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Greenhouse gas calculator connects farming practices with carbon credits
Date:8/8/2010

MADISON, WI, August 9th, 2010 - Greenhouse gas markets, where invisible gases are traded, must seem like black boxes to most people. Farmers can make money on these markets, such as the Chicago Climate Exchange, by installing methane capture technologies in animal-based systems, no-till farming, establishing grasslands, and planting trees.

Farmers, students, extension educators, offset aggregators, and other stakeholders need to understand how to change farming practices to maximize their potential economic returns in these new markets.

To open the black box, researchers at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, including Claire P. McSwiney, Sven Bohm, Peter R. Grace, and G. Philip Robertson, developed the Farming Systems Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator, a simple web-based tool to help users make economically and environmentally sound decisions.

The first page of the calculator asks users to choose a county of interest from anywhere in the US. An input/output window allows them to choose which crops they will grow, yields, tillage practices, and nitrogen fertilizer rates. Default values based on localized USDA statistics are provided as a starting point.

Given the farming practices chosen, the calculator tells the user how much carbon was stored in the soil or lost to the atmosphere, nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide) lost from the soil in response to fertilizer application, carbon dioxide produced by tractors, and carbon dioxide produced in manufacturing the fertilizer.

In an article in the 2010 Journal of Natural Resources and Life Science Education, published by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America, the authors used the calculator to demonstrate how tillage compares with no-till in a three-year rotation of corn, soybean, and wheat.

Whether tilled or untilled, corn years always
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Contact: Sara Uttech
608-268-4948
American Society of Agronomy
Source:Eurekalert  

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