ITHACA – $ 10 million grant aims to help the U.S. dairy industry become at least carbon neutral while supporting farmers’ livelihoods – and providing important information for New York State, which is ranks fourth in milk production nationwide.
Quirine Ketterings, professor of animal science at the College of Agriculture and Life Science and director of the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program, leads the New York component of the six-year multi-state project, “Dairy Soil and Water Regeneration: Building Soil Health to Reduce greenhouse gases, improve water quality and generate new economic benefits.
The project is funded by the Food and Agriculture Research Foundation (FFAR), a federal agency that enables public-private partnerships by matching private funding with federal dollars. FFAR has provided $ 10 million for this project while private donors such as Nestlé and the dairy industry will provide matching funds and in-kind support for a total of $ 23.2 million.
“The overall objective of this project is to measure more precisely the greenhouse gas footprint of dairy farming and to assess strategies to reduce this footprint, or even allow dairy products to become a carbon sink. net, ”Ketterings said. “We can certainly sequester carbon in the soil. But we have to figure out how to do it in a way that is economical, practical and achievable for farmers.
The most cited study on the impact of greenhouse gases from dairy farming, published in 2013, found that it takes 1.23 kilograms of carbon dioxide to produce 1 kilogram of milk. However, the dairy industry has improved its footprint since then: between 2007 and 2017, dairy farmers reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 19%, land use by 21% and land use. 30% water, according to a study in the Journal of Animal Science.
There are also significant limitations in previous carbon impact studies, and this grant aims to address them. Ketterings’ laboratory will measure greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural land – and analyze the impact of several management practices to reduce carbon and improve soil health – by taking regular and frequent measurements in a active dairy farm in western New York.
Eight farms across the United States will be studied using the same equipment and methodologies.
“One of the essential elements of this subsidy is the standardization of our measures,” Ketterings said. “A lot of times people produce information about carbon footprints, but it is not directly comparable to the data that other people have collected. The important thing for this project is consistency at all levels so that we can have a much more accurate picture of the greenhouse gas impact of dairy products.
David Fisher, president of the New York Farm Bureau, said the grant will provide better understanding to help the state’s dairy industry meet its carbon neutral goals and remain a leader in sustainability.
“Dairy farmers depend on scientific research to guide our efforts to increase productivity and reduce our environmental footprint, and the work of Professor Ketterings has been a trusted source for this information,” Fisher said.
Karl Czymmek, vice president of agronomy and field science at Dairy Management, Inc., the trade association overseeing the project nationwide, said it was one of the first studies multi-year and multi-site coordinated fieldwork on dairy and manure systems in the United States.
“It will be of immense help to the dairy industry by making an essential contribution to the body of knowledge relating to greenhouse gas emissions, the impact on water quality and carbon sequestration” said Czymmek, a former senior extension associate at Cornell, where he spent 20 years working directly with New York dairy farmers.
The data collected through this grant will support the US dairy industry’s Net Zero initiative to make improvements in reducing carbon emissions. These efforts include studying feed additives and genetics to reduce methane emissions from cows; no-till or low-till agriculture; cover crops and precision agriculture to reduce emissions from feed production; converting biogas produced on the farm into renewable energy; and nutrient management planning to better capture the fertilizing benefits of manure while minimizing its carbon impact.
Data from this project could also be used to develop strategies to allow farmers to be compensated for their environmental stewardship practices, for example through carbon markets or water quality.
“It’s important for our dairy farms to contribute to a smaller environmental footprint, and our farmers want to help,” Ketterings said. “They want to be part of the solution, and this project gives us the opportunity to do so.”