Nitrous Oxide Emissions From Cow Pastures May be Lower Than Expected

While it is claimed a lot of climate-damaging nitrous oxide comes from agriculture, grazing cows have been found to emit less environmentally harmful nitrous oxide than previously thought, according to a study from Swiss agricultural research centre Agroscope.

Agroscope researchers have now been able to show that grazing cows cause much less of this greenhouse gas than previously thought.

Agriculture is responsible for about two-thirds of the nitrous oxide emissions in Switzerland. The problem with this is that the climate-warming effect of nitrous oxide is around 265 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

Agroscope researchers wanted to find out more about this and have researched the nitrous oxide emissions from cow pastures.

It turned out that nitrous oxide emissions depend very much on the local conditions: on the soil and on the humidity.

There were fewer emissions in dry years than in wet ones. Overall, emissions from grazing cows are significantly lower than previously thought, accounting for only about 5% of agricultural nitrous oxide emissions.

The results may lend support to farmers who argue the proposed agricultural emissions tax schemes scheme, farmers would have to pay for gas emissions from their animals.

In a world first, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently said the government there could begin taxing agricultural emissions by 2025. New Zealand is the world’s largest dairy exporter and is home to about six million cows as well as 26 million sheep.

Farmers there have rejected the proposed tax warning it will make food more costly and could put thousands of rural livelihoods at risk.

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