Missouri Farmers Putting Up Big Numbers on Climate Change

A new report requested by soybean farmers shows greenhouse gas emissions are down and sequestered carbon is up on Missouri farms.

A new report identifies the incredible impact from Missouri farmers’ efforts around soil conservation and climate change. In Missouri, investments into conservation practices over the last 30 years have translated into annual greenhouse gas emission reductions of more than 2.8 million tons of C02e – equal to roughly 640,000 passenger cars. That’s more than 25 percent of the total passenger cars registered in Missouri and the equivalent of 6.3 billion road miles. In that same time, Missouri’s average soybean yield grew by roughly 66 percent.

“Stewardship is an integral part of the long-term success for Missouri farms and farm families, and investing in land and water resources is foundational to that success,” said Ronnie Russell, a northwestern Missouri farmer and president of the Missouri Soybean Association. “It’s inspiring to see the impact farmers’ investments have had and continue to have on conserving soil, capturing carbon, and reducing emissions from farm fields. The trajectory we’re on in agriculture, continuously producing more with less, sets us up well to continue to be a leader in the wise use of our natural resources for generations to come.”

The report, Climate Change and Missouri Agriculture, was prepared by Ray Massey and Cammy Willett from the University of Missouri’s Division of Applied Social Sciences. The report identified specific practices’ contributions, as well as broad areas in which farmers are making positive contributions toward reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, raising crop productivity without corresponding growth in emissions, and increasing on-farm carbon sequestration.

In addition to dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing production, farmers’ efforts have also helped keep soil in the field. Soil savings from on-farm practices like no-till and conservation tillage in Missouri have prevented erosion of 177 million tons of soil, equal to enough tandem axle dump truck loads of soil to circle earth more than three times.

Broad areas the report identifies in which farmers are making contributions:

  • Improving crop production efficiency and yields, including through fewer inputs and trips across the field
  • Expanding practices that have reduced nitrous oxide (N2O) soil emissions. Those practices include improved nitrogen management, soil health and conservation, and prioritizing nitrogen-fixing soybeans in their crop rotation.
  • Introducing farm practices proven to sequester carbon and practices to keep that carbon in the soil, removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil as elemental (C) carbon.

The Missouri Soybean Association requested the report last year to assess the impact farmers’ investments in research, soil health and conservation practices have had on key indicators of climate change. The Association’s board of directors reviewed the report during their January meeting.

In addition to measures identified in the report, Missouri soybean farmers are also widely recognized for their contributions through biodiesel. Soybeans are the basis for Missouri’s production of more than 200 million gallons of biodiesel per year. Each gallon of biodiesel emits 86 percent fewer lifecycle greenhouse gases, creates 47 percent less particulate matter, and reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 67 percent compared to a gallon of conventional ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. Farmers are also investing to further improve crop production, carbon sequestration and overall efficiency through the soy checkoff and the Missouri Soybean Association.

To learn more about soybean research, review the Climate Change and Missouri Agriculture report, and learn more about the Missouri Soybean Association, explore mosoy.org.