Agriculture generates roughly 10 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Dairy farmers face increasing pressure from the private and public sectors to reduce emissions. Environmental practices can offset the dairy industry’s carbon footprint, but additional research is needed to determine their effectiveness. Thus, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $10 million grant to the Dairy Research Institute (DRI) to support the dairy community’s Net Zero Initiative, an industry-wide effort to adopt practices and technologies that reduce GHG emissions and improve environmental health.
FFAR’s six-year grant is addressing research gaps in feed production and manure-based products that enhance the dairy industry’s sustainability goals. Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), Newtrient and other Net Zero Initiative partners, including Nestlé, are providing funding and in-kind support for a total project value of $23.2 million.
DMI scientists are helping to expand a soil health database to determine how soil characteristics vary in response to field management practices across different US regions where dairy operations are concentrated. The DRI team is also evaluating the ecosystem benefits of new manure-based fertilizer products. Researchers will work with modelers and use the soils database to improve predicted outcomes of alternative management strategies.
This research will be executed across four dairy regions responsible for about 80 percent of US milk production: Northeast, Lakes, Mountain and Pacific. Dozens of dairies representing different climates and soils across major production regions are participating in a baseline survey of soil health and carbon storage. Additionally, eight regional farms, including five operating dairies, two university research dairies and one USDA-ARS research farm, are participating in the project. The objective is to engage farmers in soil health management practices and monitor changes in greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon storage, soil health and water quality.
Based on previous stakeholder engagements, the project team believes that providing the dairy community with comprehensive data and best practices modeling tools will adoption of environmentally beneficial practices.
“After six years, we will have data that accurately reflect our farms’ greenhouse gas footprint for dairy crop rotations with consideration for soil health management practices and new manure-based products,” said Dr. Jim Wallace, senior vice president of environmental research for DMI. “We expect to develop critical insights that link soil health outcomes, such as carbon sequestration, with practice and technology adoption. This will provide important background information to support the development of new carbon and water quality markets.”
Net Zero Initiative is an industry-wide effort led by six national dairy organizations: DMI, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, International Dairy Foods Association, Newtrient, National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. The FFAR grant will advance the work of the Net Zero Initiative in collaboration with the Soil Health Institute and leading dairy research institutions, including: Cornell University, University of California at Davis, University of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, University of Vermont and USDA-ARS, Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research in Kimberly, ID.
For information about the dairy checkoff, visit www.usdairy.com
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
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