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Team Addresses Climate Change, Animal Agriculture

by 5m Editor
16 August 2011, at 8:01am

US - University of Georgia (UGA) researchers have joined a national team of scientists working on a five-year, $4.1-million US Department of Agriculture grant designed around the effects of climate change on animal agriculture.

Mark Risse, an engineer with UGA Cooperative Extension who is leading the research at UGA, said: "Animal production is vitally important to Georgia's economy.

"In 2009, poultry, beef cattle, dairy and swine accounted for nearly $5 billion of the agricultural value in Georgia. It is important to keep our animal producers informed of practices that are environmentally sound, climatically compatible and economically viable."

The goal of the USDA grant is to help livestock and poultry producers adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, especially as they face new weather patterns or regulations put in place to limit greenhouse gases.

He continued: "In the Southeast, we are more interested in how our animals will respond to water. As a region, the South is predominately poultry, so we will look heavily at the poultry industry and at what changes the industry may need to make and will focus on how to best equip producers to adapt to these changes."

Dr Risse is working with the Southeast Climate Consortium to identify climate projections that may affect animal agriculture. The consortium is predicting more weather extremes – including more droughts and more flooding in the Southeast. Rainfall is expected to remain the same annually but it will be delivered in more concentrated rainstorms. Temperature increases are not expected to be as great as those in other regions of the US.

Dr Risse, along with UGA Extension, will work with producers in Georgia and across the Southeast to develop strategies to help lower animal management's impacts on the climate.

He explained: "Roughly 10 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions nationally are due to agriculture production. But if we get to a point where greenhouse gases from poultry and livestock farms are being regulated, we need to have mitigation strategies in place to help producers reduce their emissions."

With manure management, harnessing the gases as fuel is often a more economical practice than releasing it into the atmosphere, according to Dr Risse.

He added: "You can use those gases on the farm as fuel instead of just letting them escape to the atmosphere."

This is the third in a series of grants on environmental issues and animal agriculture that the National Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center have addressed. Previous projects have focused on air and water quality. The other universities involved in the project are University of Nebraska, Washington State University, Texas A&M University, Cornell University and University of Minnesota.