An Italian research group, led by Professor Francesco Morari (pictured on the right) from the university of Padova, are studying the effects of conservation agriculture and cover crops on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water quality in the very shallow water table conditions of Veneto, Italy, with the portable Gasmet DX4015 device. This article discusses their research and experiences using the gas analyzer.
Current Research on GHG Emissions and Water Quality in Shallow Water Table Conditions
Professor Francesco Morari from the University of Padova has dedicated most of his academic career to the study of soil physics and agriculture. He is also a co-leader of a dual Master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture between the University of Padova, Italy and the University of Georgia, USA. His primary research interests are in measuring, modeling, and reducing environmental impacts of agricultural systems. Second major area of emphasis is precision agriculture and digital soil mapping.
Currently, he is studying the effects of conservation agriculture and cover crops on GHG emissions and water quality in shallow water table conditions. Conservation agriculture and cover crops are two agri-environmental measures (AEMs), designed by the EU to encourage farmers to protect and enhance the environment on their farmland. Morari and his research group are utilizing the Gasmet DX4015 gas analyzer to monitor GHGs.
The work is done in collaboration with Dr Barbara Lazzaro from the Regional Government of Veneto, Italy, and Dr Gemini Dalle Vedove from the University of Udine. Their research groups consisting of a dozen of faculty, post doctorate and PhD students, Matteo Longo in particular, and technicians.
His second research regards the effects of digestate from both an agronomic and environmental points of view.
Research Fills a Gap in Mineral Soil Research
Veneto, located in North-Eastern Italy, is a large region with a total area of approximately 18,400 km2.
The elevation varies from the sea level in the South up to 3200 meters on the Dolomites in the North.
The plain, which covers 55% of the regional area, is mainly flat and rarely exceeds 100 m above sea
A large fraction of Veneto Plain is characterized by very shallow water table conditions. What makes this region particularly interesting for Morari, is that these conditions can have strong impact on biogeochemical cycles and, in the end, on air and water pollution.
While many studies of GHG emissions in shallow water table conditions have been carried out in organic soils, there is not much, if any, previous research regarding shallow water table conditions in mineral soils.
Anaerobic digestion facilities are spreading out in the Veneto region. Anaerobic digestion produces two main products: digestate and biogas. Digestate is the material remaining after the anaerobic digestion of a biodegradable feedstock.
We need more information on the best way to use the digestate and its potential effect on the environment”, Morari states.
Finding Solutions to Protect the Environment and Enable Sustainable Agriculture in the Veneto Region
The Veneto region is affected by high anthropogenic, human generated pressures due to increasing conflicts over natural resources. Highly intensive and productive agriculture coexists in Veneto with one of the most densely populated and industrialized areas of Italy, leading to increased environmental issues. Morari’s research aims at assessing the role of agri-environmental measures in Veneto region to enhance the environment. It is also important that with the help of research, more environmentally sustainable ways for farming and agriculture can be enabled in the future.
The desired outcome of the research is to provide a complete picture of the environmental impact of agrarian systems (regarding air and water) in the Veneto low plain, and to identify the most effective best management practices to mitigate water and air pollutions.
Morari also states that they will use the GHG data for calibrating models; the final goal is to upscale the results at a larger, territorial level.
Gasmet DX4015 Multi-gas Analysis Helped Save Costs and Time
Morari’s research group’s facility includes a battery of 20 lysimeters. Each lysimeter is equipped with instruments to monitor the water and solute movement.
Approximately 6 years ago, in collaboration with Dr Dalle Vedove from the University of Udine, an automated closed-chamber system with 12 chambers was installed. Now the number of chambers has been increased up to 24. Each chamber was connected to a gas auto-sampler, and the attached vials were then analyzed using a gas chromatograph. The cost of each single analysis was high and therefore the research group could monitor the GHGs (e.g. N20, Nitrous oxide) only in specific windows.
Adopting the Gasmet DX4015 brought a wide range of benefits for the research group. DX4015 is a portable FTIR gas analyzer for ambient air analysis, and it can measure up to 50 gases simultaneously and on-site. As a higher number of gases could be analyzed simultaneously and continuously, Professor Morari and his group were able to save time and costs while analyzing the solute samples efficiently.
According to Morari, the main benefits of the device were:
- Continuous monitoring: the cost of each single analysis is low
- Simple use of the device
- Remote access and control
- Quick analysis: timesaving
- Possibility to analyze additional gases
‘DX4015 is a portable FTIR gas analyzer for ambient air analysis, and it can measure up to 50 gases simultaneously and on-site’
Gasmet’s Global Presence and Support Network Was Beneficial
The research group experienced a brief but unfortunate set back due to a faulty laser in the gas analyzer. The device was quickly sent back to Gasmet for service and maintenance to change the defect component. Despite the unlucky events, Morari thanks Gasmet for being very collaborative and efficient throughout the process.
“The company, and the local retailer (Gianantonio Favalessa, Ital Control Meters) were all very collaborative. The spare part was changed quickly without any additional costs to us, and we were soon able to continue”, explains Morari.
The university and the research group have, all in all, been very happy with the Gasmet service.
“We’re just in the process of buying another portable gas analyzer from Gasmet, the DX4040”, Professor Morari adds.
The multi-component capability of the Gasmet DX4015 device has also sparked new ideas for the research group:
“We are considering to improve our library in order to monitor new gases mostly related to Nitrogen cycles”, says Morari.