The Federal Government’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan outlines a path for Canada to reach its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target and net-zero emissions by 2050. The agricultural sector, including livestock production, plays a crucial role in meeting this challenge. Grasslands that support livestock are able to sequester carbon through microbes in soil that drive carbon cycling and GHG emissions. Carbon sequestration in grassland soil presents a stable long-term carbon sink and enhancing this can be done through informed grazing practices. This project aims to store an additional 32.5 Mt of carbon within Canadian grasslands, worth an estimated $5.5B, with additional decreases in rangeland greenhouse gas emissions (soils and enteric methane). To achieve this, the team will use genomic technologies to understand how commonly imposed aspects of grazing management (rotational vs continuous grazing) differentially impact soil carbon sequestration and GHG emissions, mediated by changes in soil and fecal microbiomes. The project will develop effective management practices that lead to climate-smart outcomes, enhance models for farm-level GHG emissions, create tools that support producer management decisions, produce public policy tools to enhance adoption, and create standardized sampling protocols to quantify soil carbon sequestration and GHG.
The results from this project will have cross cutting impacts such as conservation of grasslands, natural spaces, and wetlands, and maintenance of the Canadian beef advantage; which includes animal health and environmental standards, efficient production practices, and responsible environmental stewardship. As the Canadian agriculture industry moves toward a heightened response to the challenges of climate change and strives to meet the Canadian federal government’s GHG emissions reduction targets, the outcomes of this project are crucial to understanding the complexity and interconnectivity of responses to changes in land management practices.