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Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Mitigation from Agroecosystems, with Emphasis on Cow-Calf Non-confinement Production Systems in Western Canada

beefGenerously funded by:

Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Program (AGGP)

Global Research Alliance (GRA)

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Project Collaborators from:

University of Manitoba

University of Saskatchewan

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI)

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Ottawa and Lethbridge)

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD)

Environment Canada

Project Supporters:

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association

Canadian Forage and Grassland Association

Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Soil Ecology

Individual agricultural producer co-operators

Manitoba Beef Producers

Manitoba Forage Council

National Centre for Livestock and the Environment

Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

The Canadian Fertilizer Institute

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI)

Meet the research team:

Life Cycle Assessment

Professor Goretty Dias: School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo 

Dr. Kumudinie Kariyapperuma: Research Associate, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo

Principal Investigator

Dr. Brian Amiro: Professor, Department of Soil Science, University of Manitoba

Scientific Investigators

Dr. Don Flaten: Professor, Department of Soil Science, University of Manitoba 

Dr. Kim Ominski: Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Manitoba 

Dr. Mario Tenuta: Professor and CRC in Soil Ecology, Department of Soil Science, University of Manitoba 

Dr. Karin Wittenberg: Professor, Department of Animal Science and Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Manitoba 

Socio-Economic Analysis

Dr. Suren Kulshreshtha: Professor, Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics, University of Saskatchewan 

Outreach

Mr. Guy Robbins (M.A.): Visitor Services Manager, Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food, Discovery Centre 

Abstract:

The Canadian beef sector accounts for 8% of total GHG emissions at the national level. Beef cattle producers in Western Canada manage a significant portion of the agriculture land base and cattle herd. Volatility in commodity pricing, continuing trade issues and a changing climate require proactive decisions if this sector is to be sustainable. Knowledge gaps on productivity and environmental sustainability of low-cost management practices are factors limiting good management decisions and sound policy.

A whole-system approach is needed to better assess current and alternative management practices in western Canada. In large part, the challenge is related to choices made by producers with respect to land management, where a given change can have upstream and downstream consequences that are not easy to predict. For example, a decision to convert grassland to annual crops to support an expanding bioenergy market can change feeding strategies for the cattle herd, with increased emphasis on byproduct use (e.g. canola meal), and thus impact methane emissions. Hence, BMPs need to be assessed on a full life-cycle basis.

This project aims to provide science-based knowledge, technologies and strategies in order to place Canada’s farmers in a better position to mitigate GHG through reductions of emissions and/or an increase in carbon sequestration, consistent with the overall mission of the Global Research Alliance. The specific objectives of the project will be to: 1) provide further scientific information and knowledge to support existing concepts of BMPs and to propose new BMPs to reduce GHG emissions; 2) implement this knowledge and place the net GHG impacts of BMPs into the context of a life cycle assessment; 3) transfer knowledge through active collaborations with federal and provincial extension personnel; and 4) follow-up on BMPs interactions that have been adapted by producers to mitigate GHG emissions.

Research activities and outputs:

Research Activities:

a) Develop suite of BMPs to model

b) Create LCA model from cradle-to-farm gate and estimate environmental impacts associated with beef production systems in Western Canada

c) Utilize data from scientific studies at University of Manitoba to populate models. Data will include up-to-date information on : over-wintering practices in non-confinement cattle; better estimates of enteric methane emissions and nitrogen dynamics for nitrous oxide emissions; better understanding of long-term effects of crop rotations on GHG emissions; land use change (perennial vs. annual) effects on GHG emissions.

Outputs:

Kariyapperuma K.A. and Dias, G. Life cycle assessment models and methodological considerations for beef production systems: A review (in preparation)

Kariyapperuma K.A. and Dias G. Model framework for crops and pasture for baseline and BMP (A report – in preparation)

Whitney S., Dias G., Kariyapperuma K.A., Young S.B. Current approaches to sustainability assessment of beef production systems: An analytical review (in preparation)

Dias G., Whitney S., Kariyapperuma K.A., Young S.B. Life cycle sustainability assessment framework for beef production systems (in preparation)