With a total of $5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the multi-disciplinary team, which includes researchers at Purdue University and Virginia Tech, is developing an integrated management tool for swine production based on a comprehensive analysis of the many processes that comprise swine production – from crops used for feed to various methods of managing waste.
“A primary purpose of this work is to evaluate and mitigate the environmental footprint of swine-production facilities,” said Greg Thoma, professor of chemical engineering. “What action can we take to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from these facilities without making processes more expensive for the farmer? So we want to understand this impact and then come up with something that will enable farmers to make informed decisions about changes to production, such as breeding, feeding, waste-management and other practices. To do this, we must understand the entire system – or full life cycle – of swine production in this country.”
In line with global efforts to make agricultural processes more sustainable and to address climate change, the overall goal of the project is to experimentally evaluate and develop technologies that mitigate greenhouse gas-emissions. These technologies will support the development of an accurate and robust life-cycle analysis that will serve as a model to demonstrate the environmental impact of various changes to production. For example, in a project spearheaded by Charles Maxwell, professor of animal science, the model will show how manipulating the diet of hogs will affect the amount and type of crops grown to feed the animals, as well as carbon emitted from the animals through burping and flatulence.
The model is flexible and allows for geographic customization. It will consider factors including weather patterns and annual rainfall, which affect decisions related to heating and cooling and the amount of manure that can be applied to land without affecting water quality.
An equally important goal is to make swine production cheaper and more efficient, so the project also will include a life-cycle cost analysis. Directed by Jennie Popp, professor of agricultural economics, this analysis will measure the economic impact of process changes. To use the example above, the amount or type of crops grown to feed animals may increase or reduce the hog farmer’s feed costs, not to mention the impact to the soybean or grain farmer, who, as Thoma emphasized, is a critical part of the life cycle of swine production. The cost-analysis model will demonstrate the effect of changes made to the system.
“The beauty of these models is that the algorithms behind them will show what will happen, both environmentally and economically, if a farmer decides to change the diet of his hogs – to substitute amino acids for vegetable proteins, for example,” Thoma said. “What impact will this have on emissions? Will it increase production? The models will provide these answers.”
The work includes an innovative project in which researchers – Marty Matlock and Tom Costello, professor and associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering, respectively – remove nitrogen and phosphorus from pig manure and then use these nutrients to grow algae as feedstock that can be converted into biofuel. Matlock will also manage research experiences for undergraduates to investigate how livestock production fits into the larger perspective of agricultural sustainability.
Each state – Arkansas, Indiana and Virginia – will have an extension component to communicate findings and benefits of the model and help producers apply the knowledge to make their operations more efficient and sustainable. Karl VanDevender, professor and extension engineer for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, leads coordination of extension education efforts. To learn more about what the UA Division of Agriculture will do to share the model with Arkansas producers, go to www.extension.org.
“Unlike most natural resources, agriculture is renewable,” Thoma said. “But current practices do not allow us to manage it as such. This is what we’re trying to accomplish, a system that is efficient, more productive and yet cheaper to produce, and less damaging to land, water and air.”
Funded over five years from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the project includes researchers from the University of Arkansas, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Purdue University, Virginia Tech and the private sector. As principal investigator, Thoma directs the overall project and also leads an interdisciplinary team at the University of Arkansas, which will receive approximately half of the total funding. The UA Division of Agriculture will receive $608,000, and the remainder will go to partner institutions.CONTACTS:
Matt McGowan | Newswise Science News
Microjet generator for highly viscous fluids
13.02.2018 | Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Sweet route to greater yields
08.02.2018 | Rothamsted Research
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
20.02.2018 | Life Sciences
20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering
20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy