20 May 2010

Ongoing Efforts to Abate Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ongoing Efforts to Abate Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Several IPNI staff members have been actively involved in varying activities aimed at decreasing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from fertilizers.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is one GHG which results from soil bacteria acting on soil N which may originate from N fertilizer, and has consequently received considerable attention.

In the Northeast Region in North America, Regional Director Dr. Tom Bruulsema, recently attended the Carbon Aggregation Workshop in Guelph, Ontario, organized by Ontario's farm leaders interested in exploring opportunities in carbon trading. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and agri-retail leaders.

Dr. Bruulsema gave a presentation on the Nitrous Oxide Reduction Protocol , in which he outlined the role of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship in the development of the protocol, and described continuing efforts to validate practices for their effectiveness in reducing N2O emissions. His participation was very appreciated by leaders of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, because it expressed the support of industry for farmer involvement in carbon trading.

In California, IPNI is providing financial and technical support for key researchers at the University of California-Davis, who are investigating N2O loss from agricultural soils.

The results of these efforts will be instrumental in the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), which was passed by the State of California in 2006. This law requires that GHG emissions in the State be reduced by 25% by the year 2020.

Among the research projects, there is a field inventory of N2O emissions, which will provide data needed to calibrate N management computer models that will serve to make recommendations on improved fertilizer management.

California agriculture is a USD 36 billion per year industry, and is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food and agricultural commodities. With over 400 commercial agricultural commodities, the wide variety of agricultural practices makes it difficult to predict N2O losses throughout the year. Therefore, the research team is also studying several important cropping systems, including both perennial and annual crops.

“Although the potential consequences of this legislation on farming practices such as fertilizer rate, time, source, and placement, as well as water management, is not yet established, the implications may be large and will likely set a precedent that can be copied in other parts of the world,” said Dr. Rob Mikkelsen, Director of the Western Region in North America.

Finally, Dr. Clifford S. Snyder, Director of IPNI Nitrogen Program, gave a presentation at the April 22-23 science meeting organized by Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Decisions to "engage experts in the development of research syntheses and assessments of agricultural GHG mitigation for future offsets protocol development”. This event is part of the activities of the Technical Working Group on Greenhouse Gases (T-AGG). In his presentation, Dr. Snyder commented on fertilizer management information that was not included in the T-AGG draft report Prioritizing Opportunities for Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in the U.S.A.

These examples clearly document IPNI’s commitment to develop appropriate scientific tools that can be used to make a more environmentally conscious use of fertilizers.