Project: Reactive Nitrogen Initiative of the Dairy Agro-ecosystems Working Group (DAWG)

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Principal investigators: Peter Vadas, Pete Kleinman, John Baker, Dave Bjornberg, Mark Boggess, Dave Brauer, Kristan Reed

Associated with: USDA NIFA

Project Summary:

On US dairy farms, the amount of exported milk or meat nitrogen per kg of nitrogen imported in feed and fertilizer ranges from 10 to 55 kg of N. This means that for every kilogram of milk and meat nitrogen produced on a dairy farm, between 0.8 and 9 kg of nitrogen is lost to the environment. The objectives of the Reactive Nitrogen Initiative are to identify the major causes and sources of nitrogen loss from dairy farms; to highlight high-impact management points; to identify novel management practices and systems that can reduce these losses and improve dairy farm nitrogen efficiency; and to improve education and communication of producers and farm advisors using simulation tools for management. To accomplish these tasks, we are simulating common management practices in the major dairy-producing regions of the US using the Integrated Farm Systems Model (IFSM) in order to identify and evaluate current inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement. From there the impact of implementing existing and forthcoming nitrogen saving management practices will be assessed to quantify the system-wide impact of these tools. Trade-offs between efficiency, production, and environmental impact will be compared in order to evaluate long-term sustainability of dairy production in the US.

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