University of Saskatchewan

September 01, 2014   

U of S Scientists Awarded $3.4 Million to Help Farmers Reduce Agricultural Greenhouse Gases

From top: Warren Helgason: optimizing irrigation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; Ken Van Rees: the role of shelter belt trees and shrubs in sequestering carbon; Dan Pennock: managing forage crops to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
June 05, 2012

Three University of Saskatchewan projects have been awarded more than $3.4 million over the next five years from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) for research that will help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved use of shelterbelts, irrigation and forage production.

“Our government’s top priority remains the economy, and Canada’s agricultural industry plays a vital role in keeping our economy strong,” said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “Farmers are good stewards of the land, but farming is always changing and environmental practices need to keep pace with that change. The work being done by the University of Saskatchewan is a great way to help farmers and the environment.”

Funding for the three U of S projects comes from AAFC’s Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP). Together, they will create jobs for about 10 graduate students, plus about a dozen summer student positions.

“As our world’s population grows, farmers face an increasing challenge to feed everyone adequately, safely and sustainably,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president of research. “Knowledge created by this research in one of our signature areas will help farmers as they strive to produce more food while safeguarding the environment.”

Agriculture: Food and Bioproducts for a Sustainable Future is one of six signature areas of research identified by the U of S. The three funded projects are:

Warren Helgason, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, is identifying how irrigation and fertilizer use influence emissions of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas released from fertilizer, fossil fuels, and livestock manure. Irrigated lands can potentially sequester or “lock up” more carbon than non-irrigated land, potentially reducing levels of carbon dioxide – another greenhouse gas. But irrigated land typically requires more energy for pumping water, more tillage and more fertilizer, which can result in more greenhouse gas emissions if not properly managed. Helgason will provide recommendations designed to help producers reduce nitrous oxide emissions by improving irrigation water management.

Dan Pennock, professor of soil science, together with colleagues Rich Farrell and Fran Walley, is developing new management options for Prairie farmers that balance the need for increased production with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Part of the study will provide estimates of greenhouse gas emissions associated with forage seed production and look at ways to minimize them. Pennock’s team will also develop practical sampling methods to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the field that will help researchers decide how to invest their limited resources.

Ken Van Rees, director of the U of S Centre for Northern Agroforestry and Afforestation, is examining new strategies and shelterbelt designs to maximize benefits to farmers and the environment. He is looking for the most effective ways to sequester carbon using shelterbelts – the rows of trees and shrubs on farmland that provide shelter from wind and protect soil from erosion. For example, Van Rees is examining how various tree species lock up carbon both above and below ground, and how they perform in various soil zones. This project will provide farmers with improved understanding of the value of shelterbelts in farming and reducing greenhouse gases.

Launched in 2011, the AGGP is a five-year, $27-million AAFC initiative focused on developing on-farm greenhouse gas mitigation technologies across Canada. The program is part of Canada’s commitment as one of the two founding members of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases – an international network of more than 30 member countries devoted to collaboration in agricultural research on greenhouse gas mitigation and beneficial management practices for farmers. For more information, visit www.globalresearchalliance.org.

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Media contact:

Michael Robin
Research Communications
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-1425
michael.robin@usask.ca

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