Many lessons learned from greenhouse gas reduction program
Indian Head, Sask., November 23, 2006:
The recently completed first phase of the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program (GHGMP) in agriculture provided good information on reducing greenhouse gas and yielded some valuable lessons in science and communication, says a leading scientist in the field of greenhouse gases.
The GHGMP was a five-year, multi-tiered research initiative focusing on demonstrating the benefits of production practices which reduce GHG emissions. In a new feature article available on the Soil Conservation Council of Canada Web site at www.soilcc.ca, Dr. Ray Desjardins discusses the lessons learned through the program and their potential impact on the future of the relatively new and emerging science of on-farm GHG mitigation.
"We learned some valuable lessons through the GHGMP," he says. "We learned the importance of having a good, solid scientific knowledge base at the core of the program. We learned that farmers learn best from other farmers. We learned GHG reduction practices can simultaneously benefit production. Finally, we learned the value of developing tools to help producers reduce GHG emissions on their farms and ranches"
Although there is a general feeling among some that GHG reduction does not rate highly among producers, Desjardins says the program's experience shows this is not the case. "Climate change is clearly associated with GHG emissions, and our experience shows producers have real intent in addressing these issues. To them, climate change means the higher probability of drought, excess precipitation and a number of other extreme weather scenarios that could mean the loss of crops and livelihood. In short, it hits them where they live."
Demonstration sites set up throughout Canada attracted a great deal of participation and reinforced producer interest in the field. "Producers like to see results, and that's what these demonstration sites offered," says Desjardins. "Letting farmers learn from other farmers in an environment where they can see beneficial management practices in action was clearly a powerful way to spread this message."
As in any new and emerging science, the GHGMP came with its share of growing pains. As the GHGMP progressed, the scientists involved in the program realized there was still a lot to learn about greenhouse gases. The upside to this, says Desjardins, is that they now have some key numbers to back up the efficiency claims of many management practices related to GHG mitigation.
The research was also pushed in new and progressive directions, with greater emphasis placed on reducing GHGs at the production end of the cycle and improving efficiency for the producer. "The economic reality is that as demand increases, the number of animals on a farm or ranch operation increases, causing emissions of GHGs such as methane to increase as well," says Desjardins.
"The question we had to ask ourselves was how we could look at GHG emissions in a broader sense. It was not enough to simply measure emissions; we should quantify GHG emissions per unit of production."
Other advances made over the past few years include the quantification of the impact of zero tillage and reduced summerfallow on soil conservation. "We now have a whole series of coefficients that we can apply towards a GHG offset program," says Desjardins. Advances have also been made in quantifying GHG emissions during manure storage.
A tremendous amount of research on quantifying GHG emissions has been carried out worldwide over the five-year period the GHGMP covered, says Desjardins, and staying plugged into this growing body of knowledge is key to the future of greenhouse gas reduction efforts. It will also be important to continue to facilitate communication between producers and scientists in order to improve tools, such as a GHG calculator, which can help them quantify and reduce GHG emissions.
"The scientific community is not going to make any GHG emission reduction progress unless producers adopt the most promising management practices, and producers will not adopt the practices unless they're well-demonstrated and quantified. It has to be a mutually-beneficial process with communication in the driver's seat."
For the full story and more information on the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program, visit the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC) Web site at www.soilcc.ca.
For more information, contact:
Doug McKell, Executive Director
Doug McKell, Executive Director
Soil Conservation Council of Canada
Indian Head, Sask.
Ph.: (306) 695-4212
Ph: (506) 475-4040