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CSU scientist leads half of USDA update to methods for measuring greenhouse gas

Original article by Jayme DeLoss can be found here in CSU Source.

Photo: Kai Pilger on Pixabay

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released updated methods to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners estimate greenhouse gas emissions on their land. Three of the federal report’s six chapters were authored by Colorado State University scientist Stephen Ogle, one of the world’s top experts in greenhouse gas inventories.  

The report provides the best available science-based methods for estimating greenhouse gas emissions from land management decisions, updating a 2014 USDA report. Methods outlined in the report will be used to evaluate government conservation and climate-smart agriculture programs that encourage practices such as soil carbon sequestration.  

“We, as a group of authors, pulled the latest science and best information that’s available into these methods so that farmers will have a good tool for estimation and to know the benefit of what they’re doing on their farms,” said Ogle, lead technical compiler for the national greenhouse gas inventory and professor of ecosystem science and sustainability in the Warner College of Natural Resources. 

Landowners can use these methods to gauge potential benefits from land management changes. The methods are incorporated into COMET-Farm, an online tool developed by CSU and USDA that farmers and ranchers can use to estimate soil carbon changes and greenhouse gas emissions on their land based on various management practices. 

“With growing importance of reducing emissions in agriculture through the new climate-smart agriculture program that’s been funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, this tool is likely going to be very important for farmers to estimate the benefit and for reporting,” Ogle said. “The $19.5 billion climate-smart ag program is a significant investment by the U.S. government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural systems, and these methods are pivotal in that policy.” 

Ogle added that the new report includes details on how to implement quantification methods that haven’t been released in previous reports. 

Ogle served as lead author for the croplands and grazing land systems, managed wetland systems and land-use change chapters and co-authored a fourth chapter, uncertainty quantification, with CSU Professor Emeritus Jay Breidt, who is now at the University of Chicago. Shawn Archibeque, professor of animal sciences, and Crystal Toureene, an agronomist and researcher in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, co-authored the animal production systems chapter. 

The 2024 update is the result of four years of work by a team of more than 60 authors, including USDA scientists, university researchers and experts from non-governmental organizations and research institutions, who have developed consistent metrics for estimating changes in greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration for farm, ranch and forest operations. The updates to the report were reviewed by more than two dozen scientists, other federal agencies, the public and a panel of interdisciplinary experts. 

“USDA’s updated greenhouse gas methods report represents a critical scientific consensus which ensures confidence in the benefits from climate-smart agriculture and forestry,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA press release. “This report will help guide conservation efforts, improve our greenhouse gas estimation on U.S. farms, and support markets for carbon and climate-smart products nationwide.” 

Read the report, Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity Scale Inventory

Partly adapted from a USDA press release.