AG2PI Field Day #26 - April 19, 2023

CENSA - A Circular Economy Approach for Reducing Nitrogen Use Inefficiencies in Integrated Livestock Production Systems

April 19, 2023 @ 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM (US Central Time)
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April 19, 2023
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
(US Central Time)


Describe a vision for more sustainable integrated crop and livestock production systems.


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American farmers and ranchers produce food and energy that powers the world. Although today's agricultural production systems produce high-quality protein from nitrogen compounds at a low cost, the process is grossly inefficient. About 87% of the nitrogen compounds produced by legumes or synthetic processes are lost before it reaches the consumer as protein. These inefficiencies have massive cost, security risks, and environmental impacts. However, we now have the tools and expertise in agriculture to use circular nitrogen economies in croplands and livestock management and shift the use of the nitrogen currently being applied as synthetic fertilizers to specially designed animal nitrogen diets. Over time, this should reduce environmental impact, dramatically reduce nitrogen fertilizer demand, and break the strong linkages between agricultural production and volatile energy markets.

Today we talk about how: Crops (like corn) can be genetically optimized for spring growth, for high starch to low protein ratios, and remobilization of nitrogen to the soil, which together facilitates in field recycling of nitrogen and more effective rotations and healthier soils. Livestock nutrition systems are optimized for the increased use of methane inhibitors, synthetic nitrogen compounds and reduced plant-supplied protein through improved genetics, microbiomes, and management. The goal of CENSA is to focus this approach specifically on reducing nitrogen use, improving nitrogen use efficiencies, improving feed efficiency and protein nutrition in livestock, and higher quality end protein products for consumers.


Dr. Edward S. Buckler

Edward S. Buckler is a Research Geneticist at the USDA-ARS and an Adjunct Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University. He is recognized as a leader in the integration of quantitative and statistical genetics with genomic approaches, applying these tools to maize and other crops.

Dr. Mark Boggess

Mark Boggess grew up on a farm in rural Iowa and attended Iowa State University where he received his B.S. (Animal Science) and Ph.D. (Animal Breeding) degrees. He is currently the Director of the US Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska.

Chat Questions

What data do we need to enable the modeling you mention that we don't currently have or aren't accessible?
Dr. Edward S. Buckler

Answer / Follow up (from audience): What about equilibrium models? in the US, EPA look at partial and general equilibrium models to understand the direct and indirect land use changes, secondary effects?
Dr. Buckler: I totally agree the economic modeling is really important and not done yet (not my area so sorry can't address the specifics of EPA models). Been talking with groups in Uruguay - where Ag is responsible for 60-70% of GHG, and they would love to work together on these models.
Follow up: I would be interested in learning more about how to inform these dynamic models with respect to alternative cropping systems.

Are we currently collecting the needed data to be able to breed for Nitrogen, etc?
Dr. Edward S. Buckler

Answer / Follow up: I also believe that the breeding system adopted since the green revolution is for high input/management crops. So directed evolution would suggest that we need to breed in limited N environments to increase NUE.

On the topic of introducing perennial traits - do you have an opinion on how we should integrate? John Innes Center recently published on SIG5 allele for cold coping, would gene-editing be the desired tool?
Dr. Edward S. Buckler

We have been talking with producers and industry throughout the development, as acceptance and deployment has been key in all design principles. An annual with perennial characters was seen as much more likely to be accepted.

What is a cultured protein?

Answer (from audience): cell-cultured meat, etc.

What is the logic of burning? I'm not familiar with this.

Answer (from audience): To get rid of it. We do tillage here to get rid of it.