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Biochar, Climate Change, and Greenhouse Gases

Pyrolysis and Bio-char

Biomass versus biochar

Biomass pyrolysis involves burning crop or woody materials in a low-oxygen chamber. The pyrolysis process uses crop residues and woody materials to generate liquids and gases that can be used as energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels. It also produces biochar, a stabilized charcoal-like biomass material that can improve soil quality and crop growth. Program efforts have a global scope and focus on the benefits of biochar for enhancing soil chemical, physical and biological quality, and the use of various biomass source materials in small scale (cooking stoves in Africa) and large scale commercial applications.

Faculty leaders: Lehmann, Solomon, Thies.

Nitrogen, Carbon and Water Management

Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, but can also play a leading role in reducing such gases in the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide losses from fertilizer and manure applications on agricultural land are the largest source of greenhouse gases from agricultural systems. Research and extension efforts focus on increasing nitrogen use efficiency and reducing nitrous oxide losses through improved soil and crop management practices, and the use of computational tools that account for local management practices and weather events.

Soils are the largest pool of carbon in the terrestrial environment, and are also an important buffer in the hydrologic cycle. Agricultural and forestry practices can enhance carbon storage (sequestration) and water conservation, and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Research and extension efforts focus on assessment methods for field and landscape-scale carbon storage using geospatial and spectroscopy methods, and quantifying the effects of soil and crop management practices – reduced tillage, rotations, etc. – on carbon dynamics, soil health, and climate change adaptation.

Organic matter in soil. H. van Es

Faculty leaders: DeGloria, Duxbury, Hobbs, Lauren, Melkonian, van Es, Wolfe, Woodbury.

Field to National Scale Systems Modeling

Comprehensive analyses of greenhouse gas emissions and bioenergy options can be performed with a variety of modeling approaches to integrate different kinds of experimental, survey, and remote sensing data at field, farm, landscape, state, regional, and national scales. Research efforts focus on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in crop and animal agriculture and bioenergy systems. Spatially-explicit analyses with soil and remote sensing data are conducted of current and potential agricultural and forest land uses to quantify the land base that could support bioenergy feedstock production from farm to regional scales. Effects of bioenergy feedstock production on soil, air, and water quality and greenhouse gas emissions are also analyzed at farm to watershed scales.

Faculty Leaders: DeGloria, Duxbury, Melkonian, Woodbury.

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