USask researchers awarded $3.4M for projects to mitigate greenhouse gases in agriculture

University of Saskatchewan
Thursday, 15 November 2018 | Saskatoon
By University of Saskatchewan
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is funding the three projects through the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases program, which supports methods to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and development of on-farm technologies to reduce the farming industry’s GHG footprint.

● Diane Knight, Bart Lardner (soil science, animal and poultry science $1.8 million): Strategies for improving nutritional value of grazed forages: Impact on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration:

Using experiments at the USask Termuende Farm, researchers are investigating how changing the types of forage in a pasture to improve the digestibility and nutritional balance of feed can reduce methane emissions from grazing cattle without increasing soil emissions of nitrous oxide, and at the same time increasing carbon sequestration (storage) in the soil.

Such a study of the entire system — from cattle to their urine and manure to the impact nutrients in these excretions have on plants and the soil, to the micro-organisms that produce or consume GHGs as well as sequester CO₂ — is rare. The goal is to demonstrate to farmers and the general public that achieving cattle production and environmental goals are compatible, and that adopting best management practices yields environmental benefits.

● Colin Laroque(soil science, $1.4 million): Development of a management support toolbox for carbon sequestration strategies using agroforestry shelterbelt systems in Saskatchewan:

Southern Saskatchewan has 56,000 kilometres of shelterbelt trees that sequester enormous amounts of carbon. But the trend in recent years has been to remove some shelterbelts (350 km between 2008 and 2016) and plant fewer trees on farmland.

This research project’s aim is to continue promoting shelterbelt systems as a scientifically sound agroforestry practice, and to develop a management support toolbox for farmers. This can provide producers with portable computer applications for field use that can recommend such things as good planting designs and trees best suited for the location, calculate how much carbon will accumulate in trees under changing climatic conditions, and outline best practices in shelterbelt management. The goal is to increase the retention of existing shelterbelts, and promote adding shelterbelts for on-farm GHG mitigation.

● Colin Whitfield, Helen Baulch (SENS, GIWS, $185,000): Better BMPs—Budgeting and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions associated with keeping water on the land in agricultural reservoirs:

This research project investigates the GHG emissions from farm reservoirs that have been touted as a beneficial management practice in mitigating flooding and erosion in wet years, providing scarce water in dry years, and returning environmental benefits in terms of water quality and habitat.

Yet these shallow reservoirs also can be critical hotspots for releasing GHG gases, including methane and nitrous oxide (N₂O). This project examines eight agricultural reservoirs in southern Manitoba for their impact on whole-farm GHG emissions. The goal is to assess the importance of such things as controlling nitrogen runoff to minimize N₂O emissions, and to develop recommendations for siting and management of reservoirs to mitigate emissions. The research includes developing novel sensor technology to identify the release of bubbles containing GHGs from reservoir sediment—a pathway of GHG release that has remained poorly controlled.

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