PULLMAN, Wash. – New agricultural practices, technology and strategies could dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change, increase the amount of carbon held in the soil and replace products made with fossil fuels with those made with biomass, according to a report by Washington State University.
WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, in partnership with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, released the “Climate Friendly Farming” report today to outline the progress of a five-year project aimed at turning farms from greenhouse gas emitters to carbon sinks. The foundation funded the “Climate Friendly Farming Project” in 2004 with a $3.75 million grant to CSANR. The goal was to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture, restore carbon to soils and replace fossil fuels with biomass.
“The Climate Friendly Farming project has been successful well beyond our expectations,” said Anson Fatland, senior program officer for science and technology innovations with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “With strong scientific foundations, the team has addressed greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in on-farm settings and made significant advancements in replacing fossil fuel-derived products with those derived from biomass. The farm of tomorrow will be more productive, with a smaller environmental footprint, thanks to the work of this group.”
Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, said the project results to date build a scientific base to support specific on-farm practices.
“The Climate Friendly Farming Project is an extraordinary interdisciplinary effort that involved some of the most prominent agricultural researchers at WSU,” he said. “Sound public policy in this arena must be based upon rigorous scientific analysis. This report provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the greenhouse gas emissions from Pacific Northwest agricultural systems.”
Chad Kruger, interim director of CSANR, agreed. He said overcoming obstacles facing farmers wanting to adopt new practices is the next step.
“Regardless of what happens with climate change and greenhouse gas policy, many of the management practices and technologies we evaluated can provide win-win scenarios for farmers and the environment,” Kruger said. “Overcoming technical and economic barriers will enable our farmers to be more sustainable.”
The project focused on agriculture’s relationship to greenhouse gases in dairy production, dryland grain farming and irrigated crop farming. The interdisciplinary team that tackled the issues included soil scientists, bio-systems engineers and economists from WSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
Specifically, the report explores and outlines the benefits of technology such as anaerobic digestion of dairy manure; conservation tillage to decrease erosion and other loss of carbon in the soil; managing carbon inputs such as crop residues, green manures and organic amendments to increase soil carbon; and improving nitrogen use efficiency to minimize one of the most significant greenhouse gases.
The entire report is available at http://csanr.wsu.edu/CFF/.