Arjan Reijneveld: 'Prove and claim carbon capture with Soil Carbon Check'

16 December 2022

Eurofins introduces Soil Carbon Check, a handy tool for the agri-food sector to proof and claim carbon storage. We asked soil expert Arjan Reijneveld why this new tool is useful and how to deploy it in daily practice?

In 2015, the FAO established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Soil plays an important role in these goals. Explain how?

The healthier the soil, the easier it is to close yield gaps and optimize crop quality. Healthy soils are also essential for maintaining belowground and aboveground biodiversity and for retaining water to prevent drought.

In addition, soil is able to fix CO2 in the form of organic carbon in organic matter, thus contributing to the reduction of the greenhouse gas CO2. Large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, emitted by industry, traffic and forest fires, create a blanket so to speak over the earth that traps solar heat. This is causing climate change. The more CO2 captured in the soil, the less CO2 in the atmosphere.

How can soils help capture CO2 and reduce global warming?

Plants, under the influence of sunlight, capture CO2 from the air through photosynthesis in roots, leaves, stems and wood. This organic material from these plants in the soil is therefore an efficient way to store CO2. Through smart soil management, it is possible to increase the amount of CO2 in the soil. Among others at COP21 (Paris Climate Agreement 2015) the goal was set to increase the amount of CO2 in the soil by 0.4 percent annually.

What does it mean, smart soil management?

Smart soil management means ensuring good soil health. Soil health rests on five puzzle pieces. In addition to sufficient organic carbon, these are chemical, physical and biological properties and the absence of contaminants (pollutants). Farmers can ensure soil health through targeted measures. Possible actions to improve soil health are among others sowing green manures, applying animal manure or compost, changes in crop rotation, leaving crop residues on the field and less ploughing.

How do you know if your soil is healthy and capturing CO2?

Soil testing provides insight into soil health. Eurofins has developed a unique soil based tool to monitor CO2 sequestration with the soil called Soil Carbon Check. The Soil Carbon Check tool answers how much CO2 is in your soil, how stable the organic matter is, what you can do to increase the CO2 content in the soil and how the development of the CO2 content is over time.

Increasing soil organic matter, and thus capturing CO2, is quite challenging. How can Soil Carbon Check help with that?

Indeed, increasing soil organic matter requires attention and time. Eurofins has therefore developed a handy Carbon Calculator. This calculator provides insight of the input and output of organic carbon. It shows the effect of crop rotation, crop choice, manure, compost and green manuring. Moreover, the calculator indicates how many carbon credits you can earn for several management approaches

Carbon Credits, what are they?

Carbon Credits are tradable certificates that allow farmers to demonstrate that they are actually sequestering CO2 in the soil. These certificates have monetary value and the food industry will also use them in the (nearby) future to support sustainability claims. Please note, Eurofins does not trade in Carbon Credits. Several parties in the market have set up initiatives for this trade.

Some people say you cannot monitor changes in carbon capture in the soil, however, Eurofins claims that this is possible. Why is this so?

I know, however, there are many so called proof of concepts. Even on what I would call worst case scenarios like intensive arable farming on very light textured soils, we saw that focus on positive carbon balances pays off. We also see that in the soil test results! Of course, if you only sample every four or five years, the time to prove significant changes is, in my opinion, much too long. My strong advice is therefore to sample every year. In that way you can prove a statistically significant increase (95%) much earlier. Worth mentioning that it’s certainly not expensive to measure on a yearly basis.  In fact, Eurofins uses an innovative and efficient method that allows the cost of analysis to be kept low.

If a farmer wants to have Soil Carbon Check performed, how does it work in practice?

It's simple. The farmer contacts Eurofins and gets advice on how to take a soil sample and how to send it in.  The sample is then analyzed using the modern NIRS method in our lab. This report is automatically linked to the Carbon Calculator.

So, if I understand correctly, Soil Carbon Check offers two advantages?

Yes, that's absolutely right! Firstly, Soil Carbon Check provides insight into the amount of organic carbon and in CO2 capture. Sufficient organic carbon is central to soil health and thus a prerequisite for good crop yield and quality. Secondly, the report is proof that as a farmer you are doing a good job of capturing CO2 and can earn Carbon Credits based on this.

In short, conducting an annual Soil Carbon Check is the basis of smart soil management for every agricultural business! If you want to know more, check out our website for more information. There you can find, among other things, an example report and frequently asked questions (FAQs). 

Soil Carbon Check is of interest to the entire agrifood sector?

Yes, for sure! Just think of the possibilities for the food sector and governments. Soil Carbon Check is a very useful tool for them as well. One important advantage, and I am quite proud of this, is that the data on the reports are internationally standardized. This allows comparisons between results in different countries. Eurofins has locations in many countries and we can offer this tool there as well. Just to name a few: in Finland, France and England the first samples have already been taken and analyzed.

And finally, I’d like also to mention that Eurofins has already partnered with a number of larger international food companies. They promote Soil Carbon Check over different countries amongst their suppliers, the farmers. So I would encourage you to embrace Soil Carbon Check as a very valuable tool to take steps to achieve sustainability goals

And, if I may add? I think it wonderful that we can actually measure and monitor carbon capture in soils. By doing this, we can contribute significantly to beating climate change!

Get more Soil Carbon Check information