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Yorkshire Water takes part in landmark carbon-cutting project

Yorkshire Water has joined more than 40 farmers in East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire to take part in a landmark project which could help return atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels, reduce flooding and improve soil health.

The Sustainable Landscapes Humber Project – a collaboration between Yorkshire Water, Nomad Foods-owned Birds Eye, Future Food Solutions and Hull and Teesside universities – will see farmers growing cover crops between harvesting and sowing.

Known as pop up rainforests, the diverse range of cover crops can capture huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Trials have shown the plants can also increase soil organic matter by up to 40 tonnes per hectare, which can sequester nett over four tonnes of atmospheric carbon per year.

As soil organic matter has fallen by 50% over the past 60 years, using cover crops to restore these levels not only has the potential to re-establish soil health, but could also help contribute to reversing the ongoing rise in atmospheric CO2 levels.

The pre-project trials have already achieved a dramatic rise in soil organic matter, more than doubling levels in just five years, from 3% to over 6%.

Yorkshire Water asset strategy manager Andrew Walker said: “Growing cover crops to increase soil organic matter is one of the most effective way of combatting the major environmental issues we face today. In just seven weeks, they generate enough carbon-sequestering organic material to make a significant dent in atmospheric CO2. If grown on a global scale, arable farming could become the first sector of the economy to be net carbon zero.”

He added that the Sustainable Landscapes Humber Project could also play a major role in the reduction of flooding in Hull.

Yorkshire Water is a core partner in the Living With Water partnership in the city, alongside East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Hull City Council and the Environment Agency.

“The remit of the Living With Water partnership is to implement measures that reduce or mitigate the impacts flooding has on Hull,” said Walker. “Research shows that achieving just a 1% increase in soil organic matter would enable agricultural land to store an extra 200,000 litres of water per hectare.

“Therefore, this project has huge implications for flood attenuation in and around Hull. Birds Eye has long term relationships and collaborations with its growers, so by working with them to increase the levels of soil organic matter in the Humber region, we can make a real impact.”

Topic: Sustainability & social value
Tags: flooding , CO2 , environment , farmers

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