The more than 100 questions that came in during our 90 minute Cool Farm Tool online launch event this past September, give an indication of how widely Cool Farm Tool interest is spread across the globe, across crops and farm systems types. Here is a sampling of questions and answers.
Is it possible to calculate current and/or potential carbon sequestration with the tool? If yes, how?
Yes, IPCC soil carbon quantification methodology for no-till and cover cropping are included. Peer reviewed methodology for soil carbon from organic amendments are also included. Soil carbon sequestration calculations key off soil characteristics like soil texture and organic matter content. In the online tool, find these options under the “management tab.”
Yes, we are just now updating the tool with new emission factors for a greater number of regions. As soon as February 2017, we expect to have new updated fertilizer emission factors from ten regions around the world: Europe, North America, China, Russia, Latin America, South Asia, South East, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Middle East.
Can the CFT be applied to the variety of agroforestry practices, such as silvopasture, perennial polycultures and intercropping practices?
Yes. The above ground carbon section allows the user to add trees or increase/decrease planting densities to see the impact (significant!). For polycultures and intercropping users can run the crop types in parallel, split the fertilizer applications or other inputs between the crops and sum the results.
Would whole farm measurement potentially also include first steps in processing, if those steps take place on the farm?
Yes. In the energy section you can stipulate whether each energy use (# of litres of fuel, # of kWh) is to be allocated to “field” or “processing.” For example if you run irrigation in the field, you would mark those kWhs or litres of fuel as “field” energy and if you cleaned, dried, sorted, stored or packaged your product in the processing facility, you would mark those kWhs or litres as “processing” energy. See the tutorial on energy on the Cool Farm Tool GHG page of this website.
Yes. Both GHG and Biodiversity metrics in the Cool Farm Tool are saved in the user’s account from one session to the next.
Can the farmers have some kind of advice as to how reduce emissions if they want to and the kind of consequences that these practices will have on yields?
The tool is interactive so farmers can see the impact of changing their management practices. Beyond this, the tool doesn’t provide advice or model the impacts on yield of their choices.
This is an active area of development where farm management software packages are wiring the Cool Farm Tool into their offerings. If you have data you’d like to upload or inter-operate with the CFT, please get in touch.
Are there example generic (anonymous) farm data sets with result or reports, such as a 1,000 milker dairy farm
No. While benchmarking or example generic results is a feature we’d like to provide, we don’t have it available yet in the tool.
Does each field and crop need to be entered separately, then be aggregated for the entire multi-field farm?
Exactly right. Fields with similar soil types and crops can be aggregated and entered into the tool as one field even if not contiguous but different crops and soil types should be entered separately and summed.
Is the model input – output boundary the individual field? Or are housing, animals, storage, etc. included in the case of animal husbandry operations such as dairy farms?
Emissions assessments should follow international standards for scope and boundaries. For livestock systems the boundaries include energy from housing, storage etc, as well as manure management, feed production, feed transportation and other elements. An upcoming development will give farmers the option of using default feed emission factors or inking their own feed production emissions with the livestock operations. In this case the boundaries could include field emissions and housing, storage, etc.
Can the tool adjust for different fertilizer placement options (braodcast vs. banding) or timing of applications?
No. The tool does adjust for different fertilizer application methods but not yet for placement. This is because there is not yet sufficient information about the the impact of this practice on emissions in globally diverse regions and crops.
There is strong demand for this but as a globally applicable tool, it is difficult to provide. We’re interested in developing this feature but don’t have a project on this at this time.
I understand that farmers enter data in the tool. How do supply chain partners know that these data are robust and represent real on-farm developments? Do you e.g. foresee a link with certification including sample-based on-site checks?
Yes. Verification protocols and procedures and links with certification bodies are likely developments. For the time being, the tool is focused on self-assessments for the purposes of identifying hotspots and opportunities for improvements.
Does the tool take into account the GHG impact of post-harvest losses? I realize the GHG impact would likely vary depending what is done with the crops that weren't harvested - e.g., if they were plowed under vs. fed to animals)
Only in the sense that the tool asks for both harvested yield and finished yield so losses between these two will be reflected in the intensity metrics for the crop. Less loss = more efficient production and lower emissions per unit of production.
Do you have recommendations on how the tool could be used in supply chains with large numbers of smallholder farmers/outgrowers in developing countries, who most likely would not be filling in this tool themselves? Recommendations for how to use proxies or estimates?
This is a large and complex topic and invariably, context- specific conditions come into play but in general, the recommendation is for knowledgeable intermediaries to use interviews and visits with farmers to stratify the farms into farm typologies if possible. Farm management groups can be based on crop, soil type, size, management practices or other characteristics and combinations of characteristics. These typologies can simplify and streamline the data collection process. SAI Platform provides guidance on sampling and verification frequencies which can act as good rules of thumb for sampling within these typologies.