Missouri Researchers Reduce Greenhouse Gases, Raise Yields

John DavisAudio, Corn, Fertilizer, Research, Tillage, University

Researchers with the University of Missouri have found a way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by agricultural operations, while increasing the yields of the crops. And precision agriculture equipment is playing a key role.

Research agronomist at MU’s Greenley Research Center in northeast Missouri Kelly Nelson says that ag operations in the U.S. create 58 percent of the world’s nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes 300 times more to global warming than carbon dioxide. His work is focusing on the placement and source of fertilizers to reduce that nitrous oxide number.

“The fertilizer placement for a no-till system would be, for dry fertilizers, would be broadcast applied over the soil surface. We thought with a strip-till system we can till a small area, usually about 12 inches wide, usually less than 30 percent of the field, and maintain good soil cover, and apply that fertilizer in a band right under the plant so it has easy access to the fertilizer.”

He says using an enhanced-efficiency polymer coated urea and non-coated urea, they were able to test in a clay pan soil, where there is very poor internal drainage and fertilizer loss can be substantial.

“We saw that over the entire growing season, we were emitting about 2.4 to 3.8 percent of the nitrogen applied as nitrous oxide.” Nelson says that while it doesn’t seem like a big number, it shows how much greenhouse gas can be emitted into the atmosphere. Plus, he says this system was able to increase yields. “We were seeing that our strip-till system was increasing yields by about 50 bushels to the acre (in corn), compared to our no-till system.” And it reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 25 percent, compared to no-till systems.

Nelson admits that they didn’t compare the amount of emissions for running the extra equipment in the strip-till versus no-till operation, but that would be a comparison of CO2 emissions, and as stated earlier, much less impactful when you are considering greenhouse gases. Plus, the increased yields should help make up any differences by increasing the amount of carbon sequestration going on in the higher yielding strip-till operations.

He credits new, advanced precision agriculture equipment and practices for even making this kind of work possible.

“Getting the right product at the right time in the right place, that’s what we’re working toward. Precision ag is moving us in that direction.”

Listen to my interview with Kelly here: [wpaudio url=”http://zimmcomm.biz/precision/kellynelsoninterview.mp3″ text=”Kelly Nelson, MU research agronomist”]