This Technical Update covers the first year of a three-year-long EPRI research project entitled Developing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Offsets by Reducing Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Emissions in Agricultural Crop Production. The report provides a project overview and explains the preliminary results yielded from the first year of on-farm research.
In fall of 2006, EPRI launched a three-year-long project to investigate the potential to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use in agricultural production. This EPRI project is expected to be completed by 2009. The project has five primary objectives:
1) to determine the technical potential and economic cost to offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reducing N2O emissions in agricultural crop production across representative soil and crop types in the United States;
2) to confirm, through field testing, that rate of movement of N2O from soil to atmosphere (N2O flux) that can be reduced substantially by decreasing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied to cropland with little or no loss in crop productivity;
3) to refine existing computer simulation models so they can be used to predict the relationship between N2O flux and crop yields;
4) to identify, describe, and analyze socio-economic factors that may encourage or inhibit farmers from participating in N2O emissions reduction projects and identify approaches to overcome potential farmer reluctance to participate; and
5) to identify incentives that may be needed to encourage farmers to change cropping practices to achieve N2O reductions.
The project team summarized results for the first year of field testing and research conducted as part of this three-year-long EPRI study. Preliminary results appear to support the underlying hypothesis that N2O emissions can be reduced substantially by changing fertilizer management in agricultural crop production with little concomitant loss in annual crop yields.
In the project's first year, progress has been made towards achieving all project-related tasks, including
assembling geospatial databases needed for regional modeling work and linking these databases to the SOCRATES-N2O model;
establishing N2O test plots fertilized at different rates on commercial growers’ fields and measuring N2O fluxes from these plots;
installing at the Michigan State University (MSU) Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) a near-continuous N2O measurement system on a set of field crops fertilized at different rates; and
initiating farmer focus group activities.
Application, Value and Use
The tools and information developed in this project will broaden GHG emissions offset options available to electric companies and others and can serve as a mechanism to develop and strengthen partnerships between electric companies and agricultural communities they serve.
This EPRI-sponsored project is investigating an innovative approach to developing large-scale and potentially cost-effective GHG emissions offsets that could be implemented across broad geographic areas of the United States and internationally. By demonstrating an innovative approach to creating cost-effective, widespread, and large-scale GHG emissions offsets, this project is designed to increase the breadth of options available to electric companies to offset their GHG emissions in response to potential future carbon constraints.