A new project will investigate ways Scottish farmers could draw down more carbon into their soils.

The initiative will be led by the Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA), the UK’s only membership body owning Scottish organic standards, and funded by the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF).

Known as 'Rock On Soils', it will see scientists and farmers working together to investigate the use of crushed basic silicate rocks as a soil input and aims to determine the carbon sequestration potential alongside any additional soil and biodiversity benefits.

SOPA will be collaborating with Abertay University, James Hutton Institute, the University of Dundee, and the Geoscience department of German institution Forschungszentrum Juelich.

The group will also involve farmers, including Alex Brewster of Rotmell Farm, recently announced Farm Carbon Toolkit and Innovation for Agriculture 2020 Soil Farmer of the Year.

Emily Grant of Forrit (Farming and Consultancy) will be managing the eight-month project, along with Debs Roberts at SOPA.

The project has three main objectives:

  • To analyse soils and carbon at Rotmell;
  • To bring together a network of forward-thinking farmers to test the practicalities of using the silicate rock crushings on-farm; and
  • To develop a simple app for wider agricultural dissemination.

Debs Roberts, policy manager for SOPA, said: “This is such an intriguing project to be part of, and it is an excellent example of grassroots farming grasping the opportunity to work with cross-sector partners in the scientific sector.

“The prospect of farmers and scientists collaborating so closely on ‘Rock On Soils’ is incredibly exciting, and the fact that we have been able to go ahead virtually is really innovative – going online overcomes barriers that often come with multiple geographical locations, and of course keeps everyone safe with Covid.”

Emily Grant added: “Farming and agriculture has been given a bad name when it comes to environmental impacts, so we are really keen to investigate ways that Scottish farmers can be more carbon-friendly and deliver Scottish Government climate change goals.

The initial research suggests that this product could be a game-changer, not only in terms of tackling climate change, but also helping to improve soil and plant health.

"We could be at the cutting edge of some really positive work for carbon-friendly farming.”

Updates will be disseminated as the project moves forward and into 2021.