The idea of the methodology is to offer ways of using less fertilizer to produce crops. But if farmers apply less fertilizer, will their crop production take a hit?
"Carbon credits provide an incentive to apply fertilizer more precisely, not to reduce yields," says Robertson. "If yields were reduced significantly, the climate effect would be nil because a farmer somewhere else would have to use more nitrogen to make up the yield loss, thereby generating more nitrous oxide."
The new methodology developed at NSF's KBS LTER site was successfully used by a Michigan farmer in Tuscola County as part of a proof-of-concept project.
"A major value of the approach is that it is straightforward to understand and implement," says KBS LTER scientist Neville Millar, who co-led development of the methodology.
In addition to providing an economic incentive, the methodology is a tool farmers can apply to enhance their land stewardship.
"The same strategies that farmers can use to minimize nitrous oxide loss will act to reduce the loss of nitrate to groundwater and loss of other forms of nitrogen to the atmosphere," says Millar.
Adam Diamant, technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute and a co-developer of the methodology, says the new approach resulted in a "quadruple win: for farmers, for industrial organizations that may be required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, for the atmosphere and for water quality from the upper Midwest all the way to the Gulf of Mexico."
Adds Robertson: "We're in uncharted territory with a growing global human population and unprecedented environmental change.
"Performing the research that links environmental benefits to environmental markets, without compromising crop yields, is crucial for feeding more people while sustaining Earth's ecosystems."
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation