Grass pastures maize, wheat, and sunflower fields near Boulogne sur Gesse in the Occitane region of France. © 2020, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
AUTHOR PROFILE Irene Benito
Curious Planeteer working to make the Earth's changes visible, accessible and actionable.

Part 2: Carbon Farming—What Is It And What Does It Mean For Global Sustainability Efforts?

Stories

Both public and private entities increasingly view carbon farming as a way to achieve carbon neutrality. On the private side, a number of agriculture related and food value chain companies are investing in new models that integrate and commit to regenerative agriculture practices. On the public side, both the Biden Administration and the European Union are pursuing increasingly aggressive emissions targets and have placed agriculture at the heart of ambitious carbon strategies. 

But steering the contribution of the agricultural sector towards a carbon neutral future is, at the very least, challenging. To begin with, decision-makers must design systems that offer appropriate incentives for farmers to transition to more sustainable practices. They are often looking to nascent agricultural carbon credit markets to do this, hoping to create efficient mechanisms that promote carbon sequestration and mitigate GHG emissions. Carbon credit markets are markets for pollution offsets and, in the context of agriculture, would trade carbon credits produced when farmers adopt more sustainable practices. However, there is uncertainty surrounding the pricing of carbon credits as the means to ensure that rewards for farmers are sufficient to cover the costs of transitioning permanently to regenerative practices. Reliable evidence is needed to accurately figure out how much carbon can actually be sequestered by farmers, and how to adequately measure this is essential. 

Earth observation data can complement field work in research evaluating the feasibility and effectiveness of regenerative agricultural practices. Satellite imagery can be used at the field level to monitor management practices in farming such as rotating crops, minimal or no ploughing and planting cover crops. This data can also be used to calculate the biomass and carbon sequestration value of plants, which helps determine how effective cover crops are in protecting an area in a scaleable, cost and time effective way. It is also less labor and time-intensive than field sampling. 

With its daily cadence, Planet’s satellite data can supply more data points to increase the effectiveness of modeling and is being used in academic research to investigate the potential of carbon sequestration to fight climate change. We’re working directly to develop the necessary evidence base for the H2020 project AgriCapture – a project that brings together 14 partners in Europe to develop and commercially launch a platform that facilitates large-scale zero emission aspirations, through empowering regenerative agriculture as well as measuring and monitoring resulting soil carbon sequestration. It will combine ground-based information, or soil data, from five use cases across Europe, agricultural practices from farmers, and Earth observation data to monitor the effects of agricultural practices over time. 

The project exploits powerful Sentinel-2 data, and fuses it with Planet’s daily time series of high-resolution PlanetScope data and advanced Fusion Monitoring products. This data is being used to train machine-learning models on crop health, application of fertilizers, water, and tillage which will monitor the impact of regenerative agriculture management practices on carbon storage. Preliminary results of the project will be available in November 2021.

Satellite imagery can be game-changing when creating carbon neutral agricultural models. Join us on on the Thursday, June 3, 2021, for a panel with subject matter experts from the European Commission, the University of Belgrade, VITO Remote Sensing, and Planet as they discuss the potential of Earth Observation for sustainable agriculture.

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This three-part blog series explores the potential of carbon farming in fighting climate change. Part I of the series explains what carbon farming is and what is its promise in the road to carbon neutrality. Part II will focus on the role Earth Observation can play in providing the necessary evidence for the construction of efficient carbon credit markets and what we are already doing at Planet. The final blog examines carbon sequestration as part of the European Union’s Green Deal and climate strategy. 

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