According to a study that involved researchers from the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Argonne National Laboratory, innovation in agriculture practices and technologies can cut down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from grain production by as much as 70% within the next 15 years.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, pointed out a combination of readily adaptable technological breakthroughs that can considerably reduce GHG emissions and be accommodated within the established grain markets and existing production systems.
According to the article titled, “Novel technologies for emission reduction complement conservation agriculture to achieve negative emissions from row-crop production,” reduction in GHG emissions could be achieved through crop and microbial genetics, digital agriculture and electrification.
Implementing the new technologies could drive the decarbonization of agriculture and, at the same time, support farm resilience and maintain productivity and profitability.
Technologies are classified into three parts: optimize, replace and redesign. The researchers employed the GREET® model from Argonne National Laboratory to replicate the adoption of the new technologies for the reduction of GHG emissions from grain production.
Argonne designed GREET, which stands for Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Technologies Model — a unique lifecycle analytical tool currently used globally by industry, government and the science community.
The study provides insights for developing new potential methods for agricultural decarbonization and recommends entry points with private and public investment based on a timeframe of predicted returns on investment in novel technologies.
Our study emphasizes the importance of a two-pronged approach ― reducing farming emissions and maximizing soil carbon storage ― to addressing the climate crisis through agriculture. Practices that enhance soil carbon storage continue to gain momentum. Complementing this approach by developing and broadly applying emission reduction technologies, including seed genetics, is critical to achieving net negative production.
Dan Northrup, Study Lead Author and Director of Special Projects, Benson Hill
Benson Hill is a St. Louis-based company that harnesses the natural genetic diversity of plants to develop more sustainable and healthy food choices.
Our holistic assessment of agriculture decarbonization highlights technical areas and focus points so that U.S. agriculture will be a solution to the climate challenge.
Michael Wang, Study Co-Principal Investigator and Senior Scientist, Argonne Energy Systems Division
Wang also heads the Systems Assessment Center.
The research team included Philip Benfey from Duke University, HHMI and Hi Fidelity Genetics, a company marketing an in-field sensor-based root monitoring platform for crop plants; Bruno Basso from Michigan State University, and CiBO Technologies — pioneers of a breakthrough technology platform that speeds up regenerative agriculture — and Cristine Morgan from the Soil Health Institute, a non-profit company that protects and improves the productivity and vitality of soil through research and development.
The study was financially supported by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the SMARTFARM Program of DOE’s ARPA-E.
Northrup, D, L., et al. (2021) Novel technologies for emission reduction complement conservation agriculture to achieve negative emissions from row-crop production. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2022666118.