From Carbon to Nitrates, Students Get Opportunities to Dig Deeper
December 8, 2023
NORFOLK, Neb. – When it comes to agriculture, there’s no shortage of controversial topics as 21 teams of Northeast Community College agriculture students know.
A sampling of headlines in the past year includes increased interest in artificial meat, trying to get rid of nitrates in water and concerns over carbon production from agriculture.
The Northeast Community College Agriculture Department recently invited the public to attend an event called, “Issues in Agriculture,” which featured several booths at Union 73. The booths contained information presented on these topics and more from research the students conducted this past semester. Students enrolled in the Issues in Agriculture I course conducted the research.
One team consisting of freshmen students Ty Schroeder, Cohen Grossart, Oliver Planer and Jayden Smith examined carbon production from agriculture. They looked at such things as gas emissions from cattle, gas emissions from grain fed versus grass fed, and whether grain fed cattle can cause acidic rain.
The team discovered research that indicates grass-fed beef can lead to coastal and ocean acidification, which is acidic rain. They did not conduct any experiments themselves, but looked at existing research.
Schroeder, who is from Texas, said they did not see evidence one way or another on whether farming, especially livestock production, leads to increased carbon emissions and climate change.
“It was about equal (the research),” Schroeder said. “When we were doing our research, it was hard to say (one way or another).”
Grossart, who is from Wolbach, said contrary to many media stories, carbon emissions are not significant from livestock production.
“It is a fact that only about 15% of the world’s greenhouse gases come from livestock,” Grossart said.
It was a fun project to complete because there are a lot of views and research on the topic, Grossart said. Everyone seems to have an opinion on it, he said.
Brandon Keller, agriculture instructor, said the event was designed as an ag literacy event to better educate the public about what takes place in the ag industry.
With one in two jobs in the Northeast Community College 20-county service region being directly related to the ag industry, the instructional team believes it is important for students to know how to present factual information about the industry in a non-bias manner.
“This event gives students the opportunity to put their research skills on display and gives them practice in presenting information to a general audience for educational purposes,” Keller said.
Henry Goeden, Northeast apprenticeship coordinator, said this is his first year working with the students, but the Issues in Agriculture class has been tackling these types of topics for several years.
“We study from a book the first half of class where we learn about issues and controversies about agriculture. Then we ask them to take one of those issues and dive in and learn more about it during the second part of the semester,” Goeden said.
The event is the culmination of a semester-long course that has explored current events, controversies, and professional development within the agriculture industry. It is designed to better position students for their internships and full-time employment in the agriculture industry.
Robert Noonan, diversified agriculture instructor, said the research projects have been completed for a few years now and varying projects were completed before that in the class.
“Brandon Keller came up with this idea. I like this idea a lot because it gives the students a chance to get in front of people and tell them some of the things they learned. It helps them to know what it would be like to have a booth at a trade show. It isn’t just about understanding an issue but being able to professionally present it to the public,” Noonan said.