Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Student Research: Monitoring Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Agricultural Season Extension with High Tunnels: a Greenhouse Gas Source or Sink?

New England is undergoing dramatic agricultural changes - we are expanding and intensifying production to meet increasing food demands. These changes have important consequences for our agricultural ecosystems, and Tessa's research aims to describe the potential atmospheric effects of agricultural intensification through high tunnels. 

A high tunnel planted with tomatoes at UNH's Woodman Farm.

Many farmers in the Northeast are growing crops under high tunnels as a means to extend their growing season and protect their crops from inclement weather (see NRCS's High Tunnel Initiative).  By growing crops under these plastic covered metal structures, farmers can grow high-value specialty crops, and protect their crops from frost, temperature fluctuations, excess precipitation, pests and disease. While this form of plasticulture is widely used, little is known about the environmental impacts of such practices. 

To address this question, Tessa is measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions (trace gasses) from soils under high tunnel management and comparing these data to trace gas emissions from the same crop planted in an adjacent field. These data will provide insight into the effects of increased high tunnel production on climate change and strategies for mitigating these effects.

Gas samples are taken simultaneously from tomato interrows and rows in the field. 

Tessa, extracting and storing a gas sample. 

Research Assistant Matt Morris measuring soil moisture.
Soil moisture is an important driver of trace gas production and is sampled each week. 

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