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Swine Cluster 4 (2023-2028)

Activity 4 | Environment

Strategies to optimize phosphorus and nitrogen utilization to reduce the environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of Canadian pig production

Project Lead: Marie-Pierre Létourneau Montminy, Université Laval

Status: Ongoing

Why is this project important?


Though agriculture has worked extensively on regulating nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) excretion, and animal science has developed effective strategies to address it, researchers have never connected the subject to the fertilization of crops. Given the impact of these excretions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, eutrophication (impairment of ecosystems caused by the over-production of algae) and acidification, it is critical to look at alternatives to traditional fertilizers. One such option is slurry, a natural fertiliser of animal origin that is a mixture of faeces, urine, and the remains of fodder and water used for the elimination of faeces). In addition to providing N and P, slurry provides fiber and other elements that aid in sequestering carbon in the soil.


What will researchers do?


This study will make use of the BABE (Agri-environmental assessment of livestock buildings) laboratory belonging to the IRDA (Research and development institute for the agri-environment). Located at the Deschambault Animal Science Research Centre near Quebec, the lab consists of 12 completely independent rooms arranged side by side. Joints are all sealed and doors are airtight to prevent any air exchange.


The experiment was conducted in the BABE (“Bilan agroenvironneme

Animals for the trial are to be housed in this facility while researchers measure GHG and ammonia emissions, and isolate the slurry for experimental treatments. The manure will contain two different levels of N and P, so that some is high in N and low in P, and some is the reverse. Scientists want to study the equilibrium between the two elements and find the right balance, something that is not possible at other research farms where the manure is mixed. They will then take the manure, put it in the soil and use it to raise crops, assessing the results as they go.


As well, researchers plan to examine the impact of diets, such as those degrading fiber, to assess the theory that the more fiber is degraded, the fewer GHG emissions that are produced. To this end, they will look at enzymes in animal feed and test the manure in the soil as they seek a dietary strategy to reduce emissions.

When it comes to feeding approaches, animal science has shown that it can reduce P and N excretion by 20–30% without compromising growth performance. In keeping with the goals of this project, they will shift their focus to what is best for the environment, and how they can protect it while still maintaining production efficiency. They also want to ensure that their method of using manure efficiently is the best option for crops. In part, this is what makes the project unique: Bringing together experts on soil, crops and animal science to break new ground in making optimal use of manure, P and N while safeguarding the environment.


What will be the benefit of this research?


At present, there is tremendous pressure on all industries to reduce GHG emissions. For the swine sector, 30% of emissions are the product of manure management, and while producers work hard to help green the planet, their efforts often go unnoticed. By reducing the industry’s environmental footprint and providing accurate numbers on the sector’s impact, this study will help demonstrate the efficiency of pork production. When faced with criticism, the industry can respond with figures that reflect the real world, not just with the data currently availlable that was generated from simulations.


What has been done so far?


  • Work on the project is just getting underway, with results to come in the near future.


Project status: Currently in progress. Results expected in 2028.




  • Inoka Amarakoon, University of Manitoba (U of M)

  • Xiaopeng Gao, U of M

  • Xu Shanwei, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

  • Bernardo Predicala, Prairie Swine Centre (PSC)

  • Stéphane Godbout, IRDA (Research and Development Institute for the Agri-Environment

  • Marie-Élise Samson, Université Laval

  • Lotfi Khiari, Université Laval

  • Ruurd Zijlstra, University of Alberta

  • Christine Brown, OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)

  • Florence Garcia-Launay, INRAE (France's National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment)

  • Safya Menasseri-Aubry, AgroCampus

  • Aurélie Wilfart, INRAE

  • Sébastien Fournel, University of Laval

  • Rajinikanth Rajagopal, AAFC Sherbrooke

  • Laetitia Cloutier, CDPQ

  • Guillaume Jégo, AAFC Sainte-Foy

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