University of Saskatchewan gets green light for emissions study


Federal gov’t gives $3.4 million for research Five-year initiative will look into ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ag practices

A $3.4 million parcel from the federal government will fund research at the University of Saskatchewan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural practices. 


The funds will be invested into the U of S through the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program, a five-year, $27 million initiative that’s providing research dollars to projects across the country.


From that $3.4 million, $980,000 will fund the development of new management practices for nitrogen-use efficiency in the forage beef sector, while $920,000 will be used to study greenhouse gases and efficiency within prairie irrigation systems. The rest, $1.5 million, will study how agroforestry plantings can mitigate greenhouse gases.


“That’s a big part of this program, is to keep the agronomy part and the environmental part together,” said Rich Farrell, an associate professor at the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources and the ministry of agriculture’s strategic research chair. “It turns out, not too surprisingly, the practices that are best from an agronomic standpoint wind up giving you the biggest benefits from an environmental standpoint.”


Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz made the funding announcement last week, ahead of meetings of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, of which Canada is currently chair, in Saskatoon. 


The AGGP is part of Canada’s contribution to the international project, a network of more than two dozen countries seeking to develop new management practices without increasing greenhouse gases. 


Farrell’s work, examining nitrogen-use efficiency among forages, will see researchers examining alfalfa and soils with different pH values and organic matter content from the Carrot River region. 


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Of interest to Farrell is the use of urea and nitrification inhibitors to increase efficiency, reducing the amount of nitrogen available to microorganisms and lost as ammonia. 


“Any (nitrogen) that goes off as ammonia or nitrous oxide is nitrogen that a producer has paid for and isn’t getting. We want to minimize those emissions, so that you’re getting the nitrogen that you’re paying for,” said Farrell. 


“It may mean that you can use less nitrogen if you use the inhibitors than you’re currently using or it might mean you still need the same amount, but we’re not losing as much.”


Another group will be studying the carbon sequestration potential of alfalfa, said Farrell. 


Upon the research’s conclusion, Farrell should be able to provide prairie producers with a better understanding of the benefits of these inhibitors for yield and seed production, as well as their economic feasibility and impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

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