Expert: Carbon farming ideal to boost Poland’s yields

“Appropriate use of regenerative farming methods - and in particular understanding of how nature's cycles work, including the carbon cycle - means that at some point the system becomes organic, meaning not using artificial methods for production,” Mateusz Ciasnocha told EURACTIV Poland. [Shutterstock/petrmalinak]

This article is part of our special report Carbon farming: Europe’s new trend?.

Carbon farming practices could help Polish farmers cope with permanent drought as they could increase the productivity of their yields, an expert has told EURACTIV Poland.

“Activities serving the purpose of using soil in a more sustainable way and increasing the amount of carbon present in it make the soil more fertile and increase its production values,” said Zbigniew Karaczun, a professor at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW) and an expert of the Polish branch of the Climate Coalition.  

Such soil, he added, becomes more resistant to drought, “which in Polish conditions, with unstable weather and permanent drought in the summer season for the last ten years, can bring farmers higher yields.”

However, according to Karaczun, in Poland at the moment “there are no instruments that would support carbon farming in a broader way”.

As part of its push for greener agriculture, the European Commission has said it plans to launch a carbon farming initiative by the end of 2021. [See background below]

Farmers see chances in carbon farming but must be market-led

Agriculture stakeholders see a shift towards carbon farming in the European Union positively but emphasise that details over financial incentives for EU farmers must be determined for its proper rollout.

For Mateusz Ciasnocha, farmer and CEO of European Carbon Farmers, regenerative agriculture is a much broader concept than organic farming. European Carbon Farmers is an organisation promoting carbon farming practices in Poland and developing agricultural carbon payment mechanisms.

“Appropriate use of regenerative farming methods – and in particular understanding of how nature’s cycles work, including the carbon cycle – means that at some point the system becomes organic, meaning not using artificial methods for production,” Ciasnocha told EURACTIV Poland.

He added that not enough farmers are aware that their farm is a part of the whole ecosystem. “Every farmer is a carbon farmer, whether he realises it or not.”

“The best example is that our agriculture still relies heavily on tillage, which is a practice that has a very negative impact on the carbon cycle,” he stressed.

Is carbon farming likely to develop in Poland? 

Jerzy Plewa, former head of DG AGRI at the European Commission and Team Europe expert, told EURACTIV Poland the support for carbon farming will grow, among other reasons, because 40% of the new Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP) budget should be allocated to pro-climate measures.

According to Plewa, carbon farming marks a return to the good practices of the past, but with a scientific approach that reinforces the positive impact of these practices on the soil.

“In the long run, farmers will benefit from improved soil quality, improved production performance and greater resilience,” he noted.

The implementation of carbon farming practices may imply the need for new investments. Plewa stressed that the additional costs for farmers are compensated under the CAP.

But farmers are not rewarded depending on the amount of carbon stored.

Plewa explained that pilot programmes have so far been launched in Europe which aim to reward farmers for tons of carbon sequestered in the soil. According to him, farmers will soon be additionally rewarded for practices based on regenerative agriculture.

“A necessary step for carbon farming in the EU will be the establishment of a legal framework for certification of sustainable carbon removal from natural ecosystems. The Commission is currently working on a draft regulation on carbon farming, and the certification mechanism is to be proposed by 2023,” he noted.

Plewa also said Poland’s CAP Strategic Plan draft provides eco-schemes typical of carbon farming, such as “simplified farming systems, diversification of crop structures and compliance with fertilisation plans”.

The Polish expert also insisted on the need to properly inform farmers about this opportunity. “The implementation of ambitious environmental-climate programs requires constant improvement of farmers’ knowledge, as well as wide support from professional advisory services, which is insufficient in our country”.

CAP holds the carbon farming key

Plewa said Poland could make use of the CAP, which includes many possibilities to support pro-ecological and pro-climate measures, especially under the second pillar, in rural areas.

“These funds support organic farming and agri-environmental programmes, which are not commonly referred to as carbon farming, but contribute to absorbing CO2 from the air and storing it in the soil”.

However, Plewa criticised the fact that despite having the biggest budget in the EU for the rural development pillar, Poland does not fully exploit the opportunities provided in the CAP.

“It allocates fewer funds for organic farming and ambitious agri-environmental programmes and spends large sums on other objectives,” he concluded.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic, Sarantis Michalopoulos]

Carbon farming: Europe's new trend?

Carbon farming’s overall objective is to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

In practice, by using various agricultural methods ranging from crop rotation, cover crops, and reduced tillage to precision nitrogen application, farmers aim to contribute to tackling climate …

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