RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the non-profit charged with safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, has been selected as the soil science research partner for Dairy Soil & Water Regeneration, an essential project to advance the work of the U.S. dairy Net Zero Initiative (NZI).
In support of the NZI, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) has awarded a $10 million grant as the on-farm pathway to advance the industrywide 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals set by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.
The funding will support a six-year project – “Dairy Soil & Water Regeneration: building soil health to reduce greenhouse gases, improve water quality and enable new economic benefits” – that will produce data to be broadly shared among the dairy community to:
- Provide measurement-based assessments of dairy’s greenhouse gas footprint for feed production
- Set the stage for new market opportunities related to carbon, water quality, and soil health
The FFAR grant will be matched by financial contributions from NZI partners such as Nestlé, the dairy industry, including Newtrient, and in-kind support for a total of $23.2 million. The funds will be managed by the Dairy Research Institute (DRI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity founded and staffed by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) to conduct vital research on behalf of the industry. SHI will work alongside DMI scientists 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 FFAR Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “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.”
Through foundational science, on-farm pilots, and development of new product markets, NZI 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 Dr. 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.”
Specifically, SHI will be responsible for:
- Providing the design, implementation, and technical expertise, from plot to national scales, for measuring soil health, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil carbon storage.
- Quantifying the role of new manure products and soil health systems for reducing the greenhouse gas footprint of dairy feed production.
“Through the adoption of soil health systems, research has shown many on-farm and environmental benefits,” said Dr. Cristine Morgan, Chief Scientific Officer at the Soil Health Institute, ”We’re excited to apply these learnings to a dairy context and validate, beyond a proof of concept, real-world outcomes of adopting soil health management and novel manure products on soil health, water quality, and greenhouse gases that have a positive impact for the planet.”
The project will be executed across four dairy regions responsible for about 80 percent of U.S. milk production: Northeast, Lakes, Mountain, and Pacific. It entails a collaboration of NZI, the Soil Health Institute, and leading dairy research institutions, including: Cornell University, University of California at Davis, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, University of Vermont, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research in Kimberly, Idaho.
Dozens of dairies representing climates and soils of these major production regions will participate in a baseline survey of soil health and carbon storage. Additionally, eight farms, including five operating dairies, two university research dairies, and one USDA ARS research farm, will participate in the project. These 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.
FFAR builds public-private partnerships to support bold science that fills critical research gaps. Working with partners across the private and public sectors, FFAR identifies urgent challenges facing the food and agriculture industry and funds research to develop solutions.
NZI is an industry-wide effort led by six national dairy organizations: DMI, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, International Dairy Foods Association, Newtrient, National Milk Producers Federation, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. This collaboration represents a critical pathway on U.S. dairy’s sustainability journey.
Ultimately, NZI hopes to support the industry to advance toward its collective goals, realize untapped value to support economic viability, and enable other industries and communities to be more sustainable.
For more information about dairy sustainability, visit www.usdairy.com/sustainability
–Soil Health Institute
For more articles concerning the dairy industry, click here.