Research project Enabling Carbon Farming in Flanders by establishing a geospatial information system


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Main research question

Carbon farming can contribute to climate change mitigation while increasing the resilience of soils. The principle is to create so-called negative emissions by sequestering carbon maximally and for a long time period in the soil and in woody biomass. The LIFE project CarbonCounts aims at a broader implementation of carbon farming in Flanders, via an integrated, well-documented systematic approach. It has three objectives: 1) perform a system analysis and design a roadmap for carbon farming with a multi-actor approach, 2) build a geodata platform to register and monitor measures for carbon farming and calculate the effect on soil carbon storage and 3) establish an action platform for carbon farming with various actors that can continue to work with the roadmap after the project.

Research approach

To perform the system analysis and develop the roadmap, ILVO consults closely with agricultural organizations, policy advisors, researchers, farm advisors, NGOs, companies, certification bodies and other involved actors. Current projects and initiatives also come on board. We map out which knowledge and methodologies already exist in Flanders and in Europe and which data and data connections are exactly needed to monitor and report on soil carbon storage in a correct and realistic way. All this results in an overview of bottlenecks, opportunities and needs. In the roadmap, we unravel each actor’s responsibilities in order to facilitate the broader implementation of carbon farming. Especially for the geodata platform, ILVO works closely together with the specialists of the Flemish Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. For three aspects - agroforestry, woody landscape elements and mineral soil - we design an efficient system that makes it possible to register initiatives of farmers and to calculate the effect on soil carbon storage. After a design phase, we develop the necessary tool or application, of course connected to the existing geodata platform of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. A test of the apps is foreseen with a pilot group of farmers.


It is well known that the contribution of agriculture to a climate-neutral society must be based on two pillars: in addition to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we must compensate for remaining emissions through so-called negative emissions such as carbon storage in soils and woody biomass. To prove that targets for carbon storage are met, efforts made by farmers should be correctly reflected in Flanders’ climate accounting. CARBONCOUNTS helps to make the connection between the aforementioned geodata platform as well as the climate accounting. The second great relevance of this project lies in the possible payments for farmers who deliberately enhance carbon storage in their agricultural soils and thus stimulate soil ecosystem services. Such payments, whether through public or private means, are already emerging in a rather unstructured context. The system analysis and roadmap, the development of a geodata platform and the establishment of an action platform in the longer term are all expected to facilitate a broad and better structured implementation of carbon farming in Flanders.