MELS - Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from livestock systems

Aim of the project:

To gather knowledge on greenhouse gas mitigation measures in livestock production that are currently available or technically well-established. A special focus is on manure management. Methods will further be developed to implement and document the mitigation measures use at the farm and national scales.

Introduction

The EU Effort Sharing Agreement and the Paris Agreement create challenging targets for GHG emission reductions and represent respectively short and long term existential threats to livestock production systems.

The MELS project will build on the Global Research Alliance DATAMAN project by collating additional data on emissions from manure management and activity /ancillary data. The data will be used to generate functional relationships between emissions and activity/ancillary variables, enabling a refinement of national inventories and better assessment of the cost-effectiveness of a range of mitigation measures. MELS will assess and recommend improvements to existing farm-scale decision support systems (DSSs) in relation to GHG emissions from livestock production systems, including grazing ruminants, by refining the calculations used to account for emissions. A prototype farm-scale DSS will be developed for countries lacking such a tool and implemented in at least one country. This will allow the consequences of mitigation strategies on emissions and costs to be more accurately quantified and better documented, both at the national and farm scales.

What: MELS will collate CH4, N2O, and NH3 emissions datasets associated with manure management in livestock production from international project participants along with ancillary data. And the development of better GHG emission inventory methodologies for livestock systems, taking regional variations in GHG emissions and mitigation efficiencies into account, providing an improved basis for assessing and documenting mitigation options.

Why: National and international climate legislation requires significant reductions in GHG and NH3 emissions in the short and long term. This will require the implementation of existing and new mitigation technologies, as well as the documentation of their implementation via appropriate activity data and emission factors.

Current estimates of the potential for reducing GHG emissions by adopting existing measures are about 30% for enteric CH4 emissions and 20-30% for soil CH4 and N2O emissions. Much higher emission reductions may be achievable using measures applied to manure management, but this critically depends on each measure and on the contextual conditions under which they are implemented.

Where: The research is carried out by nine leading research institutes located in Germany, Denmark, Greece, France, Ireland, Poland, New Zealand and Chile. MELS is accompanied by an advisory board adding expertise from The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Brazil and China to the project outcome.

Main project activities:

Improvement of methodologies for national inventory compilation regarding livestock production systems

The enhancement of the DATAMAN database in MELS will provide a resource for improved constraint and uncertainty reduction in the generation of national inventories. At the national scale, improved emission methodologies are only useful if accompanied by appropriate and documented activity data. The dispersed nature of agriculture makes it difficult and expensive to access such data.

MELS will identify how this could be achieved using existing and new technologies, in particular how data available at the farm scale could be utilised.

Transparency in the GHG accounting at the livestock farm scale

At the farm scale, GHG accounting can be used to support policies ranging from information campaigns, through subsidies, taxation and emission-intensity market mechanisms, to obligatory implementation of mitigation measures. In all cases

MELS will help maintain confidence in the integrity of the calculations by indicating where standardisation is appropriate and by identifying methods to maintain transparency.

Improvement in decision-making at the livestock farm and national scales

Given regional variations in the cost of labour and materials, the cost of mitigation measures is likely to vary between countries.

MELS will develop generic methods to link the efficiencies of mitigation measures to their costs, allowing more informed decisions at the farm and national scales (via the identification, quantification and costing of measures, including management strategies, to reduce losses to the environment).

Concept and approach:

Emission Data Collation

MELS builds on the Global Research Alliance (GRA) DATAMAN project, which incorporates existing databases (e.g. ALFAM2, AEDA, ELFE) and datasets from developed and developing countries.MELS will collate CH4, N2O and NH3 emission datasets associated with manure management in livestock production from existing literature and from international project partners along with ancillary data.

Analysis of the resulting data will allow the project team to generate empirical and/or process-oriented functional relationships between GHG emissions and several variables, such as manure composition, management, climate and abiotic data.

This will allow the development of better GHG emission inventory methodologies for livestock systems, taking regional variations in GHG emissions and mitigation efficiencies into account, providing an improved basis for assessing and documenting mitigation options.

A whole system approach will be used, in which the mass flows of both C and N will be followed, allowing to quantify the effects of each mitigation measure on different emission sources (knock-on effects).

Recommendations

MELS will recommend improvements to GHG and NH3 emission inventories.

At the national scale, the methodological advances produced by MELS will be used to recommend improvements to GHG and NH3 emission inventories, especially with regard to documenting the effects of mitigation measures. The C and N flow approach will allow trade-offs and synergies to be identified and consistency between reporting to different bodies (UNFCCC, UNECE) to be achieved.

The benefits of these improvements will be supported by developing methods to improve the quantity and quality of activity data available to support national inventories, maintain inventory transparency and assess the costs of the mitigation measures for the industry and the society

Case Studies

MELS will consult with stakeholders, in order to assess functionality and usability of existing farm-scale GHG decision support systems (DSSs) and assess how these systems can be improved. For those countries not currently possessing a farm-scale GHG DSS, MELS will provide a fully functional prototype performing the core GHG emissions assessment and the economic calculations.

Project consortium:

Coordinated by: Dr. Barbara Amon, Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy, ATB, (Germany)

  • IRELAND: TEAGASC - Agriculture and Food Development Authority and Cork University Business School, CUBS
  • DENMARK: Aarhus University, AU
  • NEW ZEALAND: AgResearch, AgR
  • FRANCE: INRA UMR Sol, Agro et hyrdro systèmes, Spatialisation, IN1, Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias, INIA, Chile and INRA, UMR Ecosystème Prairial, IN2
  • POLAND: University of Zielona Góra, UZG
  • GREECE: Agricultural University of Athens, AUA

More information: 

  • The MELS project started on 1 January 2020 and runs until 31 December 2022. 
  • Website: https://www.mels-project.eu/
  • Twitter: @EragasMels

Presentations and posters:

Research articles: