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Reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture

Research underway at the University of Saskatchewan will help policy makers develop strategies for reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture.

20 September 2019, at 11:08am

As part of research examining the implications of including high fibre alternative feed ingredients into swine rations, the University of Saskatchewan is examining greenhouse gas generation through the pork production cycle using a model developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The study focuses on field peas, which are know to be beneficial to the soil, and wheat middlings, a co-product of flour production.

livestock mega farm surrounded by crop fields

Dr Denise Beaulieu, an Assistant Professor Monogastric Nutrition with the University of Saskatchewan's College of Agriculture and Bioresources, says researchers have determined these high fibre ingredients can be included in rations at high levels with no negative effects on productivity and now they're looking at the carbon footprint.

"What we're doing now is putting all of this information into the model," Dr Beaulieu explains in an interview with Farmscape.

"We're using a model that's been developed by Agriculture Canada so I would like to acknowledge their contribution to this project.

"The model has primarily been used before for beef cattle so we're adapting the model.

"The model will take everything into account all the way from growing the crops, taking the by-products off the crop, producing feeds from those crops, feeding it to the pigs, greenhouse gas production within the barn, manure production in the barn and then the animals going to market.

"All of this data needs to be combined in one model to look at the effect of different diets and byproduct inclusions on the overall carbon footprint.

"One of the reasons we're looking at the overall all the way from growing the crop to sending the pigs to market is because one of the major sources, if not the major, source of greenhouse gas output or carbon footprint from pork production is due to the feed being produced.

"So anything we can do to reduce that impact will be very important."

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Dr Beaulieu expects this work to interest pork producers considering the carbon footprint of pork production and those developing policies to lessen the impact of agriculture on climate change.