McGill-led research nets nearly $2 million
By Julie Fortier
An extensive McGill-led study to determine the most effective water management practices to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture is benefitting from the federal government’s Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program, a five-year $27-million initiative that focuses on the development of on-farm greenhouse gas mitigation practices. The McGill project, led by Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, will receive close to $2 million over the next five years. The project was officially announced on Dec. 9 by the Hon. Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister of State for Agriculture.
“It is important that agriculture be conducted in a way that reduces the effects of soil, water and air pollution and that we develop innovative agricultural practices that can contribute to carbon sequestration and the reduction of greenhouse gases,” explained Madramootoo.
The research will be conducted at six crop-producing locations – three in Quebec, two in Ontario and one in Nova Scotia – where the team will first assess GHG (nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and methane) emissions and the amount of carbon sequestered by different drainage and irrigation practices. Based on the initial findings, the research team will work with agricultural producers to modify current practices or develop new water management systems that can reduce GHG emissions. The researchers will also conduct socio-economic studies to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of applying various water management technologies.
Soil moisture levels play an important role in the amount of GHGs that are released by the soil. Nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural fields, in particular, are of increasing concern as over a 100-year period it has the potential to contribute to global warming nearly 300 times more than carbon dioxide.
“Water surpluses or shortages are an important factor in crop productivity. Agricultural producers must use water management technologies efficiently to ensure sustainable and profitable agricultural production,” said Madramootoo. “This project will contribute to enhancing the competitiveness of Canadian producers and protecting the environment at the same time.”
The study is a collaborative effort that will draw upon the expertise of McGill researchers Joann Whalen and Viacheslav Adamchuk and colleagues at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, the University of Saskatchewan and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. A wide outreach effort will also be conducted to communicate the results and recommendations of the researchers to agricultural producers across the country.