Program rewards farmers for cutting nitrogen fertilizer use
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WASHINGTON, June 25, 2014 - Myron Ortner is the first farmer to claim a reward under the Delta Nitrogen Credit Program for reducing fertilizer use on his 40-acre cornfield in Reese, Michigan.
Ortner learned about the project through Michigan State University where the research has been going on for more than three years. He said he would possibly use the same procedure on his other fields in the future.
“I wanted an accurate picture of what was happening on my farm, and now we've got good scientific data established,” said Ortner. “It's been a good learning experience. I've committed one of my fields to this project, and I want to be part of the program for a while.”
Under the program, developed in a collaboration between the Delta Institute (DI) and The Climate Trust, farmers agree to voluntarily reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied to their corn fields without cutting yield, using formulas developed by MSU. Farmers receive credits for the reduction.
Delta Institute then plays the role of project developer and sells the nitrogen credits to participating companies, with the proceeds passed on to farmers.
Nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas with approximately 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, originates from the breakdown of excess agricultural fertilizer in the soil. The 2014 National Climate Assessment says the agriculture sector accounts for most of the atmospheric rise in nitrous oxide, mostly from the disproportionate use of nitrogen fertilizer.
Delta Institute CEO Jean Pogge said DI was pleased to partner with the Climate Trust in the project. “This program works because it combines the latest agricultural research with market forces to provide an incentive for farmers to reduce environmental impacts,” Pogge said.
The program began in February and is now enrolling corn farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The program was funded by a USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation grant.
Matt Harrison manages the program for Delta Institute. He said he hopes to see the program expand in the next planting season. Harrison said DI is not disclosing how many farmers are enrolled or how much they receive from credits at this time.
“We are really hoping to see a vibrant market take hold that delivers an impact on soil and air quality, but that shows the innovation and leadership of farmers on the ground,” Harrison said.
Sean Penrith, Climate Trust executive director, said the collaboration will be able to provide a new source of income for farmers and tap into the “huge potential” of the carbon credit sector.
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