LEARNING about how farms can reach net zero was the key focus of the Dairy Show 2023. 

Held at the Bath & West Showground in Somerset, speakers in the seminar programme at the show explained the benefits of achieving net zero on farms. 

This year's theme was 'Carbon Talks', and so visitors listen to how going net zero can improve soil resilience, reduce input costs and offer potential new income streams. 

Under the Farm Carbon Toolkit's (FCT) Farm Net Zero project, three demonstration farms aim to fully reach net zero, said Dr Hannah Jones. Taking place in Cornwall, the five-year project is being run on 43 farms, 40 of which aim to achieve a carbon reduction of 30%, while the final three plan to completely eliminate emissions.

Included in the talks, were practical solutions for farmers to preserve and increase their soil carbon. Opportunities include correcting the soil pH to optimise nutrient availability, eliminating soil compaction, and increasing the variety of roots in the ground, as well as regular soil and carbon testing to identify the direction of movement.

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"It's like a bank account, we've got to make sure we are putting more CO2 into the soil than we are taking out," said Mole Valley Farmers' Lisa Hamley.

"Managing our soil carbon storage is the most important thing we can be doing. Collectively, we [as farmers] can make a difference: We are looking after our future."

It can be valuable to use a carbon calculator like Trinity Ag-Tech's 'Sandy' to collate and analyse data gathered on farm, said the firm's Oliver Rubenstein. This can then be used to add value to the farm product, as well as countering misinformation in the industry through positive environmental statistics.

Caroline Walker from Clarke Willmott Solicitors said that natural capital market can seem like an 'attractive alternative' when basic payments are being phased out while the SFI incentive has been delayed

She explained that the financial possibilities include trading in areas like biodiversity net gain, carbon sequestration, nutrient neutrality and water neutrality, but it is 'important' to meet the needs of your business and take legal advice. 

The Dairy Show also featured talks on capturing and re-using methane from slurry stores, and considerations when installing solar PV and battery storage.

It attracted over 6,000 visitors from across the UK, and next year’s event will be held on Wednesday, October 2, 2024, at the Bath & West Showground, Somerset.