Carbon is the ‘Crop’ of the Future : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution, and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Key Phrases: Industrialised agriculture, Regenerative agriculture, Carbon farming, Carbon sequestration, Biodiversity, UNFCCC, Organic Farming, bio sequestration, Carbon sink, Global warming, Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture.


  • There are ‘no free lunches’ is a perfect way to sum up the deep impact industrialised agriculture has had on our planet.
  • The modern-day gift horses of industrialization and the global supply chains have allowed us to expand our horizons and our “palates” — turning the erstwhile “life source and a public common” into a global business opportunity.
  • Agriculture is now a surgical economic activity. This leads to the new epoch of ‘corporate-environmental food monopolies.’

What Is Industrial Agriculture?

  • The concept of industrial agriculture implies increased use of farmlands to produce the highest yields possible to gain profit and support human food needs.
  • The maximization is achieved through typical intensive farming practices like increased use of fertilizers, insecticides, abundant irrigation, heavy machinery land treatment, planting high-yield species, and expansion of new areas. This way, higher inputs in industrial agriculture bring higher outcomes.
  • Most commercial agricultural enterprises apply intensive crop farming and regard agriculture primarily as a business, taking as much as they can from every single unit of land.
  • On the contrary, extensive farming propagates a more sparing and healthy approach to land use, with fewer chemical inputs. It maintains productivity in natural and eco-friendly ways like organic farming.

Impact of Industrial Agriculture:

  • Modern agriculture externalises its true cost to others ie.,gets less food out of the ground, with fewer nutrients, less efficiently, more expensively, and with greater environmental devastation than small and organic farming.
  • Industrial agriculture has not shed its colonialist imprint which is evident on the planet in a different way:
    • with differentiated access to nutritious food,
    • reducing the biodiversity of our diet,
    • injudicious ecological practices like monocropping and systematic erosion of soil
    • the mounting cost of technology, and
    • chemicals — exiling the farmers out of their fair share of the progress and deepening the climate change crisis.
  • According to the Third Biennial Update Report submitted by the Union government in early 2021 to the UNFCCC, the agriculture sector contributes 14 percent of the total GHG emissions.
  • Amongst these, greenhouse gas emissions from rice cultivation during 2016 accounted for 71.322 million tonnes “CO2 equivalent”, which might have gone up to 72.329 million tonnes “CO2 equivalent” during 2018-19.

What can fix the broken food systems of our times?

  • This can be reduced by switching to regenerative agriculture practices and carbon farming can institutionalise and accelerate that shift. Regenerative agriculture and climate farming have gained wide acclaim and patronage globally.
  • Carbon farming promises a bold new agricultural business model that fights climate change, creates jobs, and saves farms that might otherwise be unprofitable.
  • In essence, a climate solution, increased income generation opportunity, and ensuring a food security net for the population — right under our feet.

What is Regenerative agriculture?

  • Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems.
  • It focuses on:
    • topsoil regeneration,
    • increasing biodiversity,
    • improving the water cycle,
    • enhancing ecosystem services,
    • supporting bio-sequestration ,
    • increasing resilience to climate change, and
    • strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.
  • Regenerative agriculture is not a specific practice itself. Rather, proponents of regenerative agriculture use a variety of sustainable agriculture techniques in combination.
  • The key to regenerative agriculture is that it not only “does no harm” to the land but improves it, using technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment.
  • Regenerative agriculture leads to healthy soil, capable of producing high quality, nutrient-dense food while simultaneously improving, rather than degrading land, and ultimately leading to productive farms and healthy communities and economies.
  • It is a dynamic and holistic, incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters, and pasture cropping, to increase food production, farmers’ income, and especially, topsoil.

What is Carbon Farming?

  • Carbon Farming is a whole farm approach to optimising carbon capture on working landscapes by implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in plant material and/or soil organic matter.

Benefits of Carbon Farming:

  • Carbon farming can incentivise our farmers to introduce regenerative practices in their agricultural processes — helping them shift their focus from improving yields to functioning ecosystems and sequestering carbon that can be sold or traded in carbon markets.
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Improved air quality
  • Mitigate the risk of soil erosion
  • Increased soil fertility, reduced soil salinity & overall improved soil health
  • Buffering against drought
  • Improved native vegetation, habitat, and animal health
  • Improved agricultural productivity & efficiency
  • Improved quality, organic and chemical-free food (farm-to-fork models)
  • boosted/secondary income from carbon credits for the marginalised farmers.
  • The total value of the global carbon markets grew by 20 percent in 2020 — the fourth consecutive year of record growth — and is well on its way to raising a critical mass of investors.
  • The value of traded global markets for carbon dioxide (CO2) permits grew by 164 percent to a record €760 billion ($851 billion) in 2021.

Soil as Carbon Sink:

  • Soil is one of the most untapped and underutilised defences against climate change and acts as an efficient carbon sink. And India should capitalise on it to achieve its Net Zero target and decarbonising pathway.

  • An international initiative called ‘4 per 1000’, launched at the 2015 Paris climate conference, showed that increasing soil carbon worldwide by just 0.4 percent yearly could offset that year’s new growth in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel emissions.
  • Studies show that soil removes about 25 percent of the world’s fossil-fuel emissions each year and has been the missing link from the globally prescribed carbon management practices and narrative.

Meghalaya leads the way

  • In India, Meghalaya is currently working on a blueprint of a ‘Carbon farming’ Act to create a prototype of a sustainable agriculture model for the entire North-East region.
  • North-East Region has shown tremendous progress in adopting organic and sustainable agriculture practices and Sikkim has shown the way already. But there is tremendous potential.
  • Out of the 5.5 million hectares of cultivated land available in the North-East, organic farming barely covers 3 percent of arable land.


  • An extensive and pioneering carbon farming Act — with a robust transition plan can effectively demonstrate the idea of creating a carbon sink on working land and farm our way out of climate crisis, improve nutrition, reduce the punishing inequalities within farming communities, alter the land use pattern and provide the much-needed solution to fix our broken food systems. Carbon thus can effectively prove to be the ‘cash crop’ of the future for farmers.

Source: The Hindu BL

Mains Question:

Q. “Carbon farming promises a bold new agricultural business model – one that tackles climate change, creates jobs, and saves farms that might otherwise be unprofitable.” Evaluate.

Q. As a management practice, carbon farming offers significant potential to mitigate climate change and deliver other benefits. Discuss.