Alberta is leading the way on new solutions for carbon sequestration in rangeland grazing systems and for high-protein, low carbon footprint alternative crops for global markets.
Calgary – September 6, 2023 – Today, new investments in Alberta-led research were announced as part of the Genome Canada-led Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems initiative (CSAFS), that will reduce the carbon footprint of Canada’s food production systems by building their resiliency, environmental sustainability and economic growth potential.
Genome Alberta is proud to invest in these projects, together with regional partners, applying innovation to Alberta’s progress in lowering emissions while ensuring our agriculture sector has the tools to thrive in a carbon neutral economy.
“Alberta is looking for innovation to move our Province towards a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, and these projects represent significant potential for the agriculture sector to both lower emissions and expand market opportunities through application of genomics technology. Genome Alberta is pleased to invest in Alberta-made solutions for today and tomorrow.”
Dr. David Bailey, President and CEO, Genome Alberta
“RDAR is committed to advancing agriculture through genomics, and we foresee the projects announced today accelerating the adaption of crops to climate change and the drive to sustainable livestock production. RDAR’s investment of $2.45M in the Climate SMART Agriculture and Food Systems initiative builds on our previous investments in pea crop development and the province-wide campaign to adopt rotational grazing practices.
This work is essential as Alberta agriculture responds to climate change, builds a more resilient industry, serves new, environmentally conscious high-value markets, and returns greater profits to producers.”
Dr. Mark Redmond, CEO, Results Driven Agriculture Research
These exciting new projects, with total funding of over $13.1M, bring together experts from a broad range of scientific disciplines to work together on novel solutions including:
Climate Action through Grazing (CAT-G), led by experts at the University of Alberta and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
The agricultural sector, including livestock production, will play a crucial role in achieving Canada’s net-zero target for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Microbes in the soils of grassland and rangeland ecosystems drive carbon cycling and GHG emissions. By using intuitive grazing management practices, cattle can provide a natural approach to improve carbon sequestration in grasslands while also providing economic benefits to rural economies. This project will use genomic technologies to understand how grazing management practices can influence soil and fecal (cattle) microbiomes and identify indicators and drivers of increased carbon sequestration and reduced GHG emissions from soils, vegetation and cattle. Three key expected impacts are: 1) facilitating an additional 32.5 Mt CO2 eq. storage by using improved grazing practices, worth an estimated $5.5 billion, 2) training highly qualified personnel in applying multidisciplinary solutions to complex problems, and 3) increasing producer adoption of beneficial management practices and informing decisions related to the costs and benefits of alternative practices. Together, these impacts will help elevate Alberta and Canada to a global leadership position in sustainable grazing.
“The Alberta AgriSystems Living Lab (AALL) brings together multiple industry and public partners to work directly with beef cattle, crop and forage producers and support on-farm implementation of beneficial management practices (BMPs). Our partnership on this project provides an opportunity to demonstrate how genomic bio-indicators for sustainability and productivity can effectively translate to on-farm situations to support beneficial practice change.”
Brian Karisa, Director, Alberta AgriSystems Living Lab
PeaCE (pea climate-efficient): Developing climate-resilient, low carbon footprint field pea as a preferred rotation crop led by experts at the University of Calgary and the National Research Council Canada.
The global demand for food is expected to increase by 35–50 per cent by 2050. To meet this demand and alleviate strain on agriculture, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are increasingly applied to oilseeds and cereal crops to maximize yields. However, nitrogen fertilizer contributes to nitrous oxide emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG) that is approximately 300 times more potent at trapping heat than CO2. Increasing the acreage of nitrogen-fixing pulse crops will help reduce use of nitrogen fertilizer. Of these crops, field pea has the lowest carbon footprint, fixes a large amount of nitrogen and is exceptionally climate efficient. It can provide the same amount of protein as animal sources but with less than one per cent of the emissions. A mere doubling of pea crop acreage on the Canadian prairies could reduce CO2 emissions by 0.92 Mt CO2e/year. Despite these climate benefits, pea adoption by farmers has been limited, because pea is highly susceptible to root rot and drought. To address this, the project will use state-of-the-art genomic technologies to increase the quality, profitability and resilience of peas. Increased uptake of field peas in crop rotations will reduce nitrogen fertilizer use and can lead to 22-37 per cent reduction in GHG emissions while contributing to economic growth, jobs and exports.
“Corteva Agriscience is committed to climate smart cropping systems and we are thrilled to join the PeaCE research team and advance pea breeding through our phenotyping and analytics infrastructure.”
Sara Lira, Senior Research Scientist, Corteva Agriscience
Learn more about these projects at genomealberta.ca
These projects are part of a national suite of nine new Interdisciplinary Challenge Teams (ICTs) made up of researchers from across disciplines, to translate genomics research and innovation into sustainable solutions supporting Canadian producers and a resilient national food system and supply chains.
About Genome Alberta
Genome Alberta is working towards a better future through genomics innovation. Our mission is to promote and support genomics solutions to create value and investment opportunities through excellent science, technology and application development, collaborations, and partnerships. We work on priority areas in health, agriculture, environment & energy, and forestry, driving growth across sectors while helping to develop Alberta’s next generation of talented innovators.
For more information on Genome Alberta, please visit genomealberta.ca.