Agricultural science helping farmers reduce greenhouse gas

December 17, 2002

With greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction on the public agenda, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researchers say agricultural science may be part of the solution.

Agriculture contributes 10 per cent of Canada's GHG emissions. A team of re1searchers at AAFC is developing ways to reduce on-farm GHGs - carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N20) and methane.

"Increases in the concentration of GHGs through human activities may cause changes to the earth's climate that we can't predict," said Dr. Ray Desjardins, AAFC atmospheric scientist. Unlike other industries which emit mostly CO2, agriculture emits N20 and methane.

"Methane accounts for about one-third of agriculture's emissions and comes largely from livestock," he added. "N20, which accounts for most of the rest, is emitted from farm soils, especially those that have received manures and fertilizers."

Dr. Henry Janzen, AAFC soil biochemist, noted that agriculture will be asked to help reduce these emissions and science can provide farmers with the tools to do it. One way is to store more carbon in soils.

"Farmers are in the business of managing carbon, even from other industries," he said. "If we can help them to effectively store it longer in their fields, that means less greenhouse gas in the air we all breathe."

AAFC researchers have developed a virtual farm application to help farmers reduce these emissions. This computer based-application will allow farmers to examine a number of approaches on their farm to minimize GHG emissions while maintaining profitability. These factors include cultivation practices,fertilizer types and application techniques, cropping sequences, animal ration formulas and manure management.

GHG research is consistent with the goals of the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF). On behalf of the agricultural sector, the Government of Canada is building knowledge and awareness of environmental issues such as greenhouse gas produced on farms.

AAFC is committed to environmental research beyond the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. To ensure primary agriculture meets the needs of Canadians while remaining profitable and sustainable, AAFC research contributes to a suite of farm management practices to benefit soil, water, air and biodiversity.

Agriculture and Agri-food Canada

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