Info­graphic: Paths to climate-neutral produc­tion

Agri­cul­tural has a stake in climate change, and at the same time the soil is a powerful tool against warming. This will lead to new regu­la­tions for farms – and hope­fully new oppor­tu­ni­ties.

The chal­lenge

70 %

By 2050, the world must increase food production by 70% to feed its growing population.

Source: World Resources Insti­tute

66 %

Over the same period, it would have to cut green­house gas emis­sions by 66% under a 2 degree target


Emissions in the EU

How does agri­cul­ture compare with other sectors?

Source: Euro­pean Envi­ron­ment Agency

23,39 % Industry 26,08 % Energy 23,04 % Inland trans­port12,76 % Agri­cul­ture

Green­house gases in agri­cul­ture

CO2 usually means CO2 equiv­a­lent.
This unit of measure­ment is used to stan­dardize the green­house poten­tial of different gases. In agri­cul­ture, there are mainly three:

Sorce: farm carbon toolkit


Nitrous oxide

300 times more harmful to the climate than CO2. Formed by micro­bial processes in soils that are strongly influ­enced by fertil­izer use.


Carbon dioxide

remains in the atmos­phere for about 100 years. The main source is fuel combus­tion. Tillage and land use changes such as defor­esta­tion also release CO2.



30 times more harmful than CO2, but remains in the atmos­phere for a shorter time. Arises from enteric fermen­ta­tion of rumi­nants, emitted to a lesser extent from manure.

Where do emis­sions in arable farming come from?

Example in cereal and oil crop produc­tion

Source: Cham­bres d’agriculture Grand Est, indica­tive values from aggre­gated CO2 balances in eastern France.

16 % Other31 % Fertil­izer produc­tion24 % Emis­sions from applied fertil­izer16 % Emis­sions from plowed-in crop residues11 % Direct energy consump­tion (petro­leum prod­ucts and elec­tricity)2 % Seed produc­tion



Solu­tions approaches

Forests and perma­nent grass­land capture enor­mous amounts of CO2, but there is not much room for addi­tional storage in their soils. There is in arable farming: that’s where 86% of the total poten­tial for CO2 seques­tra­tion lies, as a French study found in 2019. Five prac­tices stand out:

Percentage of total poten­tial for new storage in France. Source: Inrae

35 % Inter­crop­ping and perma­nent greening13 % Expan­sion of grass­land in crop rota­tion2,7 % Planting of hedgerows19 % Agro­forestry1,5 % New organic resources


Do CO2certifi­cates pay off?

If farmer 1 (left) adopts the prac­tices from farmer 2 (right), emis­sions are cut by 0.77 T/ha. The sale of carbon certifi­cates 6,034 € gross*, of which 20% is paid after 10 years. The fixed fees are 980€/year. In the first year, the farmer gains 3.848€ netto.

*For CO2 certifi­cates from “Soil Capital”

Acreage: 285 ha

Organic matter: 2,02%

Main crops: Common- and durum wheat, silage corn

Catch crops: 19 % of crop rota­tion

Organic fertil­iza­tion: 0 %

Tillage: Plow

CO2 emis­sions: 1,5 t/ha

Acreage: 293 ha

Organic matter: 1,98%

Main crops: Common- and durum wheat, silage corn

Catch crops: 38 % of crop rota­tion

Organic fertil­iza­tion: 0 %

Tillage: Reduced tillage

CO2 emis­sions: 0,73 t/ha


Biomass for the planet

How much carbon can organic matter fix, with what gain in fertility?


100 kg

of micro­bial biomass can release 15 kg of N, 25 kg of P and 12 kg of K through miner­al­iza­tion.

Source: Chambre d’agriculture du Cantal


0,45 bis 0,6 tC/ha

That is how much carbon wheat or corn can fix in the soil in the form of stable humus via straw and roots.

Source: Arvalis – Institut du végétal


9,5 t CO2/ha

can be stored in the soil with an increase in soil organic matter from 2.0% to 2.1%.

Source: Peter Breunig


0,2 bis 0,3 tC/ha

can be fixed by a catch crop on average.

Source: Arvalis – Institut du végétal



what makes a good CO2 certifi­cate?

A farmer increases the humus content in his field and/or reduces his emis­sions, a company certi­fies the improved CO2 balance, pays him for carbon credits and sells them on to end customers, for example indus­trial compa­nies. For this system to actu­ally have a posi­tive effect on the climate, a carbon credit needs the following char­ac­ter­is­tics:



of emis­sion reduc­tion or seques­tra­tion: the CO2 calcu­lator must simu­late the actual reduc­tion.



An inde­pen­dent veri­fier ensures that the claims corre­spond to the reality of the prac­tices.



The company is only paid for some­thing it would not other­wise have under­taken.



The farmer commits to keep the carbon in the soil for a certain period of time.

Yield main­te­nance


Avoid yield losses if possible to prevent compen­sa­tion in other coun­tries.



The certifi­cate is not
sold twice.