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Sound Agriculture and Shell collaborate on nitrogen emissions study 

New program incentivizes growers to reduce nitrogen and measure environmental impact.

Sound Agriculture and Shell New Energies US (Shell) have collaborated to launch a feasibility study to measure the economic and environmental impact of reducing agriculture-related nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. The program will help drive greater adoption of climate-smart practices and to identify opportunities to scale greenhouse gas (GHG) avoidance and related carbon credit potential, say company officials.

Human-caused N2O emissions have increased 30% in the past 40 years, with fertilizer playing a major role. If the trend continues, it could impede the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, according to the Global Carbon Project’s N2O impact assessment. While the use of cover crops and reduced tillage has increased, nitrogen reduction practices, such as reducing fertilizer use, have not been widely adopted. This is due to the economic risk associated with yield loss and the lack of data around carbon impact, say company officials. Yet, 30% to 40% of applied nitrogen results in volatilization in the form of  N2O, which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. At the same time, fertilizer prices have increased 100% to 300% over the past year, so finding viable alternatives can benefit a grower’s bottom line, say company officials.

Growers involved in the pilot will leverage Sound Agriculture’s Performance Optimizer, an online tool that uses yield targets, nitrogen application rates, and soil data to identify where SOURCE, the company’s microbiome activator, will work best in combination with nitrogen reduction. The company will remove risk by underwriting yield loss, and their agronomists will provide technical assistance throughout the season. Shell will support the project through funding and technical expertise to improve N2O field sample monitoring and validation.

Trimble and Viresco Solutions have joined them to support program design, data aggregation and validation to help quantify the crediting potential under different methodologies.

3 Million Acres  

The program has the potential to enroll 3 million acres of farmland over the next several years, reducing up to 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2027, say company officials. The initiative aligns with the growing momentum for climate-friendly practices as demonstrated by the USDA’s recently announced Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. This program offers $1 billion in funding for climate-smart production practices, activities and systems.  

“We are always looking to impart farming practices that support sustainability, but they need to be financially feasible or our farm may be less competitive in the marketplace,” said Chase Larson, general manager, Bestifor Farms in Kansas, in a news release. “Reducing emissions is important, but until now, it’s been unclear if a change, such as reducing nitrogen-based fertilizers, would allow us to break even. By removing the financial risk, I’m eager to participate in the study and hopeful of the outcome.”  

“This program was designed to incentivize growers to use nitrogen more efficiently in an effort to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but also in a way that does not harm their bottom line,” said Adam Litle, CEO, Sound Agriculture, in a news release. “At the same time, we want to identify ways to drive greater adoption of nitrogen reduction programs moving forward. We have the right team involved to make that happen, and I’m looking forward to what we learn from the 2022 season.”

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