Development of a carbon footprint protocol for the UK cereals and oilseeds sector


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 November 2011 - 31 October 2012
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
AHDB sector cost:
£47,739 from HGCA.
Project leader:
Jonathon Hillier1, Peter Metcalfe2, Martin Collison3, Richard Whitlock4, Chris Winney5, Colin Merritt6, Nigel Davies7 1University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen, AB24 3FX 2 Low Carbon Innovation Centre, ADAPT group, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ 3Collision and Associates Ltd, Honeysuckle Cottage, Shepherdsgate Road, Tilney All Saints, Kings Lynn Norfolk, PE34 4RW 4Richard Whitlock Ltd, Managing Director, Mill End, 8 Potton Rd, Wrestlingworth, Nr. Sandy, Beds, SG19 2EZ. 5NIAB-TAG consulting, NIAB, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge, CB3 0LE UK 6Colin Merritt Consulting Ltd. 7Muntons PLC, Cedars Maltings, Stowmarket, Suffolk, IP14 2A.


pr506-summary pr506

About this project


The initial aim of this project is to review existing guidance and methodologies to produce a draft protocol for calculating the carbon footprint of oilseed and cereal crops. The original objectives of the protocol were to encourage both farmer engagement and also help provide farm gate assessments for the supply chain. A second aim was to develop a carbon footprint assessment tool based on this protocol that computer literate growers would find easy to use. A third aim was to test the tool and protocol using real farm case studies to feedback and make any revisions to the protocol to improve accessibility.


Most of the existing greenhouse gas (GHG) product assessment specifications are aimed at retailers and processors. The case studies showed that the initial protocol draft from the review process had some aspects that were of limited relevance or too complicated to enable a grower orientated tool to be developed. For example, obtaining typical inputs and yields from growers for multiple fields and over a number of years to counter the impact of seasonal variability made the approach too demanding. The protocol was revised during tool development, specifically to simplify these data demands.


  • The current level of understanding of carbon footprint assessments amongst farmers is likely to be very low. Therefore, to engage farmers, it is important to focus on a simple tool to start with and seek to develop its complexity over time as the farming community’s level of knowledge increases;
  • A simple carbon footprint assessment protocol applied using a farmer-friendly carbon decision support tool (CDST) is possible. However, a protocol and calculator aimed at growers for competing with existing specifications for reporting retail orientated product carbon footprints would be difficult to implement;
  • Even among the most progressive of the case study growers, without an initial element of face to face support the technical data demands of the carbon footprint process would have been difficult, even with the simplified tool;
  • Any tool will need supporting with a training programme to help farmers understand how to measure their footprint, what the answer means and how they can seek to reduce their footprint;
  • Uptake will be encouraged if areas for improvement can be identified where a focus on carbon efficiency can be aligned with financial performance improvements for the farmer.