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Improved carbon footprint of Ontario grain production

Principal Investigator: Claudia Wagner-Riddle

Research Institution: University of Guelph

Timeline: January 2022 – March 2025  

Objectives:

  • To conduct a life-cycle inventory of data for carbon footprint calculation of corn, soybeans, winter wheat, and spring cereals grown in Ontario.
  • To determine the carbon footprint and trends over time for grain crops grown in typical rotations in Ontario using the most up-to-date information available.
  • To establish if there is a link between reduced carbon footprint and improved profitability (i.e., synergy or trade-off).
  • To identify opportunities for carbon footprint reduction to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Impacts:

  • Improved carbon footprint values based on best data and latest science will help in marketing Ontario-produced grain.
  • Identification of baseline carbon footprint values over the life-cycle of grain production will allow for development of plans to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Scientific Summary:

Sustainability metrics are an essential element of tracking the impact of best practice adoption and for determining the grain sector’s efforts in reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Carbon footprint analysis considers all GHG emissions associated with production of a product (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent per amount of product). Metrics such as the carbon footprint will play a crucial role for tracking progress towards achieving targets by industry and government, such as Canada’s recently announced goal of reducing fertilizer-related emissions by 30% below 2020 levels. There is also great interest in the carbon footprint of grain from industry that relies on the supply of grains for its products since up to 60% of a food company’s own carbon footprint may be related to the sourcing of grain. Hence, it is crucial for Ontario grain farmers to be able to market products based on carbon footprint values that are representative of Ontario soils, climate, and management practices. In addition, improvements in management over time leading to mitigation of GHG emissions need to be reflected in reduced carbon footprint values. This requires analysis of the cradle to farm-gate GHG sources considering all upstream and on-farm GHG emissions.

Here we propose to conduct a life-cycle inventory of data for carbon footprint calculation of corn, soybeans, winter wheat, and spring cereals grown in Ontario. These improved data combined with updated emission factors will be used to determine the carbon footprint and trends over time for grain crops grown in typical rotations in Ontario.  Further we will establish if there is a link between reduced carbon footprint and improved profitability and identify opportunities for carbon footprint reduction to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets. The outcome of this project will be new carbon footprint values for Ontario grains based on the best data and latest available science. 

External Funding Partners:

None.

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