Arable News

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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Ambitious research identifies shrunken GHG footprint of UK arable products

The results of a major UK research project onMinimising Nitrous Oxide (MIN-NO) have been announced today showing emissionsdue to nitrogen fertiliser use on UK arable land, to be less than half thelevel previously estimated.

Roger Sylvester-Bradley, MIN-NO Project Lead andHead of Crop Performance, ADAS UK, said: This research is the most ambitiousto date in providing a comprehensive national assessment of nitrous oxideemissions in actual farming conditions, and has significantly improvedscientific understanding in this important area.

The MIN-NO research was conducted over a 5 yearperiod with a consortium of 23 government, academic, farming and commercialpartners with interests in the future sustainability of the food, feed and fuelsupply chain.

The research concluded:

– A predicted decrease in emissions from UKagriculture of almost 10% than previously thought

– A greenhouse gas intensity per tonne of UKharvested wheat (which recognises the recent emissions reductions by fertiliserproducers,) of 20% less than previously estimated.

– Reduced intensities for harvested rapeseed andsugar beet.

The project also confirmed that sourcing ofnitrogen fertilisers from production facilities which are modified to abatenitrous oxide makes a substantial reduction in the Greenhouse Gas (GHG)footprint of the final marketed product whether it be chicken, cooking oil, whiskyor a biofuel product. Choosing fertilisers with the lowest carbon footprintleads to a reduction in the GHG footprint. For example, bread can be reduced by7%, bioethanol from wheat by 15% and biodiesel from oilseed rape by 16%. 

Welcoming the findings, AICs Chief Executive DavidCaffall said: It is pleasing to see massive investment by the supply industryis also having potential added value in the market place.

However, prospects for mitigating nitrous oxideassociated with arable cropping are less than was thought previously. Farmers already using abated nitrogen fertilisers and following good practicecan do little more than to continue to focus on fine-tuning their overallnutrient management for optimum efficiency.

The potential for adding value from investment inthe research was highlighted by Richard Laverick, Chief Technical Officer forAHDB. The project has provided our industry with a vital and far more accurateunderstanding of the behaviour of nitrous oxide emissions in arableagriculture. It will help inform all involved in producing for the food, feedand biofuel supply chains. The findings are significant and will make a majordifference to the UKs ability to meet sustainability criteria for a range ofsupply chains.

The MIN-NO findings are especially pertinent to thebiofuel industry. Clare Wenner, the Head of Renewable Transport at theRenewable Energy Association said, This extensive research shows that thegreenhouse gas reductions from using UK-grown feed wheat and oil seed rape toproduce renewable fuel are particularly relevant. The production of bioethanoland biodiesel from these crops also yields a valuable high protein animal feedwhich adds to the overall environmental benefits of UK renewable fuels.

Ultimately MIN-NOs work is good news and meansthat the proportion of the UKs emissions attributed to agricultural productionwill decrease relative to other sectors of the economy.

The findings: http://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/publications/2015/october/29/minimising-nitrous-oxide-intensities-of-arable-crop-products-(min-no).aspxwill now be used by consortium members to inform both governments and industryof the progress being made towards meeting the UKs GHG reduction targets.


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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