Recent research has shown that the carbon footprint (CF) of milk produced on Irish dairy farms is approximately 1.23 kg CO2eq. per litre of fat and protein corrected milk. The objective is evaluate the feasibility of a Low Carbon (LC) System of milk production where emissions per litre of FPCM are substantially lowered, while maintaining current levels of milk output per ha and profitability.
Two dairy systems were established at Solohead Research Farm (52° 51' N; 08° 21' W) in January 2017 and will run for three years: LC and control and each system with an overall farm stocking density of 2.5 cows per ha. The entire herd of 130 spring-calving cows at Solohead was divided into seven main groups on the basis of lactation number. The cows with the highest economic breeding index (EBI) in each group were selected for the LC herd of 24 cows. The remainder of the herd was then divided into seven main groups as above and then sub-divided into sub-groups of four on the basis of calving date. From within each subgroup, one cow was randomly assigned to the control with the same number of cows per lactation group as the LC herd.
Annual fertilizer N input was be 150 kg/ha on the LC system, which also relies on biologically fixed N in association with white clover in the sward, and 280 kg/ha on the control system, which is the maximum allowed under nitrates directive regulations at this stocking density. Fertilizer N was applied in the form of NBPT treated urea to the LC in February, March and August and September, and as urea between February and April and as calcium ammonium nitrate from May to September to the Control. Slurry produced during housing was applied back in equal volumes to both systems using a trailing shoe for LC and a downward facing splash-plate for control (which represents current common practice on farms).
To date milk production on the LC system was 6076 L per cow or 517 kg of milk fat and protein (MS) compared with the control; 5704 L per cow or 471 kg MS. The LC system has given higher output with lower inputs. Field measurements of N2O emissions from both systems are ongoing. The CF of both systems will be determined using life cycle assessment in due course. A PhD student was recruited for this project in June but resigned in November.
“You cannot grow soybean in Scotland”, was the advice recieved by Scottish researchers. Without evidence to support the conclusion, and like TRUE researchers we engaged optimistic seed suppliers to acquire the most suitable genotype. Driven by our interest in elite-rhizobia and -arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) inoculum, we established a plot scale trial using cv. ES Comandor.
Prior to sowing, the untreated (no fungicide) seeds were infected with one of three different Bradyrhizobia inocula. Additional treatments included an AMF inoculum with each bradyrhizobia treatment. Normally AMF inoculum is only available for delivery on small horticultural scales. However, recent advances with PlantWorks Ltd., have enabled production of AMF inoculum at large arable scales. Control treatments included ‘no inoculum’ and ‘AMF only’ seed treatments.
The video associated with this article shows the experimental plots. The pale green and less dense ‘no inoculum’ and ‘AMF only” seed treatments are clearly visible as distinct from the darker green and larger plants of the ‘bradyrhizobia only’ and ‘bradyrhizobia plus AMF’ seed treatments. At the end of the video a graph is shown detailing the summarised dry matter yield data, which were obtained from harvested as whole crop forage (WCF). The potential per hectare dry matter yields are estimated as 8.1 and at 11 t ha-1 for the ‘bradyrhizobia only’ and ‘bradyrhizobia plus AMF’ treatments, respectively. These are standardised dry matter yields for a plant density of 72 plants m2.
The promising ‘Bradyrhizobia plus AMF’ yield was achieved despite sowing late (mid-May), and on the Scottish north east coast at the Hutton’s Balruddery Farm. The yield is currently being analysed to assess its value as an animal feed. Assessments will also extend to estimates of biological nitrogen fixation (nitrogen obtained by the plants from air), and the diversity of the Bradyrhizobia isolated from root nodules. It was curious that untreated control plants were also nodulated, though the nodules were smaller and fewer in number.
Future trials plan for earlier sowing, and with an intercrop of wheat to try and maximise WFC feed values.
Georgia Ntatsi (Agricultural University of Athens, TRUE WP2 Leader and member of EUROLEGUMES):
"The idea to come here is to show people how we can use the knowledge gained from EUROLEGUMES in the new project TRUE. This was my main aim, because in this project we managed to have a lot of scientific activities that gained a lot of knowledge and fruitful results and with this rotationship we can now transfer it to the new project. One thing that we missed in EUROLEGUMES and that we will find in TRUE is the data management. The creation of a database with all the knowledge gained from the previous projects and the new that will come from our case studies will be a specific added value in our new project."
Marta Vasconselos (Catholic University of Portugal, TRUE deputy coordinator and WP3 leader):
"This was a really good opportunity for us to confirm the status quo, the state of the art from what has been done in legume research in Europe. It was a good confirmation, that TRUE is very well set up whithin a framework of previous projects and it is well set up to now spring forward in terms of knowledge and impact on the optimisation of the legume utilisation and cultivation in Europe. I am more and more confident of how our project will be a success now that we have established such a good collaboration with previous project leaders and researchers that have done very good things, so - GO TRUE!"
Henrik Maaß (University of Hohenheim, Research Center for Global Food Security and Ecosystems, TRUE WP1 deputy leader)
"It was really interesting to see all te activities and get to know the people behind. For us and for our project it may help a lot, because we also saw what is missing to increase the legume production and consumption in Europe. Some of these ideas will be involved in TRUE as well. I missed a little bit the discussion about policies. That will be included in TRUE much more. We will have a special work package on policies and also one on markets, so we will have some other focusses, but will develope TRUE based on the results presented here."
UHOH and UCP Researchers give an interview about their role in the TRUE project and explain the legume trails on the agricultural experimental site "Kleinhohenheim".
The TRUE project officially launched on April 19, 2017 in Edinburgh with the convening of the 1st General Assembly. All 24 partners from 11 countries gathered for three days of intensive exchanges, discussions and presentations on the various work packages and planning of the TRUE project. The three main objectives of the Kick-Off meeting were to: 1) for all partners to be better acquainted with one another as well as their research capacities; 2) to understand the principles of transdisciplinary research and its application for stakeholder engagement; and 3) establish a robust data management plan. All partners left the meeting with new energy to move forward with their respective project activities. Stay tuned for more project updates from TRUE partners.
Author: James Humphreys, Teagasc, AGRIP, Moorepark, Fermoy Co. Cork, Ireland P61 C996.
Authors: Euan K. James1, Marta Maluk1, Marcel Lafos1, Marta Barros1,2, Bruce Knight3, Robert Patten4,
Roger Vickers5, Marta Vasconselos6,
1Agroecology, James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA. 2Centre for Biotechnology & Fine Chemistry, Catholic University of Portugal-Porto. 3Bruce Knight, MD Legume Technology Ltd. 4Robert Patten, CEO PlantWorks Ltd. 5Roger Vickers & Becky Howard, Processors, Growers and Research Organisation. 6Escola Superior de Biotecnologia da Universidade Católica Portuguesa
Acknowledgements: For supplying seed we thank Kevin Jordan of Grainseed Ltd, UK. The James Hutton Institute is supported by the Scottish Government. The research reported here is also supported by TRUE funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement 727973.
TRansition paths to sUstainable legume-based systems in Europe (TRUE) has received funding from the
European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 727973