Arable farmers are being urged to use caution when thinking about selling the carbon stored in their soils.
Jon Foot from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) made the comments at a press briefing at the Arable Scotland event at Balruddery Farm on the outskirts of Dundee.
Dr Foot, who is head of environment and resource management at the levy body, said the carbon market presented opportunities for farmers in the form of them being able to build up the carbon stocks in their soils.
However, he urged caution when looking at selling these stocks off and said: “I would be very careful about selling carbon and would advise, in all cases before entering into any carbon scheme, that the farmer seeks professional advice.
“You don’t want to be selling your carbon straight away because there is the risk down the road that your customer says you need to achieve net-zero, and if you have sold your carbon cheap you may have to buy it back more expensively.”
Dr Ken Loades from the James Hutton Institute acknowledged there were many different carbon calculators on the market for farmers to use, which in many cases offered different carbon footprint answers for the same farm.
However, he urged farmers to choose one to use and to stick with it so that they can monitor any progress they make in reducing the emissions from their farms.
Dr Loades added: “There needs to be caution that farmers don’t use a different calculator to change their numbers.”
He encouraged growers to start their carbon calculations journey by engaging with the Scottish Government’s £51 million National Test Programme (NTP) – designed to prepare farmers and crofters for future farm policy.
The first phase of the programme, announced earlier this year, offers support for carbon audits and soil analysis.
Dr Loades said: “Farmers should be really starting to make the most of the testing they can do that will be subsidised by the Scottish Government; it’s important because any payments linked to carbon in the future will be assured.
“We need the industry to be committed to this [NTP] because this is what will be happening in the future.”