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How are Agriculture Carbon Credits Calculated?

In 2021, many organizations like General Motors, Etsy, and sweetgreen are pledging to go carbon neutral. As part of those commitments, they are planning on purchasing carbon credits to counterbalance the amount of net greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere as a result of the organizations’ activities. 

However, how are these organizations sure their carbon credit purchases are verified and being calculated correctly? 

How are Carbon Credits Calculated? 

A carbon credit is the certificate that a practice has removed 1 tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In agriculture, a carbon credit is generated through broad adoption of farm management practices that replenish the soil and help trap carbon in the ground, meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improvements in soil-based carbon sequestration.

CIBO Carbon Credits are calculated on an annual basis for practices that are implemented over the course of a single growing season– beginning with the planting of a cover crop in the fall and ending with the harvesting of a primary cash crop the following fall. We verify and sell credits for practices that are real improvements over conventional farm management. To verify and quantify practices, CIBO looks at several factors. 

Management Practices 

With remote satellite sensing, computer vision, electronic records, and physical inspection, CIBO verifies the farm management practices including tillage practice, nitrogen application and many other practices. A set of fixed locational factors (soil, weather, topography, etc), and a set of variable management practices are used to measure carbon footprint. The management practices that affect carbon footprint are as follows:

  • Cash crop rotation: CIBO Impact currently enrolls farm fields for carbon credits that are planted with corn and soybeans. These fields can be planted with continuous corn, continuous soy, or any rotation of the two. 
  • Presence of a cover crop: Many fields enrolled in CIBO Impact choose to grow cover crops in the off-season. Verified cover-crops typically help to improve the carbon footprint of a field by helping sequester carbon. 
  • Tillage: Fields enrolled in the CIBO program are not required to employ reduced tillage. However, when reduced tillage (e.g minimum-till or no-till) is employed and verified, this will generally improve the carbon footprint of an agronomic field. The team explores the depth, intensity, and number of passes of tillage throughout the year.  
  • Nitrogen fertilizer: CIBO also takes into account the fertilizer practices included on the field. CIBO employs a complex ecosystem model to estimate the net effect of reduced nitrogen, in combination with other management practices, on a particular field. The amount of nitrogen applied to the field during a year is quantified. 

Carbon Footprint Quantification

After CIBO ingests each of the field inputs, the team calculates a baseline carbon footprint that represents the “lowest common denominator” of accepted farm practices. We then compare the actual practices on the field to this lowest common denominator, in order to determine how much the enrollee is lowering (improving) the carbon footprint for the field.  

Carbon footprint quantification can be calculated for any set of farm practices, as long as that set of farm practices is supported by CIBO models.  

Carbon credit = Baseline carbon footprint – Field actual carbon footprint

Carbon Credit Verification

Once verified, farmers price and sell their credits on the CIBO Marketplace. Credits can be sold each year, based on the verified practices implemented. 

Buyers can directly support American farmers who have enrolled their fields. In CIBO Impact, individuals and organizations have the option to purchase credits on a specified field, or to purchase credits without specifying a particular field. When buyers do not specify a particular field, credits are sold on a first-in/first-out basis. 

Climate change affects everyone, and by purchasing carbon credits through CIBO Impact, you can be part of the solution. CIBO ensures that each of our carbon credits is quantified, verified, and enrolled carefully before being offered on the carbon marketplace. By purchasing CIBO Carbon Credits, you are helping support US farmers’ regenerative practices, which help rebuild the soil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Get started with CIBO, today!