History and vast grasslands are well-known features of the United States’ Great Plains. Ranchers grazing cattle over the plains are associated with this location, which is also a key resource for the region’s expanding population.
That work is still going on today. Still, vast swaths of grassland serve as home to a variety of animals, chief among them cattle. Grasslands may not even be ideal for producing grains or vegetables, but they can help feed humans by providing food for livestock. Like all types of farming, grazing on prairies has an effect on the environment. Keeping food production under check while also safeguarding the environment is a top priority for a growing number of stakeholders, including scientists, farmers, ranchers, and everyday consumers.
As Jean Steiner puts it, “increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere have a significant impact on global temperature.” In Oklahoma, Steiner was the director of the USDA’s grazing laboratory. What we do with agricultural land influences how much greenhouse gas is exchanged with the environment. ”
Steiner and her colleagues recently embarked on an investigation into the effects of grassland greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists can only expect to influence agriculture in a climate-friendly direction if they have this information.
It was published in the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America’s journal, Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment.
Steiner’s team analyzed four Oklahoma pastures as mentioned in the report. A total of three of the meadows were natural prairies. In one instance, a single species of Old World bluestem grass was planted in a meadow. Native grasslands, in contrast to cultivated fields, support a wider variety of wildlife and need less fertilizer.
In particular, researchers were interested in three key sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The most well-known of them is carbon dioxide. As a result, it’s critical to know how much of these gases are being released as well, because they trap heat even more effectively.
“In cattle grazing grasslands, these processes are poorly understood, which can lead to missed chances for system improvement. The importance of agroecosystems in the global climate change concerns is also misunderstood by consumers,” adds Steiner.
Carbon dioxide was discovered to be released by all of the locations in this hot, subhumid environment. When plants are growing, they take up this gas. However, the grasslands are net carbon dioxide emitters the remainder of the year. As the environment warms and dries out, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain a net intake of carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide and methane were the most significant contributors to site variation. Fertilizer-applied nitrous oxide was detected at all locations, although the concentrations were lowest in the non-native site because of the higher concentrations of nitrogen. It’s a big deal since nitrous oxide is three hundred times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
The methane footprints of the various grasslands differed as well. As Steiner points out, soil organisms at both the native and non-native locations received more methane from the atmosphere than the latter.
Grasslands can absorb part of the methane that cattle expel as they eat grass, which is a benefit. Grazing animals emit methane, which has to be mitigated in the future by large expanses of grasslands.
They are an important first step in understanding the climatic impacts of grazing agriculture, which is typically overlooked in favor of cropland agriculture. Fertilizer and nitrous oxide emissions, as well as species diversification in planted pastures, are two of the most common sources of greenhouse gas emissions that farmers might potentially reduce using these findings. The influence of land management on greenhouse gas emissions must be understood by farmers, according to Steiner. There must be a balance between environmental and economic concerns when it comes to fertilizer application in systems that are fertilized.