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Solutions to climate change in agriculture

The overall aim of the research group is to find agricultural solutions to reduce our negative impact on ongoing climate change. 

To contribute to this aim, we have the following sub-goals:

  • Increase the use of biodiesel and other fossil-free energy sources in agriculture
  • Increase the use of cover crops for carbon capturing and reduced nutrient run-off
  • Increased agrobiodiversity, including cultivation of new crops
  • Precision technology benefiting the environment
  • Information share and education

Biodiesel and other fossil-free energy sources

As an illustration of the potential: If half of agriculture's energy consumption from year 2021 to 2030 is biodiesel, and 25 percent is electric from 2021-2030, it will represent a cut of 2.5 million tonnes of CO2. We are involved in a national project coordinated by RURALIS, testing biodiesel in full scale use in different tractors over a twelve-month period. Practical driving with the second-generation HVO synthetic biodiesel was carried out on farms and at Blæstad. Among farmers’, there was a scepticism to biofuels before the motors were guaranteed for such use. Throughout the research period, no problem with the use of biodiesel was detected. A few disruptions were reported but these could not be associated with the biofuel. Overall, the feedback from the use of biodiesel have been positive.

Cover crops: species and technology

Cover crops have several benefits. Some plants can grow together with cereals and continue to growth after the harvesting the grains, thus contribute to increased carbon capture and reduced leaching of nitrate or loss of topsoil. Alternatively, plants can be sown right after threshing and if the season allows, fill the same function. To illustrate the potential; If cover crops are used on half of the Norwegian cereal producing area from the year 2021 to 2030, this has the potential to bind more than 1 million tonnes of CO2 equiv. There are many challenges associated with the use and effects of cover crops. We investigate different species and machines.

Agrobiodiversity: conservation and use

The Norwegian Government has stated in that a reduction of meat consumption with subsequent reduction in production is the most important climate measure for the agricultural sector (NOU 41, 2017). There is also a significant trend in the population for more vegetarian food. For Norwegian agriculture, it is important to test new food crops, other than the ones we have traditionally grown – and is used as animal feed. These include grain legumes, such as new types of peas and beans, new vegetables, and new varieties of cereals. But a sustainable animal production is also a way forward. Globally, loss of agrobiodiversity is an urgent issue and we like to take part in ongoing actions for conservation and use of agrobiodiversity, not only in Norway, but also in countries we trade and cooperate with.

Precision Farming

We are involved in technology development and testing – from agronomy to fine-tuning the instruments. The work is largely done through student-based activities carried out in close collaboration with companies as part of a pedagogic idea of Blæstad. We focus on technologies that can be useful to reduce our negative impact on the environment, like precision fertilization.

Information share, education and scientific discussions

The research group has competence on political and methodological issues related to the release of climate gases. Thomas Cottis is taking part in a governmental panel (Teknisk beregningsutvalg for jordbrukets utslipp av klimagasser). In 2018, he was involved in the negotiations between the farmers unions and the Norwegian State and is steadily active in the debate on climate issues and agriculture.

Project examples:

Collaborators

National

  • NIBIO - Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research
  • CICERO - Center for International Climate Research
  • RURALIS - Institute for Rural and Regional Research
  • NMBU and Graminor
  • Farmers unions (Bondelaget og Bonde- og småbrukarlaget)
  • Extension service (Norsk Landbruksrådgivning)
  • Selected companies

International

  • Nordic Genetic Resource Center
  • Bioversity International