Mar 10, 2021
Carbon farming payments possible with soil-building

Vegetable growers building their soils and boosting yields may consider a side gig in carbon farming.

The idea of carbon farming has been floated for years as a way to reclaim carbon emissions in the atmosphere. But it’s not just talking – today, some private firms do offer payments for farm projects that promise to reclaim carbon from the atmosphere to the soil.

Soil-building and soil-conservation techniques such as low- or no-till cultivation, cover crops, tilling under stubble and crop diversity are among the practices mentioned by groups such as GreenAmerica.org as ideal for carbon farming.

“When plants photosynthesize, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it,” according to GreenAmerica.org. “When they die, this carbon is either released back into the atmosphere or it is stored for long periods of time in the soil. Many conventional agriculture practices result in the release of carbon, while practices classified under carbon farming aim to do the opposite.”

Select agricultural products also can play a role in carbon farming, as Locus Agricultural Solutions, aka Locus AG, has shown. In January, the Solon, Ohio-based company, the certified B Corp or benefit corporation, rolled out a new relationship with carbon marketplace Bluesource, a year after it had announced a similar relationship with another marketplace, Nori.

The carbon marketplace relationships revolve around Rhizolizer Duo (pictured at top), Locus AG’s biological product for soil-building. The product won the Agribusiness Intelligence global award for Best New Biological Product of the Year in 2019, is a blend of soil-specific, high-density fungal and bacterial microbes meant to increase crop yields in specialty crops such as vine crops and tree crops. LocusAG says third-party data has confirmed it increases the soil’s ability to sequester up to 8.6 additional metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents per acre annually. Rhizolizer Duo is also listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute as allowed for specialty crops, although it also is used by conventional growers.

Growers who use Rhizolizer Duo can enroll in LocusAG’s CarbonNOW program to earn ag-based carbon credits and sell the credits through marketplaces such as Nori or Bluesource.

Grant Aldridge
Locus AG CEO Grant Aldridge. Photos: Locus AG

“Buyers of carbon are looking for growers,” Locus AG CEO Grant Aldridge told Vegetable Growers News. “They want to incentivize them to adopt new regenerative ag practice changes. Our products are considered an ag practice change.”

2020 was a pilot year for Locus AG’s CarbonNow program.

“It’s so new – we’re blazing a trail in the carbon removal markets,” he said. “It was important for our company to work through a lot of price points.” One of the growers in the pilot program, an Iowa farmer, was able to sequester 23,000 metric tons of carbon for his past regenerative ag practices.

Aldridge pitches the Rhizolizer Duo on two levels – for the agronomic benefits as well as the carbon market potential.

“Our product is under the soil amendment category, so it’s easy to work it into their agronomic crop solution program,” he said. “Then, there’s the additional benefits of the carbon sequestration, other (greenhouse gas) reduction. That allows those growers – when they participate on the agronomic side, that sets them up for a unique opportunity to participate in these carbon markets. So, we’re there along with growers to help them through that process. And that’s important because growers have got a lot going on. This is super new. And so forging the alliance we have with Bluesource really knits this together very, very nicely, and it’s a fully transparent market.”

The customers are out there. “There’s a large market of buyers looking to reduce their environmental impact throughout their supply chain,” Ben Massie, VP of environmental markets at Bluesource, said in a news release from Locus AG. “The CarbonNOW program connects these buyers with environmentally-focused growers.”

The price point for carbon credits can vary greatly depending on the specifics of the project, but a September 2020 report from Carbon Credit Capital noted that prices on one marketplace were mostly $15-18 per ton of carbon sequestered per year.

“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for farmers to get paid for taking action to remove and store carbon,” Nori CEO Paul Gambill said in a news release.

— Stephen Kloosterman, associate editor


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