Dairy research

New research will help scientists understand and improve dairy sustainability.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has awarded a $10 million grant in support of U.S. dairy’s Net Zero Initiative as a means of advancing the industry’s 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals.

The funding will support a 6-year project that will produce data to be shared by the dairy community to provide measurement-based assessments of dairy’s greenhouse gas footprint for feed production and set the stage for new market opportunities related to carbon, water quality and soil health.

The grant will be matched by contributions from Net Zero Initiative partners such as Nestle, the dairy industry, Newtrient and in-kind support for a total of $23.2 million. The funds will be managed by the Dairy Research Institute, which is staffed by Dairy Management Inc. to conduct research on behalf of the industry.

DMI scientists will serve as the project leads to address research gaps in feed production and manure-based fertilizers that, once filled, will enable new markets, incentives and investments in dairy sustainability.

“Addressing the U.S. dairy industry’s emissions is a critical solution to climate change,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR executive director.

“I know dairy farmers are working hard to decrease their environmental footprint, and I’m thrilled to support their efforts by advancing research needed to adopt climate-smart practices on dairy farms across the country,” she said.

Through foundational science, on-farm pilots and development of new product markets, the Net Zero Initiative aims to knock down barriers and create incentives for farmers that will lead to economic viability and positive environmental impact.

“After six years, we will have data that accurately reflect our farms’ greenhouse gas footprint for dairy crop rotations with consideration for soil health management practices and new manure-based products,” said Jim Wallace, senior vice president of environmental research for DMI.

“We expect to develop critical insights that link soil health outcomes, such as carbon sequestration, with practice and technology adoption. This will provide important background information to support the development of new carbon and water-quality markets,” he said.

The project will be executed across four dairy regions of the country in collaboration with the Soil Health Institute and leading dairy research institutions, including Cornell University, University of California-Davis, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, University of Vermont and USDA Agricultural Research Service Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research in Kimberly, Idaho.

Dozens of dairies representing the climates and soils of four major production regions will participate in a baseline survey of soil health and carbon storage.

Additionally, eight farms, including five dairies, two university research dairies and one USDA ARS research farm, will participate in the project.

The pilots will be used to engage farmers in soil health management practices and monitor changes in greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon storage, soil health and water quality.

For more information about dairy sustainability, visit www.usdairy.com/sustainability.

Recommended for you