Background - the main greenhouse gases in agriculture
The three major greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Agricultural practices can also create carbon dioxide sinks and store carbon. On a national scale, agriculture currently contributes about 8% (60Mt CO2 eq.) of our total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Environment Canada’s 2015 National Inventory Report. Both cropland and livestock generate all three gases in varying amounts, depending on operation type, production environment (e.g. soil type, climate, weather) and management practices. Cropland agriculture contributes 40% and livestock agriculture about 60% of the total agriculture-related emissions in Canada. In Manitoba, the relative contribution from each sector is similar at 49% and 51% of total agriculture emissions (6.7 Mt CO2 eq.) for livestock and cropland, respectively.
Like throwing money into the air - Greenhouse gas losses from agriculture equate to money lost. Enteric methane is energy that could have been converted to milk or muscle in cattle. Nitrous oxide is the loss of nitrogen originating from soils, manures, and fertilizers, making it no longer available for plant uptake. Nitrogen is an essential protein building block in plants and animals, and photosynthesis would not be possible without it. Feed and fertilizer are two of the biggest input costs in agriculture. Management practices that retain feed for animal energy and nitrogen as fertilizer for plant uptake, rather than expelling them as methane or nitrous oxide equates to money spent on increased productivity rather than contributing to climate change. In addition, loss of soil carbon increases atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which causes global warming, and reduces the fertility, soil water holding ability, and health of the soil.
Key Messages from Research
Beef Cattle Systems
Resources for producers - Beneficial Management Practices Factsheets
Land and crop rotation management
Nitrogen fertilizer management
Cattle production management
Resources for Student Educators
Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Research Publications
Funding for this research was provided in part by the Government of Canada through the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
AGGP 1 - Project Duration: 2011-2016.
Quick link to GHG BMP Factsheets:
AGGP 2 - Project Duration: 2016 - 2021