Wightman, Jeni (Cornell University, 905a Bradfield, Ithaca, NY, 14850; Phone: 607-255-4230; Fax: 607-255-3207; Email: jw93@cornell.edu)

On-Farm Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in New York State


J. Wightman *, T. Wise, S. Vergara, A. Buttel, J. Gaunt, J. Duxbury


New York State contributes nearly 1% of global total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The majority of greenhouse gas emissions from New York State come from transportation (34%), heating (27%), and electricity use (23%) (www.ccap.org/NYGHG.htm). New York State has set goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 5% in 2010 and 10% in 2020. New York has also committed to increase the proportion of electricity generated from renewable sources from 17.5% to 25% by 2013.


In an effort to identify ways for agriculture to mitigate its own greenhouse gas emissions, we examined i) the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for the 700,000 milking dairy herd plus young replacement stock in New York State using predominantly 1997 data and ii) the opportunity to use biomass for fossil fuel substitution on underutilized farm lands.


While dairy is the dominant agricultural activity in New York State, our calculation of 6.5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents from the New York dairy industry accounts for ~2.7% of the state total annual emissions. Strategies such as improving nitrogen and manure management are available to reduce emissions on farm. However, the impact of these strategies at the state level would be negligible given the low level of total emissions.


We estimate that farmers could manage their woodlots (1,649,585 ac) harvesting cord/ac/yr for timber stand improvements to be used as wood fuel thus displacing ~0.5% of the state GHG emissions. Additionally, improved management of idle, abandoned and Conservation Reserve Program land (~700,000 ac, www.nass.usda.gov) to produce grasses for energy would displace another ~1.0% of the state GHG emissions. In total the offset would be a third of the New York state 2010 goal while supplying a renewable energy resource. There is further potential from other non-farm New York lands that could be used to displace fossil fuel energy by the production of solid bio-fuels but are not included in this study.


Our conclusion is that solid biofuel production (grasses and sustainable forest management using existing infrastructure) with low input requirements and ability to utilize lands not suitable for cash crops appears to be most energetically intelligent choice for New York State farmers. Farming for fuels will displace fossil fuel emissions in other sectors and thereby make a significant contribution to the New York State goals for reducing GHG emissions.