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MSU Extension Receives Grant for Greenhouse Study
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The grant will fund a project that explores how cover crops can be used to improve nitrogen timing on conventional and organic farms. Inefficient nitrogen application can cause increased emission of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and an economic loss to farmers as crops are less robust.


Source: Michigan State University, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Contact: Sean Corp at 517-432-1555, ext. 221

 

MSU Extension Receives Grant to Study Effects of Cover Crops on Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Evaluating the effects of cover crops on greenhouse gases, nitrogen availability and carbon accumulation is the focus of a $749,000 grant awarded to a team of Michigan State University (MSU) scientists.

MSU Extension senior district educator and cover crops specialist Dale R. Mutch says the research will be beneficial to farmers and nonfarmers.

“We know that cover crops can improve soil quality, reduce erosion and surface compaction, recycle nutrients and decrease weeds, insects and parasitic nematodes while providing nectaries for beneficial insects,” Mutch says. “Now we want to evaluate their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The grant will fund a project that explores how cover crops can be used to improve nitrogen timing on conventional and organic farms. Inefficient nitrogen application can cause increased emission of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and an economic loss to farmers as crops are less robust.

Mutch and a team of MSU scientists will examine the impacts of four cover crops over a three-year span at Kellogg Biological Station (KBS). KBS is the university’s largest off-campus education complex and is committed to providing science and ecology education, conserving natural resources, and developing and observing sustainable agriculture research and demonstration projects and practices.

The team will also document cover crop influence on reducing greenhouse gases in a characteristic crop rotation for Michigan farmers. They will use workshops, field days, fact sheets and bulletins to help farmers understand more fully the relationships between cover crops and nitrogen use.

The co-investigator on the project is Dean Baas, research associate at MSU Extension and KBS’ Land & Water Unit. Other investigators include Phil Robertson, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and AgBioResearch scientist; Neville Millar, senior research associate at KBS; and Steve Miller, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. Robertson and Miller are internationally recognized experts on greenhouse gases in agricultural systems.

The grant is one of 23 totaling $19 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“As more and more farmers adopt organic agriculture practices, they need the best science available to operate profitable and successful organic farms,” says Kathleeen Merrigan, agriculture deputy secretary for USDA. “These research and extension projects will give producers the tools and resources to produce quality organic food and boost farm income, boosting the ‘Grown in America’ brand.”

Mutch says fitting cover crops into the corn-soybean-wheat rotation could enhance farmers’ profitability while helping the environment.

“We also hope this research will stimulate an increased interest in organic production in Michigan and throughout the Midwest,” he says.