This page is going to be dedicated to the USDA project titled “Alternative Fibers to Promote a Sustainable Agricultural Economy to Fight Climate Change” submitted in April 2022. This web page will be used to inform stakeholders on the advances of the project, post relevant information, and call for meetings.
Forestry, agriculture, and land use change contribute 29% of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. On the other hand, agriculture offers the potential for creating a near-term GHG reduction through the adoption of Climate-Smart Agricultural and Forestry (CSAF) practices. Major barriers preventing the adoption of CSAF practices include lack of technical assistance, cost of implementation, and potential reduction in crop yields (in the early years), which creates the risk of decreasing income for farmers.
This project is a large-scale demonstration of CSAF practices using North Carolina (NC) and Montana (MT) as two representative climate hardiness zones, and two specific crops: fiber hemp and wheat, opening new market opportunities for sustainably produced commodities, with the opportunity to convert agricultural waste (wheat straw) and process waste (hemp hurd) into products with higher value. Our demonstration project will enable underserved and small-scale farmers to adopt CSAF practices in their operations, create new manufacturing partnerships, and open up the private carbon markets to create a self-sustaining agricultural business model. We will recruit and support farmers to produce four smart-climate commodities: i) agricultural waste wheat straw, ii) hemp bast, iii) hemp hurd, and iv) sequestered carbon.
Our project will demonstrate a business model that does not require long-term subsidies and can reduce transaction costs to ensure the verification of GHG benefits using a web-based sustainability tracking tool. In aggregate, these efficient verification tools and the additional income from the fiber products will promote data transparency and connect consumers and investors in carbon credits with our farmers and thus secure stakeholder trust. Changes in on-farm production associated with CSAF practices are estimated to reduce 200 to 400 kg of CO2 eq. per acre, while alternative uses for straw residues can impact GHG emissions by 2.0-2.3 tons of CO2 eq. per acre.
The sustainable conversion of these feedstocks into consumer goods will be demonstrated via pilot-scale processing of wheat straw and hemp hurd in state-of-the-art pilot-scale facilities at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the University of Washington (UW); these pulping processes will allow for the reuse of chlorine-free pulping liquors by land application as fertilizers (biobased soil additive), reducing inputs across the whole system with additional benefits such as sequestering of biogenic carbon and creating additional soil improvements.
This pilot program demonstration will be supervised by an advisory board comprised of members of our demonstration project and project’s stakeholders and executed by a team of well-recognized scientists, business practitioners, local farmer associations, and a consortium of major industrial corporations. Prof. R. Gonzalez (NCSU), director of the Sustainable & Alternative Fibers Initiative consortium will be responsible for the overall management of this project. Senior leadership will also be provided by Prof. D. Suchoff, director of the FFAR Hemp consortium, Prof. R. Handfield, Bank of America Distinguished Professor and Director of the Supply Chain Cooperative, Prof. S. Kelley (NCSU), and Prof. R. Gustafson (UW).