Greenhouse gases – Swine industry – Can we do better ?
The atmospheric layer of GHGs normally contributes to the maintenance of an average global temperature of 15 o C and prevents some of this heat from diffusing into space. Under natural emission conditions, GHGs therefore protect the planet from too low a temperature that would be harmful to the development of life. It is estimated that without the natural layer of GHGs, the average temperature of the earth would be around -20 o C. Water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are the main greenhouse gases. Some, such as CO2, or nitrous oxide, have a lifetime of more than 100 years. Human activities of all kinds have contributed over the last 100 years to the increase in GHG emissions that started the current process of global warming.
A significant portion of these GHG emissions is directly related to human nutrition. Of course, it is necessary to define what we mean by food:
– Agriculture and deforestation for certain crops
– Food processing
GHG emissions resulting from human activities absorb heat from the sun, trap infrared radiation emitted by the earth and are responsible for climate change by increasing their concentration in the atmosphere. Between 2005 and 2016, there has been an increase of almost 19% in global emissions, with the majority of these increases coming from industrialized and developing countries. The main GHG is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is emitted when fossil fuels (e.g. gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, natural gas) are burned. In agriculture, methane (CH4) is the main GHG, resulting from the digestion of animals, manure and slurry, as well as nitrogen emissions in the form of nitrous oxide (N2 O) from field fertilization.
Agriculture and GHGs
While industrial activities and the combustion of fossil fuels play a major role in GHG emissions, it is estimated that agriculture, on a global scale and particularly intensive agriculture, accounts for nearly a quarter of the GHGs released into the atmosphere.
In Canada, agriculture accounts for approximately 10% of anthropogenic GHG emissions, half of which comes from livestock production, all types combined (poultry, hogs, cattle and sheep).
The carbon footprint of the swine industry in Quebec
Quebec’s swine industry is doing well in terms of GHG emissions. According to the Fédération des Éleveurs de Porcs du Québec (Quebec Pig Farmers Association), hog farming is responsible for only 7.6% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture in Quebec. It should be noted that this production accounts for nearly one third of Quebec’s gross domestic product from the agri-food sector. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Quebec pork production, with a carbon footprint 31% lower than the world average, leads in terms of environmental performance of all pork-producing regions in the world. The carbon footprint takes into consideration all stages of pork production, from grain production to processing. The results obtained in 2016 show that the carbon balance of Quebec pork production has remained virtually unchanged compared to 2010: an increase of 0.4% over 5 years, with the carbon balance increasing from 4.20 to 4.22 kg CO2e/kg pork carcass.
Can we do better?
GHG emissions in swine production are of various origins and vary according to certain parameters:
– Type of feed
– Types of livestock buildings
– Covered or uncovered slurry pits
– Spreading practices
– Manure management in general, etc.
The feeding of pigs is an important part of the carbon footprint of pig production. The cultivation of grains, the use of fertilizers, farm machinery, the transportation of liquid manure and its spreading are all activities and practices that generate greenhouse gases.
The two main sources of GHGs are:
– Food: nearly 50% of emissions
– Manure management: 37% of emissions
To the question can we do better? The answer is yes.
One of the solutions, in parallel with optimized feeding and modernization of livestock structures, is an overhaul of conventional manure management.
Solugen offers a pragmatic, energy-efficient and proven solution that treats manure continuously, pumping it from the pre-pit to extract pure water and organic fertilizers. This eliminates the need for storage in pits or spreading. The fertilizers extracted from the process are thus better managed, particularly the ammoniacal nitrogen which is produced in liquid form and whose use avoids significant volatilization during traditional spreading. This organic fertilizer can thus be marketed to organic farming in a circular economy context.
A pig farm equipped with the Solugen technology will see its GHG emissions generated during the storage and spreading of manure decrease by 90 to 95%.
For a farm that produces 10,000 tons of liquid manure per year, the quantity of GHGs eliminated corresponds to 572 t CO2 eq. For comparison, a car in North America driving 20,000 km per year generates approximately 4.2 t CO2 eq.