Adventure Dairy: Educational and Technical Tools for Carbon Cycle Modeling on a Virtual Dairy Farm

Conceptualizing, modeling, and controlling carbon flows at the farm scale can improve efficiency in production, reduce costs, and promote beneficial products and byproducts of agricultural processes through best management practices. On dairy farms, opportunities exist for farmers to control factors affecting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and diversions from production and operations. Complex programs to model the effects of different carbon management strategies on net emissions are very useful to farmers, but lack visualization of flows through a user interface to show effects of different management choices in real time.

Previously, a collaborative research team at Penn State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed a Virtual Dairy Farm website to share information about how dairy farms incorporate best management practices and other on-farm production choices to reduce environmental impacts. The website is organized in two model farm configurations, a 150-cow and a 1500-cow modern dairy farm. Website users can find information on different components of the farm by exploring locations on the farm. Links to information about farm operations are structured in multiple levels such that information is understandable to the general public but also supported by technical factsheets for agriculture professionals.

What did we do?

Building on the strengths of the Penn State Virtual Dairy Farm interactive website, the Team has developed a concept for an “Adventure Dairy” package for users to explore how management choices affect total on-farm GHG emissions for a model Pennsylvania dairy farm (Figure 1). Five main categories serve as management portals superimposed on the Virtual Dairy interface, including Cow Life Cycle, Manure Management, Crop Production, Energy Use on Farm, and Feed on Farm.

Figure 1. Example landing page for the proposed Adventure Dairy website. Different regions to explore to access the GHG emissions calculator are highlighted in different colors.
Figure 1. Example landing page for the proposed Adventure Dairy website. Different regions to explore to access the GHG emissions calculator are highlighted in different colors.

For each category, users can select from multiple options to see how these decisions increase or decrease emissions. Along the bottom of the webpage, a calculator displays the net carbon balance for the model system and change emissions estimates as users choose feed composition, land use strategies, and other important components (Figure 2). Under each category, users can make choices about different management practices that affect on-farm carbon cycling. For example, different choices for feed additives change total net GHG emissions, and, in turn, can affect total manure production. A change in management and operational choices, such as storage, is visually communicated through interactions and on the interface (Figure 3). These management portals can be seamlessly integrated with the Virtual Dairy Farm as an addition to the right sidebar. The click-through factsheets currently a part of the interface can be preserved through new informational “fast facts” overlays with accompanying infographics and charts. Pathways to optimizing carbon flows to ensure maximum production and minimum environmental impact will be featured as “demo” examples for users.

Figure 2. Example Adventure Dairy user interface for manure management. User choices to increase and decrease total GHG emissions are included in the right sidebar. Along the bottom of the page, a ribbon shows the total emissions from each category.
Figure 2. Example Adventure Dairy user interface for manure management. User choices to increase and decrease total GHG emissions are included in the right sidebar. Along the bottom of the page, a ribbon shows the total emissions from each category.
Figure 3. A different user choice for manure storage type on the Adventure Dairy interface. Total GHG emissions decrease by 14% because of the switch from an uncovered to a covered anaerobic lagoon because of reduced volatilization of methane.
Figure 3. A different user choice for manure storage type on the Adventure Dairy interface. Total GHG emissions decrease by 14% because of the switch from an uncovered to a covered anaerobic lagoon because of reduced volatilization of methane.

What have we learned?

This model offers a novel platform for more interactive software programs and websites for on-farm modeling of carbon emissions and will inform future farm management visualizations and data analysis program interfaces. The Team envisions the Adventure Dairy platform as an important tool for Extension specialists to share information with dairy professionals about managing carbon flows on-farm. Simultaneously, consumers increasingly seek information on the environmental impacts of agriculture. This interactive website is a valuable educational and technical tool for a variety of audiences.

Uniquely, a multidisciplinary team of agriculture and engineering graduate students from multiple institutions are leading this project, as facilitated by faculty. This Cohort Challenge model allows for graduate students to engage with complex food-energy-water nexus problems at the level of faculty investigators in a virtual educational resource center. Future INFEWS-ER teams and “wicked problems” challenge projects will continue to develop this model of learning and producing novel research products.

Future plans

The Cohort Challenge Team is entering a peer/faculty review process of the simplified carbon model for the Virtual Dairy Farm website. The user interface for the Adventure Dairy calculator is not currently a part of the Penn State Virtual Dairy Farm. The Team will be working with software developers to integrate our model in the existing interface. Additional components under consideration for inclusion in the Adventure Dairy calculator include cost comparisons for different best management practices, an expanded crop production best management calculator, and incorporation of

Authors

Student Team: Margaret Carolan,1 Joseph Burke,2 Kirby Krogstad,3 Joslyn Mendez,4 Anna Naranjo,4 and Breanna Roque4

Project Leads: Deanne Meyer,4 Richard Koelsch,3 Eileen Fabian,5 and Rebecca Larson6

 

  1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA crln@uiowa.edu
  2. Texas A&M University
  3. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  4. University of California-Davis
  5. Penn State University
  6. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Acknowledgements

Funding for the INFEWS-ER was provided by the National Science Foundation #1639340. Additional support was provided by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture’s Sustainable Dairy CAP and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Useful resources

  1. Penn State Virtual Dairy Farm: http://virtualfarm.psu.edu/
  2. INFEWS-ER: http://infews-er.net/
  3. Sustainable Dairy CAP: http://www.sustainabledairy.org/Pages/home.aspx

 

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. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

The Use of USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants to Advance Air Quality Improvements

USDA-NRCS has nearly fifteen years of Conservation Innovation Grant project experience, and several of these projects have provided a means to learn more about various techniques for addressing air emissions from animal agriculture.  The overall goal of the Conservation Innovation Grant program is to provide an avenue for the on-farm demonstration of tools and technologies that have shown promise in a research setting and to further determine the parameters that may enable these promising tools and technologies to be implemented on-farm through USDA-NRCS conservation programs.

What Did We Do?

Several queries for both National Competition and State Competition projects in the USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant Project Search Tool (https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/ciglanding/national/programs/financial/cig/cigsearch/) were conducted using the General Text Search feature for keywords such as “air”, “ammonia”, “animal”, “beef”, “carbon”, “dairy”, “digester”, “digestion”, “livestock”, “manure”, “poultry”, and “swine” in order to try and capture all of the animal air quality-related Conservation Innovation Grant projects.  This approach obviously identified many projects that might be related to one or more of the search words, but were not directly related to animal air quality. Further manual review of the identified projects was conducted to identify those that specifically had some association with animal air quality.

What Have We Learned?

Out of nearly 1,300 total Conservation Innovation Grant projects, just under 50 were identified as having a direct relevance to animal air quality in some way.  These projects represent a USDA-NRCS investment of just under $20 million. Because each project required at least a 50% match by the grantee, the USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant program has represented a total investment of approximately $40 million over the past 15 years in demonstrating tools and technologies for addressing air emissions from animal agriculture.

The technologies that have been attempted to be demonstrated in the animal air quality-related Conservation Innovation Grant projects have included various feed management strategies, approaches for reducing emissions from animal pens and housing, and an approach to mortality management.  However, the vast majority of animal air quality-related Conservation Innovation Grant projects have focused on air emissions from manure management – primarily looking at anaerobic digestion technologies – and land application of manure. Two projects also developed and enhanced an online tool for assessing livestock and poultry operations for opportunities to address various air emissions.

Future Plans

The 2018 Farm Bill re-authorized the Conservation Innovation Grant Program through 2023 at $25 million per year and allows for on-farm conservation innovation trials.  It is anticipated that additional air quality projects will be funded under the current Farm Bill authorization.

Authors

Greg Zwicke, Air Quality Engineer, USDA-NRCS National Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Technology Development Team

greg.zwicke@ftc.usda.gov

Additional Information

More information about the USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program is available on the Conservation Innovation Grants website (https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/cig/), including application information and materials, resources for grantees, success stories, and a project search tool.

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. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Energy Consumption in Commercial Midwest Dairy Barns

Consumer interest and concern is growing in regards to sustainability of livestock production systems. Demand for reduced carbon emissions within agricultural systems has been growing along with increasing demand for food. Baseline fossil fuel consumption within agricultural systems, including dairy production, is scarce. Therefore, there is a need to discern where and how fossil energy is being used within dairy production systems. Determining baseline energy use is the first step in investigating the demand for a reduced carbon footprint within dairy production systems. The objective of this study was to measure total electricity use and determine specific areas of high energy consumption in commercial dairy barns located in the Upper Midwest of the United States.

What did we do?

Four commercial dairy barns representative of typical Midwest dairy farms and located in west central Minnesota were evaluated in the study. The dairy farms were: 1) a 9,500 cow cross-ventilated barn with a rotary milking parlor (Farm A), 2) a 300 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and 6 automatic milking systems (Farm B), 3) a 200 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and a parabone milking parlor (Farm C), and 4) a 400 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and a parallel milking parlor (Farm D).

Electricity use was monitored from July 2018 to December 2018 with a goal of collecting two years of total energy usage. Two-hundred ninety-two  electric loads across the four farms were monitored on the farm side of the electric utility meter to evaluate areas of highest energy usage (Figure 1). Some of the monitored electric loads included freestall barn fans, water heaters, compressors, chillers, manure pumps, and pressure washers. The electric loads were monitored by data loggers (eGauge, Boulder, CO) and electric current sensors at the circuit panels. Electrical use data (kWh) of each load were collected and analyzed on a monthly basis. In addition, monthly inventory of cows on farm, cows milked per day, and milk production was recorded. Bulk tank production records (milk, fat percentage, protein percentage, and somatic cell count) were also recorded.

Figure 1. Data loggers with electric current sensors installed on farm circuit panel boxes.
Figure 1. Data loggers with electric current sensors installed on farm circuit panel boxes.

What have we learned?

Based on preliminary results, fans were the largest electrical load across all four dairy farms. Fan usage during the summer ranged from 36 to 59% of the total electricity measured (Figure 2). Regular maintenance, proper control settings, design, sizing, location, selecting energy efficient fans and motors, and other factors all could influence the efficiency of these ventilation/cooling systems. Farms B, C, and D had greater electricity usage across all months for milk cooling (compressors and chillers) than Farm A. This is likely due to the fact that Farm A does not utilize bulk tanks to store milk, but instead, milk is directly loaded onto bulk milk trucks. Lighting use ranged from 7 to 21% of the total electricity use measured across the four farms, which suggests there is potential to reduce energy usage by upgrading to more efficient lighting systems such as LEDs. For heating, energy usage includes water heating, heating units in the milking parlor or work rooms, waterer heating elements, and generator engine block heaters. Average monthly heating use ranged from 5% of electricity used in Farm A to 32% of electricity used in Farm C.

Figure 2. The average monthly electrical use measured by data loggers and the percent used by each electrical load category. The average monthly total electricity in kWh is displayed at the top of each bar.
Figure 2. The average monthly electrical use measured by data loggers and the percent used by each electrical load category. The average monthly total electricity in kWh is displayed at the top of each bar.

Future plans

Based on the preliminary analysis, clean energy alternatives and energy-optimized farms will be modeled as clean energy alternatives for Minnesota dairy facilities. An economic analysis will also be conducted on the clean energy alternatives and farms. Potential on-site renewable electric generation may supply some or the entire electric load allowing the buildings to approach net-zero (producing as much energy as is used).

The results of this study provide recent energy usage for farm energy benchmarks, agricultural energy policy, economic evaluations, and further research into dairy farm energy studies. The data will also be useful to producers who are searching for areas for reduced energy usage in their own production systems. Improving the efficiency of electrical components in dairy operations could provide opportunities to improve the carbon footprint of dairy production systems.

Authors

Kirsten Sharpe, Animal Science Graduate Research Assistant, West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), Morris, MN, sharp200@umn.edu

Bradley J. Heins, Associate Professor, Dairy Management, WCROC, Morris, MN

Eric Buchanan, Renewable Energy Scientist, WCROC, Morris, MN

Michael Cotter, Renewable Energy Researcher, WCROC, Morris, MN

Michael Reese, Director of Renewable Energy, WCROC, Morris, MN

Additional information

The West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) has developed a Dairy Energy Efficiency Decision Tool to help provide producers a way to estimate possible energy and costs savings from equipment efficiency upgrades. The tool can be used to evaluate areas of a dairy farm that may provide the best return on investment for energy usage. Furthermore, a guidebook has been developed for Optimizing Energy Systems for Midwest Dairy Production. This guidebook provides additional information about energy usage issues as well as a decision tool. More information may be found at https://wcroc.cfans.umn.edu/energy-dairy

Acknowledgements

The funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

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. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Environmental Impacts of Dairy Production Systems in the Changing Climate of the Northeast

To meet the nutritional needs of a growing population, dairy producers must increase milk production while minimizing farm environmental impacts. As we look to the future, management practices must also be adapted to maintain production under projected climate change. To plan for the future, better information is needed on practices that can reduce emissions from the farm and adapt to changes in the climate while maintaining or improving production and profitability.

What did we do?

We conducted a comprehensive assessment of the effects of climate change on both the productivity and environmental performance of farms as influenced by strategies to reduce emissions and adapt to the changing climate. Production systems were evaluated using three representative northeastern dairy farms: a 1500-cow farm in New York, a 150-cow farm in Wisconsin and a 50-cow farm in southern Pennsylvania. A cradle-to-farm gate life cycle assessment was conducted using farm-scale process-based modeling and climate projections for high and low emission scenarios. Environmental considerations included the carbon footprint of the milk produced and reactive N and P losses from the farms.

What we have learned?

We found that the environmental impact of the three representative dairy farms generally increased in the near future (2050) climate if no mitigation measures were taken. Overall, feed production was maintained as decreases in corn grain yield were compensated by increases in forage yields. Adaptation of the cropping system through changes in planting and harvest dates and corn variety led to a smaller reduction in corn grain yield, but the detrimental effects of climate change could not be fully negated. Considering the increased forage yield, total feed production increased except for the most severe projected climate change. Adoption of farm-specific beneficial management practices substantially reduced the greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient losses of the farms in current climate conditions and stabilized the environmental impact in future climate conditions, while maintaining feed and milk production (See Figure 1 for example results).

Figure 1. Carbon footprint, reactive nitrogen footprint and P loss in recent (2000) and future (2050) climate conditions (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) for a 1500-cow farm in New York with baseline and Best Management Practice (BMP) scenarios, with and without crop system adaptions in 2050. Error bars represent the standard deviation of IFSM simulations for 3 climate scenarios per RCP. Unadapt = not adapted cropping system. Adapt = adapted cropping system.
Figure 1. Carbon footprint, reactive nitrogen footprint and P loss in recent (2000) and future (2050) climate conditions (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) for a 1500-cow farm in New York with baseline and Best Management Practice (BMP) scenarios, with and without crop system adaptions in 2050. Error bars represent the standard deviation of IFSM simulations for 3 climate scenarios per RCP. Unadapt = not adapted cropping system. Adapt = adapted cropping system.

The take-home message is that with appropriate management changes, our dairy farms can become more sustainable under current climate and better prepared to adapt to future climate variability.

Future plans

A more comprehensive life cycle assessment is being done by linking the output of the farm model with life cycle assessment software. The process level simulation of the farm provides inventory information for an inclusive life cycle assessment with multiple environmental considerations. This integrated software will provide a more complete sustainability assessment of the potential benefits of alternative management strategies for both now and the future.

Authors

Karin Veltman, University of Michigan; C. Alan Rotz, USDA-ARS; Larry Chase, Cornell University; Joyce Cooper, Washington State University; Chris Forest, Penn State University; Pete Ingraham, Applied GeoSolutions; R. César Izaurralde, University of Maryland; Curtis D. Jones, University of Maryland; Robert Nicholas, Penn State University; Matt Ruark, University of Wisconsin; William Salas, Applied GeoSolutions; Greg Thoma, University of Arkansas; Olivier Jolliet, University of Michigan.

Additional information

Information on the Integrated Farm System Model is available in the reference manual:

Rotz, C., Corson, M., Chianese, D., Montes, F., Hafner, S., Bonifacio, H., Coiner, C., 2018. The Integrated Farm System Model, Reference Manual Version 4.4. Agricultural Research Service, USDA. Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/up-pa/pswmru/docs/integrated-farm-system-model/#Reference.

Information on the analysis of Best Management Practices on northeastern dairy farms is available in:

Veltman, K., C. A. Rotz, L. Chase, J. Cooper, P. Ingraham, R. C. Izaurralde, C. D. Jones, R. Gaillard, R. A. Larsson, M. Ruark, W. Salas, G. Thoma, and O. Jolliet. 2017. A quantitative assessment of beneficial management practices to reduce carbon and reactive nitrogen footprints and phosphorus losses of dairy farms in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Agric. Systems 166:10-25.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2013-68002-20525. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Cataloging and Evaluating Dairy Manure Treatment Technologies


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Purpose

To provide a forum for the introduction and evaluation of technologies that can treat dairy manure to the dairy farming community and the vendors that provide these technologies.

What Did We Do?

Newtrient has developed an on-line catalog of technologies that includes information on over 150 technologies and the companies that produce them as well as the Newtrient 9-Point scoring system and specific comments on each technology by the Newtrient Technology Advancement Team.

What Have We Learned?

Our interaction with both dairy farmers and technology vendors has taught us that there is a need for accurate information on the technologies that exist, where they are used, where are they effective and how they can help the modern dairy farm address serious issues in an economical and environmentally sustainable way.

Future Plans

Future plans include expansion of the catalog to include the impact of the technology types on key environmental areas and expansion to make the application of the technologies on-farm easier to conceptualize.

Corresponding author name, title, affiliation  

Mark Stoermann & Newtrient Technology Advancement Team

Corresponding author email address  

info@newtrient.com

Other Authors 

Garth Boyd, Context

Craig Frear, Regenis

Curt Gooch, Cornell University

Danna Kirk, Michigan State University

Mark Stoermann, Newtrient

Additional Information

http://www.newtrient.com/

Acknowledgements

All of the vendors and technology providers that have worked with us to make this effort a success need to be recognized for their sincere effort to help this to be a useful and informational resource.

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. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Talking Climate with Animal Agriculture Advisers


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Purpose             

The Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate (AACC) project was established to leverage limited Extension expertise across the country in climate change mitigation and adaptation, with the goal of building capacity among Extension professionals and other livestock advisers to address climate change issues.

What did we do? 

The Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate project team created a suite of educational programs and products to build capacity across the United States. Key products of the project:

  • Online courses: 363 participants registered with a 35% completion rate (Whitefield et al., JOE, 2016)
  • National and regional symposia and workshops: 11 face-to-face conferences with approximately 1,350 attendees.
  • Website: Over 5,900 users with over 21,100 total views. Project videos have received nearly 8,900 views.
  • Social media: AACC weekly blog (990 subscribers); daily Southeast Climate Blog (38,506 site visits); regional newsletters (627 subscribers); Facebook & Twitter (280 followers)
  • Ready-to-use videos, slide sets, and fact sheets
  • Educational programming: 390 presentations at local, regional, and international meetings
  • Collaboration with 14 related research and education projects

What have we learned? 

A survey was sent out to participants in any of the project efforts, in the third year of the project and again in year five. Overall, participants found the project resources valuable, particularly the project website, the online course, and regional meetings. We surveyed two key measures: abilities and motivations. Overall, 60% or more of respondents report being able or very able to address all eight capabilities after their participation in the AACC program. A sizeable increase in respondent motivation (motivated or very motivated) existed after participation in the program, particularly for helping producers take steps to address climate change, informing others about greenhouse gases emitted by agriculture, answering client questions, and adding new information to programs or curriculum.

The first challenge in building capacity in Extension professionals was finding key communication methods to engage them. Two key strategies identified were to: 1) start programming with a discussion of historical trends and agricultural impacts, as locally relevant as available, and 2) start the discussion around adaptation rather than mitigation. Seeing the changes that are already apparent in the climatic record and how agriculture has adapted in the past and is adapting to more recent weather variability and climatic changes often were excellent discussion starters.

Another challenge was that many were comfortable with the science, but were unsure how to effectively communicate that science with the sometimes controversial discussions that surround climate change. This prompted us to include climate science communication in most of the professional development opportunities, which were then consistently rated as one of the most valuable topics.

Future Plans    

The project funding ended on March 31, 2017. All project materials will continue to be available on the LPELC webpage.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation        

Crystal Powers, Extension Engineer, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Corresponding author email    

cpowers2@unl.edu

Other authors   

Rick Stowell, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Additional information

lpelc.org/animal-agriculture-and-climate-change

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the project team:

Rick Stowell, Crystal Powers, and Jill Heemstra, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Mark Risse, Pam Knox, and Gary Hawkins, University of Georgia

Larry Jacobson and David Schmidt, University of Minnesota

Saqib Mukhtar, University of Florida

David Smith, Texas A&M University

Joe Harrison and Liz Whitefield, Washington State University

Curt Gooch and Jennifer Pronto, Cornell University

This project was supported by Agricultural and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2011-67003-30206 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

 

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. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Adapting to Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest: Promoting Adaptation with Five-Minute Videos of Agricultural Water Conservation and Management Practices


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Purpose            

In a multimedia-based world, short videos are an effective visual means to provide information. A series of short (5-minute) climate change videos focusing on water conservation and efficiency were developed to connect innovative farming practices to other farmers, their advisers, consultants and the agricultural community.

What did we do? 

Profiled stories include: water-efficient measures, featuring ‘low irrigation spray application’ (LISA) irrigation and ‘low elevation precision application’ (LEPA) irrigation in Eastern Washington; a video focused on dry-land farming of vegetables and fruit in Oregon using regionally adapted long taproot varieties from California; and a video featuring an Eastern Washington dairy farm’s reactive adaptation management after 2015, preparing for future growing seasons with less water. In each of the short videos, farmers, their advisers, and university experts are interviewed to provide their perspectives, knowledge and economic information.

What have we learned?             

These videos are shared to highlight successful practices of conserving water while remaining profitable. Each video suggests evaluating a climate compatible management practice or crop variety on a part of a field, or when replacing outdated irrigation sprinklers and pumps.

Future Plans   

Future plans include regional promotion of these successful practices.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation        

Elizabeth Whitefield, Research Associate, Washington State University

Corresponding author email    

e.whitefield@wsu.edu

Other authors   

Joe Harrison, Livestock Nutrient Management Extension Specialist, Washington State University

Additional information               

Please visit https://puyallup.wsu.edu/lnm/ to view the videos and to find more information.

Acknowledgements       

This effort was fully supported by Western Region Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education Program (EW15-012, Implications of Water Impacts from Climate Change: Preparing Agricultural Educators and Advisors in the Pacific Northwest)

Transferring Knowledge of Dairy Sustainability Issues Through a Multi-layered Interactive “Virtual Farm” Website

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Purpose

The goal of the Sustainable Dairy “Virtual Farm” website is to disseminate research-based information to diverse audiences from one platform. This is done with layers of information starting with the mSustainable dairy logoost basic then drilling down to peer-reviewed publications, data from life-cycle assessment studies and models related to the topics. The Virtual Farm focuses on decision makers and stakeholders including consumers, producers, policymakers, scientists and students who are interested in milk production on modern dairy farms. The top entry level of the site navigates through agricultural topics of interest to the general public. Producers can navigate to a middle level to learn about practices and how they might help them continue to produce milk for consumers responsibly in a changing climate while maintaining profitability. Featured beneficial (best) management practices (BMPs) reflect options related to dairy sustainability, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and milk production. Researchers can navigate directly to deeper levels to publications, tools, models, and scientific data. The website is designed to encourage users to dig deeper and discover more detailed information as their interest develops related to sustainable dairies and the environment.

What did we do?

As part of a USDA Dairy Coordinated Agricultural Project addressing climate change issues in the Great Lakes region, this online platform was developed to house various products of the transdisciplinary project in an accessible learning site. The Virtual Farm provides information about issues surrounding milk production, sustainability, and farm-related greenhouse gases. The web interface features a user-friendly, visually-appealing interactive “virtual farm” that explains these issues starting at a less-technical level, while also leading to much deeper research into each area. The idea behind this was to engage a general audience, then encourage them to dig deeper into the website for more technical information via Extension offerings.

The main landing page shows two sizes of dairy farms: 150 and 1,500-cows. The primary concept was to replace an all-day tour of multiple real dairy farms by combining their features into one ‘virtual farm’. For example, the virtual farm can describe and demonstrate the impact of various manure processing technologies. Users can explore the layout image, hover over labeled features for a brief description, and click to learn more about five main categories: crops and soils, manure management, milk production, herd management, and feed management. Each category page contains a narrative overview with illustrations and links to more detailed information.

What have we learned?

The primary benefit is that participants can learn about different practices, at their level of interest, all in one place. The virtual farm incorporates a broad theme of sustainability targeted at farming operations in the northeastern Great Lakes region of the USA.

The project has included regional differences in dairy farming practices and some important reasons for this such as environmental concerns (focus on N and/or P management in different watersheds) and long-term climate projections. Dairy industry supporters find value in having a one-stop repository of information on overall sustainability topics rather than having to visit various organizations’ sites.

Future Plans

We plan to continue to develop the website by adding relevant information, keeping information up to date, developing the platform for related topic areas and adding curriculums for school students.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Daniel Hofstetter, Extension-Research Assistant, Penn State University (PSU)

Corresponding author email

dwh5212@psu.edu

Other authors

Eileen Fabian-Wheeler, Professor, PSU; Rebecca Larson, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin (UW); Horacio Aguirre-Villegas, Assistant Scientist, UW; Carolyn Betz, Project Manager, UW; Matt Ruark, Associate Professor, UW

Additional information

Visit the following link for more information about the Sustainable Dairy CAP Project:

http://www.sustainabledairy.org

Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2013-68002-20525. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Farm-Based Anaerobic Digestion Projects – Wastewater Disposal and Nutrient Considerations

While anaerobic digestion is often touted for producing renewable energy/fuels, producers at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are often most concerned about nutrient loading, an issue that has garnered increasing regulatory scrutiny. Anaerobic digestion, while a carbon management tool capable of producing carbon fuels, does little in regard to nitrogen and phosphorus management. Thus digestion projects, if they are to meet producer needs, must incorporate downstream separation to recover nutrients and protect soils. This presentation highlights the key environmental issues and hurdles facing manure management and disposal and lays the framework for a needed focus on combined anaerobic digestion and nutrient recovery systems capable of meeting producer and regulatory needs regarding nutrient management.

Why Review Nutrient Recovery Technologies for Anaerobic Digestion?

A literature review and conversations with dairy farmers both suggest that improving manure nutrient management is a major concern for dairy producers. This supports the conclusion that ongoing research and development efforts to support development of nutrient recovery technologies, including those that can be used in concert with anaerobic digestion (AD), will be key to enhancing adoption rates for AD technology.

What did we do?

A literature review was used to support and enhance findings from conversations with farmers about anaerobic digestion technologies.

What have we learned?

Managing manure is major consideration for dairy producers, and one that comes with high potential costs in areas where there are few crop producers willing to accept manure (USDA ERS 2009). Dairies in many regions of the U.S. are facing increased pressure from growing public concern about nutrient-related water and air quality issues. In some cases, regulation of dairies has increased.

As a result, there is increased interest from dairy producers and others in nutrient recovery technologies. Although no technologies are widely commercialized at present, several emerging nitrogen and phosphorus recovery technologies exist. Some of these technologies are most appropriately used on specific forms of untreated dairy manure (e.g. scrape, flush), while others are more appropriate when combined with AD as part of an AD system (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Nutrient recovery fact sheet diagram

Figure 1. Nutrient recovery fact sheet diagram

figure 2. overhead view of nutrient recovery system

Figure 2. Overhead view of a nutrient recovery system for nitrogen and phosphorus.

Approaches also vary in that some recover both phosphorus and nitrogen (Figure 2), while others focus on only one nutrient (Figure 3). Some nutrient recovery processes dispose of these nutrients in form that is non-reactive, and therefore not problematic environmentally. However, most nutrient recovery technologies produce concentrated nutrient products that can be transported more easily, and economically, than manure. The most promising technologies also make products with characteristics (e.g. homogenous and predictable nutrient content, easy to handle, reduced pathogen counts or pathogen-inert chemicals) that make them more appealing to crop producers than manure.

figure 3. commercial scale recovery of phosphorus

Figure 3. Commercial scale recovery of phosphorus.

With further technological and market development, these technologies have the potential to transform dairy manure nutrient management. They may also become a cost-effective approach to improving nutrient management at a watershed level, through the replacement of imported chemical nutrients by crop-farms with manure-derived nutrients already in the watershed. However, nutrients can still be lost from nutrient recovery products or from the wastewater that normally is a by-product of nutrient recovery. This is especially true if these are applied with improper application rates or timing. Nutrient recovery technologies therefore need to be used as part of a comprehensive watershed-level strategy that addresses nutrient balance, equitable distribution of costs and benefits, and improved nutrient application timing and methodology.

Nutrient recovery could also encourage adoption of anaerobic digestion technologies. Although anaerobic digestion changes the form of nitrogen and phosphorus in manure, it does not appreciably decrease the total amount of nutrients, most of which are concentrated in the liquid effluent that is a product of the AD process (Frear et al. 2012). Also, co-digestion of dairy manure with additional organic food wastes can import nutrients to the farm, exacerbating existing nutrient management issues. Nutrient recovery can make AD more appealing to dairy producers by addressing one of their most important concerns. Meanwhile, potential income from the sale of recovered nutrients can contribute to the economic feasibility of an AD project.

Future Plans

The authors and collaborators are continuing efforts to review existing information about nutrient recovery systems (see talk by Jingwei Ma et al., Nutrient Recovery Technologies—A Primer on Available and Emerging Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Salt Recovery Approaches, their Performance and Cost). They are also continuing technological development and commercialization efforts for specific nutrient recovery technologies.

Authors

Georgine Yorgey, Research Associate at Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University yorgey@wsu.edu

Craig Frear, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Washington State University, and Chad Kruger, Director, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

Additional Information

The topics covered in this presentation are covered in more depth in a factsheet that is available from Washington State University Extension. The Rationale for Recovery of Phosphorus and Nitrogen from Dairy Manure is available at https://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/the-rationale-for-recovery-of-phosphorus-and-nitrogen-from-dairy-manure-anaerobic-digestion-systems-series. This document is part of a series of extension documents on Dairy AD Systems, being prepared by the authors and other colleagues at Washington State University.

References:

Frear, C., W. Liao, T. Ewing, and S. Chen. 2012. Evaluation of Co-digestion at a Commercial Dairy Anaerobic Digester. Clean Water, Air, and Soil, 39 (7): 697-704.

USDA-ERS. 2009. Manure Use for Fertilizer and for Energy. Report to Congress. United States Economic Research Service. Washington, DC.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by funding from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Contract #2012-6800219814; National Resources Conservation Service, Conservation Innovation Grants #69-3A75-10-152; and Biomass Research Funds from the WSU Agricultural Research Center.

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.

Open Lot Dairy Ammonia Losses and Nitrogen Balance: A New Mexico Study

Purpose

Animal agriculture is a significant source of ammonia (NH3). Dairy cattle excrete most ingested nitrogen (N); most urinary N is converted to NH3, volatilized and lost to the atmosphere. This fugitive NH3 can contribute to negative environmental effects such as degraded air quality and excessive N in ecosystems. Open lot dairies on the southern High Plains are a growing industry and face challenges that include reporting requirements for NH3 emissions and potential regulation. However, producers and regulators lack a clear quantitative understanding of NH3 losses from the open lot production system.

What did we do?

We quantified NH3 emissions from the open lot and wastewater lagoons of a typical open lot New Mexico dairy during two weeks in summer, 2009. The 3500-cow dairy consisted of open lot, manure-surfaced corrals (22.5 ha). A flush system using recycled water removed manure from the feed alley to three lagoons (1.8 ha). Most manure was retained on the corral surface. Open path lasers measured atmospheric NH3 concentration downwind from the open lot and lagoon sources, sonic anemometers characterized turbulence, and inverse dispersion analysis (Windtrax) was used to quantify emissions every 15 minutes (Fig. 1). A dairy N balance was constructed using measured and calculated values to partition N to different stores in the dairy system. Milking cows comprised 73% of the herd, with the remainder dry or fresh cow. Dry matter intake averaged 22.5 kg/cow/d, with a mean crude protein content of 16.7% (Table 1).

What have we learned?

Most NH3 loss was from the open lot. Ammonia emission rate averaged 1061 kg/d from the open lot and 59 kg/d from the lagoons; 95% of NH3 was emitted from the open lot (Table 2). The per capita NH3 emission rate was 304 g/cow/d from the open lot (41% of N intake) and 17 g/cow/d from lagoons (2% of N intake). Mean N intake was 612 g/cow/d and N exported in milk averaged 145 g/cow/d. The dairy N balance showed that most N was lost as NH3. Daily N input at the dairy was 2139 kg/d, with 43, 36, 19 and 2% of the N partitioned to NH3 emission, manure/lagoons, milk, and cows, respectively (Fig. 2). The NH3 production intensity was 13.7 g NH3/kg milk. We estimated that on an annual basis, from 30 to 35% of fed N would be lost as NH3. Ammonia loss from open lot dairies is more similar to that from open lot beef feedyards than from dairies with closed housing where manure is more intensively managed.

Future Plans

Next steps include sampling during additional seasons to better characterize annual emissions.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Richard W. Todd, Research Soil Scientist at USDA ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, Bushland TX

Corresponding author email

richard.todd@ars.usda.gov

Other authors  

N. Andy Cole, Res. Animal Scientist at USDA ARS CPRL, Bushland, TX; G. Robert Hagevoort, Ext. Diary Specialist at New Mexico State University; Kenneth D. Casey, Air Quality Engineer and Brent W. Auvermann, Agricultural Engineer at Texas A&M AgriLife.

Additional information

For more information, contact Richard Todd, 806-356-5728.

Acknowledgements

Research was partially funded with a USDA NIFA Special Research Grant through the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium.

Table 1. Cow population, feed dry matter intake (DMI) and crude protein (CP), and the fraction of N fed for each cow class

Table 1.

Table 2. Mean NH3 flux density, emission rate, per capita emission rate (PCER), and the fraction of N intake lost as NH3-N from either the open lot or lagoons.

Figure 1. Ammonia flux density, 15-min time steps, at the open lot (a) and at the lagoons (b). The rainfall event reduced NH3 flux at the lagoons but not at the open lot.

Figure 1.

Figure 2. Nitrogen partitioning at the New Mexico dairy. Daily N input was 2139 kg d-1. Milk N and NH3-N were measured, N partitioned to cows was estimated as 2% of N intake and N partitioned to manure and lagoons was the residual of the N balance.

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.