"Environment" research area

Reducing Nitrous Oxide from Agriculture


Primary Investigator - Timothy GriffisPrimary InvestigatorTimothy Griffis
Co-InvestigatorsAlexander Frie, Rodney Venterea
Industry PartnersMinnesota Department of Agriculture
Award Type: Seed Grant - Postdoctoral Research Scholar

Problem: Since the industrial revolution, the use of synthetic nitrogen (N) as fertilizer has driven increased agricultural yields. However, a 40-fold increase in the use of N fertilizers since 1940 has led to a steep increase in emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O). N2O has been labeled the most important anthropogenic oxygen depleting substance, and is roughly 300 times more potent (as a greenhouse gas) than CO2. As an agriculture-heavy state, Minnesota needs new treatment options to replace synthetic fertilizers.

Solution: The majority of agriculturally-based N2O emissions come from denitrification, a biological process through which nitrate is converted to ozone-depleting nitrogenous gases. MnDRIVE Researchers have identified procyanidins, a compound produced by grapes and berries, to be an inhibitor of the denitrification process. This project will use procyanidins from multiple sources and measure their ability to reduce N2O emissions. Researchers will also identify optimal levels of procyanidins to apply for the desired decrease in denitrification. 

Impact: Climate change and Ozone depletion are two pressing issues defining environmental protection in the 21st century. The potential of procyanidins to decrease nitrous oxide emissions is yet to be fully recognized, but their utilization could be key in mitigating climate change and stratospheric Ozone depletion. Procyanidin is produced by grapes and could increase the demand for juice and wine production, providing economic stimulation for Minnesota industries.