The Centre for High Carbon Capture Cropping (CHCx3), which represents a four-year, £5.9 million research project, has been officially launched.

It has been established to help UK farmers and growers target net zero in the most efficient way possible.

The new body will also enable new revenue sources for farmers and growers through a carbon marketplace while also supporting enhanced value chains for industries such as textiles and construction.

The project will run from now through to 2027. It is supported by a consortium of 22 industry and research partners and will be led by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB).

Carbon capture cropping

The research undertaken will focus on four cropping options: Rotational cover crops; annual fibre crops (industrial hemp and flax); perennial food, forage and feed crops (including cereals and herbal leys); and perennial biomass crops (miscanthus, willow and poplar).

In addition to evaluating their potential to enhance atmospheric carbon capture and sequestration in the soil and crop-based products, CHCx3 will examine the effects of cultivation system and agronomy on economic returns and other environmental outcomes.

Further work will optimise the production and use of renewable biomaterials for fibre, textiles, and construction and develop carbon insetting/offsetting platforms.

CHCx3 will provide resources to support the effective uptake and utilisation of crops with high carbon capture potential, with practical outputs such as crop guides, web tools and apps available to landowners, farmers and agronomists.

The project will also offer a wealth of opportunities for its many stakeholders to engage with and participate in the ongoing research, including crop trials, field demonstrations, webinars, workshops and training.

Project Lead and head of the NIAB Innovation Farm, Dr. Lydia Smith, believes that crop choice, management and utilisation all offer opportunities.

“Farmers and associated industries can address climate change goals through input-efficient crops that are able to increase carbon capture,” she said.

“But they must have confidence in achieving profitable and sustainable outcomes.”

NIAB director of agronomy, Stuart Knight, agrees. He believes that CHCx3 will build on the institute’s extensive programme of crop diversity, farming systems and soils research.

“The project will kick-start vital new collaborations between researchers, seed suppliers, growers and industries seeking to realise the full potential of crop-based products, establish new revenue opportunities within the carbon market, and give a major boost to our shared aim of achieving net zero,” he said.

CHCx3 has been awarded funding by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) under the Farming Futures research and development (R&D) Fund: Climate Smart Farming.