LUBBOCK, Texas (NEWS RELEASE) — The following is a news release from Texas Tech University:
Farming and ranching in West Texas walk a very thin line in an effort to achieve sustainability. A combination of the semi-arid climate and scarcity of water presents a great challenge to agricultural producers throughout the region, and a slight deviation one way or the other often determines how profitable a growing season or herd can be.
The key for producers is to use as little of the limited natural resources as possible while still improving production. That task also is the focus of many agricultural research projects at companies and universities across the U.S., including those in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources at Texas Tech University.
Leading one of those research projects is Lindsey Slaughter, an assistant professor of soil microbial ecology and biochemistry in the Department of Plant and Soil Science (PSS). Her latest project, a collaboration with fellow researchers from Texas Tech and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Services (ARS), is an attempt to develop new management strategies for agricultural grasslands that can improve production and soil health, conserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Her project, “Harnessing soil health to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in semi-arid pasture ecosystems,” is a collaboration with PSS Thornton Distinguished Chair Charles West, assistant professor of soil physics Sanjit Deb and Veronica Acosta-Martinez, a soil scientist and microbiologist with the USDA-ARS Cropping Systems Research Lab.
The project is backed by a $500,000 grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service. Based on preliminary data, the group hopes to show, through greenhouse gas manipulation and field measurements, how nutrient and forage management controls how much enteric methane (CH4) is absorbed by the soil while improving soil health.
“One of the ways our results will immediately help producers is by showing whether planting both perennial grasses, such as old-world bluestem, and nitrogen-adding legumes, namely alfalfa and sweet clover, helps the soil to absorb methane better than planting only grasses that need nitrogen fertilizer to be productive and may even produce methane rather than absorb it,” Slaughter said. “This will help us show producers how what they plant in perennial grasslands can not only save water and reverse soil degradation, but also help soil microbes that shrink their climate footprint and make sure these systems can stay profitable long-term.”
Utilizing the Texas Tech’s Research Farm at New Deal, West has developed pasture systems that could help farmers adapt or transition to dryland farming in a semi-arid…