New reports highlight opportunities in agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10 percent

Contact: Risikat Adesaogun, 651-757-2056

Two new reports released from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) highlight agricultural conservation practices that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota, while also protecting water quality and soil health.

MPCA’s technical report, Greenhouse Gas Reduction Potential of Agricultural Best Management Practices, estimates the impact of 21 different agricultural conservation practices. The most beneficial practices are those that get more perennial vegetation on the land, including hedgerows, shelterbelts, buffers, grass waterways, and filter strips. Practices such as reduced tillage, nutrient management, and cover crops can be effective strategies for existing cropland. Scientists say that though emission reductions per acre are small, implementing best management practices across the 20 million acres of Minnesota cropland could reduce overall agriculture emissions by up to 10 percent— the air pollution equivalent of taking thousands of cars off the road.  

BWSR’s report, Climate Change Trends and Action Plan, examined the impact of state-funded conservation programs and practices on private lands, which make up approximately 75 percent of Minnesota’s land area. In the report, BWSR scientists identified the greenhouse gas emission reductions provided through agricultural conservation practices, retirement of marginal agricultural lands, and wetland conservation and restoration. Recently implemented conservation measures are already making a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Combined, BWSR programs have helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 600,000 tons of CO2, or 2.2% of estimated emissions from cropland in Minnesota.

Through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP), farmers across the state have implemented nearly 1,700 new conservation practices. On average, each practice reduces 21 tons of carbon emissions each year. That means Minnesota farmers are keeping over 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere.

Both reports were highlighted at an Oct. 17 event at Twin Oaks Farm in Northfield. Landowner Mike Peterson hosted staff from BWSR, MPCA, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Rice Soil and Water Conservation District, showing how he’s implemented strip-till and cover crops, both of which improve soil health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The event included a soil health demonstration and a field site visit to view cover crops and strip-tilling machinery.