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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGING DAIRY FARMS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP AND PROFIT

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 1902-11130-001-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 18, 2007
End Date: Oct 31, 2010

Objective:
The overall goal of this research is to develop and apply software tools in comprehensive evaluations of the impacts and interactions of dairy farm management on air and water quality while maintaining or enhancing farm profitability. Specific objectives are: 1) Develop process-based relationships that predict emissions of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds, and greenhouse gases from animal, feed, and manure sources on dairy farms, 2) Quantify carbon sequestration potential of temperate grasslands and develop a remote sensing tool to estimate carbon dioxide fluxes from small, rotationally-grazed pastures, 3) Validate models and quantify uncertainties of model predictions at multiple scales by comparing predictions to measured water, soil, and management effects of conservation practices (CEAP objective 3, ARS Model Validation, Evaluation, and Uncertainty Analysis), and 4) Determine precision and accuracy of analytical data among watersheds in support of the five overall CEAP objectives (CEAP objective 6, ARS Data Quality Assurance).

Approach:
Research will be conducted to evaluate and reduce the impact of dairy farms on air and water quality. Air quality work will focus on quantifying gaseous emissions from dairy farms and the carbon sequestration that can be achieved in temperate pasture systems. Mathematical relationships will be derived that describe the biological, chemical, and physical processes involved in the formation, release, and transfer of the major gaseous compounds found in dairy facilities. These relationships will be derived based upon theoretical or scientific understanding of the processes where rates will be controlled by the characteristics of the feed or manure and the surrounding environment. Parameters for these relationships will be determined using experimental emissions data collected at University Park and in other laboratories across the country and in Europe. As these individual models are developed and validated, they will be integrated in a simulation model that predicts emissions throughout the year for each of the important gaseous compounds as a function of the feed, manure, and animal management used on the farm. A methodology will be developed for estimating carbon dioxide fluxes on intensively managed pastures from remotely sensed indices. This development will include a methodology for scaling the resolution size of available satellite images to the relatively small size of intensively managed pastures. Carbon dioxide fluxes will be quantified for switchgrass fields and perennial grass pastures using Eddy Covariance data collection. Water quality work will continue to focus on CEAP project goals. This will include a comprehensive evaluation of the environmental and economic impacts of BMPs such as manure application methods and precision feeding and forage management practices on northeastern dairy farms. BMP selection optimization will be applied to the Wallkill watershed, NJ, a watershed with high stakeholder involvement and concern for improved nonpoint source pollution control. Parameter and overall model uncertainty associated with watershed environmental impact assessments of conservation practices will be quantified. The CEAP inter-laboratory quality assurance/quality control program will be expanded and improved to assess environmental matrix effects and better address accuracy and precision of laboratory results at ranges of concentrations that are typical of water quality monitoring values. These assessments of air and water quality impacts at the farm and watershed level will lead to more profitable and environmentally friendly farm production systems.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014
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