Sustainability
July 27, 2017, California - A liquid organic biofertilizer made from the material that is left over after manure or food waste is digested to create clean electricity compares favorably in nutrient value with commonly used synthetic materials in trials on canning tomatoes and corn.

UC Davis professor of biological and agricultural engineering Ruihong Zhang designed an anaerobic biodigester nearly 10 years ago that is used to turn food waste from campus dining halls into clean energy.

Several dairies have also invested in digesters to treat their manure, which would otherwise emit the greenhouse gas methane, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture offers grants to help defray the cost.

Cost is the major stumbling block to more widespread use of the technology, and the trial of a biofertilizer made in the campus digester is an attempt to see if the bottom line can be made just a little more favorable. READ MORE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
July 17, 2017, Madison, WI – Dane County is teaming up with local organizations, businesses and farmers to continue phosphorus reduction efforts in the Yahara Watershed, County Executive Joe Parisi announced recently.

The new public, private partnership will allow farmers to more effectively apply manure by injecting it directly into the ground, reducing the amount of nutrients that run off into local waterways.

“By using this equipment, farmers will be able to cut down on soil erosion, reduce odors, and decrease the amount of phosphorus leaving their fields,” said Parisi. “Our partnership reflects a unified effort between local leaders and businesses to ensure the Yahara Watershed stays clean and healthy, while providing farmers with the innovative tools they need to succeed in an environmentally friendly way.”

In the agreement, Dane County and the Yahara Watershed Improvement Network (Yahara WINS) will each allocate up to $60,000 to purchase a manure tanker and Low Disturbance Manure Injection (LDMI) toolbar. Yahara Pride Farms will rent a tractor from Carl F. Statz and Sons Inc., a farm implement dealer based in Waunakee, to haul the tanker and LDMI bar across each participant’s property. Yahara WINS is led by the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District and will use funds from the Clean Lakes Alliance to finance its share of the endeavor.

Yahara WINS is pleased to partner with the Yahara Pride Farm Group, Dane County and the Clean Lakes Alliance to provide opportunities for farmers to gain experience with low disturbance manure injection –an approach that will improve water quality by reducing the amount of phosphorus reaching our streams, rivers and lakes,” said Dave Taylor, consulting director for Yahara WINS.

Yahara Pride Farms is a farmer-led, nonprofit organization and was the first to bring this minimal soil disturbance technology for manure to Wisconsin farmers. To date, the program has covered over 3,600 acres of land and reduced 5,500 pounds of phosphorus on the Yahara Watershed using this manure technique. In 2016 alone, Yahara Pride Farms’ low disturbance manure injection resulted in an estimated 1,100 pounds of phosphorus savings from more than 1,200 acres of land.

“Farmers are leading progress toward collective water quality goals in the Yahara Watershed,” said Jeff Endres, chairman of Yahara Pride Farms. “Managing how nutrient-rich manure is applied to farm fields is a key component to achieving these goals.”

Last year, Dane County implemented and tracked more than 313 conservation practices and systems, resulting in 18,392 pounds of phosphorus being reduced in the Yahara Watershed. Under this new partnership, the manure injector is projected to reduce 1.5 pounds of phosphorus per acre of land each year.

Participants of the program will be charged a fee to cover operator costs, tractor rental, repair and maintenance, scheduling and insurance. To reduce participant expenses, Dane County developed a cost share program for individual farmers and custom haulers to purchase the LDMI toolbar. Currently, two cost share agreements totaling $46,495.50 have been approved to purchase the toolbar equipment.

The Yahara WINS executive committee approved the grant request to fund 50 percent of the costs for a tanker and LDMI toolbar with funds from the Clean Lakes Alliance in June. The Dane County board of supervisors is currently reviewing a resolution committing up to $60,000 in county dollars to match the committee’s funds.

Yahara Pride Farms will provide an annual report to the Dane County Land Conservation Division and Yahara WINS detailing treated field locations, number of acres covered, and pounds of phosphorus reduced. Previously, Yahara Pride Farms partnered with a local equipment dealer to provide a tanker and LDMI toolbar for individual farmers to use and gain experience with the technology.

Published in Manure Application
July 7, 2017, Chicago, IL - The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farm families and importers, announced its sixth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards in a June 28 Chicago ceremony.

The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet.

From farm to table, transparency and ingenuity drive dairy forward, as demonstrated in the newly released 2016 Sustainability Report, which describes the Innovation Center's strategic plan focused on social responsibility. The plan was developed by dairy community leaders in recognition of the changing consumer and customer marketplace where health, environmental and ethical practices are of increasing interest.

Award winners represent the U.S. dairy community's voluntary efforts toward continuous improvement in sustainability.

"This year's winners demonstrated impressive leadership and creativity in the application of technology and other practices that protect our land, air and water," said Barbara O'Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. "And, they're proactive about building strong relationships with their communities and employees. Based on this year's nominations, it's clear that dairy farms and companies of all sizes use sustainable practices because it's good for the environment, good for their community and good for business."

Judges evaluated nominations based on their economic, environmental and community impact. The independent judging panel — including experts working with and throughout the dairy community — also considered learning, innovation, scalability and replicability.
Through creative problem solving, this year's winners addressed water quality, soil fertility, community outreach, energy efficiency and more.

"These award-winning practices can serve as models for other farmers, too," said Jason Bateman, dairy farmer, 2016 award winner and one of this year's judges. "Winners made breakthroughs, and they improved everyday practices. It's inspiring to see people collaborate with partners outside of dairy and build on ideas from other industries."

The 2017 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards winners are:

Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability:

Kinnard Farms
, Casco, Wisconsin

The Kinnard family milks more than 7,000 cows — a scale that allows them to maximize cow comfort while supporting their rural community. They retain the area's young, college-educated residents by employing them to innovate farm technology. The Kinnards are often on the cutting edge; they made a first-of-its-kind sand recycling center — one that uses no freshwater in the process — to separate, wash and dry sand for repeated use. Sand is this farm's preferred bedding material because it provides comfort and sure footing for cows and is bacteria free, keeping udders healthy.

Rickreall Dairy, Rickreall, Oregon

Rickreall, Ore., residents know Louie Kazemier as a good neighbor. In fact, his relationships are the force behind his farm's frequent improvements. For example, when solids were building up in the manure lagoon, Louie initiated trade with a seed farmer to provide fertilizer in exchange for feed. He also collaborated with a local food processor to use their wastewater for irrigation. Kazemier depends on a whole-system approach to tend to what matters — and that turns out to be everything. The results are big: for one, most of the dairy's 25 employees have been there for more than 20 years.

SwissLane Farms, Alto, Michigan

This farm is 23 miles from downtown Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan. That poses both pressures from urban sprawl and opportunities to reach people several generations removed from the farm. Since 2006, SwissLane's Dairy Discovery program has taken advantage of this opportunity, offering farm tours that have reached more than 36,000 students, teachers and families. They have plenty to demonstrate when it comes to sustainable practices. After a farm energy audit, SwissLanes Dairy made improvements that reduced energy costs by 17 percent per cow. They also took steps to become verified through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.

Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability:

Glanbia Nutritionals, Evanston, Illinois

While consumers don't see the Glanbia Nutritionals brand in their grocery stores, it has a big footprint as one of the leading manufacturers of American-style cheese and whey. To implement a sustainability plan, they started with a single plant in Idaho. The team determined priority impact areas, measured social presence, determined metrics to demonstrate progress and identified areas where additional resourcing was needed. By 2016, the company had replicated this approach with three more plants and adopted a global sustainability strategy that promises to "nurture, grow and sustain the lives of our employees, milk producers, customers, consumers and communities."

Outstanding Achievement in Resource Stewardship

Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc., Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

The Keller family participated in the Pleasant Valley Watershed Project, a collaboration among state, local and national agencies to reduce the local watershed's phosphorous load. Results were dramatic and positive. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is expected to propose removing the Pleasant Valley branch from the EPA's list of sediment-impaired streams. Other farms that participated in the project saw economic benefits too, and this spurred them to form a group to build on the learnings. The Kellers, whose family has farmed the hills of Mount Horeb since the late 1840s, saw cost savings as well as environmental benefits.

Honorable Mention:

Mercer Vu Farms, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania

The Hissong family needed a manure management system that allowed them to maintain their high standard of cow comfort while protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They looked at industries outside of agriculture to devise something dairy farms can replicate. They developed a system that allows them to use manure solids for cow bedding and for compost, while using phosphorus from the liquid manure as crop fertilizer in a targeted application. Their new system eliminated greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 740 cars from the road.

Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships:

Oakland View Farms & Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Caroline County, Maryland

Environmental communities and farmers haven't always seen eye to eye – especially in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where water quality is a significant issue. But these groups identified a common goal: improve the community's water quality through cost-effective projects that could be replicated. They did that with a woodchip bioreactor – the first of its kind in Maryland – that eliminated nitrogen from agricultural drainage water. An effective, virtually maintenance-free solution, it eliminates 48 pounds of nitrate-nitrogen from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay each year.

Honorable Mention:

Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, The Kroger Co. of Michigan

Michigan Milk Producers Association and Michigan State University Extension, Novi, Michigan

The benefits of milk's nutrient-dense profile have long been established. But the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) relied on lesser-known qualities to help the residents of Flint, Mich. during a crisis in which they were susceptible to lead poisoning from contaminated water. Calcium and iron, found in dairy, can help mitigate health risks of lead consumption. Through a comprehensive partnership, 589,824 servings of milk were donated to those in need. Now there's a donation model to show this is possible in other communities affected by potential lead contamination.

Honorable Mention:

U.S. Dairy Education & Training Consortium Extension, College Station, Texas

The need for skilled agricultural professionals in the southwestern United States continues to grow, especially as universities across the region have reduced or eliminated their dairy programs. USDETC thrives today thanks to farmers and other dairy industry professionals. The goal: train animal and dairy science, agribusiness and pre-veterinary students on practical aspects of modern dairy management. Students study and visit as many different dairies, management styles and developmental stages as possible. It's all about growing participants' understanding of what a dairy operation entails so they're better equipped to lead.
Published in Profiles
June 30, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Agri-food stakeholders from across the value chain are invited to attend the second annual National Environmental Farm Plan (NEFP) Summit in Ottawa, November 1-2, 2017.

As Co-Chair of the NEFP steering committee, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) encourages producers and farm groups to be part of this initiative that seeks to harmonize the many different environmental farm plan programs in Canada.

"Farm organizations recognize that demonstrating producers' commitment to environmental best practices is increasingly important," said Ron Bonnett, CFA President. "CFA is pleased to invest in efforts to create more consistency among the Canada's various environmental farm plans, while ensuring they remain responsive in their own regions."

An Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a voluntary, whole-farm, self-assessment tool that helps farmers and ranchers identify and build on environmental strengths, as well as mitigate risks on their operations. A National EFP (NEFP) would not be a replacement program, but rather a harmonization effort across the existing EFP programs nationwide.

Building on an inaugural event held last year, summit attendees will further develop a national standard designed to connect environmentally sustainable practices at the farm level with global food buyers' growing need to source sustainable ingredients.

"The NEFP builds more than 20 years of success of EFPs in the farm and ranch community," said Erin Gowriluk, NEFP Summit Chair and Policy and Government Relations Manager with the Alberta Wheat Commission. "The credibility of the EFP program has already attracted several major buyers. But the national standard will lay the groundwork for consistent sourcing from coast-to-coast while ensuring that the process continues to be driven by producers."

The NEFP program is well into development, led by a steering committee comprised of participants from across the agri-food value chain.

Four sub-committees are working toward developing a national protocol as it relates to data collection, standards and verification, all of which will be supported through comprehensive communications and stakeholder outreach.

Summit attendees will hear from each committee, along with subject matter experts, about the progress to-date - information that will further guide steps toward this national standard.

Learn more and register for the 2017 National EFP Summit by visiting www.nationalefp.ca. The NEFP is always seeking to add to its list of stakeholders involved in shaping this made-in-Canada solution. Interested organizations should contact co-chairs Drew Black or Paul Watson.
Published in Business/Policy
June 21, 2017, Fair Oaks, IN – On June 16, Midwestern BioAg was joined by more than 80 local farmers, media and staff to celebrate the grand opening of its new TerraNu fertilizer manufacturing plant.

The event, hosted at Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, IN, featured remarks from Midwestern BioAg leadership and Mike McCloskey, co-founder and chairman of the board at Fair Oaks Farms. READ MORE




Published in Companies
June 20, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) is seeking nominations for the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Award (ESA).

The ESA recognizes cattle producers whose natural resource stewardship practices contribute to the environment and enhance productivity and profitability. The ABP are asking producers to take this opportunity to share the unique environmental practices employed on their operation and to present the positive story about cattle producers' contribution to the environment.

Nomination forms are available on the ABP website, from the ABP office or from any local delegate. All cattle producers are encouraged to either enter or nominate another producer who is taking strides towards sound environmental production practices.

A team of judges made up of ABP delegates, the 2017 ESA winner and an industry associate will review the submissions and tour the nominated ranching operations. Each applicant will be scored on predetermined criteria unique to the practices they implement in their business.

The winner will receive a commemorative gate sign, a video highlighting their ranching operation and an all-expenses paid trip from anywhere in Alberta to the 2017 ABP Annual General Meeting in Calgary, where the award will be presented at a formal banquet. The competition is open to all cattle producers. Deadline for nominations is July 15, 2017, and the winner will be announced December 2017.

Contact the Alberta Beef Producers at 403-451-1183.

Published in Beef
June 7, 2017, Ada, OH – Manure is (and always has been) part of livestock production, but in recent years it has been increasingly viewed as an asset instead of a liability. Experts emphasize, however, that to get the full benefits and minimize the drawbacks of manure application for the benefit of all parties involved, planning and preparation are extremely important.

“It has to be a sustainable operation for the applicator, the livestock producers and the crop producers,” said Eric Dresbach, president of W.D. Farms, LLC, during a presentation at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada this spring. “Everybody has to win and nobody can win big.” READ MORE
Published in Other
May 31, 2017, Arlington, VA – The National Dairy FARM Program has released its Environmental Stewardship Continuous Improvement Reference Manual in cooperation with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Released in celebration of Earth Day, the guide provides a comprehensive suite of on-farm management practices to reduce a farm's environmental footprint and improve its profitability.

Specifically, the manual features a detailed explanation of the FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) module, as well as strategies to reduce on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in various areas of farm management, including feed, manure, energy, forage, and animal health.

FARM ES is a voluntary, farmer-driven tool that helps producers expand their sustainability efforts by using a limited amount of data about their farm. The module is based on a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of fluid milk conducted by the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas, incorporating existing data from more than 500 dairy farms across the United States.

Launched in February, FARM ES is the third of the FARM Program's three silos, including Animal Care and Antibiotic Stewardship.

The FARM ES reference manual was developed by FARM and includes previous work completed by the Innovation Center. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) led an independent review of the manual using a panel of subject matter experts.

"In an increasingly resource scarce world, we need to produce more food on the current amount of land, with less inputs and environmental impacts," said Sandra Vijn, director for markets and food at WWF. "FARM ES will support U.S. dairy farmers in continuously identifying better management practices for environmental stewardship. That is why WWF works with NMPF, the industry and dairy experts to ensure the program produces the best resources and solutions for farmers in terms of environmental sustainability."

This manual further demonstrates the dairy industry's culture of continuous improvement, the focus of the FARM Program.

Since 1944, the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk has decreased by 63 percent – a leading example of farmers' dedication to being good stewards of natural resources.

In addition to the manual, the FARM Program has developed an extensive library of resources regarding the program and environmental stewardship.
Published in Dairy
May 29, 2017, Boston, MA - For years, dairy farmers have used cow manure as fertilizer to spread over crops like corn and hay. But two farms in Western Massachusetts have a new use for all that manure -- renewable energy.

Luther Belden Farm in Hatfield and Rockwood Farms in Granville are embarking on a project to turn cow manure into electricity as a way to become self-sustaining and stabilize their finances in what they say is a volatile market.

The farms are working in partnership with the the Hampshire Council of Governments and Pennsylvania-based startup Ag-Grid Energy.

The farms hope to break ground on two on-site agricultural anaerobic digesters this summer. READ MORE
Published in Energy
May 11, 2017, Olympia, WA – The dairy industry and environmental groups have come up with 19 legal challenges to the Washington Department of Ecology’s new manure-control law.

The Pollution Control Hearings Board, the forum for appealing Ecology actions, has scheduled a week-long hearing for Dec. 4-8 in Tumwater on the state’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permits. The appeals did not keep the rules from taking effect in March. READ MORE
Published in State
Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland. More than one-third of all the cows in U.S. live on approximately 3,000 farms in Wisconsin.
Published in Dairy
The Porter Family farm, located in Cabarrus County, N.C., is the definition of diverse. Four generations of Porters raise chickens, hogs, cattle, and run a profitable agritourism business.
Published in Swine
April 28, 2017, Eindhoven, Netherlands - One Dutch artist is using chemistry to turn cattle manure into something that is both eco-friendly and valuable. Her innovative technique turns manure into a variety of useful materials like clothing fabric, bio-degradable plastic and paper.

In recent years, scientists around the world have made great progress in their attempts to recycle cattle manure, including turning it into natural fertilizer and biogas, but Eindhoven designer, Jalila Essaïdi didn't think they were efficient enough to solve the global manure surplus problem.

So, she started on her very own solution, one that approached animal waste as a valuable material that could be processed into useful products. The results of her work prove that manure really is worth its weight in gold.

Working in her BioArtLab, Essaïdi discovered that cow manure provided both the base for a new, bio-degradable material and the chemicals required to produce it.

She started by separating the waste, with the dry manure used to extract pure cellulose from the grass that cows eat. From the wet manure, she extracted acids used to create cellulose acetate, a natural liquid plastic. This was used to make fibers, which are later turned into fabric or bio-plastics, but it can also be freeze-dried to create an aerogel.

The new material was named Mestic, from mest, the Dutch word for manure. Essaïdi claims that it has the same properties as plastic derived from fossil fuels, but is bio-degradable. Better yet, the degradability can be tweaked in the lab, making it possible to create materials that last for different periods of time depending on their purpose. READ MORE


Published in News
April 28, 2017, Guelph, Ont. - Member of Parliament Lloyd Longfield (Guelph) today announced a $2.2 million investment with the University of Guelph to develop technologies, practices and processes that can be adopted by farmers to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The three projects with the university are supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), to help the Canadian farming sector become a world leader in the development and use of clean and sustainable agricultural technologies and practices. These projects will also help farmers increase their understanding of GHG emissions.

The AGGP covers four priority areas of research: livestock systems, cropping systems, agricultural water use efficiency and agro-forestry.

"This is a significant investment in U of G research, innovation, and knowledge mobilization. All three of these projects will help improve life and protect our planet, from improving agroforestry practices, to developing crop fertilization methods that reduce emissions, to use of aerial devices to assess soil carbon levels and elevate precision agriculture," said Malcolm Campbell, Vice-President (research), University of Guelph

The new AGGP investments will continue to support the work of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, which brings together 47 countries to find ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions. READ MORE
Published in News
April 27, 2017, Lethbridge, Alta – The beef industry is facing opportunity and a dilemma.

Consumption of animal protein is expected to increase more than 60 percent over the next 40 years according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Ruminants are a key to meeting this demand because they can convert forage to protein-rich food and make use of land not suitable for arable crops.

The dilemma is ruminants are also a significant environmental problem, producing large amounts of methane from that forage consumption.

There are no silver bullets to deal with methane and ammonia emissions but there is real promise for significant improvement on the horizon say Dr. Karen Beauchemin and Dr. Karen Koenig, two researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Lethbridge Research and Development Centre.

Here are three examples.

New product

Perhaps the most dramatic methane control option is a new product in the pipeline designed specifically to manage methane production in ruminants.

"Methane is lost energy and lost opportunity," says Beauchemin. "The inhibitor 3-nitrooxypropanol (NOP) is a new compound synthetized by a company out of Switzerland specifically to control methane. A feed additive, it interferes with normal digestion process reducing the ability of rumen organisms to synthesize methane, shifting methane energy to a more usable form for the animal."

Research by the Lethbridge team showed adding NOP to a standard diet reduced methane production 40 percent during backgrounding and finishing of cattle. Trials have been done in commercial feedlots and it is moving into the registration channels in North America.

"Obviously there are hoops to go through in registration and questions such as pricing and mode of use in the cow calf sector that would affect industry uptake, but it is a very promising emission control alternative that could be available within three to five years," says Beauchemin.

New techniques

Diet manipulation is also promising. For example, increasing the nutritional digestibility of forages through early harvesting increases animal efficiency and reduces methane emissions, says Beauchemin.

"We're also overfeeding protein in many cases which increases ammonia emissions," says Koenig. "For example, distillers grains, a by-product of the ethanol industry, are commonly fed in feedlots. But the nutrients are concentrated and when added to diets as an energy supplement, it often results in overfeeding protein, which increases ammonia emissions."

One new area of research that may mitigate that, she says, is using plant extracts such as tannins that bind the nitrogen in the animal's gut and retain it in the manure more effectively. That retains the value as fertilizer.

"There are supplements on the market with these products in them already, but we are evaluating them in terms of ammonia and methane management."

New thinking

A new focus in research trials today is thinking "whole farm."

A new research nutrient utilization trial in the Fraser Valley of B.C. is looking at crop production in terms of selection of crops, number of cuts, fertilization and feed quality.

"We are looking at what is needed to meet the needs of the dairy cow," says Koenig. "It's a whole farm system that does not oversupply nutrients to the animal."

Road ahead

Basically, most things that improve efficiency in animal production reduce methane and ammonia production, says Beauchemin and Koenig. They emphasize that while forage does produce methane, forage is a complex system that must be considered as whole ecosystem with many positive benefits.

The biggest opportunity for improvement in methane emissions is in the cow calf and backgrounding sector because they are highly forage-ration based. But the low hanging fruit and early research in emission management is focused on the feedlot and dairy sector because diets can be controlled more easily.

Related scientific paper here "Effects of sustained reduction of enteric methane emissions with dietary... ."
Published in Manure Handling
April 27, 2017, Richmond, VA — Excessive livestock manure from millions of turkeys, chickens and cows in Virginia is making its way into the Shenandoah River, polluting the scenic waterway with unsafe levels of E. coli, according to a new report from an environmental advocacy group.

The Environmental Integrity Project analyzed hundreds of state records for the report released Wednesday. In addition to E. coli, which can sicken the swimmers, fishermen and tubers who flock to the river, the report also found elevated levels of phosphorous, which contributes to the growth of algae blooms and low-oxygen "dead zones." READ MORE
Published in State
April 25, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – Innovative research is reshaping what is known about ammonia and related emissions from feedlots. And that new knowledge may help the industry to adjust its management, shape and react to public policy more effectively.

"Livestock are significant emission contributors," says Dr. Sean McGinn of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, a long-time researcher in the emissions area. "That's quite clear and generally recognized by the agricultural research community."

Some examples

Fifty to 60 percent of feed nitrogen is lost as ammonia at the feedlot. Eight to 10 percent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture and 90 percent of the atmospheric ammonia comes from cattle manure. Ammonia in the atmosphere is an economic loss because the nitrogen fertilizer potential of manure is lowered. And it's a health hazard. Ammonia mixes with acid to form fine aerosols, the white haze seen in confined airsheds.

"We know beef feedlots are 'hot spots' of ammonia emissions on the landscape, but we didn't know as much about the dynamics of ammonia emissions from feedlots. For example we didn't have real numbers from actual feedlots on how much is emitted, how much is deposited on nearby soil and how much re-emission occurs when that happens."

That's what McGinn and his colleague Dr. Tom Flesch (University of Alberta) set out to understand. Backed by funding from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), a two-year project investigated the fate of nitrogen in feedlots, what amount is deposited on land downwind and how much is carried long distances.

The other part of their research involves measuring methane and nitrous oxide, two prominent greenhouse gasses. Methane is produced by cattle due to the anaerobic digestion of feed in the cow's rumen and both nitrous oxide and methane come from stored manure in the pens.

The research produced significant results on several fronts from techniques to measure on a commercial scale, to new information on transfer, deposits and re-emission to nearby lands, to related opportunities for mitigation and management.

New measuring techniques

One major positive outcome was the development of new measuring technology adapted from what has been used successfully for measuring flare emissions in the oil and gas industry.

Using open path lasers that move over the feedlot and calculate concentration and wind characteristics, the system is able to measure emissions regardless of wind direction.

Measuring in real world situations offers some significant advantages to the more standard research protocols of using animals in individual chambers to measure emissions, says McGinn.

This new technique evaluates the feedlot as a whole, which means it can consider whole-unit management aspects which impact emissions. Also, by keeping animals in their natural environment and not interfering with them in any way, the laser approach promises more accurate, commercial scale results.

On a bigger picture level, this means actual feedlot emission numbers can be used in greenhouse gas assessments, an improvement from past practices of using estimates from global sources.

Early results show surprises

One of the surprises learned from this study was the fact that a significant fraction of ammonia was deposited on the land adjacent to the feedlot and, once deposited, how much was reemitted into the atmosphere.

"Our results illustrate the dynamics of reactive ammonia in the vicinity of a beef cattle feedlot," says McGinn. "It confirmed that a large portion of the nitrogen fed as crude protein is volatized from the feedlot's cattle manure. In the local vicinity of a feedlot, both ammonia deposition (14 percent of the emitted ammonia) and reemission occurred. That 14 percent is a large amount considering a typical feedlot emits one to two tonnes of ammonia per day."

There was a change in the soil captured ammonia that decreased with distance from the feedlot (50 percent over 200 m).

Industry implications

Logically it follows that quantifying the local dry ammonia deposition to surrounding fields is required when applying feedlot-based emissions to a large-scale emissions inventory, says McGinn. Failure to do that could mean badly misrepresenting the real situation.

"We need better emissions numbers to anchor effective public policy and fairly represent the feedlot industry in that data pool," says McGinn. "It's important to have research done before policy is set. The U.S. cattle feeding industry already has specific ammonia emission targets in place."

Related scientific paper here: "Ammonia Emission from a Beef Cattle Feedlot and Its Dry Local Deposition and Re-Emission."
Published in News
April 20, 2017, Ithaca, NY – All living things – from bacteria and fungi to plants and animals – need phosphorus. But extra phosphorus in the wrong place can harm the environment. For example, when too much phosphorus enters a lake or stream, it can lead to excessive weed growth and algal blooms. Low-oxygen dead zones can form.

Runoff from agricultural sites can be an important source of phosphorus pollution. To help evaluate and reduce this risk, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first proposed a phosphorus index concept in the early 1990s.

Since then, science progressed and methods improved. In New York State, scientists and agency staff developed and released a phosphorus index in 2003. Now, a new project proposes a restructured index to build on phosphorus management efforts in that state and beyond.

"The idea is to account for the characteristics of a field, and help evaluate the risk of phosphorus runoff from that location," says Quirine Ketterings, lead author of the new study.

The new index structure improves upon previous approaches. It focuses on the existing risk of phosphorus runoff from a field based on the location and how it is currently managed. Qualities like ground cover, erosion potential, and distance to a stream or water-body all come into play. The index also highlights best management practices to reduce this risk.

"The new index approach will direct farmers toward an increasingly safer series of practices," says Ketterings. "Higher-risk fields require more and safer practices to reduce and manage phosphorus runoff."

Ketterings directs the nutrient management spear program at Cornell University. She and her colleagues used a combination of surveys, computer-generated examples, and old-fashioned number crunching. They used characteristics of thousands of farm fields to develop the new index. Involving farmers and farm advisors was also a key step.

"As stakeholders, farmers and farm advisors are more likely to make changes if they understand why," says Ketterings. "Plus, they have experience and knowledge that folks in academia and in governmental agencies often do not."

This field experience can be vital. "Involving stakeholders in decision-making and getting their feedback makes the final product more workable," says Ketterings. "It may also prevent mistakes that limit implementation and effectiveness."

Ketterings stresses that the previous index was not wrong.

"Farming is a business of continuous improvement and so is science," she says. "The initial index was based on the best scientific understanding available at that time. Our new index builds and improves upon the experience and scientific knowledge we have accumulated since the first index was implemented. It is likely this new index will be updated in the future as our knowledge evolves."

The previous index approach could be somewhat time-consuming for planners, according to Ketterings. Further, it didn't always help identify the most effective practices for farmers. The new approach addresses both of these issues.

"We wanted the new index to be practical to use," she says. "The best index has no value if people cannot or will not implement it."

In some circumstances of low or medium soil test phosphorus, the original New York state phosphorus index allowed farms to apply manure and fertilizer in what we now consider to be potentially high-risk settings.

"The new index approach proposes soil test phosphorus cutoffs and also encourages placing manure below the soil surface," says Ketterings. "These changes will bring improvements in phosphorus utilization and management across the farm."

Ketterings also thinks that the new index is more intuitive.

"It allows for ranking of fields based on their inherent risk of phosphorus transport if manure was applied," she says. "It really emphasizes implementing best management practices to reduce phosphorus losses from fields."

In addition, the proposed index approach could make it easier to develop similar indices across state lines, according to Ketterings. This makes sense, since watersheds don't follow state boundaries. Growers could use different practices, if deemed appropriate, for different regions.

READ MORE about Ketterings' work in Journal of Environmental Quality.
Published in Other
April 18, 2017, Ames, IA – Iowa State University's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture would be closed under a House-Senate agriculture bill unveiled April 12. The bill would cut the state's general fund budget for state agriculture and natural resources programs by 5.6 percent compared to the current fiscal year.
Published in Business/Policy

April 13, 2017, Yakima, WA – A Lower Valley dairy is being sued over claims that it has violated the federal Clean Water Act for years, including contributing to the impact of a manure-related flood in the Outlook area earlier this year.

Published in Dairy
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