Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – New York agriculture has the capacity to mitigate its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, two Cornell University researchers say in a state-funded report commissioned by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. 

The 65-page report, New York Agriculture and Climate Change: Key Opportunities for Mitigation, Resilience, and Adaptation, provides a scientific assessment of opportunities and barriers supporting climate adaptation and mitigation practices on New York’s farms.

The report includes a table that ranks 13 mitigation opportunities based on the scale at which they could be implemented, and whether they met important criteria. The top five mitigation actions were: manure storage cover and flare, nitrogen management, livestock feed management, woodland management and activation of underutilized lands.

“This report provides a pathway for farmers, policymakers and citizens to increase productivity and the greenhouse gas mitigation of the land while also attempting to ensure a less variable climate for future farmers,” said Jenifer Wightman, a research associate in the Soil and Crop Sciences Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the report’s first author.

“In an industrialized state like New York, we need every sector to step up and make a contribution to mitigating climate change,” said co-author Peter Woodbury, senior research associate in the Soil and Crop Sciences Section. “There’s the opportunity to do that with agriculture and forestry while also getting other benefits” such as improved profitability and cleaner air and water, he said.

Though people mostly focus on carbon emissions, the authors said it’s important to account for three greenhouse gases produced on farms: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The report identified practices that remove GHGs more permanently from the atmosphere, as opposed to temporary fixes.

“Because climate change is a 100-, 300-, 1,000-year project,” Wightman said, “we want to make sure that we’re supporting projects that lead to permanent greenhouse gas emission reductions and aren’t just temporary.”

Wightman and Woodbury have also authored a companion report, “Sources and Sinks of Major Greenhouse Gases associated with New York State’s Natural and Working Lands: Forests, Farms, and Wetlands” (2020), commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

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