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After six years in the process, WSU’s Climate Friendly Farming Project offers farmer suggestions.

T.J. Burnham 1, Editor, Western Farmer-Stockman

June 10, 2010

2 Min Read

Washington State University’s six-year-long Climate Friendly Farming Project has come to a conclusion with a special report highlighting promising technological innovations available to growers.

“The project identified promising management strategies and technologies that could reduce the relative greenhouse gas contribution of agriculture,” says Chad Kruger, WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

High among the list of promising innovations and limitations listed in the report are the following:

  • Anaerobic digestion of organic wastes and subsequent recovery of carbon and nutrients: This technology is “ripe for application to our modern dairy farming systems,” the report states. The study suggests that anaerobic digesters have significant greenhouse gas mitigation potential for the Pacific Northwest’s agriculture and food industry. With a potential to produce more than a million metric tons of CO2 annually.,

  • Conservation tillage: while no-till, reduced-till and strip till can reverse the trend of soil carbon loss, the study revealed less than expected in terms of measuring sequestration levels due to variations in landscape, climate and farm management. “It is difficult to accurately predict the magnitude of soil C changes expected from a shift to conservation tillage,” the document notes.

  • Managing the carbon cycle: Increasing soil carbon may affect indirect greenhouse gas emissions related to manufacture and use of nitrogen fertilizers. Ironically, N is needed to produce soil C, creating the need among farmers to balance the pluses and minuses of this equation. The study evaluated use of manure, perennial switchgrass and continuous cereal vs. legume crop rotations, as well as residue removal for energy production, all practices which the report says can impact soil carbon “but may also have consequent impacts on other greenhouse gas emissions.”

  • Improving nitrogen use efficiency: Added nitrogen use efficiency practices are essential in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the best way to do so is to learn to produce the same amount of biomass with less total N, the researchers point out.


Research highlights outlined in the report label anaerobic digestion as the “best available technology” for capturing and recovery of methane from organic wastes, generation of renewable energy and recovery of carbon and nutrients that can be substituted for other greenhouse gas intensive agricultural inputs.

The technology and management options for conservation tillage need to be encouraged and strategically applied to address site-specific barriers, the researchers recommend.

Expected rates of soil C sequestration slows over time, the report notes, and mitigation projects need to account for time horizon in assessing total carbon sequestered.

Precision agriculture in nitrogen management can improve nitrogen use efficiency in dry land grain-based cropping systems, reducing N-related greenhouse gas emissions and saving farmers money.

The project findings “clearly illustrate opportunities for agriculture to reduce its carbon footprint,  says Kruger.

To view the just-released report, go to http://csanr.wsu.edu/publications/researchreports/cffreport.html.

For questions about the study, Kruger may be contacted at (509) 663-8181, extension 242, or by e-mail at [email protected].

For more on this story, see the June issue of Western Farmer-Stockman.

About the Author(s)

T.J. Burnham 1

Editor, Western Farmer-Stockman

T.J. Burnham has covered western agriculture for 42 years. A University of Michigan journalism program grad, he worked for The Sacramento Bee for 15 years before moving into specialty farm magazine writing. He has been on the Farm Progress staff for 10 years.

"A lot of my uncles back in Michigan were farmers, but my interest was primarily to become a hot shot city desk reporter. Once I was given a job at the Bee on the metro desk, they told me that they’d hired too many new reporters, and half of us had to go. However, they said there was an opening in the newspaper’s ag division, and if I worked there until the probationary period was over, I could be reassigned to general reporting. I took the job, but by the time the probation period was ended, I found I enjoyed covering ag so much that I never asked to go back to the city side.”

T.J. joined Farm Progress as a California Farmer reporter, then became editor of the Western Farmer-Stockman. He has earned a reputation in the West as a strong source of direct seed information, and has affiliated Western Farmer-Stockman as the official magazine of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association.

His wife, Sally, writes for the magazine and helps with bookwork concerning freelance writers from the eight western state arena which the magazine serves.

T.J. likes hiking and fishing, and dabbles in woodworking projects. He also enjoys gardening and photography.

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