Navigating Agriculture through the Water-Energy-Food Symposium

The Navigating Agriculture through the Water-Energy-Food Symposium was held in Austin, TX on November 19, 2015. The symposium was organized by David Smith (dwsmith@tamu.edu).

The videos listed below are in the same order as they appear in the embedded playlist to the right. The direct link to each video is provided if you wish to go directly to a presentation.

Opening Remarks

There is a lot that cannot be predicted, but we need to plan nonetheless. Government’s role is to be in the background and ensure that social justice needs are met. https://youtu.be/iT27yd37bIo

Texas State Rep. Tracy O. King, District 80, Chairman—House Agriculture and Livestock Committee, Member—Natural Resources Committee

Water-energy-food nexus—applications for agriculture communities

The Nexus Platform Tool allows users to examine the water gap in Texas. Planners are looking at different scenarios in order to anticipate bottlenecks and needs and prepare to meet those challenges or take advantage of opportunities. https://youtu.be/0N38ooLKJsA

Dr. Rabi Mohtar, Texas Engineering Experiment Station Endowed Professor, Texas A&M University; Founding Director of Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute

Water supply & demand – trends and challenges for the Southwest

This presentation examined the Ogallala Aquifer (which is 40% of all water use in Texas) and the anticipated strategies to meet needs of different users such as agriculture and municipalities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CphzrKOX6UE

Dr. Robert Mace, Deputy Executive Director, Texas Water Development Board

Value of water to agricultural communities

In addition to the Ogallala Aquifer, there are two deeper ones including Edwards-Trinity and Dockum (Santa-Rosa). All are part of the High Plains Water District, an organization that has undergone extensive planning and outreach efforts. They have developed a tool to look at each permitted well in the district and its characteristics. The presenter also discussed the groundwater rights of land owners and the “water-neutral” business model adopted by some and the potential for this to attract new business in water-limited areas. https://youtu.be/DHtR-d_AUoA

Jason Coleman, P.E. General Manager, High Plains Water District

The shale boom—Impacts for agriculture production and producers

The nature of the oil business is often that there are “booms” in local areas when reserves are discovered or when prices make a particular resource worth developing. This presentation discusses some of the activity in the U.S. and especially Texas and how the industry has evolved technologically. The need for long-term planning to leverage these resources into long-standing infrastructure and development for community is also highlighted. https://youtu.be/HZibOjAfGb4

Dr. Thomas Tunstall, Research Director, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Institute for Economic Development

The future of renewable energy and agriculture

This presentation discusses the overall energy needs of the U.S.and creative ways that energy needs can be evened out at grid-scale decision levels that involve very local (domestic water heater or electric car) ways to “store” excess energy and use it when needed. These types of decisions could reduce the needs for new power plant construction or need to bring a plant online for short periods of time for peak demand. As agriculture on on the “edges” of the grid, it could be part of the areas where change is likely to happen first. https://youtu.be/6QrXKOLmEZ8

Dr. Wendell Porter, P.E., Lecturer, Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department, University of Florida

Global market impacts and implications for local farms and ranches

What is the world view of agriculture and markets? Policy, exports, population growth (demand), currency values, and the potential impacts on U.S. agriculture and on Texas are presented. https://youtu.be/QQnYpIdpRls

Dr. James W. Richardson, Regents Professor & AgriLife Research Senior Faculty Fellow, Co-Director Agriculture & Food Policy Center, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University

Innovation and technology applications for agriculture production

What is the role of technology in food production? This presentation looks at sensors, autonomous vehicles, data communication and analysis, and innovative practices that protect natural resources. https://youtu.be/4r40cMU9IGQ

Dr. Reza Ehsani, Associate Professor of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, University of Florida, Citrus Research & Education Center

Turning climate change into opportunities for agricultural producers

Climate change and the accompanying changes in weather are fairly important to agricultural producers. This presentation discusses the improvements in predicting changes in weather and climate and how it can be used in planning for different scenarios in agricultural production. https://youtu.be/5oVaZdzcS18

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, Regents Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, Texas State Climatologist

The rapidly evolving legal and regulatory framework for agriculture producers

This presentation breaks down the land resources available and discusses water policy that can or will affect agriculture. Topics include “Waters of the U.S.” (surface water), ground water and surface water resources, and the tension between private land ownership and the need to regulate usage of water (especially ground water). There are also differences (and sometimes contradictions) between local and state or federal rules. https://youtu.be/N7tRiC702Mw

Jim Bradbury, Attorney, James D. Bradbury, PLLC, Austin & Fort Worth, Texas

Educating tomorrow’s nexus thinkers

How do we reach young people on their own terms (especially as digital ‘natives’) to pass on the important knowledge and context they will need to advance science, policy and education? This generation is increasingly urban, worldly, socially conscious, and disconnected from direct food production. How do we especially highlight the connections of food, water, and energy? https://youtu.be/_Pumw9uRDTI

Dr. Christopher T. Boleman, Assistant Director and State Leader for 4-H Youth Development, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, College Station, Texas

Acknowledgments

The symposium was part of the Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate project that was funded by USDA NIFA under award # 2011-67003-30206 For more on the project and to discover resources for educators and professionals in addition to these videos, visit http://lpelc.org/animal-ag-climate-change/

Western Region Symposium on Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate March 31, 2015

These presentations were from the Western Region Symposium on Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate at the Waste to Worth Conference, Seattle WA. 3/31/2015.

Climate Change Impacts On Western Livestock

Lara Whitely-Binder is an outreach specialist with the University of WA’s Climate Impact’s Group.  Her presentation describes the Western U.S regional climate outlook and projected impacts to agriculture. She examines the impacts (some positive, some negative) on water supply, changes in yield, rangeland fire risk and forage quality, and milk and beef production.

Livestock Grazing In a Changing Climate: Implications for Adaptive Management

Justin Derner, PhD is a Rangeland scientist with the USDA-ARS in Cheyenne, WY, and the director of the Northern Plains Climate Hub in Ft. Collins, CO. This presentation discusses livestock grazing in a changing climate and the implications for adaptive management on rangelands. Adaptive management is a process by which a manager is constantly evaluating the system and making adjustments to reduce risks and uncertainty. View Dr. Derner’s proceedings paper for the conference.

USDA Northwest Region Climate Hub Update

Bea Van Horne, PhD is with the USDA Forest Service and the director of the USDA for the Pacific Northwest Regional Climate Hub. She gave an update of the Pacific Northwest Climate Hub.  Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on agriculture. The climate hubs aim to deliver region-specific information and serve as a clearinghouse for providing science-based information to agricultural managers.

Beef Cattle Selection and Management For Adaptation To Drought

Megan Rolfe, PhD is an assistant professor in animal science department at Oklahoma State University and a beef extension specialist for the state of Oklahoma. The presentation discusses her program’s research findings on beef cattle selection and management for adaptation to drought. She discusses areas such as water intake, quality and quantity of available water, and animal performance and carcass characteristics under water restriction.

Adopting Policies and Priorities to Encourage Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices

Susan Capalbo is Professor and Department Head of Applied Economics at Oregon State University. She gave an presentation discussing ways to encourage the ag community to adopt practices and policy makers to create policies that are beneficial in terms of climate and food production.

Acknowledgements

This page was developed as part of a project “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change” an extension facilitation project to increase capacity for ag professionals. It was funded by USDA-NIFA under award # 2011-67003-30206. If you have questions about any of the topics or have problems with links, contact Crystal Powers cpowers2@unl.edu or Jill Heemstra jheemstra@unl.edu.

For questions about the AACC project, contact Rick Stowell rstowell2@unl.edu or Crystal Powers.

Changes, Challenges and Opportunities for Animal Agriculture

Waste to Worth Conference; April 1, 2015

Challenges and Opportunities for Animal Agriculture In a Dynamic Water-Energy-Food-Land Nexus – Some International Perspectives

Dr. Beverly Henry, Queensland University of TechnologyView recorded presentation….

Dr. Beverley Henry – Associate Professor, Institute for Future Environments, Queensland University of Technology

Dr. Henry is a Principal Research Fellow in the Institute for Future Environments at Queensland University of Technology, and an agricultural consultant. She has almost 30 years’ experience working in academic, government and agricultural industry organisations on research areas that include managing for climate variability, sustainable land management, resource use efficiency, food security and climate change and greenhouse gas mitigation.  She participates in advisory and technical groups for several national and international organisations including the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Standards Organisation and the International Wool Textile Organisation.

Droughts and Climate Extremes: Lessons for the Future

View recorded presentation….

Dr. Mike Hayes, Director, National Drought Mitigation CenterDr. Mike Hayes – Director, National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Dr. Michael Hayes is currently the Director for the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) located within the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  He became the NDMC’s Director in August 2007 and has worked at the NDMC since it was founded in 1995.  The NDMC now has 17 faculty and staff working on local, tribal, state, national, and international drought-, climate-, and water-related issues.  Dr. Hayes’ main interests focus on drought risk management strategies.  Dr. Hayes received his academic degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Measuring the Environmental Hoofprint of Dairy and Beef Production Systems

View proceedings paper and recorded presentation….

Dr. Al Rotz, USDA ARSDr. C. Alan Rotz – Agricultural Engineer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, University Park, Pennsylvania

Life cycle assessment requires good data on the inputs and outputs of the system, and process level simulation of farm or ranch production can help provide this information. Life cycle assessment is best used to monitor the impact of system changes such as those imposed by climate change.

Dr. Rotz is an Agricultural Engineer with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. His work has included the development, evaluation and application of a farm simulation model used to evaluate and compare the performance, economics, and environmental impacts of farming systems. His current work emphasizes the measurement and modeling of gaseous emissions from farms and the environmental and economic sustainability of farm production systems. Al grew up on a dairy farm in southern Pennsylvania. He holds degrees from Elizabethtown College and The Pennsylvania State University. He spent three years as an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University before joining the Agricultural Research Service in 1981. For 16 years, he led the East Lansing Cluster of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center. Since 1997, he serves as the lead scientist of the integrated farming systems project at the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit in University Park, Pennsylvania. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan. He is also a member of the American Dairy Science Association, the American Forage and Grassland Council, and the Pennsylvania Forage and Grassland Council.

How climate change impacts manure management systems

View the recorded presentation…

Mr. Karl J Czymmek; Cornell UniversityKarl Czymmek, J.D. – Senior Extension Associate, Cornell University PRO-DAIRY Program, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Changing weather patterns will require dairy producers to further intensify manure management in order to meet environmental expectations and regulations.  Considerations, impacts and potential solutions will be discussed with an eye toward differences between humid and arid regions.

Mr. Czymmek:

  • Member of the PRO-DAIRY team since 1999.
  • Statewide extension responsibilities in the area of nutrient management for field crops with emphasis on CAFO and environmental regulatory issues.
  • Key collaborator with the Nutrient Management Spear Program at Cornell University.
  • Holds a BS degree from Cornell University majoring in Agronomy and a JD (Juris Doctor) degree from University of Buffalo School of Law.
  • Admitted to the NY Bar in 1994.
  • Has work experience on farms and in the private and public sectors.
  • Works with producers, public and private planners, researchers and state and federal agency staff to communicate issues relating to farming, regulations and science with the goal to help design and implement practical solutions that enhance farm production and sustainability.

Adapting Agriculture to Sustainably Feed the World

Dr. Marty Matlock, University of ArkansasView recorded presentation….

Dr. Marty Matlock – Executive Director, Office for Sustainability, Biological & Agricultural Engineering, University of Arkansas

Future challenges and opportunities for animal agriculture to increase food production with fewer resources and less environmental impact.

Dr. Matlock is Executive Director of the UA Office for Sustainability and Professor of Ecological Engineering in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas.  He received his Ph.D. in Biosystems Engineering from Oklahoma State University in 1996, is a registered professional engineer, a Board Certified Environmental Engineer, and a Certified Ecosystem Designer. Dr. Matlock has co-authored three books, more than 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and has been awarded two US and five international patents. The focus of Dr. Matlock’s research is development of technologies and processes to increase the resilience and effectiveness of human-dominated ecosystems.  His work is interdisciplinary by nature; he works in urban, agricultural, and rural systems with ecologists, engineers, architects, social and political scientists, agricultural scientists, economists, and business leaders to solve complex problems.  His interdisciplinary work has been recognized by the leading organizations in architecture, landscape architecture, and sustainable design with over 25 national and international awards. He coordinates academic, research, outreach, and facilities efforts in sustainable systems across the UA campus, and has led numerous sustainability initiatives from local to international in scope.   He serves on the US Secretary of Agriculture’s Committee for the 21st Century, as Chairman of the Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission, on the Arkansas-Oklahoma Governor’s Commission for the Illinois River, and as science advisor for sustainability for 12 food and agricultural product companies.

Global Climate Change – What Does It Mean For Us?

Climatologists are seeing noticeable patterns in data that points toward future weather that will be more extreme and extreme more often. In this presentation, Gary McManus, the State Climatologist for Oklahoma, discusses the basics of climate science, the trends and more. The lecture focuses on Oklahoma and the Southern Plains; however most of the information is relevant nationally.

This presentation was recorded at the “Climate and Cattle Workshop” held in November, 2014 in Stillwater, OK.

Introduction and Trends in Climate

Climate Science: The Basics

What is the greenhouse effect and what are the physics of this phenomenon?

Observational Data

What are we measuring that indicates climate is changing? What are some of nature’s indicators?

Climate Projections

How confident are climatologists in predicting future patterns? Where are there uncertainties?

Download links – Educational Resources

If you need to download a copy of a segment, submit a request.

Acknowledgements

This material was developed through support from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) under award #2011-67003-30206.

The project wishes to gratefully acknowledge Mr. McManus for presenting at the workshop and allowing us to record the lecture. David Smith, Texas A&M dwsmith@tamu.edu and Dr. Saqib Mukhtar organized the workshop.

Animal Agriculture and Climate Change Curriculum Materials

The materials available for each topic vary, but there are generally presentation slides, video, video lecture, or factsheets. Also see the comprehensive, free, online course. It requires about 10-12 hours and you receive a certificate upon completion.

Sources of Greenhouse Gases (Animal Agriculture)

Additional materials (videos, related projects, archived webinars, other resources). If you need to download a copy of a segment, submit a request.

  • Animal ag & GHGs materials developed for ag teachers (AFNR cross-referenced) More…
  • Six archived webinars (dairy, pork, poultry, manure application & animal ag)
  • Beef Sustainability: Where Does Climate Change Fit? View (31:37, 83 MB)

Climate Sciencethe Basics

Additional materials (videos, related projects, archived webinars, other resources). If you need to download a copy of a segment, submit a request.

  • Map with links to each state climatology office More…
  • [online article] Global Climate Change – What Does It Mean for Us? More…

Climate and Weather Trends

Impacts on Animal Production

Additional materials (videos, related projects, archived webinars, other resources). If you need to download a copy of a segment, submit a request.

  • Intro to Heat Stress in Dairy (10:51, 20 MB) View
  • Economics of Heat Stress (25:59, 49 MB) View
  • Impacts of Heat on Swine (28:51, 36 MB) View

Adaptation & Risk Management

Additional materials (videos, related projects, archived webinars, other resources). If you need to download a copy of a segment, submit a request.

  • [videos – pigs] Intro to pig heat stress & ventilation (11:11, 18 MB) View ; Emergency ventilation (11:15, 17 MB) View; Evaporative Cooling (6:14, 9MB) View
  • [videos – dairy] Maintaining reproduction during heat stress (album of 8 videos) View
  • Cooling Strategies for Dairy (51:33, 98 MB) View
  • Matching cattle to forage resources (45:05, 71 MB) View
  • Preparing for a flood (17:21, 34 MB) View
  • Adapting to Hotter Periods of Heat: Heat Stress on Dairy Farms (6:06) View

Mitigating Greenhouse Gases

Additional materials (videos, related projects, archived webinars, other resources). If you need to download a copy of a segment, submit a request.

  • Pork-specific mitigation info (FAQs, research summaries) More…
  • [video-beef] Mitigation & Adaptation (1:07:20, 44 MB) View
  • Anaerobic digesters – benefits & feasibility View (5:43)

Communicate about climate

Additional materials (videos, related projects, archived webinars, other resources). If you need to download a copy of a segment, submit a request.

Regulations, Markets, & Opportunities For Animal Agriculture In Climate Change

Additional materials (videos, related projects, archived webinars, other resources). If you need to download a copy of a segment, submit a request.

More Curriculum Materials on Animal Agriculture & Environmental Stewardship

  • Air quality… (generally written for college-level classes and professional continuing education programs/extension).
  • Multiple topics… (developed for high school, jr. college, beginning farmers, and extension educators and are cross-referenced to the national ag education [AFNR] standards)

Archived Webinars on Sources of GHGs

This list was too long to put in the table above.

Acknowledgements

This page was developed as part of a project “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change” an extension facilitation project to increase capacity for ag professionals. It was funded by USDA-NIFA under award # 2011-67003-30206. If you have questions about any of the resources or have problems downloading/viewing, contact Crystal Powers cpowers2@unl.edu or Jill Heemstra jheemstra@unl.edu.

For questions about the AACC project, contact Rick Stowell rstowell2@unl.edu or Crystal Powers.

Climate Change and Animal Agriculture Self-Study Topics

Each of these free, self-paced modules tackles a specific topic about climate change and animal agriculture. It is best to go through the materials/topics in order as they are designed to progressively take you through the material.


Climate and Weather Trends

How has climate changed? What are the recent trends in rainfall, temperature, etc.? How do I learn more about my region?


Climate Impacts on Animal Production

How does/will climate change impact animal production? Are there opportunities as well? The materials are categorized by species (beef, dairy, pigs, poultry).


Adaptation & Risk Management

Will farmers need to look at investing in ways to manage the risks of extreme weather events? Includes information specific to different species and disaster management resources.


Sources of Greenhouse Gases and Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment

Which greenhouse gases (GHGs) are produced by animal agriculture? How much and how does the industry compare to other GHG sources?


Mitigating (Reducing or Eliminating) GHGs

How does animal production, in general, reduce the amount of greenhouse gases it emits? What items or practices are unique to each species?


Regulations, Opportunities and Market Options

What are the main ways policy makers could approach greenhouse gas reductions? Are there opportunities for agriculture?


Communicating Science Amidst Controversy

How do I provide science-based information when people do not even agree about the topic?


Acknowledgements

This page was developed as part of a project “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change” an extension facilitation project to increase capacity for ag professionals. It was funded by USDA-NIFA under award # 2011-67003-30206. If you have questions about any of the topics or have problems with links, contact Crystal Powers cpowers2@unl.edu or Jill Heemstra jheemstra@unl.edu.

For questions about the AACC project, contact Rick Stowell rstowell2@unl.edu or Crystal Powers.

How Farmers and Ranchers Are Adapting to Local Weather Extremes

Most farmers and ranchers are acutely aware of weather and how it factors into their risk management planing. Climatologists have indicated that the trend toward more extreme events and greater extremes is going to continue. This has many implications for animal agriculture producers. The farmers featured in this Waste to Worth panel all provided their perspectives on adapting to extreme events through diversity, building resilience, and keeping an eye toward long-term profitability.

Diversity, Resilience and Manure Management with Cover Crops

A former ag teacher, Keith Berns understands that you need to be open to multiple ways of achieving a goal. His desire to build resilience into his farm system led to a business selling cover crop seeds that emphasize diversity. He outlines several scenarios where he uses cover crops on his farm and also several ways his seed customers utilize diverse cover crop and annual forage mixes. High stocking densities naturally incorporate manure, and residue helps conserve and hold valuable moisture during/after extreme rainfall events. [Nebraska/Kansas]

Perspectives On a Changing Climate

Dr. Sandra Matheson, DVM (retired) raises grass-fed beef cattle on her northwestern ranch. Weather extremes have created more dust, mud, and she has seen an increase in disease and health issues with cattle. She utilizes the decision-making process, holistic management, and planned grazing to create a system with the greatest amount of adaptability and resilience for her environment and its potential extremes. Her goals converge around building the soil. [Washington]

Grazing Dairy Finds Plants that Work in Low Water Environments

Michael DeSmet watched his cows when they entered a new paddock and noticed something surprising – they liked weeds. Upon further investigation, he found out that the weeds they were selecting were high-protein, palatable, and could survive on very small amounts of precipitation. Michael was no stranger to making changes; he had already converted the family dairy operation into a grazing-based system selling milk into niche markets. He continues to examine forage options for his pastures that allow the farm to utilize limited water, extend the grazing season, and improve soil quality. [New Mexico]

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2015. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Seattle, WA. March 31-April 3, 2015. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Weather Trends: State, Regional, and National

`Weather happens and the climate is always changing. Farmers are very in tune with these changes because weather is critical to any farming operation. What are the current weather trends in your area? Is it hotter? dryer? cooler? warmer? Is the growing season longer? Has the first frost date changed?

There is a real possibility that the weather of 30 years ago is not what we are seeing today or will see 30 years from now. The video to the right gives an overview of some of the weather trends. Related: What is the difference between weather and climate?

Use the map below to find weather trend resources in your state. Below the map are regional and national resources on weather and climate trends.

Fact sheet: Is it weather or is it climate? (Slideshare – look below preview box and title for a download link)

Educator Materials

If you would like to use the video, slides, or factsheet for educational programs, please visit the curriculum page for download links for this and other climate change topics.

Recommended Resources

Global Trends

State of the Climate (NOAA)

National Weather Trends

US National Climate  Assessment (US Global Change Research Program)

Midwest Weather Data

Drought Monitor (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
US EPA Climate Change Impacts on the Midwest
US EPA Climate Change Impacts on the Great Plains

Southeast Weather Data

State of the Climate (NOAA)
Southeast Regional Climate Center-Climate Change and Health in the Southeast

Northeast Weather Data

US EPA Climate Impacts on the Northeast

Southwest Weather Data

US EPA Climate Change Impacts in the Southwest
Managing Changing Landscapes in the Southwestern United States (PDF)

Northwestern Weather Data

US EPA Climate Change Impacts on the Northwestern US
Climate of the Pacific Northwest
US Drought Monitor (Western Region: Upper Colorado River Basin)
Western Regional Climate Center
PRISM Climate Group

About the Author

Pam Knox is a climatologist at the University of Georgia Athens. She has extensive experience in climate and agriculture topics. More about Pam….

Acknowledgements

This page was developed as part of a project “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change” an extension facilitation project to increase capacity for ag professionals. It was funded by USDA-NIFA under award # 2011-67003-30206.

Climate Science – the Basics

logo for animal agriculture climate change which includes a weather vane with cow and top

Many lines of evidence, from ice cores to marine deposits, indicate that Earth’s temperature, sea level, and distribution of plant and animal species have varied substantially throughout history. Ice cores from Antarctica suggest that over the past 400,000 years global temperature has varied as much as 10 degrees Celsius through ice ages and periods warmer than today. Before human influence, natural factors (such as the pattern of earth’s orbit and changes in ocean currents) are believed to be responsible for climate changes.

The Climate System.

Past Climate and Trends

Climate Models

Since the Industrial Revolution, human influences including fossil fuel emissions, urbanization, large-scale agriculture, deforestation and other activities have disturbed the natural system. Many scientists suspect that these activities have contributed a portion of the 1 degree Celsius increase in global average temperature over the past century and are in some part responsible for ocean warming, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and retreating sea ice.

The following resources are intended to provide a basic understanding of earth’s climate system, natural and human-related factors that influence climate change, climate variability, and weather, and an overview of regional and global trends in temperature and precipitation that influence management decisions made by animal producers. Related: How Does Climate Change Impact Animal Agriculture?

Fact sheet: Why Does Climate Change? (look below the preview box and title for a download link)

Educator Materials

If you would like to use the video, slides, or factsheet for educational programs, please visit the curriculum page for download links for this and other climate change topics.

Recommended Resources

About the Author

Pam Knox is a climatologist at the University of Georgia Athens. She has extensive experience in climate and agriculture topics. More about Pam….

Acknowledgements

This page was developed as part of a project “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change” an extension facilitation project to increase capacity for ag professionals. It was funded by USDA-NIFA under award # 2011-67003-30206.

Sources of Agricultural Greenhouse Gases

The conversation about climate change largely revolves around greenhouse gases. Agriculture is both a source and sink for greenhouse gases (GHG). A source is a net contribution to the atmosphere, while a sink is a net withdrawal of greenhouse gases.  In the United States, agriculture is a relatively small contributor, with approximately 8% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, as seen in Figure 1.

Most agricultural emissions originate from soil management, enteric fermentation (microbial action in the digestive system), energy use, and manure management (Figure 2).  The primary greenhouse gases related to agriculture are (in descending order of magnitude) methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide.

Fact sheet: Contribution of Greenhouse Gases: Animal Agriculture in Perspective (look below the preview box and title for a download link)

U.S. GHG Inventory Figure 1: U.S. greenhouse gas inventory with electricity distributed to economic sectors (EPA, 2013) 

Ag Sources of GHGs

Figure 2: U.S. agricultural greenhouse gas sources (Adapted from Archibeque, S. et al., 2012)

Animal Agriculture’s Contribution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Within animal production, the largest emissions are from beef followed by dairy, and largely dominated by the methane produced in during cattle digestion (Figure 3).

Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock in 2008

Figure 3: Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock in 2008 (USDA, 2011)

Excess nitrogen in agriculture systems can be converted to nitrous oxide through the nitrification-denitrification process. Nitrous oxide is a very potent greenhouse gas, with 310 times greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide.  Nitrous oxide can be produced in soils following fertilizer application. This includes both commercial, inorganic fertilizer as well as organic fertilizers like manure or compost.

As crops grow, photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in the plants and soil life. Soil and plant respiration adds carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere when microbes or plants breakdown molecules to produce energy.  Respiration is an essential part of growth and maintenance for most life on earth. This repeats with each growth, harvest, and decay cycle, therefore, feedstuffs and foods are generally considered to be carbon “neutral.”

Some carbon dioxide is stored in soils for long periods of time.  The processes that result in carbon accumulation are called carbon sinks or carbon sequestration.  Crop production and grazing management practices influence the soil’s ability to be a net source or sink for greenhouse gases.  Managing soils in ways that increase organic matter levels can increase the accumulation (sink) of soil carbon for many years.

Enteric Fermentation

The next largest portion of livestock greenhouse gas emissions is from methane produced during enteric fermentation in ruminants – a natural part of ruminant digestion where microbes in the first chamber of the stomach, the rumen, breaks down feed and produces methane as a by-product. The methane is released  primarily through belching.

As with plants, animals respire carbon dioxide, but also store some in their bodies, so they too are considered a neutral source of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Manure Management

A similar microbial process to enteric fermentation leads to methane production from stored manure.  Anytime the manure sits for more than a couple days in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment, methane will likely be produced.  Methane can be generated in the animal housing, manure storage, and during manure application. Additionally, small amounts of methane is produced from manure deposited on grazing lands.

Nitrous oxide is also produced from manure storage surfaces, during land application, and from manure in bedded packs & lots. Related: Archived webinar on GHG Emissions Research in Animal Ag

Other sources

There are many smaller sources of greenhouse gases on farms. Combustion engines exhaust carbon dioxide from fossil fuel (previously stored carbon) powered vehicles and equipment.  Manufacturing of farm inputs, including fuel, electricity, machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, plastics, and building materials, also results in emissions.

To learn more about how farm emissions are determined and see species specific examples, see the Carbon Footprint resources.

To learn about how to reduce on-farm emissions through mitigation technology and management options, see the Reducing Emissions resources.

Carbon Footprint

Definition: carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions for a given person, place, event or product.

Carbon footprints are created using a process called life cycle assessment. Life cycle assessment or LCA is a method of resource accounting where quantitative measures of inputs, outputs and impacts of a product are determined.

Life cycle assessment is commonly used to:

  • find process or production improvements
  • compare different systems or products
  • find the ‘hot spots’ in a product’s life cycle where the most environmental impacts are made
  • help businesses or consumers make informed sourcing decisions

diagram

Key Assumptions

boundaries of the system: each higher tier provides a more complete picture of the product’s impacts, however requires more time and resources to complete.

  1. Gate to Gate (LCA Tier I) – inventories the direct emissions for a single product of process
  2. Cradle to Gate (Tier II) – inputs are taken back to the initial extraction as natural resources up to a certain point in the product’s life such as its sale from the farm, i.e. farm gate.  This will include both direct  and indirect emissions from the product.
  3. Cradle To Grave (Tier III) – the product is followed through the consumer to its eventual recycling or disposal.

Sources of variation

Different researchers may get different results when performing a LCA on the same product. This can happen for many reasons:

  • System boundary definition
  • Inclusion/exclusion of secondary/ indirect sources
  • Inclusion/exclusion of biogenic carbon (stored in organisms)
  • Inclusion/exclusion of carbon dioxide from fuel combustion
  • Functional relationships used
  • Global warming potential indexes
  • Inclusion/exclusion of carbon sequestration

Related: Six archived webinars on the sources of animal ag ghg’s (some are general and some are species-specific)

Educator Materials

If you would like to use the video, slides, or factsheet for educational programs, please visit the curriculum page for download links for this and other climate change topics.

Recommended Reading – How Many Greenhouse Gases Does Agriculture Emit?

U.S. Agriculture Emissions

International Agriculture Emissions

Carbon Footprints and Life Cycle Analysis

Greenhouse Gas Regulations for Animal Agriculture

Visit Climate Change Regulation, Policy, and Market Opportunities

Acknowledgements

Author: Crystal A. Powers – University of Nebraska-Lincoln cpowers2@unl.edu

This material was developed through support from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) under award #2011-67003-30206.