farm Carbon E.I.P.
Initiatives for Sustainable Farming of
The aim of the Farm Carbon E.I.P. is to reduce the level of Greenhouse Gas emissions (carbon dioxide CO2) released from agricultural peatlands and thereby help address the climate crisis while also enhancing rare biodiversity and improving water quality
New Approaches for Agricultural Peatlands
Drainage-based agriculture on peatland soils accounts for approximately 25 % of all EU agricultural carbon emissions from just 3% of EU agricultural lands giving rise to water pollution, soil degradation and subsidence and loss of biodiversity.
The Farm Carbon E.I.P is a 2-year pilot program of scientific investigations aimed at quantifying the benefits of environmental improvement measures in order to establish viable sustainable farming options that address these issues. It will also develop a methodology for an Irish Wetland Code to verify carbon ‘offsets’ for farmland projects.
The results will inform changes in agricultural policy to support sustainable land use of these areas and enable the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine to make appropriate financial payments to owners of peatland farms and lands for measures that enhance the 3-Pillars of Environmental Quality – (1) Carbon Storage (2) Biodiversity and (3) Water quality status.
An Environmental research initiative
In association with a voluntary group of farmers of agricultural peatlands, GRI’s Farm Carbon research initiative will explore options for economically viable carbon farming methods. These will quantify current soil and water carbon levels and subsequent improvements in carbon sequestration, biodiversity and water quality for those measures implemented. These measures will include those already tried and tested and new and innovative technologies and farm practices.
Carbon farming involves implementing agricultural practices that improve the rate at which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and soil organic matter – carbon that otherwise ends up as CO2 in our atmosphere causing climate change. Carbon farming is the framework for engaging with the agri-ecosystem processes that drive system change.
Green Restoration Ireland’s Farm Carbon E.I.P. employs a whole-farm approach to investigate the results of both new and tested methods in terms of carbon capture and storage and the associated ecosystem benefits.
Peatland Farms - Catchment Areas
The Farm Carbon project (2021-2023) has been approved for implementation by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and funded by the European Innovation Programme (E.I.P.) under the Rural Development Programme and is being conducted on peatland soils in the catchment areas of the Rivers Camcor, Little Brosna and Silver in the counties of Offaly, Laois and north Tipperary.
Fig 2. (Opposite) Shows Catchment areas within 1 km – Camcor, Little Brosna & Silver Rivers.
Farm Research Centres
Project farms will act as research centres where we explore ways of protecting our carbon stock, restoring the sequestration of carbon, maximising ecosystem benefits (e.g. biodiversity, flood control, and water quality) and building resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Participating farmers receive a combination of action-based and results-based payments that address the environmental impacts arising from agricultural peatlands and adjacent lands.
The project aims to manage the different types of peatlands in a collaborative approach with farmers and our wide range of project partners, to trial new and innovative practices and determine what is best suited to each site. This will provide a comprehensive scalable framework that can guide future policy that regenerates the land and provides sustainability for Irish peatland farms. At the same time it will contribute towards a sustainable future for our peatland farms through increased incomes for participating farmers.
Mitigation measures will include, but not be limited to, re-wetting and restoration, partial re-wetting or paludiculture (wetland agriculture).
Achievement of these aims will contribute to Ireland’s rural development and environmental objectives and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands and reverse biodiversity loss.
Facts about Peatlands
Depending on how damaged it is one (1) hectare of degraded peatland can emit from 2-20 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare annually
In addition, degraded peatlands release dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nutrients into our waterways and rivers. Healthy peatlands retain and sequester carbon indefinitely. A healthy active bog lays down about 0.5-1 mm of peat in a single year; 1 cm in 100 years and 1 metre in 1,000 years.
Bogs also regulate our water supply by acting as giant sponges that control flooding by absorbing excess rainfall and releasing it steadily during drier periods.
Bogs or Peatlands are principally degraded by drainage activities as a precursor to harvesting for fuel, agriculture or Plantation forestry
When drained, peatlands lose their natural characteristics of carbon storage, water regulation and purification, releasing increasing levels of carbon pollution into the air and river waterways.
Peatlands may only comprise 3% of the Earth’s surface but they hold nearly 30% of the the world’s terrestrial carbon stock
This amounts to at least 550 Gigatonnes or more than twice as much as the world’s forests, making them the foremost terrestrial stores of carbon on the planet. Peatlands are found in 180 countries worldwide and span across all continents from naturally forested peatlands in Europe and tropical peat swamps in South East Asia, to vast permafrost area of Russia and Canada, and high mountain peatlands in the Andes and Himalayas.
Just over 20% of Ireland is covered in peat soils while our country holds 50% of western Europe’s remaining raised bogs and 8% of the world’s total of blanket bogs.
This equates to an estimated 1.5 billion tonnes of stored carbon – constituting more than 53% of our overall soil carbon – or five times the quantity of carbon stored in our forests.
Measurements from the Farm Carbon sites indicate they contain several hundred to several thousand tonnes of carbon per hectare
For comparative purposes, several thousand tonnes equates to the same amount or more of carbon than is stored in the giant redwood forests of California.
The peat soil in an undisturbed bog is likely to have a moisture content of greater than 95% so technically speaking “… there are more solids in milk than in peat”
Water movement in the catotelm is extremely slow, up to 1 million times slower than the speed of a snail. It has been estimated that it would take around 90 years for a single raindrop to filter downwards through the 10 metre thickness of a raised bog system.