Nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas that comes in part from the application of nitrogen fertilizer to croplands, and researchers at the University of Missouri are documenting a simple way to make a big cut in those emissions. The low tech solution – simply tilling the soil in strips and applying fertilizer in bands – illustrates how significant actions can be taken to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gases in the near future, while new technologies to manage climate change over the long run are still in development.
Tilling in Bands to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The researchers compared strip tilling/band application to the spreading of nitrogen fertilizer across an untilled field. They found that the lower greenhouse gas emissions resulted when corn is planted and fertilized in bands of strip-tilled soil. This method sequesters the nitrogen fertilizer more deeply in the soil, saves energy, helps to prevent excess evaporation, and saves energy. In a test field, the strip/band method also produced a greater crop yield.
More Conservation Options for Farmers
If borne out by additional research, the finding provides farmers with another management tool that can boost the bottom line while cutting greenhouse gases and conserving natural resources. Further abetting this disentangling of economic growth from environmental destruction is a group of initiatives funded by the Obama administration. These include the new AgStar program which helps farmers convert manure to high value biogas and compost, and a $30 million loan and grant program that is funding more than 500 agricultural energy efficiency projects.
Image: Corn by bchow on flickr.com.
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