How can farmers reduce their fertilizer costs, maintain yields, reduce their environmental impacts, and take advantage of a new and emerging source of income? A project funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant is showing how.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a CIG grant in 2011 to the Delta Institute to develop an innovative opportunity for farmers to receive greenhouse gas emissions reductions payments from the voluntary implementation of more efficient nitrogen fertilizer management techniques.

The Delta Institute engaged a variety of partners in the project, including American Farmland Trust, Conservation Technology Information Center, Environmental Defense Fund and agricultural retailers.

Through the project, Delta Institute developed and field-tested a streamlined quantification technique, which measures the impacts of conservation on reducing nitrous oxide emissions. These conservation practices reduce nitrous oxide emissions through more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizers.  Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas released as part of the nitrogen cycle.

The project utilizes an American Carbon Registry quantification methodology that was developed by Michigan State University and the Electric Power Research Institute. Credits quantified using this methodology and verified by a third party can then be sold through voluntary carbon markets.

The project culminated this past Wednesday with an announcement of the first credit transaction generated by the project. Farmers are implementing nutrient management practices and reducing atmospheric emissions while maintaining yields.

The Delta Institute has quantified the emission reductions, a third party will verify the credits, and listed credits will be registered by the American Carbon Registry. The Climate Trust, based in Portland, Ore. will purchase and retire the credits.

Profits from the credit sales will be returned to the farmer, marking the first-of-its-kind credit transaction to reduce agricultural nitrous oxide emissions. The effort focuses on corn farmers in the North Central Region, spanning twelve states from Ohio to the Dakotas.

Through this CIG partnership, the Delta Institute and its partners have demonstrated that environmental stewardship can produce measurable environmental benefits and serve as a national model for how the power of market incentives can bring economic returns to farmers while building a healthier environment.

Source: Jason Weller, Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service