, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 333-351
Date: 09 Mar 2012

A comparison of GHG emissions from UK field crop production under selected arable systems with reference to disease control

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Abstract

Crop disease not only threatens global food security by reducing crop production at a time of growing demand, but also contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reducing efficiency of N fertiliser use and farm operations and by driving land use change. GHG emissions associated with adoption of reduced tillage, organic and integrated systems of field crop production across the UK and selected regions are compared with emissions from conventional arable farming to assess their potential for climate change mitigation. The reduced tillage system demonstrated a modest (<20%) reduction in emissions in all cases, although in practice it may not be suitable for all soils and it is likely to cause problems with control of diseases spread on crop debris. There were substantial increases in GHG emissions associated with the organic and integrated systems at national level, principally due to soil organic carbon losses from land use change. At a regional level the integrated system shows the potential to deliver significant emission reductions. These results indicate that the conventional crop production system, coupled to reduced tillage cultivation where appropriate, is generally the best for producing high yields to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to global food security, although there may be scope for use of the integrated system on a regional basis. The control of crop disease will continue to have an essential role in both maintaining productivity and decreasing GHG emissions.