Seven farmers from across Northern Ireland have teamed up to secure funding from Europe to investigate practical ways to measure, manage and reduce carbon emissions from ruminant farming.

Dubbed ARCZero’ (an acronym for Accelerating Ruminant Carbon to Zero), the group will work alongside AgriSearch, Devenish, Birnie Consultancy and Queen's University Belfast.

The first challenge is to determine how much carbon is held in their soils through soil sampling and analysis.

Then, using aerial LiDAR surveying they’ll try to fully understand the amount held in the hedgerows and trees on the farms.

Having calculated the total volume of carbon on each farm, the next step will be to quantify how much potential there is to sequester more.

Using SRUC’s ‘AgReCalc’ they will complete a detailed emission calculation, examining all inputs and outputs of their farm.

With these baseline figures in hand, each farmer will actively implement measures to enhance sequestration. The measurements will be repeated in 2023 to detect any differences which occur.

Speaking at the launch of the project, John Gilliland said: “Ruminant farming is often labelled as a pariah when it comes to its drive towards carbon neutrality.

ARCZero seeks to scientifically prove what many believe – that it is not a pariah, but is a large part of the solution, being able to lock up carbon within soils, woodland and hedges.

“The challenge confronting production agriculture is that of quantifying the positive impacts of its activities and to use this as a baseline in order to plot a course towards carbon neutrality for the industry as a whole.

“It is our hope that the ARCZero Project will demonstrate that innovative farmers can implement practical solutions delivering nutritious food while reducing their carbon footprint and improving water quality.”

Roger Bell, a sheep farmer on the ARCZero Project, added: “There is so much talk about farming and the environment, and not a lot of it positive, so when I was asked to join the ARCZero project I had to say yes.

Along with the other six farmers, I am looking forward to the outcomes of our initial benchmarking so we can better understand where we are at, and how to move our farms towards net carbon zero.

The EIP Scheme is co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).