Sustainability research is conducted to define a balance between food production and environmental impact.
The ROCs were part of early work that helped bring renewable energy systems to western Minnesota.
Scientists at research and outreach centers monitor nutrient intake and digestibility to improve feed efficiency and minimize nutrients in the environment. Research has demonstrated the benefits of storing manure solids to allow for bacterial breakdown of organic material before field application, which improves the nutrient availability to the soil. They also study the effects of controlling and monitoring runoff of nutrients applied to land as manure and look for ways animal waste may be used in energy production.
Perennial cropping systems for biomass or bioproducts, which benefit the environment through soil stabilization, water retention and ecological diversification, are a key focus for scientists at sites statewide.
Scientists are studying how disease resistant varieties of shrub roses, for example, can be grown with reduced or no pesticide applications. Integration of diversified agricultural cropping systems and biological control of insect populations hold great promise for Minnesota agriculture.
Prairie landscapes provide ecosystem benefits as well as a potential economic benefit if perennial plants can be harvested and used in biofuel production.
Wind-to-hydrogen-to-ammonia research will provide a model for community groups to address the challenges associated with “stranded wind resources.” Converting wind energy to anhydrous ammonia is one way of capturing the value of the wind energy generated and making it available for direct use by local farming communities.