Ecological Engineering | VOL. 88
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Energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions during transition to organic and reduced-input practices: Student farm case study

Publication Date Mar 1, 2016

Abstract

Abstract In this case study we document the effects of a transition to organic and low-input production methods on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for a student educational farm in Kentucky, USA. This diverse farm system of 167 ha included crop and livestock enterprises: beef cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens (broilers and layers), grains, hay and vegetables/fruit. The analysis compares the farm's material inputs, outputs and emissions across three periods: pre-transition (2007–2008), transition (2009–2011) and post-transition (2012–213). The changes implemented during the transition period included: increasing the amount of organically-managed cropland from 3% to 25% of the farm's land area; replacing an indoor-confinement pig enterprise with an outdoor rotational system; and eliminating grain from cattle rations to finish animals on pasture and hay. The implementation of these management practices resulted in relatively little change in total energy inputs and outputs, though somewhat lower levels of both were observed during the transition period. There was a steady decline in the use of non-renewable energy inputs during the study period and a subsequent decline in GHG emissions per unit area and per unit of energy output. The trends in energy and GHG emissions were explained largely by the smaller livestock herd sizes that were required to accommodate the new management practices and a corresponding increase in organic crop production proportional to the decrease in livestock production. The expa...

Concepts

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Generation Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Unit Of Energy Output Use Of Non-renewable Resources Farm In Kentucky Reduction In Greenhouse Gas Emissions Organic Crop Production Low-input Practices Total Energy Inputs Farm's Land Area

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