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Study finds crop performance matters when evaluating greenhouse gas emissions
Date:9/5/2011

s oxide emitted per hectare. Recent research has suggested that expressing GHG emissions per unit of yield may be more meaningful, although few studies have actually done that.

To see how yield-scaled calculations might change the picture on emissions, USDA-ARS researchers in collaboration with University of Minnesota colleagues measured the effects of tillage and nitrogen (N) fertilizer management on nitrous oxide emissions, grain yields, and crop N uptake over three consecutive growing seasons in Minnesota. The experiment was conducted in research plots used for corn and soybean production, which were maintained under either no-till or conventional tillage for 18 years.

When the scientists calculated nitrous oxide emissions per unit yield of grain or grain N, they found that emissions under no-tillage were 52 and 66% higher, respectively, than with conventional tillage. In other words, for this cropping system and climate, Venterea says, no-till practices would generate substantially more nitrous oxide than would conventional tillage for the same amount of grain. The effect was due to lower yields under no-till, combined with slightly greater area-scaled nitrous oxide emissions.

Reduced yields under continuous no-till management in parts of the upper Midwest and other regions have been attributed to lower soil temperatures in spring, which may inhibit plant development. In other geographic regions, though, no-till can actually increase yields.

"So, for these other regions, expressing GHG emissions on a yield-basis could reveal benefits to no-till management that otherwise might not be quantified," Venterea says.


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Contact: Sara Uttech
suttech@sciencesocieties.org
608-268-4948
American Society of Agronomy
Source:Eurekalert

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