Sustainability
In early June, Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island introduced the Carbon Utilization Act of 2018 which will incentivize emerging carbon utilization technologies, such as digesters and carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) by providing increased access to USDA loan guarantees, research programs, and rural development loans.

The bill will create education and research programs and encourage interagency collaboration to advance these technologies. The American Biogas Council praised its introduction as the programs within it can help farms become more resilient and sustainable.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) said, "As we look to the future of clean energy, we must invest in innovative, secure, and low-carbon technologies—especially in rural communities. We will work to include these energy provisions in the Farm Bill to provide funding for projects that create jobs, secure our electricity systems, and combat climate change. We must ensure that rural communities are included in the clean energy economy."

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island (D) added: "Experts agree that transforming pollutants into something useful ought to be part of our fight against climate change. That's why we need to help promising carbon capture and biogas technologies compete in new markets, like on farms and at other rural businesses. This bill will help those technologies find new uses in agriculture while reducing carbon and methane pollution, benefiting both our climate and the rural economy. That's a clear win-win."

"We are grateful for the leadership and vision of Senators Bennet and Whitehouse in recognizing the significant benefit that biogas systems can provide our country," said Patrick Serfass, ABC's executive director. "A robust agriculture industry is essential to American prosperity. Like biogas systems help our nation's farms, the Carbon Utilization Act of 2018 will strengthen farming operations, increase sustainability and create new revenue streams to help protect family farm operations, especially during commodity price swings."

Published in Biogas
Iowa State University researchers have completed testing of a new concept for disposing of animal carcasses following a disease outbreak.
Published in Compost
Not the first thing you think of when you see elephant dung, but this material turns out to be an excellent source of cellulose for paper manufacturing, scientists report. And in regions with plenty of farm animals, upcycling manure into paper products could be a cheap and environmentally sound method to use manure.
Published in Beef
Farmers and manure managers in North America have known for years that phosphorus is a huge concern, but solutions for handling this nutrient have not come easy. Hauling manure away to locations where fields aren’t already saturated isn’t always practical or cost-effective.
Published in Dairy
A family is turning the hog manure into methane to power the family farm, reduce greenhouse emissions and generate income.

Lisa and Drew Remley of Remley Farms held an open house to unveil the new 20,000-gallon anaerobic methane digester.

Power from the biodigester power will reduce the farm's $3,000-$3,500 monthly electric bill. | READ MORE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
A national manure management emergency was recently averted in the United States with the passage in March of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, thwarting attempts by some environmental groups to categorize farms on the same plane as heavy industry as it relates to potential toxic air emissions.
Published in Air quality
The California Department of Food and Agriculture has awarded a $213,349 research grant to the California Dairy Research Foundation in collaboration with University of California scientists to study methane emissions at California dairies. The project is titled, "Small Dairy Climate Change Research: An economic evaluation of strategies for methane emission reduction effectiveness and appropriateness in small and large California dairies."

Supported by a $250,000 appropriation from the Budget Act of 2017, the research will focus on understanding the differences in methane emissions from large and small dairies.

Researchers will also examine cost-saving techniques, evaluate emerging technologies, and investigate the economic impacts of methane regulations on California dairies.

The research will contribute to the Small Dairy Climate Action Plan which is required as part of the 2017-18 Budget Act (Item 8570-101-3228 (1) (b)). For more details on the awarded project, please visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/research/

Published in News
Regina, Sask – Despite their reputation, flatulent cows aren’t capable of destroying the world, an environmental politics professor argues in a forthcoming research paper.

But still, livestock are saddled with an outsized share of the blame for climate change. And if that misunderstanding persists, and pushes policymakers to force a societal shift from meat-eating, it could lead to disaster, says Ryan Katz-Rosene at the University of Ottawa’s school of political studies. READ MORE



Published in Air quality
Each year, farmers in the U.S. purchase tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics that are approved for use in cows, pigs, fowl and other livestock.

When farmers repurpose the animals' manure as fertilizer or bedding, traces of the medicines leach into the environment, raising concerns that agriculture may be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

New research holds troublesome insights with regard to the scope of this problem.

According to a pair of new studies led by Diana Aga, PhD, Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, two of the most elite waste treatment systems available today on farms do not fully remove antibiotics from manure.

Both technologies — advanced anaerobic digestion and reverse osmosis filtration — leave behind concerning levels of antibiotic residues, which can include both the drugs themselves and molecules that the drugs break down into.

In addition, the study uncovered new findings about solid excrement, which is often filtered out from raw, wet manure before the treatment technologies are implemented.

Researchers found that this solid matter may contain higher concentrations of antibiotics than unprocessed manure, a discovery that is particularly disturbing because this material is often released into the environment when it's used as animal bedding or sold as fertilizer.

"We were hoping that these advanced treatment technologies could remove antibiotics. As it turns out, they were not as effective as we thought they could be," Aga says.

She does offer some hope, however: "On the positive side, I think that a multistep process that also includes composting at the end of the system could significantly reduce the levels of antibiotics. Our earlier studies on poultry litter demonstrated that up to 70 percent reduction in antibiotics called ionophores can be achieved after 150 days of composting. Testing this hypothesis on dairy farm manure is the next phase of our project, and we are seeing some positive results."

The research on reverse osmosis filtration was published online in January in the journal Chemosphere. The study on advanced anaerobic digestion — a collaboration between UB and Virginia Tech — appeared online in March in the journal Environmental Pollution.

Waste treatment systems are not designed to remove antibiotics

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than 30 million pounds of antibiotics approved for use in food-producing livestock were sold or distributed in the United States in 2016. And these are just a fraction of the total antibiotics used annually around the world in humans and animals.

Though the new research focuses on dairy farms, the findings point to a larger problem.

"Neither of the treatment systems we studied was designed to remove antibiotics from waste as the primary goal," Aga says. "Advanced anaerobic digestion is used to reduce odors and produce biogas, and reverse osmosis is used to recycle water. They were not meant to address removal of antibiotic compounds.

"This problem is not limited to agriculture: Waste treatment systems today, including those designed to handle municipal wastewater, hospital wastes and even waste from antibiotic manufacturing industries, do not have treatment of antibiotics in mind. This is an extremely important global issue because the rise of antibiotic resistance in the environment is unprecedented. We need to start thinking about this if we want to prevent the continued spread of resistance in the environment."

Aga is a proponent of the "One Health" approach to fighting antimicrobial resistance, which encourages experts working in hospitals, agriculture and other sectors related to both human and animal health to work together, as humans and animals are often treated with the same or similar antibiotics.

Aga was an invited presenter at an international forum last week on the latest research about antimicrobial resistance. The event, in Vancouver, Canada, was co-chaired by representatives of the UK Science and Innovation Network, Wellcome Trust and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To conduct the research, scientists visited two dairy farms in Upstate New York.

Both facilities extract much of the solid matter from cow manure before subjecting the remaining sludge to high-tech waste management techniques. To process the remaining goop, one farm uses advanced anaerobic digestion, which employs microorganisms and pasteurization to break down and convert organic matter into products that include biogas, while the other farm uses reverse osmosis, which passes the slurry through a series of membranes to purify water.

Both technologies reduced antibiotic residues in liquid manure, but did little to cut down levels in the remaining solid matter. This is particularly worrisome as the research also revealed that antibiotic compounds tend to migrate from the liquid parts of the manure into the solids during treatment, making it arguably more important to treat than the latter.

The concern over solid excrement is heightened by the fact that the treatment techniques are implemented only after most solids are already separated from the raw manure, meaning that the bulk of the solid matter may go untreated.

Some key findings from each study:

The research on advanced anaerobic digestion examined a popular class of antibiotics called tetracyclines, finding that these drugs and their breakdown products migrated from the fluid part of the sludge into the solid part during treatment. At the end of the process, the solids contained higher levels of tetracycline antibiotics than the original raw manure. The study also found that both the liquid and solid parts of the sludge contained genes that confer resistance to these antibiotics.

The study on reverse osmosis looked at how well this water purification technique removed synthetic antimicrobials called ionophores, which are used to promote growth in dairy cows and to treat coccidiosis, a costly, parasitic disease in the cattle industry that affects mostly young calves.

The research found that reverse osmosis effectively filtered ionophores from the liquid portion of manure. However, low levels of the drugs persisted in "purified" water after treatment due to the deterioration of membranes used in the filtration process. Also, solid matter extracted from the water during reverse osmosis still harbored high levels of ionophores. Finally, the study found that prior to treatment, many of the ionophores appear to have already migrated into the solid part of the raw manure that is removed before the reverse osmosis even begins.

"Both of the systems we studied are a good first step in reducing the spread of antibiotics and potentially reduce resistance in the environment, but our study shows that more must be done," Aga says. "We need to look at different waste management practices that, maybe in combination, could reduce the spread of antibiotic compounds and resistance in the environment."

Aga points to composting as one area to explore. Her team is studying how advanced anaerobic digestion can be used in conjunction with composting of solid materials to remove antibiotics and their breakdown products from manure. The preliminary results of the research, not yet published, are promising, Aga says.
Published in News
You might wonder what dry weather and feedlot runoff would have in common. On the one hand, a spell of dry weather can cause expanding areas of moderate drought and dry soils. But dry conditions also make for an excellent time to maintain your feedlot runoff control system.
Published in Beef
Hammond, WI - The new Western Wisconsin Conservation Council is a nonprofit organization led by local farmers and focused on protecting the region's watersheds and the way of life and commerce they support.

Tom Zwald, who milks 700 cows and runs about 2,000 acres as part of Bomaz Farms near Hammond, said this farmer-led watershed council is unique in that it will not be limited to one watershed but will include all area watersheds, including those for the St. Croix and Kinnickinnic rivers. | READ MORE
Published in News
It's likely not the first thing you think of when you see elephant dung, but this material turns out to be an excellent source of cellulose for paper manufacturing in countries where trees are scarce, scientists report. And in regions with plenty of farm animals such as cows, upcycling manure into paper products could be a cheap and environmentally sound method to get rid of this pervasive agricultural waste.

The researchers are presenting their results today at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world's largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 13,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

The idea for the project germinated on Crete, where Alexander Bismarck, Ph.D., noticed goats munching on summer-dry grass in the small village where he was vacationing. "I realized what comes out in the end is partially digested plant matter, so there must be cellulose in there," he recalls.

"Animals eat low-grade biomass containing cellulose, chew it and expose it to enzymes and acid in their stomach, and then produce manure. Depending on the animal, up to 40 percent of that manure is cellulose, which is then easily accessible," Bismarck says. So, much less energy and fewer chemical treatments should be needed to turn this partially digested material into cellulose nanofibers, relative to starting with raw wood, he conjectured.

After working with goat manure, Bismarck, who is at the University of Vienna, Austria, his postdoc Andreas Mautner, Ph.D., and graduate students Nurul Ain Kamal and Kathrin Weiland moved on to dung from horses, cows and eventually elephants. The supply of raw material is substantial: Parks in Africa that are home to hundreds of elephants produce tons of dung every day, and enormous cattle farms in the U.S. and Europe yield mountains of manure, according to Mautner.

The researchers treat the manure with a sodium hydroxide solution. This partially removes lignin -- which can be used later as a fertilizer or fuel -- as well as other impurities, including proteins and dead cells. To fully remove lignin and to produce white pulp for making paper, the material has to be bleached with sodium hypochlorite. The purified cellulose requires little if any grinding to break it down into nanofibers in preparation for use in paper, in contrast to conventional methods.

"You need a lot of energy to grind wood down to make nanocellulose," Mautner says. But with manure as a starting material, "you can reduce the number of steps you need to perform, simply because the animal already chewed the plant and attacked it with acid and enzymes. You inexpensively produce a nanocellulose that has the same or even better properties than nanocellulose from wood, with lower energy and chemical consumption," he says.

The dung-derived nanopaper could be used in many applications, including as reinforcement for polymer composites or filters that can clean wastewater before it's discharged into the environment, Bismarck says. His team is working with an industrial consortium to further explore these possibilities. The nanopaper could also be used to write on, he says.

The researchers are also investigating whether the process can be made even more sustainable, by first producing biogas from manure and then extracting cellulose fibers from the residue. Biogas, which is mostly methane and carbon dioxide, can then be used as a fuel for generating electricity or heat.
Published in News
Reading, Pennsylvania - All communities depend on clean water and that supply of clean water depends on the actions of members in the community and outside of it.

The small city of Kutztown lies within the Saucony Creek watershed in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The watershed is mostly agricultural, dotted with small family crop and livestock farms, and the activities on these farms affect water supplies near and far.

Saucony Creek itself feeds into Lake Ontelaunee, the water supply for Reading, Pennsylvania. Kutztown gets its water from wells that, because of the soils and geology of the area, are strongly affected by activities on the surrounding landscape.

In the early 2000s, the nitrates in Kutztown's water supply were approaching the maximum safe levels for drinking water. The nitrates were related in large part to farms in the area.

This situation energized a partnership of non-profit organizations, government agencies, and private entities to ensure the safety of the city's water supply, in part by helping local farmers install conservation practices that protect and improve water quality. As part of this effort, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) delivered additional funding for voluntary conservation assistance through its National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). 

NRCS Collaborates with Conservation-Minded Farmers
For years, dairy farmer Daniel Weaver faced challenges that made his life harder and affected water quality in his area. He hauled manure every day because he had nowhere to store it. And, his cows watered and roamed in a branch to Saucony Creek that runs through his property. This reduced the health of the stream and of his herd. That is before he formed a relationship with NRCS staff at his local USDA Service Center.

With NRCS's help, Weaver was able to implement conservation practices that improve the operations of his farm in a way that also protects the ground and surface water flowing through his property. First, NRCS helped him develop a nutrient management plan for his property. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding, commonly known as EQIP, enabled him to install a manure storage tank that alleviates the need to haul manure daily. The new storage capacity allows him to control the rate and timing of manure application on his farm, which are key factors in achieving healthy soil and clean water. He also says that it has helped him save on labor and fertilizer.

"I think it should be mandatory for farmers to have a manure pit," he said.

Streambank fencing and an animal crossing were installed to keep cows from contaminating streams and creeks that crossed their pastures and therefore the downstream rivers and lakes. In the five years since installation, vegetation has grown on the stream banks, creating a buffer for the stream and the crossing controls the cows' access, thereby limiting pathogens and nutrients from entering the water.

Not too far away, Harlan Burkholder owns and operates a 100-acre row crop and beef cattle farm. He also worked with NRCS and other partners to improve water quality in Saucony Creek. When Burkholder bought his farm in 2005, manure was being stored on the ground near the creek that runs through the property because there was limited space near the barn. He had to spread manure on the fields often to keep it from piling up.

Realizing that it's best to spread manure in the growing season and store it in the winter to avoid runoff, he developed a nutrient management plan. After applying for NRCS financial assistance, he worked with NRCS to co-invest in a manure storage structure. Now, Burkholder is able to store manure over the winter so he can spread it at optimal times.

He is grateful for NRCS's help. "As a beginner, there's no way I could have spent money on something like this," he said.

Burkholder also knows the importance of keeping soil healthy with no-till and cover crops. As a 100-pecent no-till farmer, Burkholder says, "I have no intentions of doing anything else. It's working."

It's working so well that he's sharing his knowledge and experiences with other farmers.

Results
Together, NRCS and its partners have helped more than 20 farmers in the watershed get conservation on the ground. In fact, NRCS has invested more than $2 million in targeted assistance in this area alone.

"The voluntary efforts of these farmers that protect the water in Saucony Creek also has a positive impact on the groundwater in aquifers beneath it," said Martin Lowenfish, the team lead for NRCS's landscape conservation initiatives. "Kutztown is home to 14,000 residents who rely on drinking water from those aquifers."

And, the residents of Kutztown are taking notice. Just two years after the city's water treatment plant was updated with equipment to remove nitrates from the raw water, the plant is running at minimum capacity because the nitrate levels have been reduced by almost half thanks to the conservation efforts of farmers and ranchers upstream. Now, the treatment plant's water is within legal safe drinking water requirements and treatment costs also have been significantly reduced.

This is just one impact among many that show how a little conservation can yield big results for communities downstream.


Published in Profiles
A ditch containing woodchips may look unassuming—but with a name like bioreactor it's guaranteed to be up to more than you think.

Bioreactors, which are woodchip-filled ditches and trenches, are often used near crop fields to filter the water running off of them. The woodchips enhance a natural process called denitrification that prevents too much nitrogen from getting into other bodies of water like rivers and streams.

"This process is a natural part of the nitrogen cycle that is done by bacteria in soil all around the world," explains Laura Christianson. Christianson is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois. "In a bioreactor, we give these natural bacteria extra food—the carbon in the woodchips—to do their job. These bacteria clean the nitrate from the water."

Because it is the bacteria that do this water-cleaning process, it's called a biological process, hence the name bioreactor. By giving them extra food (the woodchips have much more carbon than the surrounding soil), they are "super-powering" this natural process.

"Nitrate in ag drainage is often 100 percent pinned on fertilizer, but it's actually much more complicated," Christianson adds. "In short, nitrate in drainage comes from both fertilizer and manure applications and also importantly from natural nitrogen that exists in the soil."

Christianson studies how well different types of bioreactors take nitrogen out of the water. Her team's work has shown they are effective in the Midwest. Next, they wanted to test them in the Mid-Atlantic region, particularly the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

"Bioreactors are a farmer-friendly practice that has gotten a lot of interest in the Midwest, and so it made sense to see if bioreactors could also work for ag ditch drainage in the Mid-Atlantic," she says. "Why did we need to retest them? The key scientific question had to do with the different environment. Differences in the landscape between the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions required further testing."

The researchers tested three different kinds of bioreactors in the Chesapeake Bay area. They all treated water that was either headed to a drainage ditch or already flowing through a drainage ditch.

One was a bioreactor placed in a ditch. Another was a bioreactor next to a ditch. The last type was a sawdust wall that treated groundwater flowing very slowly under the ground to the ditch.

The group's findings showed that all three types worked in reducing the amount of nitrogen headed from the field into nearby water.

This is good news for watersheds. Too much nitrogen throws off the balance of nitrogen in bodies of water and can set off a process that results in the death of the water's plants and fish. For this current research, the goal was to limit the nitrogen getting from the Mid-Atlantic into the Chesapeake Bay.

The next step in this research, Christianson says, is to further test bioreactors in this area and others so they are better constructed and more effective.

"This is a relatively easy idea that cleans up water without taking much of farmers' time or land," she says. "We need practical solutions like this so farmers can continue to produce food and fiber, while also protecting natural resources. I like that it's a natural process; we're just enhancing it. There's a nice simplicity to it."

Learn more about this work in Agricultural & Environmental Letters. Christianson's research is also highlighted at https://www.agronomy.org/about-agronomy/at-work/laura-christianson. The research was funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant.
Published in News
Beef and dairy farmers around the world are looking for ways to reduce methane emissions from their herds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a global priority. To help meet this goal, researchers from Canada and Australia teamed-up for a comprehensive three-year study to find the best feeding practices that reduce methane emissions while still supporting profitable dairy and beef cattle production.

"We need to know how feed affects methane production, but we also need to know how it affects other aspects of the farm operation, like daily gains in animals, milk production, and feed efficiency. Farmers want to help the environment, and they need to know what the trade-offs will be, which is why we took a holistic approach looking at the overall impacts," explains Dr. Karen Beauchemin, beef researcher from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

Researchers and farm system modellers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Agriculture Victoria (Australia), and the University of Melbourne, worked together to examine three feed supplements.

Methane inhibitor supplement 3-nitrooxypropanol (3NOP) could reduce costs and increase profits

3NOP is a promising commercial feed supplement that can be given to cattle to inhibit the enzyme methyl coenzyme M reductase – an enzyme responsible for creating methane in the animal's rumen (first stomach). After blocking the enzyme, 3NOP quickly breaks down in the animal's rumen to simple compounds that are already present in nature.

AAFC's Dr. Beauchemin studied the short- and long-term impacts of feeding 3NOP to beef cattle and shared her findings within the broader study.

"We now have clear evidence that 3NOP can have a long-term positive effect on reducing methane emissions and improving animal performance. We saw a 30-50% reduction in methane over a long period of time and a 3-5% improvement in feed efficiency," Beauchemin says.

Producing milk, gaining weight, and creating methane all take energy that a cow fuels by eating. Cattle eating a diet that contained the 3NOP supplement produced less methane. And, because there was less methane more energy could be used by the animal for growth. When using this supplement, cattle consumed less feed to gain a pound of body weight compared to control animals.

"What is also great is that the inhibitor worked just as effectively no matter what type of feed the cattle were eating," Beauchemin explains. "We don't know the actual market price of the supplement yet because it is still going through approvals for registration in Canada and the U.S. That will be important for farmers who want to calculate the cost-benefit of using 3NOP to reduce methane emissions from their cows and enhance profits."

The Story of Nitrate
Microorganisms in the cattle's rumen need nitrogen to be able to efficiently break down food for the animal to absorb. Nitrate is a form of non-protein nitrogen similar to that found in urea, a compound used in cattle diets. When nitrate is fed to cattle, it is converted to ammonia which is then used by the micro-organisms. During this process, nitrogen in the nitrate works like a powerful magnet that is able to hold onto and attract hydrogen. This leaves less hydrogen available in the rumen to attach to carbon to make methane, thus reducing the amount of methane produced.

Researchers in Canada found that adding nitrate to the diet of beef cattle reduces methane production by 20 percent in the short-term (up to three weeks), and after 16 weeks it still reduced methane up to 12 percent. In addition, feeding nitrate improved the gain-to-feed ratio. However, administering the correct dosage is extremely important, as too much nitrate can make an animal ill. So it is recommended this method should be used with care and caution.

Dr. Richard Eckard, a researcher from the University of Melbourne explained "I understand that in Canada, most forages are not that low in protein. But in the rangelands of northern Australia, the protein content in the forage is extremely low. It is possible that adding nitrate to Australian cattle feed may be able to improve the feeding regime from the current use of urea, but it depends on the price."

To supplement or not supplement with wheat, corn, or barley?

In the short term, wheat effectively reduced methane production by 35 percent compared with corn or barley grain; but, over time cattle were able to adapt to the change in feed and the methane inhibitory effect disappeared. Essentially, after 10 weeks, methane production was the same for corn, barley, and wheat.

The study also showed genetic variation in cows where about 50 percent of the cows that were fed wheat remained low in their methane emissions, even for as long as 16 weeks. However, the other cows adapted to the wheat diet and had methane emissions similar to, or even greater than those fed diets containing either corn or barley. Based on genetics, some cows are more adaptable than others and, in the long-term, it is more difficult to reduce the amount of methane they produce.

For dairy cows, Dr. Peter Moate, Dairy Researcher with Agriculture Victoria, was particularly intrigued about the link between milk fat, yield and methane emissions.

"We found that feeding cows wheat increased milk yield but fat levels decreased. For the farmer, it really depends on what they want to achieve in order to say whether this makes sense economically," explained Moate. "Overall, feeding wheat didn't have the long-term ability to reduce methane emissions, so it really couldn't be recommended as a best practice to achieve this type of goal."

Lessons learned
"Our better understanding of feeding regimes will make a difference for farmers, but more importantly this research has really helped us understand more precisely the volume of greenhouse gases (GHGs) the industry is producing under different feed regimes. This is powerful information for policy makers," stated Beauchemin.

This is particularly true for countries that have implemented or are thinking about putting a price on carbon or a carbon trading scheme in place to reduce GHG emissions.

"By adopting different farming methods to reduce GHGs, farmers may be able to sell these "carbon credits" for revenue. But the key is to prove that these farming methods work and warrant being officially recognized for carbon credits. This work is one step closer in this process" explains Beauchemin.

While this project has wrapped-up, the work has not ended. Researchers in both countries unanimously agree that they will continue to help farmers and the industry find solutions to reducing their carbon footprint.
Published in Beef
There's a farm in Arkansas growing soybeans, corn, and rice that is aiming to be the most scientifically advanced farm in the world. Soil samples are run through powerful machines to have their microbes genetically sequenced, drones are flying overhead taking hyperspectral images of the crops, and soon supercomputers will be crunching the massive volumes of data collected.

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), working with the University of Arkansas and Glennoe Farms, hope this project, which brings together molecular biology, biogeochemistry, environmental sensing technologies, and machine learning, will revolutionize agriculture and create sustainable farming practices that benefit both the environment and farms.

If successful, they envision being able to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and enhance soil carbon uptake, thus improving the long-term viability of the land, while at the same time increasing crop yields. For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Published in News
Arlington, Virginia - Frank Mitloehner, PhD, will debunk myths about animal agriculture's environmental impact at the Animal Agriculture Alliance's 2018 Stakeholders Summit, set for May 3-4, at the Renaissance Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Va.

Mitloehner is a professor and extension air quality specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. He is an expert on agricultural air quality, livestock housing and husbandry. Overall, he conducts research that is directly relevant to understanding and mitigating of air emissions from livestock operations, as well as the implications of these emissions for the health and safety of farm workers and neighboring communities.

"There is a lot of misinformation about how much animal agriculture actually contributes to the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and overall environmental impact," said Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO. "With the industry's commitment to continuous improvement, Summit attendees will find Mitloehner's research enlightening and refreshing."

The Alliance also announced that the Summit has been approved for eight continuing education credits by the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists. ARPAS members in attendance can request credit using www.arpas.org or by contacting Cornicha Henderson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

To register, visit http://animalagalliance.org/summit. Be sure to check the Summit website for the most up-to-date Summit information. You can also follow the hashtags #AAA18 and #ProtectYourRoots for periodic updates about the event. For general questions about the Summit please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or call (703) 562-5160.
Published in News
While April showers might bring May flowers, they also contribute to toxic algae blooms, dead zones and declining water quality in U.S. lakes, reservoirs and coastal waters, a new study shows.
Published in Other
Farm manure could be a viable source of renewable energy to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo are developing technology to produce renewable natural gas from manure so it can be added to the existing energy supply system for heating homes and powering industries. That would eliminate particularly harmful gases released by naturally decomposing manure when it is spread on farm fields as fertilizer and partially replace fossil natural gas, a significant contributor to global warming.

"There are multiple ways we can benefit from this single approach," said David Simakov, a professor of chemical engineering at Waterloo. "The potential is huge."

Simakov said the technology could be viable with several kinds of manure, particularly cow and pig manure, as well as at landfill sites.

In addition to being used by industries and in homes, renewable natural gas could replace diesel fuel for trucks in the transportation sector, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

To test the concept, researchers built a computer model of an actual 2,000-head dairy farm in Ontario that collects manure and converts it into biogas in anaerobic digesters. Some of that biogas is already used to produce electricity by burning it in generators, reducing the environmental impact of manure while also yielding about 30 to 40 percent of its energy potential.

Researchers want to take those benefits a significant step further by upgrading, or converting, biogas from manure into renewable natural gas. That would involve mixing it with hydrogen, then running it through a catalytic converter. A chemical reaction in the converter would produce methane from carbon dioxide in the biogas.

Known as methanation, the process would require electricity to produce hydrogen, but that power could be generated on-site by renewable wind or solar systems, or taken from the electrical grid at times of low demand. The net result would be renewable natural gas that yields almost all of manure's energy potential and also efficiently stores electricity, but has only a fraction of the greenhouse gas impact of manure used as fertilizer.

"This is how we can make the transition from fossil-based energy to renewable energy using existing infrastructure, which is a tremendous advantage," said Simakov, who collaborates with fellow chemical engineering professor Michael Fowler.

The modelling study showed that a $5-million investment in a methanation system at the Ontario farm would, with government price subsidies for renewable natural gas, have about a five-year payback period.

A paper on modelling of a renewable natural gas generation facility at the Ontario farm, which also involved a post-doctoral researcher and several Waterloo students, was recently published in the International Journal of Energy Research.
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
Long term trials conducted in Saskatchewan have shown the application of livestock manure fertilizer typically improves the health of the soil.

The University of Saskatchewan has been conducting long term livestock manure application trials, in some cases on plots that have been studied for over 20 years, looking at the implications of using livestock manure at various rates with different application methods throughout Saskatchewan's major soil climatic zones.

Dr. Jeff Schoenau, a professor with the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture research chair in soil nutrient management, says the organic matter in manure, especially in solid manures, can directly benefit things like soil structure, water retention and so on.

"I think in terms of effect on the soil, especially with the solid manures where we're adding a fair bit of organic matter to the soil, we certainly see some beneficial effects show up there in terms of increased organic matter content, increased carbon storage. We see some positive benefits as well in water relations, things like infiltration," said Dr. Schoenau.

"We also need to be aware that manures also contain salts and so, particularly some manure that may be fairly high in for example sodium, we do need to keep an eye on the salt and sodium content of the soil where there's been repeated application of manure to soils where the drainage is poor. Generally what we've found is that the salts that are added as manure in soils that are well drained really don't create any kinds of issues. But we want to keep an eye on that in soils that aren't very well drained because those manures are adding some salts, for example sodium salts."

Dr. Schoenau says, when manure is applied at a rate that is in balance with what the crop needs and takes out over time, we have no issues in terms of spill over into the environment. He says that balance is very important, putting in what you're taking out over time.
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