become a crucial part of the future of farming in this country. This will be an opportunity for our farmers to derive a new income stream for their farm.

“To reward our farmers for the actions they take to remove and store carbon in our soils, forests, grasslands, croplands and hedgerows, a well-functioning carbon farming framework that provides confidence, verification and certification is essential,” the minister said.

As part of the development of the carbon farming framework, a working group has been established, which will be chaired by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

It will identify existing baseline data, make recommendations to address knowledge gaps, develop voluntary carbon codes and examine financing through public/private partnerships.

Minister McConalogue said that Teagasc has begun intensive monitoring of carbon emissions and removals across a range of Irish soils.

Dr. Karl Richards, head of the Environment, Soils and Land-Use Research Department at Teagasc, said that the expansion of the observatory will provide cutting edge research facilities.

He said that this will help to “better refine agricultural emissions and identify new mitigation measures to reduce GHG emissions and will place Ireland at the forefront of EU carbon sequestration research”.