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1 March, 2022 - 21:26 By Tony Quested

New sensor to chart agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions

Researchers from ARU Peterborough are to pilot a new smart meter for farmers to help slash harmful emissions from agriculture. The AgriTech device is designed to monitor greenhouse gasses in real-time.

The project is funded by Innovate UK and involves ARU Peterborough, Newcastle University and Mirico.

The partners have developed a sensor that uses laser dispersion spectroscopy to measure methane and carbon dioxide across an area of up to 1 sq km. A sensor to detect nitrous oxide is in development.

Researchers from ARU Peterborough, the city’s new university, will use the sensor to monitor nitrous oxide emissions from organic manure at a farm near Bury St Edmunds.

Newcastle University will study methane emissions from grazing cattle at Cockle Park farm in Northumberland. Testing of the new technology will start this spring.

A recent Government report found that agriculture is responsible for 10 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, including 68 per cent of all nitrous oxide and 47 per cent of methane.

As part of the UK’s ambitions to become net zero by 2050, farmers can receive payments for implementing changes that benefit the environment through the Government’s new Environmental Land Management schemes.

Carbon emissions from farming are currently calculated using online tools. It is hoped these new sensors will allow farmers to monitor their precise emissions in real-time, allowing them to receive immediate feedback about the changes they are making on their land.

ARU Peterborough, which opens to its first students in September, is developing a range of courses around environmental management and agri-technology. These will focus on sustainability and in particular the impact on the environment from the production and supply of food.

Dr Marcus Travers, Agri-Food Technology Lead at ARU Peterborough, said: “The work with the Mirico Orion system, in collaboration with Newcastle University, will be an important addition to our investigations here at ARU Peterborough into nitrogen use in arable crops.

“We hope the sensor will help to answer many of the important questions around the use of organic manures, inorganic fertilisers and greenhouse gas emissions. Technology like this could potentially become a common sight on farms across the country very soon.”

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