TerraMap Carbon – The UK’s first carbon mapping service – Carbon Toolkit – Matt Ward
Carbon Toolkit examines TerraMap, particularly the launch of TerraMap Carbon and how it is now possible to map both organic and active carbon ...
This spring saw the launch of TerraMap Carbon, a new service from Omnia which will help growers to obtain more accurate carbon baseline measurements.
The pressure for UK farming plc to manage carbon is only going to become greater given that other industries are already showing positive change. However, as an industry, UK farming is in a unique and enviable position, since farming activities can make positive changes to carbon, which most other industries are not able to do, and this is a really significant factor, according to Matt Ward, Farmacy agronomist and service leader.
He says: “This challenge comes at a time when the arable industry is facing great change in light of the loss of Basic Farm Payment and many growers may well be questioning the importance of relevance of carbon management as potential profit margins are threatened.
“It’s crucial that we move away from seeing carbon footprinting as a burden or simply a tick-box exercise and see that it is beneficial – as a proxy measurement for efficiency and profitability of a farm as well as simply a measure of waste.
“It’s clear that there are benefits, such as lower input costs, to having a negative carbon balance, before even getting to the carbon bit itself.
A reduced carbon footprint can only be achieved through more efficient fertiliser use, different technologies, better soil management or considering the energy used in storage, so it’s a win-win on all levels.”
“However, to manage carbon we have to measure it – until now there has been no accurate means of measuring carbon in the soil – and unless you can measure carbon there is no way it can be managed effectively.
“As a business we have been investing heavily in developing services and technologies which can be utilised at farm level to allow growers to work towards these goals and the development of TerraMap Carbon is an exciting and unique development which reflects this approach.”
According to Hutchinsons, TerraMap Carbon is the first ever carbon mapping service to provide a totally accurate baseline measurement of both organic and active carbon in the soil and is now available to UK farmers.
Mr Ward says: “TerraMap revolutionised the way in which soil nutrient mapping was undertaken in the UK and it is now doing the same for carbon mapping.”
Now with the launch of TerraMap Carbon, it is possible for users to accurately map both organic and active carbon in the soil for the first time.
When it comes to soil carbon, there are two types, which are outlined below:
- Organic carbon. This is mainly stable and takes the soil many years to build up and degrade, making it relatively resistant to change. It includes active carbon. This is expressed as:
- Percentage total carbon.
- Tonnes/hectare total carbon.
- Active carbon. This is readily disrupted and includes microbes that break down organic matter. It accounts for up to 5% of organic carbon in the soil pool. This is expressed as:
- Percentage active carbon.
- Tonnes/ha active carbon.
Standard or premium
TerraMap Carbon is available as a standard or premium service. The standard service maps a total of 17 micronutrients soil type and pH layers that now also include total organic carbon in terms of percentage carbon and tonnes/ha.
The premium service maps 27 layers which include a wider range of micronutrients than those in the standard service and also cation exchange, and now both total organic and active carbon percentage and tonnes/ha – that is the percentage of carbon that is active in the soil.
According to Mr Ward, one of the most common questions with regards to carbon management is what to do with the measurements once you have them and how can you achieve the potential benefits outlined by Omnia.
He says: “The results from TerraMap Carbon can be used to create carbon maps within the Omnia carbon management system which aligns the field carbon measurements against the carbon costs of different machinery operations for that field, incorporating detailed calculations for power, width, work rate and fuel, all of which are generated using the expertise of specialists from the Farm Carbon Toolkit.
“Within the carbon management tool it is possible to create different rotation scenarios from types of cropping and variety to stewardship and management practices and see first-hand the projected CO2, impact and financial performance for each scenario.
“We wanted to move away from just presenting carbon figures on a spreadsheet into a visible and usable format that can be used for forward planning, much like we have done with the cost of production tool in Omnia.
“It’s not always the grand gestures that make the difference,” he adds. “And this is where the ability to look at different scenarios is invaluable. For example, it might be more beneficial to put more land into Environmental Land Management schemes and sequest more carbon this way than to replace or change machinery.”
The Tech Behind TerraMap
Manufactured by Canadian company SoilOptix, TerraMap’s scanning technology is based on a scaled-down version of airborne sensors that originates in mineral prospecting and has been used successfully in other countries.
TerraMap uses gamma-radiation detection technology to deliver resolutions of more than 800 pints/ha, providing high-definition mapping of all common nutrient properties, pH, soil texture (for
example, % clay, % sand, % silt), organic matter and CEC, as well as elevation and plant available water and now carbon.
The TerraMap sensor is non-contact and pre-calibrated upon manufacturing. It is an entirely passive sensor. The standard field practise is that the scanner is mounted roughly 600-700mm above the ground and the vehicle is driven around 10-12mph and at 12-metre swath widths.
The sensor is measuring gamma radiation that is being naturally emitted from the soil. Specifically, it is measuring caesium-137, uranium-238, thorium-232 and potassium-40.
The in-field process of collecting the data is carried out in two very simple steps; scanning by driving a lightweight all-terrain vehicle fitted with the sensor over a field and then taking soil samples to allow for each scan to be calibrated and used to create the individual map layers.
The methodology of TerraMap means that there are very few limitations to when it can be used – offering a much wider operating window compared to other soil scanning systems.
The consistency and reliability of the results from TerraMap are proven, reflected in its uptake on more than 35,000ha on UK farms since its launch in 2018.