UNH organic dairy farm agroecosystem study, phase III: A closed system, energy independent organic dairy farm for the Northeastern U.S.

Project Overview

LNE15-344R
Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2015: $389,118.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2019
Grant Recipient: University of New Hampshire
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Dr. John Aber
University of New Hampshire

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: dairy
  • Miscellaneous: Animal Bedding, Compost

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, manure management
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, high tunnels or hoop houses, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels, energy conservation/efficiency
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: composting

    Proposal abstract:

    Based on our work to date, we are now poised to develop a number of papers, products and tools that will present this work to the academic community and to practitioners in the dairy, composting and forest products communities. We are also ready to test the feasibility of extending the closed system concept by including a high tunnel greenhouse heated and fertilized by the outlet air stream from the composting facility.

    The proposed work can be summarized in the following areas:

    • Further Testing of the Process for Converting Low-Quality Wood to Shavings for Bedding
      • Complete analysis of data on production rates, costs, and value of product
      • Complete existing Excel-based cost/decision tool for use by farmers and woodlot owners
    • Continue Composting Process and Experiments
      • As part of workflow on the farm, optimize management of composting facility including timing of initiation, material mixtures, air flow, irrigation, fertilization and other parameters
    • Assess the feasibility of Linking the Compost Facility to High Tunnel Production
      • Characterize exhaust air from the composting facility as a source for high tunnel production in terms of energy, moisture, CO2, CH4, O2, NH3, and total N
      • Test biofilters and other processes that can connect exhaust stream to a high tunnel system
    • Develop Concepts for Other Uses of Energy Produced Through Composting.
      • These can include drying shavings, heating adjacent building, and others
    • Detailed Carbon, Nitrogen and Greenhouse Gas Budgets
      • Develop detailed carbon, nitrogen and greenhouse gas budgets for the farm. These budgets will include new information on bedding production and composting which will be added to previously available data from farm records and groundwater sampling.
      • Remeasure pasture productivity, including species composition (e.g. legumes for nitrogen fixation).
    • Develop Decision Tools for Dairy Farmers, Woodlot Owners and Compost Operators
      • These tools will be built using data on costs, sales, yields, efficiencies and productivities developed during this study.
      • They will be designed to help practitioners optimize management decisions in terms of financial return as well as environmental footprints for nitrogen, carbon and greenhouse gases.
      • These tools will be relevant to dairy farmers, woodlot owners and compost operators, and will be the first to combine environmental and financial impacts for the alternative processes we have examined (e.g. heat recovery composting, bedding production).
    • Outreach, Publications, Presentations
      • We present a detailed list of publications, presentations and management tools to be delivered that build on research completed and in progress, and that will make results accessible and useful for practitioners.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    1. Further Testing of the Process for Converting Low-Quality Wood to Shavings for Bedding
    2. Continue Composting Process and Experiments
    3. Assess the Feasibility of Linking the Compost Facility to High Tunnel Production
    4. Develop Concepts for Other Uses of Energy Produced Through Composting
    5. Detailed Nitrogen, Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Budgets
    6. Develop Decision Tools for Dairy Farmers, Woodlot Owners and Compost Operators 
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.