How does land drainage help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

How does land drainage help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

With the agricultural sector targeted to meet its commitment for net zero emissions by 2040, there is increasing talk about carbon farming. But what is carbon farming and how does land drainage play its part in helping farmers meet their environmental goals?

What is carbon farming?

Carbon farming is, in simple terms, a whole farming approach to optimise carbon capture on working landscapes. It involves introducing practices that will improve the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are taken out of the atmosphere and stored in soils and vegetation. 

Some examples of carbon farming practices include:

  1. Returning leftover biomass to the soil as mulch after harvest instead of being removed or burned
  2. Replacing traditional tillage practices by conservation tillage, no till, and/or mulch farming
  3. Growing cover crops during the off-season instead of leaving fields bare
  4. Replacing intensive manufactured fertilisers by integrating nutrient management plans and precision application of organic manures
  5. Using farmland fields for livestock and trees instead of intensive cropping
  6. Replacing surface flood irrigation by drip, furrow, or sub-irrigation
  7. Replacing pesticides with integrated pest management techniques
  8. Restoring marginal and degraded soils to their natural states and no longer using them to grow crops

How does land drainage help farmers meet their net zero initiatives?

As intense rainfall events become more and more frequent as a result of climate change, it will become increasingly important for farms to ensure they have effective drainage systems in place. Many land drainage systems were installed in the 1970s, when Government grants were available, and as they reach the end of their lifetime will prove to be far less effective. Poorly drained soils, unfortunately, have a direct impact on yield quality and quantities. 

Land drainage is also an effective way to help reduce greenhouse emissions. This is because wetter mineral soils are more likely to produce greater nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions compared to drier mineral soils. N2O is a powerful greenhouse gas with 298 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2) over 100 years, and N2O is also the leading contributor to stratospheric ozone depletion*.

Soil type and texture does, however, play an important factor when it comes to drainage. It is not recommended to drain peaty/organic soils as this can lead to a loss of oxidation of the soil and huge carbon losses to the atmosphere. Also, draining some areas can potentially lead to negative impact on habitats and wildlife so it is important to look into the appropriateness of the area you are planning to drain.

What to consider when looking into the appropriateness of drainage?

When considering installing land drainage systems here are some of the actions we recommend you follow: 

  • Understand your soil and land history – is it a mineral or peaty/organic soil? How long since the land was last worked?

  • Research whether there is any existing land drainage in the area - are there any historical maps of land drains? Can you find any outfalls?

  • Identify regularly wet areas and areas which have become habitats for wildlife on the farm – drainage may not be cost effective and other options may be available

Where to get good quality drainage products?

We are one of the UK’s leading suppliers of drainage products. These include drainage pipe in coils, large diameter pipe, twinwall pipe and galvanised pipe. Our drainage products come with the UK’s longest guarantee and our team of specialists can provide you with expert advice.

 For more help and advice on Land Drainage, call us on 0121 351 3230.


Alternatively, fill out our enquiry form:

 * 1. G. Myhre et al., “Anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing” in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, T. F. Stocker et al., Eds. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2013), pp. 659–740. 2. A. R. Ravishankara, J. S. Daniel, R. W. Portmann, Nitrous oxide (N2O): The dominant ozone-depleting substance emitted in the 21st century. Science 326, 123–125 (2009).

Back to Top

Related Products