Agriculture is an earth warming activity. Tractor emissions release carbon dioxide. Methane is produced in flooded paddy fields. The application of urea releases nitrous oxides. When paddy stubble and other agricultural waste is burnt, smoke and soot are released into the atmosphere.
But farms can also be carbon sinks if regenerative agriculture is practiced. Retaining paddy stubble in fields, planting wheat without ploughing the fields or tilling them minimally, moving away from transplant rice to direct-seeded rice, introducing a leguminous crop like mungbean in the rice-wheat cycle — all these are practices that make farming a low-carbon activity.
These practices lower the cost of production. But they also have social benefits. Can farmers be paid for the environmental services they render?
It is this idea that has motivated Grow Indigo to enlist farmers in Punjab, Haryana and the National Capital Region for its carbon credit programme. Grow Indigo is a joint venture between Mahyco, a Maharashtra-based pioneer in seed production and Indigo Ag, a US company that provides a platform for the purchase and sale of carbon credits.
Usha Barwale-Zehr, Grow Indigo’s Chairman and Executive Director says the company provides validation and verification services to farmers and also advises them in regenerative agricultural practices. But it does not itself pay for the carbon credits. These will be sold once they are generated. She says at least one carbon credit can be generated per acre. That would mean the capture of one tonne of carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gases.
Umang Agarwal, Head, Carbon at Grow Indigo says carbon credits can be India’s biggest export item in agriculture. It sounds very optimistic but I urge you to watch this very interesting interview which I did for thefederal.com.