Carbon Credits are a Real Agricultural Product
Anyone can touch, see and smell plant fiber or biomass naturally produced as a result of photosynthesis. Carbon credits, quantified by ECCI, are real because we use site-specific measurements of plant biomass. Increasing the amount of CO2 removed can be done by growing plants like perennial grasses that produce a lot of biomass per season with minimal, if any, fossil carbon inputs.
Researchers have known for a long time that grassy plants are about 45% carbon and coal is about 80% carbon. The ancient carbon found in coal is chemically exactly the same as the contemporary carbon found in grasses and trees. In fact, the carbon found in coal originated from plants growing on earth in ancient times.
The percent carbon content in specific types of plants is very constant. One can quantify the amount of CO2 those plants remove from the air during the growing season on a given landscape by measuring the amount of plant material grown on that landscape. Therefore, biomass production is a very good bio-indicator of the amount of CO2 plants removed from the air to grow roots, stems, leaves and seeds during the growing season. Stems, leaves and seeds can then be used for food, feed or fuel while the carbon stored in the annual root growth eventually becomes part of the soil. Most of the carbon stays in the soil if the soil is not tilled or otherwise disturbed. This very process is how the deep black soils of the world’s prairies and savannas were formed.
Farmers, ranchers and other landscape managers can actively manage landscapes to make practical increases in CO2 storage. These improvements in productivity do not occur without deliberate intervention by the land manager. These deliberate improvements are visually apparent and are quantifiable. Proof of improvement is measured by increased biomass for a specific land unit. Absent this deliberate intent the land use may actually result in decreased CO2 storage and increased atmospheric carbon.
Measuring biomass is actually measuring net amounts of CO2 removed by certain agricultural activities on a specific tract of land over the course of a contracted period. The agricultural product produced can be bought, sold, banked, or traded. This product, widely called a carbon credit, can be accorded a value just like a bushel of grain and is very real.
Carbon Credits from agriculture activities like growing perennial grasses and not disturbing the soil are site specific and real. An ECCI quantified carbon credit is a tangible product that can be banked (saved for later use), sold or leased as a market driven method to reward land managers for growing usable carbon for food, fiber and energy while at the same time creating and expanding soil sinks. Trading carbon credits in the emissions trading market gives business, industry, agriculture and investors a flexible, cost effective way to measurably improve the environment.