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Grain industry could see massive carbon reductions

Research led by Michigan State University is working to identify how the grain industry can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70 percent by 2030.

Bruno Basso tells Brownfield harnessing carbon markets should go beyond sequestration and also incorporate how to reduce overall ag emissions.

“The specific inputs that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture is mainly N2O, nitrous oxide,” he says.  “Nitrous oxide is highly proportional to the amount of fertilizer, if we manage our fertilizer better, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Through his remote sensing research across the Midwest, Basso says there are proven areas in fields that are constant underperformers regardless of the inputs applied.  He’s connecting those findings to potential returns for farmers.

“If we can quantify how much reductions are occurring on a field using digital agricultural technology, then a farmer could be rewarded through both incentives programs or potential new markets,” he explains.

Basso says if low-performing areas can be incentivized to be used for alternative crops which sequester carbon, farmers could see added benefits beyond lowering input use while maintaining performance.

His new paper highlights how reducing fertilizer applications by 36 percent can lead to a 23 percent reduction in emissions without reducing yields. 

Additional innovations Basso says including electrifying the fertilizer production process will also help meet carbon reduction goals.


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