July 29, 2021

Study Finds New Farming Techniques Could Reduce Greenhouse Gases by 70%

Study Finds New Farming Techniques Could Reduce Greenhouse Gases by 70%

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that changes in farming practices in grain production could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 70% by 2036. The study authors are from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. 

"Our study emphasizes the importance of a two-pronged approach -- reducing farming emissions and maximizing soil carbon storage -- to addressing the climate crisis through agriculture,” said lead author Dan Northrup, director of special projects at Benson Hill. “Practices that enhance soil carbon storage continue to gain momentum. Complementing this approach by developing and broadly applying emission reduction technologies, including seed genetics, is critical to achieving net negative production." 

In the study, "Novel technologies for emission reduction complement conservation agriculture to achieve negative emissions from row crop production," researchers used the Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Technologies Model (GREET model) to simulate changes and predict outcomes. GREET is sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. 

The study focused on a three-step agricultural evolution: optimizing fertilizer use, replacing existing technologies with lower-carbon technologies, and redesign the farming system as we know it with numerous new technologies and climate mitigation methods. The study found that reductions in GHG emissions could be achieved through digital agriculture, crop and microbial genetics, and electrification. The new technologies, when implemented, promise to drive the decarbonization of agriculture while supporting farm resilience, and maintaining profitability and productivity. The authors also suggest opportunities for public and private investments to make these changes a reality.

Argonne Energy Systems Division's senior scientist Michael Wang, who leads the Systems Assessment Center and is one of the study's principal investigators, added, "Our holistic assessment of agriculture decarbonization highlights technical areas and focus points so that U.S. agriculture will be a solution to the climate challenge."

Read the study here and check out this Journal of Animal Science article that discusses innovations within the cattle industry that mitigate climate change.