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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #428423

Research Project: Mitigating Emissions and Adapting Farm Systems to Climate Variability

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

2017 Annual Report

1. Quantify and develop practices to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and pollutants from animal production systems. 1a. Measure greenhouse gas emissions from crop and pasture lands and the reductions obtained through mitigation treatments. 1b. Refine and evaluate emission models for improved prediction of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation strategies for animal, manure, crop, and pasture components of livestock production. 1c. Evaluate the impact of improvements in animal production facility infrastructure on greenhouse and other gas emissions and water quality. 2. Determine the sensitivity of farm systems and watersheds to climate variability and evaluate strategies for adapting to climate change. 2a. Quantify the effects of projected future climate on dairy and beef production systems and determine the adaptation strategies required to maintain sustainable production systems under future climate variability. 2b. Quantify the effects of projected future climate on nitrogen and phosphorus transformations and losses for watersheds in the Northeast. 2c. Support Northeast Climate Hub activities by developing and providing information on regional climate research and extension capacity, stakeholder vulnerability assessments, and adaptation strategies for the dairy and beef industries including animal, field crop, hay and pasture production, and ecosystem services. 3. Quantify the sustainability of beef and dairy production systems through life cycle assessment and prioritize areas for improvement. 3a. Document production practices and determine farm-gate environmental footprints for beef cattle production throughout the United States. 3b. Evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of alternative practices of milk production in important dairy regions of the United States.

Long-term monitoring of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions will be conducted in support of Long Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR). University Park is part of the recently-formed Dairy Agroecosystem Working Group (DAWG) along with ARS units in Idaho, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. DAWG has adopted a framework in concert with the LTAR network to provide data, technologies and decision support tools that enable dairy producers to adapt to current and future production and environmental demands. Air and water quality impacts, environmental footprints, and farm economic viability of dairy production systems will be assessed through detailed case studies of geographically distinct dairy production systems in each of our regions. Development and evaluation of farm-scale models [Integrated Farm System Model(IFSM) and DairyGEM] will continue. As new process information becomes available, component models used to predict emissions will be revised and evaluated to improve prediction accuracy. Mitigation strategies will be simulated and evaluated to assess interactions within and overall impacts on farm production systems. Empirically downscaled daily climate files will be developed by collaborators at Texas Tech University for approximately 80 cattle producing locations of the U.S. using 9 climate models and two long term greenhouse gas emission scenarios (current emission levels, RCP=8.5 and reduced emission levels, RCP=4.5). Representative dairy farms will be simulated using IFSM with current and projected future climate, and adaptation strategies will be determined to maintain profitable and environmentally sustainable production. The downscaled climate files will also be used to model two watersheds (one karst, one non-karst) in the Ridge and Valley physiographic region of the Upper Chesapeake Bay Basin. Current practices will be simulated using historical climate data and a modified version of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool, called TopoSWAT. These same regional watersheds will then be simulated under management practices described in the Bay Watershed Implementation Plan’s (WIPs) for meeting the Chesapeake Bay Loading Reduction goals of 2025. Collaboration continues with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in a national assessment of the sustainability of beef. Producer surveys and visits are being conducted for each of seven geographic regions to determine common production practices. Representative cattle operations are defined and simulated with IFSM to quantify the performance and farm-gate environmental impacts of production systems in each region. This information will be used in regional and national life cycle assessments to benchmark the environmental footprints and overall sustainability of beef production. Information developed will be used to support the Northeast Climate Hub. In collaboration with Climate Hub university partners, surveys and stakeholder interviews will be conducted to determine perceived challenges relating to climate change and variability and information needs to meet those challenges. A climate adaptation workbook developed by the US Forest Service will be modified for use on agricultural lands.

Progress Report
Under objective 1a, eddy covariance measurements of CO2 flux continued at the original Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) site, but logistic and contractual issues have delayed establishment of the second LTAR site. A four-year study of nitrous oxide emissions in dairy forage systems was completed, and a journal manuscript documenting the study was submitted. Field and management conditions of this study were modeled with DayCent, but a poor correlation was found between predicted and observed emission data. Due to this inability to properly represent the results of the field study, further simulation of the impacts of alternative management scenarios were not pursued. Under objective 1b, a model was developed and documented that represents the bio-physical processes occurring in a bedded pack housing system for cattle. The model was verified to predict reasonable levels of emissions, but a lack of experimental data for comparison has prevented a full evaluation of the model. A model was also developed that simulates a slatted floor barn with under-floor manure storage, but farm scale measurements are required for further verification. Under objective 1c, collaboration continues with the University of Arkansas in linking the output of the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM) to input for Simapro, a life cycle assessment tool. All linkages have been made, and verification is being done to assure appropriate values are being carried to provide an accurate life cycle assessment. Under objective 1c, a literature search has revealed very little information on reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus losses through infrastructure improvements associated with barnyard and animal production facility upgrades like engineered manure storage, runoff control structures, and housing ventilation. Additional information sources are being sought. Under objective 2a, projected climate data for the Northeastern U.S. were extensively evaluated to determine possible impacts on corn growth and development. Adaptations in crop management are being explored to offset potential adverse effects of changes in temperature and rainfall during the silking and grain development stages. Under objective 2b, projected climate data for seven cattle producing locations across the Northeastern U.S. were explored for trends and variability of average and extreme events to determine potential impacts on hydrologic systems and nutrient loadings. Annual and seasonal trends were analyzed for the early, mid, and late 21st century. Adaptation strategies including crop planting date adjustments and crop rotation diversification with incorporation of catch crops are being investigated to curb the potential impacts of increased summer moisture deficit and to reduce erosion and nutrient runoff. These strategies take advantage of longer growing seasons and provide a continuous cover to agricultural lands. Crop residue incorporation and fewer field operations are being considered to increase soil organic matter and infiltration rates and thus reduce runoff and nutrient loadings. Under objective 2c, the climate change adaption workbook for agriculture in the Northeast and Midwest was completed and is available online to assist producer decision making. Under objective 3a, an analysis of the emissions and other environmental impacts of representative beef production systems was completed for the western regions of the U.S. Surveys and visits of beef cattle operations were completed for the Southeast region and are currently underway for the Northeast. The information collected will be used to complete the analysis of beef cattle production in the eastern regions later this year. Under objective 3b, a manuscript was developed that summarized the gradient of major nutrient management concerns in the important dairy regions of USDA’s DAWG (Development and Architecture Working Group) project. Several dairy farms in each region were simulated with the IFSM providing whole farm nitrogen cycle output showing estimates of all important losses of nitrogen from the farms. With a focus on comparing confinement, grazing and organic production systems, USDA NASS and ERS-ARMS data were used to characterize the major dairy production systems of Pennsylvania. The farm characterization and modeling procedure is establishing a protocol that will be replicated in other regions for a more in-depth analysis of the sustainability of the U.S. dairy industry.

1. Modeling silage emissions from farms. Silage contributes to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from dairy farms. In the presence of sunlight, these VOCs react with oxides of nitrogen forming ozone, which can contribute to air pollution and human health concerns. ARS researchers at University Park, Pennsylvania, in collaboration with scientists at the University of California, Davis, developed, evaluated and documented a model for simulating and predicting VOC emissions from silage, which was incorporated into USDA’s Integrated Farm System Model. This revised farm model provides a tool for estimating and evaluating the effects various storage and feeding management strategies have on VOC emissions from farms. Simulation of a California dairy farm showed that most VOC emissions were from feed lying in feed lanes, indicating that strategies to reduce VOC emissions during feeding will be most effective in mitigating overall farm emissions.

Review Publications
Bonifacio, H.F., Rotz, C.A., Hafner, S., Montes, F., Cohen, M., Mitloehner, F. 2016. A process-based emission model for volatile organic compounds from silage sources on farms. Atmospheric Environment. 152:85-97.
Asem-Hiablie, S., Rotz, C.A., Stout, R.C., Stackhouse-Lawson, K. 2016. Management characteristics of cow-calf, stocker, and finishing operations in the Northern Plains and Midwest Regions of the United States. Professional Animal Scientist.32:736-749.
Duncan, E.W., Kleinman, P.J., Beegle, D.B., Rotz, C.A. 2017. Coupling dairy manure storage with injection to improve nitrogen management: whole-farm simulation using the integrated farm system Model. Agricultural and Environmental Letters. doi:10.2134/ael2016.12.0048.
Duncan, E., Dell, C.J., Kleinman, P.J., Beegle, D. 2017. Nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions from injected and broadcast applied dairy slurry. Journal of Environmental Quality. 46:36-44.
Elkin, K.R., Veith, T.L., Lu, H., Goslee, S.C., Buda, A.R., Collick, A.S., Folmar, G.J., Kleinman, P.J., Bryant, R.B. 2016. Declining atmospheric sulfate deposition in a small agricultural watershed in central Pennsylvania, USA. Agricultural and Environmental Letters. 1:160039. doi:10.2134/ael2016.09.0039.
Rotz, C.A., Skinner, R.H., Stoner, A.M., Hayhoe, K. 2016. Evaluating the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation in dairy production. Transactions of the ASABE. ASABE. 59(6): 1771-1781. doi: 10.13031/trans.59.11594
Rotz, C.A., Skinner, R.H., Stoner, A.M., Hayhoe, K. 2016. Farm simulation can help adapt dairy production systems to climate change: J. Hatfield and D. Fleisher. Advances in Agricultural Modeling, Volume 7. Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy. 34p.
Van Liew, M.N., Wortmann, C.S., Moriasi, D.N., King, K.W., Flanagan, D.C., Veith, T.L., McCarty, G.W., Bosch, D.D., Tomer, M.D. 2017. Evaluating the APEX model for simulating streamflow and water quality on ten agricultural watersheds in the U.S. Transactions of the ASABE. 60(1):123-146.
Veltman, K., Jones, C., Izaurralde, R., Reddy, A., Gaillard, R., Duval, B., Cela, S., Ketterings, Q.M., Rotz, C.A., Salas, W., Vadas, P.A., Jolliet, O. 2017. Comparison of process-based models to quantify nutrient flows and greenhouse gas emissions of milk production. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 237:31-44.
Yagow, G., Collick, A., Ribaudo, M., Thomason, W., Veith, T.L. 2016.Scientific and technical advisory committee review of the nutrient inputs estimation for the Chesapeake Bay watershed model. STAC Publication Number 16-005, Edgewater, MD. 46pp.
Bonifacio, H.F., Rotz, C.A., Richard, T. 2017. A process-based model for cattle manure compost windrows: Model description. Transactions of the ASABE. 60(3):877-892. doi: 10.13031/trans.12057.
Bonifacio, H.F., Rotz, C.A., Richard, T.L. 2017. A process-based model for cattle manure compost windrows: Model performance and application. Transactions of the ASABE. 60(3):893-913. doi: 10.13031/trans.12058.
Rotz, C.A., Thoma, G. 2017. Assessing carbon footprints of dairy production systems. In: Beede, D.K., editor. Large Dairy Herd Management. 3rd edition. Champaign, Illinois: American Dairy Society Association. p.19-31.
Sharpley, A.N., Kleinman, P.J., Baffaut, C., Beegle, D., Bolster, C.H., Collick, A., Easton, Z., Lory, J., Nelson, N., Osmond, D., Radcliffe, D., Veith, T.L., Weld, J. 2017. Evaluation of phosphorus site assessment tools: Lessons from the USA. Journal of Environmental Quality.46:1250-1256. doi:10.2134/jeq2016.11.0427.
Amin, M., Osterballe Pedersen, C., Forslund, A., Veith, T.L., Laegdsmand, M. 2016. Influence of soil structure on contaminant leaching from injected slurry. Journal of Environmental Management. 184(2):289-296. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.10.002.
Amin, M., Veith, T.L., Collick, A.S., Karsten, H. 2016. Simulating hydrological and geochemical processes in a karstic watershed of the Upper Chesapeake Bay. Journal of Hydrology. 180(B):212-223. doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2016.07.011.