If you missed our Conference on Carbon on Commons or want to see it again you can watch it here

Farming offers one of the few effective mechanisms of drawing down carbon from the atmosphere. We wanted to know if moorland grasses are good at holding carbon. The answer is Yes. And how do we measure the carbon in our soils?

Two expert speakers

The audience heard from from Dr Lisa Norton from the Center for Ecology and Hydrology and Becky Wilson from the Farm carbon Toolkit.

Moorland grasses store a lot of soil carbon and need looking after

First, Dr Lisa Norton provided data showing that moorland (acid) grasslands – the type of grasslands hill farmers and commoners manage –  hold more tons of carbon per hectare than any other type of grassland. They are also biodiverse rich, especially in species adapted to a low PH.

Acid grasslands are important and need to be managed well to maintain the stores of soil carbon. This can be through:

  • keeping what we have in good condition
  • restoring acid grasslands on less productive lands
  • plant hedges and hedgerow trees at the edges to take up carbon is also beneficial.
There aren’t one size fits all solutions

Lisa cautioned that one-size-fits-all solutions for drawing down carbon from the atmosphere aren’t necessarily the best. Soils are complex and diverse.  Their capacity to sequester carbon varies  enormously depending on their soil properties such as texture, permeability, available water content, bulk density, and organic matter content.

Lisa ended her talk presenting  ways farmers are going to be supported for managing carbon. However, it is early days and many of these carbon markets are still under construction.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Becky Wilson from the Farm Carbon Toolkit told the audience how carbon accounting can work for hill farmers. In essence managing carbon on the farm starts by measuring “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”.

Carbon toolkits can work for the uplands

Carbon toolkits were first devised for lowland farms, but they can work for uplands farms too. Currently they are fine from an emissions perspective (i.e. livestock, fertilizer, fuel, feed). They work for sequestration for habitats but are not so good on soils and sol management.

This is being remedied. The Farm Carbon Toolkit now has a number of projects in the uplands. They are gathering the data behind the toolkit to better reflect the conditions in the upland. She encouraged the audience to get involved.

 Becky took the audience through a real example from an upland livestock farm.