LdMNPV and the Management of Gypsy Moths

Gypsy moth larvae consuming leaves

William Coville – Environmental Science

Julianne Foren – Animal Science

Catherine George – Horticultural Science

John Mazzone – Turf Grass Science and Managment

 

In the late 1860’s, a French scientist brought the gypsy moth to Massachusetts from Europe in the hopes of breeding disease-resistant genes into silkworms to improve and expand the silk industry (Liebhold, 2003). Due to his incompetence, a couple of his gypsy moth subjects made their way into the New England forest and found that they could live, breed, and thrive there. The carelessness of one scientist resulted in a gypsy moth invasion that persisted over the last hundred years and encompasses various ecosystems throughout the U.S. and Canada. Lymantria dispar dispar, known as the gypsy moth, is an invasive species that acts as a major pest of hardwood trees, particularly the dominant oak and aspen (Liebhold, 2003). As an example, a red oak that lies at the entrance of Quabbin Park in Belchertown, MA has been taken down due to it being mostly dead from gypsy moth defoliation (Miner, 2018). Iconic trees in parks around the country are not spared from the damage of gypsy moths and once enough damage sets in the trees are lost from the community. Not only does the gypsy moth cause an an aesthetic decline among these once beautiful hardwood trees, but they also play the role of the small beginning in a larger catalyst effect. They cause severe defoliation among the trees they feed on and cause harm to native species as well. One scientists economic greed and thoughtless actions have resulted in ecological destruction that has lasted and will continue to last well beyond his lifetime.

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Reducing Cows Environmental Impact

Bessie producing methane

Andreas Aluia- Forestry

Sean Davenport- Environmental Science

Haley Goulet- Animal Science

Picture this. Miles of rolling green fields sprawled out in front of you, dappled in hundreds and hundreds of black and white cows. Their heads low as they graze the young grasses covered in early morning dew. Behind you the farmer is preparing the barns for the cows return in the afternoon. Each breath of air making you feel renewed with the peace and clean air of the countryside. But how clean is it?

 

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Massachusetts’ Green Wave

A jar of weed grown in a commercial facility.

The mayor Holyoke, a small city in Western Massachusetts, is hoping he has found the golden ticket that will save the area’s economy, and it comes in the form of legalized pot. Effective December 15, 2016 Massachusetts became the first East Coast state that will allow the sale of recreational marijuana and many cities are hoping the new industry will jobs and money to poorer areas (Massachusetts Legislation, 201). When recreational marijuana was first made available in Colorado there was a large spike in commercial cultivation facilities to keep up with the demand. The first week that marijuana was legal in Colorado stores sold over $14 million worth of recreational marijuana and this number continues to grow as more user adopt the practice (KansasCityFed). By the end of 2016 Colorado had given out nearly 500 permits to sell recreational marijuana and 700 permits to grow it, resulting in $1.3 billion dollars worth of marijuana being sold (KansasCityFed). All of the marijuana sold in Massachusetts needs to be grown in Massachusetts which has resulted in 172 recreational cultivation license applications being submitted to Massachusetts’ cannabis control board from all across the state, showing that Mass is on track to follow Colorado’s cannabis boom (CCC).

These facilities are almost exclusively indoor cultivation facilities that are housed in warehouses or greenhouses. Indoor grow facilities are utilized because of their ability to deliver a high yield of crops year round while protecting plants from any adverse environmental conditions and keeping the grow area within precise environmental conditions (Baptista et al., 2017). Indoor grow facilities produce as much as ten times more crops compared to traditional farms, making them an obvious choice for growing expensive crops like marijuana (Barbosa et al., 2015). In Massachusetts indoor grow facilities are used almost exclusively for large operations because of the long winters and short growing season that would drastically impact the growers overall yield. Consumers also demand a very high quality product when they purchase marijuana from a store and these products can only be grown in intensly regulated facilities. Without the use of indoor grow operations marijuana cultivators would not be able to produce enough high quality product to yield a reasonable profit.  The major problem with controlled environment agricultural is the reliance on outside energy sources and the effect this energy consumption can have on the environment (Sanjuan-Delmás et al., 2017).

However, greenhouses use significantly more energy than more traditional open air farms. The amount of energy utilized fluctuates based on the individual greenhouse because of differences seen in technology and construction, but it is inevitable that greenhouses will use more energy than traditional open air farms due to the equipment needed to produce a high yield of crops. A recent study found that greenhouses use as much as 160.5 MJ/kg while more traditional outdoor growing options like open air farming only uses 0.8-6.9 MJ/kg (Ntinas et al., 2016). Marijuana cultivation is considered to be one of the most energy intensive industries in America today (Warren 2016). In the United States 1% of the entire country’s energy use is spent on marijuana cultivation  (Magagninia 2018). This can rise to 3% in cannabis rich states like California (Magagninia 2018). Most industrial grow facilities have large, overhead lights that replace the sun, bring water straight to the plants in the absence of rain, maintain precise air quality through the use of air filters and dehumidifiers. (NCLS). Each of these necessary tools needs a large amount of energy to function at peak performance.

To grow a high quality product facilities must employ very specialized lighting units that provide a specific wavelength of light to optimize production. Different lighting systems can produce very different effects on the plants that can change the height of the plant, the amount of product produced, and the amount of THC and CBD found in the marijuana (Magagninia 2018). Lighting can account for 76-86% of the entire facility’s energy usage, which toals 2283 kW/hr per kilogram of marijuana produced (Arnold 2013). Unfortunately, cutting back on lighting isn’t an option either. Because of marijuana’s intense cultivation needs any compromise in lighting quality can gravely impact the amount of product yielded and the quality of the product.

Another large consumer of energy within an indoor grow facility is the transportation of water to the facility and the method utilized to water the plants.  Most facilities utilize hydroponic systems because of their ability to maximize crop yield while minimizing the amount of water being used (Barbosa 2015). However, the addition of hydroponic systems can increase the amount of energy needed to effectively operate an individual greenhouse (Cannabis Control Commision). Extra water handling uses approximately 173 kW/h for every kg of cannabis yielded (Mills, 2012).

Large marijuana facilities are forced to use ventilation systems like air scrubbers or charcoal filters in their facility to help mitigate noxious gases or any other fumes associated with cultivation (Marijuana Facility Guidance 2016). These machines help remove any impurities from the air while maintaining safe working conditions for workers who will be subjected to the fumes all day. When studied these machines consumed 1848 kW/h for every kg of cannabis yielded (Mills, 2012). Despite their large energy draw, ventilation systems are imperative for maintaining a safe work environment while insuring the cultivation plants are not dumping a large amount of noxious fumes into the surrounding area.

Marijuana is a very climate dependant plant that requires specific temperatures to grow as productive as possible. Most facilities are need to use air conditioners for a large part of the year because of the immense amount of heat being produced by the equipment being used, however, in Massachusetts facilities would also need to provide heat in the winter. Without air conditioning the plants would overheat which can impact the amount of product yielded and they could even be at risk of dying. Massachusetts’ winters are so cold that it would necessitate additional heat sources be provided or the plants could again face decreased yields or death. It was shown that the average facility uses 1284  kW/h for every kg of cannabis yielded on air conditioning and 304 kW/h for every kg of cannabis yielded on heating (Mills, 2012).

When a system is continuously using large amount of energy the waste product of these systems needs to be considered.  The introduction of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is a leading cause of climate change that has been proven to warm the earth, resulting in melting glaciers, rising sea levels, warmer oceans, and more natural disasters (NASA). Indoor agriculture’s high energy needs often results in a high amount of carbon dioxide being produced as waste  (Sanjuan-Delmás et al., 2017). A 70 m2 greenhouse heated solely by natural gas produced 2.9 kg CO2 eq./kg more than one of the same size that was heated by natural gas supplemented by solar power (Hassanien et al., 2017). Most marijuana grow operations do not follow organic production standards which have a 35%-45% lower carbon footprint than organic farming (Bos et al., 2014). This carbon being pumped into the environment can negatively impact the Earth by promoting climate change. Thankfully, there are renewable sources of energy that can be harnessed that have a much smaller carbon footprint while still providing a quality source of energy.  

Large Legal Marijuana Farm Professional Commercial Grade Greenhouse Filled With Mature Budding Cannabis Indica Plants

Massachusetts has been slowly working towards more eco friendly energy solutions like energy that comes from solar panels, nuclear reactors, and natural gas. In 2017 68% of Massachusetts’ energy was produced by natural gas and only 4% of its energy from coal (eia). Solar panels are also gaining popularity and 1,867 megawatts of solar power was installed in Massachusetts in 2017 (eia) . Carbon emissions were also decreased by 19 percent from 1990 t0 2015 (Mass.gov). However, 27% of Massachusetts heating needs still come from oil (eia). Such a large and energy intensive industry that requires a large amount of heat could jeopardize Massachusetts goals to reduce carbon emissions and increase clean energy usage. One popular solution is the use of photovoltaic cells, also known as solar panels.  

 The use of technologically advanced solar panels would help offset the shortcomings of greenhouse growing maintaining a high agricultural yield without contributing to global warming by releasing greenhouse gases. When solar panels are placed on an area that covers  20% of the roof of a greenhouse it can replace 20% of the energy necessary to power the grow site (Hassanien et al., 2017). In Massachusetts standard solar panels are able to produce approximately 1130 kWh of energy per year (Solar-Estimate). A large marijuana cultivation facility can use an upward of 210,000 kWh of energy per year, which would require approximately 185 panels to completely run the facility off of energy generated by panels (CPR.org). Energy use is directly linked to size and not all facilities are as large and energy dependant; they can be as small as a few hundred square feet or as large as 100,000 square feet (Cannabis Control Commision).  Not only can greenhouse energy production be supplemented with renewables, but renewables could possibly meet all of a greenhouse’s energy demand. Previous marijuana grow sites have been able operate while only utilizing energy from solar arrays, making it likely that greenhouses in Massachusetts could do the same (Barok 2017).

By adding solar panels to grow sites the amount of fossil fuels  used will drop dramatically which will also combat the amount of carbon dioxide being produced which will ultimately help slow the rate of climate change. When compared to greenhouses that relied on fossil fuels alone to produce their electricity demand, ones that supplemented production with solar panels had a 29% lower carbon footprint (Ntinas et al., 2016). The potential for greenhouses to run largely off of solar energy while still producing a high yield of crops will result in a large cut to each facilities carbon footprint. The 240 solar panels they installed generated 440,000 kWh of energy in five years, which would have cost $88,000 and was more than enough to power the facility throughout the year (Barok 2017). A solar array of this size would make almost two times the amount of energy needed for an average facility that only consumes roughly 210,000 kWh of energy per year (CPR.org). Just one building was able to save 550,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere (Barok 2017).

Often times when considering the amount of energy used by indoor grow facilities it is tempting to offer solutions that involve less intensive cultivation practices that often use less energy. By using open air farming practices a cultivation site could use close to 23 times less energy than indoor growing facilities (Ntinas et al., 2016). The problem with less intensive production practices is that they often produce a lower yield of poorer quality cannabis. Growing outdoors leaves plants vulnerable to volatile weather, mold, and pests (Leafly). Massachusetts winters would also drastically limit the grow season for cultivators to just a few months a year, while indoor facilities could continue to produce products all year (Leafly). These drawbacks are not worth the potential energy savings.

Solar panels are the best option for cannabis cultivators that are looking to reduce their carbon footprint through the use of low emission energy, but putting these practises to use might not come naturally to companies that are usually focus solely on profit. The availability of solar panels in America is at an all time high with energy subsidies projected to reach between $43 and $320 per megawatt hour for solar panel produced energy coming from tax credits that cover between 30% and 60% of wholesale prices (Maloney, 2018). Subsidies provided for solar energy bring the costs of energy provided by solar panels down drastically and continue to do so (Maloney, 2018). To further incentivise solar usage Massachusetts towns and cities should give preference to indoor cultivation facilities that utilize solar panels as their main source of energy. Towns have a high level of control when granting permits to businesses that are trying to grow marijuana within town borders (CCC). If towns made it known that they gave preference to facilities that utilize solar energy then incoming businesses would be more likely to implement solar technology as a way to get gain an advantage over their competition. This would also empower those looking to get a license to include as much renewable energy as possible as a way to maximize the chance that they would be granted a permit.

Fossil fuels are not a clean source of energy and while reduction in use of electricity can help to lessen pollution, to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions more eco friendly energy sources need to be utilized. In an effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption, scientists have developed a multitude of systems that are able to produce large amounts of energy without releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere. One of the most common ways to harvest renewable energy is through the use of photovoltaic cells, more commonly known as solar panels. Because of the ease of production, limited drawbacks, and technological advancements surrounding solar panels it is widely thought that they will be the most abundant source of energy in the future (Schmalensee et al., 2015).

One way to encourage greenhouses to make the switch from fossil fuel powered grid energy to roof- or ground-mounted solar panels is for the government to provide subsidies to facilities that use solar panels to provide the majority of their energy demand. If subsidies are provided, more facilities will start using clean energy, bringing the industry’s carbon footprint down (Maloney, 2018; Sanjuan-Delmás et al., 2017). In China, a different subsidy was proposed to provide greenhouses with between $62 and $140 per megawatt hour of electricity produced with solar panels (Wang et al., 2017). Although there is currently no such policy in China, solar powered greenhouses will help lead sustainable development and reduce carbon emissions (Wang et al., 2017). It is clear that if subsidies for using solar panels for energy production are offered, it will attract more users and bring the costs down while at the same time provide clean energy not produced by fossil fuels.

These results could be replicated across Massachusetts as a way decrease the amount of carbon dioxide produced across the state.  

When considering ways to reduce our carbon footprint most Americans do not consider the role that agriculture plays in climate change. 60% of Americans believe that climate change is an ongoing issue but they tend to focus on emissions produced by cars, planes, and factories, rather than agricultural industries (Borick 2018). However, according to the Washington Post, “the nation’s booming marijuana sector is struggling to go green”. They state that analysts and state regulators say the cannabis industry, including states that have legalized recreational pot and those that offer it only for medicinal purposes,  is outpacing many other areas of the economy in energy use, racking up massive electricity bills as more Americans light up. The county’s Marijuana Energy Impact Offset Fund, which tacks on a 2.16-cent surcharge for each kilowatt-hour of electricity used by grow facilities, is something of a model for other states, cities and counties that also recognize the growing energy drain that has resulted from the rapid expansion of legal cannabis (Wolfgang, B., 2018). By introducing legislation now that rewards the use of solar energy Massachusetts can incentivise new businesses to build more sustainable greenhouses from the onset. These eco-friendly greenhouses will reduce the amount of fossil fuels used and could drastically cut their carbon footprint (Ntinas et al., 2016).

The one major hurdle for most growers is the initial cost of adding solar panels being prohibitive. They simply cannot afford the start up costs associated with adding solar panels to a facility and don’t believe that they can be a money saving investment in the long run. However, in one study done by Petru Maior University, they found solar panels payed for themselves in 6 years. After considering the initial costs of the system, yearly operating costs, taxes, and income a facility studied by Petru Maior University found that the initial investment was paid back after six years after saving money on their electricity bill and selling excess energy back to the electricity companies ( hydroponic greenhouse energy supply based on renewable energy). Solar panels also reduce cost because the energy is generated at the site where it is needed and there are no costs associated with transporting the power to where it needs to be (Borenstein 2008). Even when you consider the cost of yearly maintenance of solar panels, the amount of money saved with a reduction of the facility’s energy bill far outweighed the money needed to be paid (LG Energy). These savings jump quickly when you consider the high cost of electricity in Massachusetts where residents pay roughly 14.8 cents per kWh, the the ninth highest in the state (NPR :) ).

Greenhouse agriculture, including marijuana grow houses, is a quickly growing industry that requires high amounts of energy that is currently supplied primarily by fossil fuels which produce large amounts greenhouse gases when burned (Shen et al., 2018; Sanjuan-Delmás et al., 2017). A shift can be made in the industry from fossil fuels to clean energy if subsidies are provided to greenhouses that use solar panels to supply their energy demand. Subsidies will incentivize greenhouse operators to use solar panels and will help make them more affordable to operators who may have not been able to afford solar panels otherwise. Subsidies will result in a reduction in the cost of solar panels over time as more facilities start to use them (Maloney, 2018). A reduction in the reliance on fossil fuels to lower our carbon footprint is essential if climate change is to be mitigated. Solar panels are a great source of renewable energy that are becoming increasingly popular and if utilized by energy-hungry greenhouses can greatly reduce their carbon footprint.

By adding solar panels to grow sites the amount of fossil fuels  used will drop dramatically which will also combat the amount of carbon dioxide being produced which will ultimately help slow the rate of climate change.

A greenhouse growing marijuana intended for legal sales.

 

Works Cited

Baptista FJ, Guimares AC, Meneses JF, Silva AT, Navas LM. Greenhouse energy

consumption for tomato production in the iberian peninsula countries [electronic resource]. Acta horticulturae. 2012(9521):409-416. http://silk.library.umass.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=agr&AN=IND44639795&site=ehost-live&scope=site http://www.actahort.org/. doi: //www.actahort.org/.

Baptista FJ, Murcho D, Silva LL, et al. Assessment of energy consumption in organic tomato greenhouse production – a case study. Acta horticulturae. 2017(1164):453-460. http://silk.library.umass.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=agr&AN=IND605853021&site=ehost-live&scope=site http://dx.doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1164.59. doi: //dx.doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1164.59.

Barbosa, L. G., Gadelha, D. F., Kublik, N., Proctor, A., Reichelm, L., Weissinger, E., . . . Halden, U. R. (2015). Comparison of land, water, and energy requirements of lettuce grown using hydroponic vs. conventional agricultural methods doi:10.3390/ijerph120606879

Barok, J. (2017). Is it time to consider solar power. Cannabis Business Times. Retrieved from https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/is-it-time-to-consider-solar-power/

Borenstein, B. (2008).The market value and cost of solar photovoltaic electricity production. University of California Energy Institute. Retrieved from escholarship.org/uc/item/3ws6r3j4

Borick, C., Rabe, B., Fitzpatrick, N., & Mills, S. (2018). Issues in energy and environmental policy. University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://closup.umich.edu/files/ieep-nsee-2018-spring-climate-belief.pdf

Felix, A. (2018). The economic effects of the marijuana industry in Colorado. Main Street Views.  Retrieved from www.kansascityfed.org/publications/research/rme/articles/2018/rme-1q-2018

Hartig, H., & Geiger, A. (2018). About six-in-ten americans support marijuana legalization. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/08/americans-support-marijuana-legalization

Hassanien, R. H. E., & Ming, L. (2017). Influences of greenhouse-integrated semi-transparent photovoltaics on microclimate and lettuce growth. International Journal of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, 10(6), 11-22. doi:10.25165/j.ijabe.20171006.3407

Holyoke, Massachusetts, is ready to welcome the marijuana industry with open arms. (2018). NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/holyoke-massachusetts-is-ready-to-welcome-the-marijuana-industry-with-open-arms/

Magagninia, G., Grassia, G., & Kotirantab, S. (2018). The effect of light spectrum on the morphology and cannabinoid content of cannabis sativa L. Med Cannabis Cannabinoids. 1:19–27. DOI: 10.1159/000489030

Maloney, B. (2018, March 23). Renewable Energy Subsidies — Yes Or No? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/uhenergy/2018/03/23/renewable-energy-subsidies-yes-or-no/#7afc6c206e23

Marijuana Facility Guidance. (2016). Colorado Fire Marshals Special Task Group. Retrieved from https://fmac-co.wildapricot.org/resources/Pictures/Marijuana_Guidance_Document_v.1_2016%2003%2016.pdf

Massachusetts Legislature. (2016). Section 76: Cannabis control commission; members; appointment; terms; chairman; secretary. Retrieved from https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleII/Chapter10/Section76

Mills, E. (2012). The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production. Elsevier. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.396.4759&rep=rep1&type=pdf

NASA. (n. d.) How climate is changing. NASA Science. Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

Ntinas, G. K., Neumair, M., Tsadilas, C. D., & Meyer, J. (2017). Carbon footprint and cumulative energy demand of greenhouse and open-field tomato cultivation systems under southern and central european climatic conditions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 142, 3617-3626. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.10.106

Ronay, K., & Dumitru, C. (2015). Hydroponic greenhouse energy supply based on renewable energy sources doi://doi.org/10.1016/j.protcy.2015.02.099

Schmalensee, R., Bulovic, V., Armstrong, R., Batlle, C., Brown, P., Deutch, J., . . . Vergara, C. (2015). The future of solar energy an interdisciplinary MIT study. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from http://energy.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/MITEI-The-Future-of-Solar-Energy.pdf

Shen, Y., Wei, R., & Xu, L. (2018). Energy consumption prediction of a greenhouse and optimization of daily average temperature. Energies, 11(1), 65. doi:10.3390/en11010065

Warren, G. (2016). Regulating pot to save the polar bear: energy and climate impacts of the marijuana industry. Columbia J Environ Law 2015;40:385. Retrieved from http://www.columbiaenvironmentallaw.org/regulating-pot-to-save-the-polar-bear-energy-and-climate-impacts-of-the-marijuana-industry/

Wolfgang, B. (2018, January 7). Environmentalists alarmed at marijuana industry’s massive use of carbon-based electricity. Retrieved from washingtontimes.com

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(2015, January 1). Environment and Energy Facts and Figures. Retrieved from https://www.environment.admin.cam.ac.uk/facts-figures

Managing Overpopulated Feral Horses in the Great Basin, USA

Emily Bartone, Natural Resource Conservation; Charlotte Sedgwick, Animal Science; Derek Tripp, Building Construction Technology

Feral, invasive horses crowd government-managed corrals

The Great Basin of the United States is currently inhabited by over 80,000 wild non-native horses. Being a wild non-native species, they survive without the assistance of humans in a region outside of their native distribution range. The horses we now see in the Great Basin were brought to this continent by Europeans during colonization. Historically, large predators such as mountain lions and wolves also roamed the landscape and could control these populations. Humans eradicated nearly all large predators during the past century of extensive development. This has left many prey species, including horses, free to expand without limit (Jackson, S., 2018). Continue Reading

Fighting Gypsy Moths With The Fungal Predator E. maimaga

Gypsy moth on oak leaf

Authors: Izaak Jankowski (Animal Science), Reilly Mcnamara (Animal Science), and Quinn Slavin (Horticulture)

The year is 1868, and a French scientist by the name of Leopold Trouvelot has just accidentally released an organism that will ruthlessly defoliate trees of Massachusetts forests in the years to come (DEEP, 2018). This disastrous creature is none other that the Gypsy moth; a species of moth which has been living and thriving in European and Asian ecosystems for thousands of years (Libehold, 2018).  It took this moth ten years prior to establishment to reach a population level that was sizable enough to notice (Libehold, 2018). Within 100 years, this moth had spread from the point of origin in Boston to areas all throughout the northeast coast, into the great lake states, and even into further northern areas such as Quebec and Ontario (DEEP, 2018). This rapid expansion was fueled by the vast amount of plant species the moth is able to feed upon and the limited predator it had.   Continue Reading

Assessing and Combating the Enteric Methane Contributions of Ruminants

Authors: Melissa Bonaccorso (Natural Resource Conservation); Morgane Golan (Animal Science, Pre-Vet); Ben Phaneuf (Building Construction Technology)

In a new effort to better quantify the methane emitted by livestock, researchers are utilizing methane-collecting backpacks on cows.

Most of us have the best intentions when making decisions at the grocery store – we often try to choose what is best for our health, and many of us have environmentalism in mind, as well. It can be difficult to know what is best, and all the contradictory information out there can leave us frustrated and confused. It seems that every few months there is a new set of rules for how we are supposed to eat: vegan, vegetarian, antibiotic-free, gluten-free, cage-free, GMO-free; and when it comes to beef, grass-fed is now all the rage. Unfortunately, if environmental sustainability is your motive, grass-fed beef actually does more harm than good. Ruminants such as cattle, sheep, and goats, are animals that are able to subsist on plant matter because they have a stomach compartment, the rumen, in which microorganisms digest these cellulose products. However, this form of digestion, known as enteric fermentation, comes at a cost. The microbial ecosystem of the rumen generates methane as a byproduct of this fermentation, in a process called ruminal methanogenesis (Lassey 2006). Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas, and is of critical importance because it has a global warming effect that is 28-36 times that of carbon dioxide (EPA). Nearly half of all human-caused methane emissions come from agriculture, and livestock contributes nearly 70% of CH4 emissions from the agricultural sector (Vergé et al. 2008, p.132; Lassey, 2006; Wysocka-Czubaszek 2018). In the context of the US specifically, methane accounts for 10% of our total greenhouse gas emissions, and 26% of these methane emissions comes from enteric fermentation – the second-highest portion next to natural gas and petroleum systems (EPA). While its concentration in the atmosphere is much lower than that of CO2, methane is 20 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide is, and has the potential to contribute 18% of the total expected global warming up to the year 2050, next to carbon dioxide’s 50%  (Milich, 1999). Thus, while CO2 tends to get the most public attention for its contributions to climate change, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas, which calls for more significant consideration.

An average of 30 million animals per year are slaughtered for the beef industry in the US, and an average of 2 million animals, with an additional 3.4 billion pounds of beef, are imported to the US from Canada annually (ERS, 2015). In addition, about 9 million milk cows are active in the US in 2016 alone (statista.com). In all, approximately 20 billion pounds of beef is consumed in the US each year, accounting for approximately half of the American dietary carbon footprint (Waite, 2018). The amount of CH4 emissions from ruminants in 2016 was equivalent to 170 million metric tons of CO2 (Center for Sustainable Systems, 2018). To put these numbers into context, the effect of greenhouse gas emissions produced by annual US beef consumption is equivalent to that which would result from a car driving around the entire Earth 22,000 times (space.com; ewg.org). In response to the severity of methane output via enteric fermentation, the scientific community has become increasingly concerned with identifying resolutions that are considerate of productivity within the agricultural sector, as well as environmental efficiency.

Significant enteric methane production, and the overall increasing trend in GHG emissions by the beef and dairy industries, are symptomatic of a high demands for livestock products (Place, 2016). Many environmentalists and animal-rights activists advocate for a drastic decrease in or even total elimination of beef and dairy consumption in the American diet. Reduction in meat and dairy consumption is certainly linked to a lower personal environmental impact: the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the average meat-eater’s diet are about 1.5 to 2 times those of vegetarians and vegans, respectively (Scarborough, et al. 2014). But most people are resistant to altering their diet in such a radical way, due to a plethora of social and physical barriers; global demand for meat products is actually increasing at a rate faster than land availability can accommodate (Kwan, 2011; Jenkins, 2004; Verge, 2008). In fact, demand for beef and dairy products in the US is expected to increase 70% within the next 36 years (Place, 2016). Although veganism and vegetarianism can help reduce total greenhouse gas emissions, we simply cannot rely on everyone to adopt these lifestyles if we are to make significant changes with haste. In addition, campaigns to reduce meat consumption pose a threat to cattle farmers’ incomes. Harsh restrictions on the beef and dairy industries, or campaigns to reduce the consumption of these products across the nation and world, are both insufficient and would also pose a threat to those whose livelihoods depend on these industries. For these reasons, research teams including veterinarians, environmental specialists and other invested individuals, are collaborating to identify strategies for reducing ruminal methane emissions, without harming invested parties. To minimize the impact of ruminal methane emissions without negatively affecting animal welfare and the livelihoods of stakeholders, we propose the integration of dietary supplements into ruminal feed to naturally inhibit methanogenesis.

One of the most promising methods of reducing ruminal methanogenesis without posing a threat to the industry or the animals is through supplementation of the animals’ diets. Since feed efficiency and methane production are intrinsically linked, ruminants reared on cellulose-based diet, such as those destined to become the beloved “grass-fed” beef, will produce more methane, and for a longer time than they might otherwise, since the cellulose-based diet is not conducive to optimal growth of the animals (Tirado-Estrada et al., 2018). Experts in the field have acknowledged that completely altering the diet of every ruminant on earth is not feasible: grain-based diets can be costly and are often inaccessible (Tirado-Estrada et. al., 2018). It is possible and cost-effective, however, to improve the digestibility of the livestock diet by replacing some of the fiber content with protein-rich concentrates, while still utilizing the typical pasture-based diet. Increasing the digestibility of the diet of dairy and beef cattle can reduce methane emissions in two ways: first, by helping these cows reach market weight sooner, thereby limiting the amount of methane that each cow can produce throughout its life, and second, by inhibiting the process of methanogenesis in the rumen. Any compound with a high protein/low fiber content would be a fine contender for the improvement of the ruminal diet, but those that are naturally sourced, readily available and less costly are most ideal for the animals, the environment, and stakeholders. An excellent option which meets this criteria has been identified: mangosteen peel powder (MSP). Mangosteen peel powder, or Garcinia mangostana, is very highly regarded among animal nutritionists, because it does not negatively affect the crucial microbial populations of the rumen, but can reduce the population of methanogens, the microorganisms most responsible for methane production, by up to 50% in a safe manner (Polyorach et. al., 2016). The utilization of MSP in feed has been found to significantly reduce methane production between 10-25% (Wanapat et al. 2015; Manasri et al 2012; Polyorach et al. 2016). Aside from reducing the population of methanogens, protein-rich plant concentrates present in mangosteen peels, called saponins and tannins, have also been found to minimize the growth and activity of methane-producing protozoa in the rumen, without inhibiting their function entirely (Wallace et al, 2002, Patra 2011). Supplementing the diet with naturally derived plant compounds such as this effectively reduces methane production, and does so without causing significant consequences to the animal’s microbial system or putting the animal at risk for ruminal disease (Patra, 2010).

Dietary additives are already widely used to supplement cattle feed, which makes further supplementation feasible once high-protein supplements, like MSP, are made readily available in the national market. For example, Rumensin is a feed additive that has been used in the cattle industry for over 4 decades (Greenfield et al., 2000). The active ingredient in Rumensin is a coccidiostat, meaning that it is an antibiotic specifically geared at killing coccidiosis bacteria in the animal body. Rumensin is an attractive product because of its prevention and control of disease, as well as its capacity to improve feed efficiency by 4% (“Data on Dairy Science”, 2012). Because of the traction and popularity associated with this feed supplement, which improves productivity while also combating a severe public health crisis, there is potential for MSP to be utilized in a similar manner, with the intent to mitigate the impending public health crisis of climate change.

In anticipation of concerns among farmers and other food animal industry leaders that dietary supplementation would be too costly, it is important to emphasize that methane reduction and productivity are not mutually exclusive; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Dietary manipulation, as a means by which to decrease methane emissions, may also have the attractive quality of improving feed efficiency and animal productivity (Lovett et al., 2003). Protein rich, plant-based supplements are capable of improving milk production and composition, daily weight gain, and feed conversion efficiency (Khan et al., 2015). In other words, with the use of dietary supplements, animals can be brought to their goal weight more quickly while producing higher-quality meat. The inclusion of such methane-inhibiting concentrates has been found to correspond directly with more rapid animal development and increased body weight while potentially reducing enteric methane by up to 40% (Benchaar et. al., 2001, Lovett et al., 2003). The investment in dietary supplements may therefore ultimately result in money saved that would otherwise be spent on longer rearing times to get animals to their goal weight. The inclusion of protein-rich plant concentrates also has the potential to not only decrease enteric methane production but also increase the fat content in milk when included in the diets of dairy cows (Tirado-Estrada et. al., 2018). Integration of protein-dense supplements into the diet may be the most feasible option for increasing productivity while decreasing enteric methane production by dairy and beef cattle. For this reason, dietary supplementation of this sort is considered the most appealing and cost-effective option to motivate farmers to adopt more sustainable practices (Patra, 2010).

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Hydroelectric Power in The Snake River

 

Samantha Bruha: Animal Science

Shane Murphy: Horticulture

Jake Schick: Building Construction Technology

Ashley Artwork: Building Construction Technology

The Nez Perce people reside on the Snake River in North Central Idaho and still practice a hunter-gatherer way of life (Smith, 2018).  In 1855, The United States Government and five Native American tribes residing in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho signed the Treaty of Walla Walla (Smith, 2018)  Since the the original treaty, the Nez Perce Tribe has retained the right to fish, to hunt, and to graze livestock on unclaimed lands outside of the reservation (Smith, 2018).  Due to the addition of hydroelectric dams, beginning in the 1950’s on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, the Nez Perce Tribe has suffered a great loss of fishing resources from the effects of dams on the Salmon populations (Quirke, 2017).  Elliott Moffett, a 65 year old member of the Nez Perce Tribe, fights for Salmon in the lower Snake River (Quirke, 2017). “‘I like to say we are like the Salmon, we need clean, cold, swift running water. And they don’t have that because the dams have impounded their river,’” Moffett states (Quirke, 2017).  Moffett and his fellow activists at the Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment organization, have dedicated their lives to defending the environment and the Nez Perce rights (Support|Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, 2018).  Every decision the tribe makes has “seven generations ahead” in mind and the scarcity of resources is making it harder and harder to teach future generations how to live off of the land (Support|Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, 2018).

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It’s Sink or Swim for Lobsters in Southern New England: Climate Change is Turning Southern New England into a Boiling Pot and Lobsters are Leaving

There are two stories in New England currently: one of success and one of failure. The lobster fishing industry is without question one of the most significant parts of the New England identity and culture. Lobster fishing has provided a lucrative livelihood since the 1800s and continues to do so for those fishing in Northern New England. While those fishing for lobster in the North are hauling record numbers, the industry in the South has been heading toward the verge of collapse since the late 1990s. Tom Tomkiewicz, a Massachusetts lobsterman who fishes in Long Island Sound describes it himself, saying “there is nothing here… it’s crazy” (Abel, 2017). How can one of the biggest industries of a region suddenly be at massively different levels of success? The answer lies in the rising temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and historic management practices that have lead to this disparity. Continue Reading

Green Weed, Green Planet

Tyler Clements (Environmental Science), Rudy Marek (Geology), Mitch Maslanka (Natural Resource Conservation), Olivia Santamaria (Horticulture)

In 1996, California voted to become the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use. Fast forward to today, and the legalization of marijuana is now a seemingly unstoppable movement that is sweeping across the United States. With recreational and medicinal use being rapidly legalized all over the country, 29 states have already legalized marijuana medicinally and 9 have recreationally (Robinson, Berk, & Gould, 2018, para. 2). From the start of California legalizing marijuana, this new industry with seemingly endless potential was given the green light to begin at the commercial level. As of 2017, the industry has grown from $6.73 billion to $9.7 billion in North America (Borchardt, 2017, para. 1; Robinson, 2018, para. 6; Zhang, 2017, para. 2). The entrepreneurs of the country began to think of ways to create and expand a marijuana based business and one of the most important aspects of this process was how the marijuana itself was going to be grown. Continue Reading

Preserving New England Lobster Fisheries in the Face of Climate Change

By Thomas Isabel, Hannah Brady, and Shawn Monast

Since the 1970’s, the waters off the coast of Southern New England have been warming at a startling rate due to a toxic combination of man-made factors including greenhouse gases and pollution. These changes to the Earth’s atmosphere are happening at a rapid pace, making climate change one of the biggest issues facing humanity. The aqua life inhabiting oceans, especially coastal waters, are being forced farther North into ocean environments with cooler temperatures fitting their ideal thermal range. One of the many species being affected by increasing water temperature is the American lobster, scientifically known as the Homarus Americanus. These ocean creatures have been around for almost 500 million years, long before any humans were recorded on Earth, and they are now being pushed out of their homes as a consequence of human actions. Although lobsters constantly face different challenges to their populations such as predation and disease, climate change has become their biggest threat in the last decade. Fishermen all along the Eastern coastline rely on the catch and sale of lobsters to make a living to support their families and keep the market afloat. Without this species, fishermen and seafood establishments would miss out on a potentially crucial portion of revenue and be forced to rely on the catch and sale of other ocean species or perhaps a different profession in the fishing industry. The American lobster makes up a large percentage of income for fisherman and their migration due to global warming is crippling the economy of coastal regions. In order to save lobster fisheries in southern New England from climate change, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission needs to educate fishermen on the constant changes in thermal temperatures range, new production possibilities, and the migration patterns through technological advancements.  

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