UW Field Day Tour Focuses on Greenhouse Gases and Crop Management

Tour examines viability of greenhouse gas reductions in Wisconsin agriculture.

MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Extension and UW-Madison invite farmers, agronomists, crop consultants, agri-business, governmental agencies, as well as the general public, to attend a special session on greenhouse gases and crop management at the Agronomy/Soils Field Day at 8 a.m. Aug. 27 at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station on Highway 51 about 5 miles south of Arlington. The field day includes greenhouse gas tours at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. where you can see first hand how greenhouse gases are collected across different Wisconsin cropping systems, hear about recent research discoveries and learn about the applications of this research.

Agriculture contributes almost 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US, with nitrous oxide and methane being the primary greenhouse gases from agriculture. Agricultural soil management contributes 75% of the nitrous oxide emissions in the US and 34% of the methane emissions in the US come from livestock and manure. Thus, the emphasis in agricultural research has been to identify management practices that can reduce nitrous oxide and methane losses. Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are often considered an indicator of sustainability.

Several agriculture-led efforts are underway to reduce these emissions. For example, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy 25% by the year 2020. Additional efforts, such as the 25×25 Coalition, are spearheading efforts to increase renewable energy production in the United States and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our current research at UW is focused on understanding what the baseline losses are, how much they vary from year to year and how different cropping systems and management practices affect those losses,” said Matt Ruark, a UW-Extension specialist and assistant professor of soil fertility and nutrient management at UW-Madison. “We are also interested in assessing the emissions in relation to the production. Depending on the agricultural system being evaluated, the emissions may be calculated per gallon of milk, per bushel of grain or per energy produced.”

The University of Wisconsin is part of three large efforts in agricultural climate change mitigation and adaption: Sustainablecorn.org, Sustainabledairy.org and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. Both Sustainablecorn.org and Sustainabledairy.org (website under construction) are multi-disciplinary and multi-state projects funded by the USDA. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center is funded through the U.S. Department of Energy. Sustainabledairy.org is led by the University of Wisconsin and in partnership with the Innovation Center for US Dairy and includes quantification of greenhouse gas emissions to improve models, assessment tools and user tools. These and other tools are currently being beta-tested and may be available and promoted soon for use to quantify effects of management across the supply chain.

“The quality of these tools and our understanding of how agriculture can help mitigate effects of climate change are grounded in the quality of the research conducted at the Arlington Ag Research Station,” Ruark said. “Another important aspect to this research is to assess all the co-benefits or trade-offs that come with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. We do not want to sacrifice profitability, water quality or soil quality in the process.”

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UW-Extension, which receives the third largest amount of federal grants in the UW System, serves Wisconsin families, businesses and communities statewide through offices in all 72 Wisconsin counties and three tribal nations, continuing education services through all 26 UW System campuses, the statewide broadcasting networks of Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television, and entrepreneurship and economic development activities by county throughout the state.

Contact: Matt Ruark, mdruark@wisc.edu, 608-263-2889