Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 643–656 | Cite as

Strategies for reducing the carbon footprint of field crops for semiarid areas. A review

  • Yantai Gan
  • Chang Liang
  • Chantal Hamel
  • Herb Cutforth
  • Hong Wang
Review Paper

Abstract

The Earth’s climate is rapidly changing largely due to increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Agricultural practices during crop production, food processing, and product marketing all generate GHG, contributing to the global climate change. The general public and farmers are urging the development and adoption of effective measures to reduce GHG emissions from all agricultural activities and sectors. However, quantitative information is not available in regard to what strategies and practices should be adopted to reduce emission from agriculture and how crop productivity would affect the intensity of GHG emission. To provide the potential solution, we estimated the carbon footprint [i.e., the total amount of GHG associated with the production and distribution of a given food product expressed in carbon dioxide equivalence (CO2e)] for some of the major field crops grown on the Canadian prairie and assessed the effect of crop sequences on the carbon footprint of durum wheat. Key strategies for reducing the carbon footprint of various field crops grown in semiarid areas were identified. Carbon footprints were estimated using emissions from (1) the decomposition of crop straw and roots; (2) the manufacture of N and P fertilizers and their rates of application; (3) the production of herbicides and fungicides; and (4) miscellaneous farm field operations. Production and application of N fertilizers accounted for 57% to 65% of the total footprint, those from crop residue decomposition 16% to 30%, and the remaining portion of the footprint included CO2e from the production of P fertilizer and pesticides, and from miscellaneous field operations. Crops grown in the Brown soil zone had the lowest carbon footprint, averaging 0.46 kg CO2e kg−1 of grain, whereas crops grown in the Black soil zone had a larger average carbon footprint of 0.83 kg CO2e kg−1 of grain. The average carbon footprint for crops grown in the Dark Brown soil zone was intermediate to the other two at 0.61 kg CO2e kg−1 of grain. One kilogram of grain product emitted 0.80 kg CO2e for canola (Brassica napus L.), 0.59 for mustard (Brassica juncea L.) and flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum L.), 0.46 for spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and 0.20 to 0.33 kg CO2e for chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), dry pea (Pisum sativum L.), and lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.). Durum wheat (T. aestivum L.) preceded by an N-fixing crop (i.e., pulses) emitted total greenhouse gases of 673 kg CO2e, 20% lower than when the crop was preceded by a cereal crop. Similarly, durum wheat preceded by an oilseed emitted 744 kg CO2e, 11% lower than when preceded by a cereal. The carbon footprint for durum grown after a pulse was 0.25 kg CO2e per kg of the grain and 0.28 kg CO2e per kg of the grain when grown after an oilseed: a reduction in the carbon footprint of 24% to 32% than when grown after a cereal. The average carbon footprint can be lowered by as much as 24% for crops grown in the Black, 28% in the Dark Brown, and 37% in the Brown soil zones, through improved agronomic practices, increased N use efficiency, use of diversified cropping systems, adoption of crop cultivars with high harvest index, and the use of soil bioresources such as P-solublizers and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in crop production.

Keywords

Carbon footprint Legumes Oilseeds Broadleaf crops Biochar Crop diversification Carbon sequestration Straw management Input N-fixation 

References

  1. Afza A, Bano A, Fatima M (2010) Higher soybean yield by inoculation with N-fixing and P-solubilizing bacteria. Agron Sustain Dev 30:487–495. doi: 10.1051/agro/2009041 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) (2009) North American Fertilizer Prices, Production and Consumption, in: Korol M., Larivière É. (Eds.), Fertilizer Pricing in Canada, http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/display-afficher.do?id=1179252532274&lang=eng#table3.9
  3. Al-Kaisi M, Licht MA (2004) Effect of strip tillage on corn nitrogen uptake and residual soil nitrate accumulation compared with no-tillage and chisel plow, Agron J 96:1164–1171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Annicchiarico P, Abdellaoui Z, Kelkouli M, Zerargui H (2005) Grain yield, straw yield and economic value of tall and semi-dwarf durum wheat cultivars in Algeria. J Agric Sci 143:57–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Audet P, Charest C (2008) Allocation plasticity and plant-metal partitioning: Meta-analytical perspectives in phytoremediation. Environ Pollut 156:290–296PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Augé RM (2001) Water relations, drought and vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis. Mycorrhiza 11:3–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Avis TJ, Gravel V, Antoun H, Tweddell RJ (2008) Multifaceted beneficial effects of rhizosphere microorganisms on plant health and productivity. Soil Biol Biochem 40:1733–1740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beckie HJ (2007) Beneficial management practices to combat herbicide-resistant grass weeds in the northern Great Plains. Weed Technol 21:290–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Campbell CA, Biederbeck VO, Schnitzer M, Selles F, Zentner RP (1989) Effect of 6 years of zero tillage and N fertilizer management on changes in soil quality of an Orthic Brown Chernozem in southwestern Saskatchewan. Soil Tillage Res 14:39–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Campbell CA, McConkey BG, Zentner RP, Dyck FB, Selles F, Curtin D (1995) Carbon sequestration in a Brown Chernozem as affected by tillage and rotation. Can J Soil Sci 75:449–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Campbell CA, Zentner RP, Gameda S, Blomert B, Wall DD (2002) Production of annual crops on the Canadian prairies: Trends during 1976-1998. Can J Soil Sci 82:45–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Choudhary DK, Prakash A, Wray V, Johri BN (2009) Insights of the fluorescent pseudomonads in plant growth regulation. Curr Sci India 97:170–179Google Scholar
  13. Crews TE, Peoples MB (2004) Legume versus fertilizer sources of nitrogen: ecological tradeoffs and human needs. Agric Ecosys Environ 102:279–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cruz AF, Ishii T, Matsumoto I, Kadoya K (2004) Relationship between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal development and eupalitin content in bahiagrass roots grown in a satsuma mandarin orchard. J Japan Soc Hortic Sci 73:529–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Derksen DA, Anderson RL, Blackshaw RE, Maxwell B (2002) Weed dynamics and management strategies for cropping systems in the northern Great Plains. Agron J 94:174–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dobbie KE, McTaggart IP, Smith KA (1999) Nitrous oxide emissions from intensive agricultural systems: Variations between crops and seasons, key driving variables, and mean emission factors. J Geophys Res Atmos 104:26891–26899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Drinkwater LE, Wagoner P, Sarrantonio M (1998) Legume-based cropping systems have reduced carbon and nitrogen losses. Nature 396:262–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dyer JA, Desjardins RL (2006) Carbon dioxide emissions associated with the manufacturing of tractors and farm machinery in Canada. Biosyst Eng 93:107–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dyer JA, Desjardins RL (2007) Energy-based GHG emissions from Canadian agriculture. J Energy Inst 80:93–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dyer J.A., Vergé X.P.C., Desjardins R.L., Worth E.D., McConkey B.G. (2010) The impact of increased biodiesel production on the greenhouse gas emissions from field crops in Canada, Energy Sust. Devel. (in press).Google Scholar
  21. El GN, Paynot M, Martin-Tanguy J, Morandi D, Gianinazzi S (1996) Effect of polyamines and polyamine biosynthesis inhibitors on spore germination and hyphal growth of Glomus mosseae. Mycol Res 100:597–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Entz MH, Guilford R, Gulden R (2000) Crop yield and soil nutrient status on 14 organic farms in the eastern portion of the northern Great Plains. Can J Plant Sci 81:351–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Environment Canada. (2010) National Inventory submission: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, Greenhouse Gas Division, Environment Canada, Ottawa, ON. http://unfccc.int/national_reports/annex_i_ghg_inventories/national_inventories_submissions/items/5270.php
  24. Flynn HC, Smith J, Smith KA, Wright J, Smith P, Massheder J (2005) Climate- and crop-responsive emission factors significantly alter estimates of current and future nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer use, Glob. Change Bio 11:1522–1536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Forster P, Ramaswamy V, Artaxo P, Berntsen T, Betts R, Fahey DW, Haywood J, Lean J, Lowe DC, Myhre G (2007) Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 129–234Google Scholar
  26. Fries LLM, Pacovsky RS, Safir GR (1998) Influence of phosphorus and formononetin on isozyme expression in the Zea mays-Glomus intraradices symbiosis. Physiol Plantarum 103:172–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gan YT, Miller PR, McConkey BG, Zentner RP, Stevenson FC, McDonald CL (2003) Influence of diverse cropping sequences on durum wheat yield and protein in the semiarid northern Great Plains. Agron J 95:245–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gan YT, Campbell CA, Jansen HH, Lemke R, Liu LP, Basnyat P, McDonald CL (2009) Carbon input to soil by oilseed and pulse crops in semiarid environment. Agric Ecosys Environ 132:290–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gan YT, Kutcher R, Menalled F, Lafond L, Brandt S (2010) Crop diversification and intensification with broadleaf crops in cereal-based cropping systems in the Northern Great Plains of North America. In: Malhi SS, Gan YT, Schoenau JJ, Lemke RL, Liebig MA (eds) Recent Trends in Soil Science and Agronomy Research in the Northern Great Plains of North America. Research Signpost, Trivandrum, Kerala, India, p 427Google Scholar
  30. Gianinazzi S, Vosátka M (2004) Inoculum of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi for production systems: science meets business. Can J Bot 82:1264–1271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Harker KN, O’Donovan JT, Irvine RB, Turkington TK, Clayton GW (2009) Integrating cropping systems with cultural techniques augments wild oat (Avena fatua) management in barley. Weed Sci 57:326–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Herridge DF, Peoples MB, Boddey RM (2008) Global inputs of biological nitrogen fixation in agricultural systems. Plant Soil 311:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hoeppner JW, Entz MH, McConkey BG, Zentner RP, Nagy CN (2006) Energy use and efficiency in two Canadian organic and conventional crop production systems. Renew Agric Food Syst 21:60–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Horii S, Matsumura A, Kuramoto M, Ishii T (2009) Tryptophan dimer produced by water-stressed bahia grass is an attractant for Gigaspora margarita and Glomus caledonium. World J Microbiol Biotechol 25:1207–1215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hynes RK, Leung GCY, Hirkala DLM, Nelson LM (2008) Isolation, selection, and characterization of beneficial rhizobacteria from pea, lentil, and chickpea grown in western Canada. Can J Microbiol 54:248–258PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. IPCC. (2006) 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Volume 4: Agriculture, Forestry and other Land Use. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Paris, France. http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2006gl/vol4.htm.
  37. Janzen HH, Desjardins RL, Asselin JMR, Grace B (1998) The health of our air: Toward sustainable agriculture in Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, p 98Google Scholar
  38. Janzen HH, Beauchemin KA, Bruinsma Y, Campbell CA, Desjardins RL, Ellert BH, Smith EG (2003) The fate of nitrogen in agroecosystems: An illustration using Canadian estimates. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 67:85–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Janzen HH, Angers DA, Boehm M (2006) A proposed approach to estimate and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from whole farms. Can J Soil Sci 86:401–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Khan DF, Peoples MB, Schwenke GD, Felton WL, Chen D, Herridge DF (2003) Effects of below-ground nitrogen on N balances of field-grown fababean, chickpea, and barley. Aust J Agric Res 54:333–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kirkegaard J, Christen O, Krupinsky J, Layzell D (2008) Break crop benefits in temperate wheat production. Field Crops Res 107:185–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kuwada K, Kuramoto M, Utamura M, Matsushita I, Ishii T (2006) Isolation and structural elucidation of a growth stimulant for arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus from Laminaria japonica Areschoug. J Appl Phycol 18:795–800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Laird D, Fleming P, Wang B, Karlen D (2009) Impact of biochar amendments on soil quality for a typical midwestern agricultural soil, Poster presentation. North American Biochar Conference, Boulder, Colorado, USAGoogle Scholar
  44. Lal R (1995) The role of residues management in sustainable agricultural systems. J Sustain Agric 5:51–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lal R (2004) Carbon emission from farm operations. Environ Int 30:981–990PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Leibovitch S, Migner P, Zhang F, Smith DL (2001) Evaluation of the effect of SoyaSignal technology on soybean yield [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] under field conditions over 6 years in eastern Canada and the northern United States, J. Agron. Crop Sci 187:281–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Liang B.C., McConkey B.G., Campbell C.A., Johnston A.M., Moulin A.P. (2002) Short-term crop rotation and tillage effects on soil organic carbon on the Canadian prairies. An international symposium on agricultural practices and policies for carbon sequestration, Soil. Sci. Soc. Am. J., Special Publication, 287–293.Google Scholar
  48. Liang BC, Campbell CA, McConkey BG, Padbury G, Collas P (2005) An empirical model for estimating carbon sequestration on the Canadian prairies. Can J Soil Sci 85:549–556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lynch JP (2007) Turner review no. 14. Roots of the second green revolution. Aust J Bot 55:493–512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Malhi SS, Grant CA, Johnston AM, Gill KS (2001) Nitrogen fertilization management for no-till cereal production in the Canadian Great Plains: A review. Soil Tillage Res 60:101–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Marino D, Pucciariello C, Puppo A, Frendo P (2009) Chapter 5 The Redox State, a referee of the legume-rhizobia symbiotic game. Adv Bot Res 10:115–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McConkey BG, Liang BC, Campbell CA, Curtin D, Moulin A, Brandt SA, Lafond GP (2003) Crop rotation and tillage impact on carbon sequestration in Canadian prairie soils. Soil Tillage Res 74:81–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McGonigle TP, Miller MH (1993) Mycorrhizal development and phosphorus absorption in maize under conventional and reduced tillage. Soil Sci Soc Am J 57:1002–1006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Menalled FD, Gross KL, Hammond M (2001) Weed aboveground and seedbank community responses to agricultural management systems. Ecol Appl 11:1586–1601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Miller PR, Gan Y, McConkey BG, McDonald CL (2003) Pulse crops for the northern Great Plains: I. Grain productivity and residual effects on soil water and nitrogen. Agron J 95:972–979CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Miransari M, Smith D (2009) Rhizobial lipo-chitooligosaccharides and Gibberellins enhance barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) seed germination. Biotechnol 8:270–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Moot DJ, McNeil DL (1995) Yield components, harvest index and plant type in relation to yield differences in field pea genotypes. Euphytica 86:31–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Paradis R, Dalpe Y, Charest C (1995) The combined effect of arbuscular mycorrhizas and short-term cold exposure on wheat. New Phytol 129:637–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Peng S, Buresh RJ, Huang J, Zhong X, Zou Y, Yang J, Wang G, Liu Y, Hu R, Tang Q, Cui K, Zhang F, Dobermann A (2010) Improving nitrogen fertilization in rice by site-specific N management-A review, Agron Sustain Dev 30, 649–656. doi:  10.1051/agro/2010002.Google Scholar
  60. Prasad R (2009) Efficient fertilizer use: The key to food security and better environment. J Trop Agric Food Sci 47:1–17Google Scholar
  61. Rees WE (1992) Ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity: what urban economics leaves out, Environ. Urbanisation 4, 121–130, doi: 10.1177/095624789200400212.
  62. Reino JL, Guerrero RF, Hernández-Galán R, Collado IG (2008) Secondary metabolites from species of the biocontrol agent Trichoderma. Physiol Rev 7:89–123Google Scholar
  63. Rochette P, Worth DE, Lemke RL, McConkey BG, Pennock DJ, Wagner-Riddle C, Desjardins RL (2008) Estimation of N2O emissions from agricultural soils in Canada. I. Development of a country-specific methodology. Can J Soil Sci 88:641–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rolfe BG (1988) Flavones and isoflavones as inducing substances of legume nodulation. Biofactors 1:3–10PubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Ruddiman WF (2003) The anthropogenic greenhouse era began thousands of years ago. Clim Change 61:261–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sawers RJH, Gebreselassie MN, Janos DP, Paszkowski U (2010) Characterizing variation in mycorrhiza effect among diverse plant varieties. Theor Appl Genet 120:1029–1039PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sieling K, Kage H (2010) Efficient N management using winter oilseed rape - A review, Agron. Sustain. Dev. 30, 271–279. doi:  10.1051/agro/2009036.
  68. St-Arnaud M, Hamel C, Vimard B, Caron M, Fortin JA (1996) Enhanced hyphal growth and spore production of the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus Glomus intraradices in an in vitro system in the absence of host roots. Mycol Res 100:328–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Swift MJ, Vandermeer J, Ramakrishnan PS, Anderson JM, Ong CK, Hawkins BA (1996) Biodiversity and agroecosystem function. In: Mooney HA, Cushman JH, Medina E, Sala OE, Schulze ED (eds) Functional Roles in Biodiversity: A Global Perspective. John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp 261–290Google Scholar
  70. Unger PW (1978) Straw-mulch rate effect on soil water storage and sorghum yield. Soil Sci Soc Am J 42:486–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Ussiri DAN, Lal R, Jarecki MK (2009) Nitrous oxide and methane emissions from long-term tillage under a continuous corn cropping system in Ohio. Soil Tillage Res 104:247–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Van Loon LC (2007) Plant responses to plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria. Eur J Plant Pathol 119:243–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Van Noordwijk M, Cadisch G (2002) Access and excess problems in plant nutrition. Plant Soil 247:25–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. VandenBygaart AJ, Gregorich EG, Angers DA (2003) Influence of agricultural management on soil organic carbon: A compendium and assessment of Canadian studies. Can J Soil Sci 83:363–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Viscusi WK, Zeckhauser RJ (2006) The perception and valuation of risks of climate change: a rational and behavioral blend. Clim Change 77:151–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wackernagel M. (1994) Ecological footprint and appropriated carrying capacity: A tool for planning toward sustainability. (PhD thesis), Vancouver, Canada: School of Community and Regional Planning, The University of British Columbia. OCLC 41839429.Google Scholar
  77. Walley FL, Clayton GW, Miller PR, Carr PM, Lafond GP (2007) Nitrogen economy of pulse crop production in the Northern Great Plains. Agron J 99:1710–1718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. West TO, Marland G (2002) A synthesis of carbon sequestration, carbon emissions, and net carbon flux in agriculture: comparing tillage practices in the United States. Agric Ecosyst Environ 9:217–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Westerman PR, Liebman M, Menalled FD, Heggenstaller AH, Hartzler RG, Dixon PM (2005) Are many little hammers effective? Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) population dynamics in two- and four-year crop rotation systems. Weed Sci 53:382–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wiedmann T, Minx J (2008) A definition of ‘carbon footprint’. In: Pertsova CC (ed) Ecological Economics Research Trends: Chapter 1. Nova, Hauppauge NY, USA, pp 1–11Google Scholar
  81. Wiedmann T, Minx J, Barrett J, Wackernagel M (2006) Allocating ecological footprints to final consumption categories with input-output analysis. Ecol Econ 56:28–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Yuan ZL, Zhang CL, Lin FC (2010) Role of diverse non-systemic fungal endophytes in plant performance and response to stress: progress and approaches, J. Plant Growth Regul 29:116–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Zentner RP, Stumborg MA, Campbell CA (1989) Effect of crop rotations and fertilization on energy balance in typical production systems on the Canadian Prairies. Agric Ecosyst Environ 25:217–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zentner RP, McConkey BG, Stumborg MA, Campbell CA, Selles F (1998) Energy performance of conservation tillage management for spring wheat production in the Brown soil zone. Can J Plant Sci 78:553–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Zentner RP, Lafond GP, Derksen DA, Nagy CN, Wall DD, May WE (2004) Effects of tillage method and crop rotation on non-renewable energy use efficiency for a thin Black Chernozem in the Canadian Prairies. Soil Tillage Res 77:125–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Zentner R.P., Brandt S.A., Nagy C.N., Frick B. (2009) Economics and energy use efficiency of alternative cropping strategies for the Dark Brown soil zone of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund Final Report: Project 20070029. http://www.agr.gov.sk.ca/apps/adf/adf_admin/reports/20070029.pdf
  87. Zhang F, Smith DL (1997) Application of genistein to inoculate soil to overcome low spring soil temperature inhibition of soybean nodulation and nitrogen fixation. Plant Soil 192:141–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© INRA and Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yantai Gan
    • 1
  • Chang Liang
    • 2
  • Chantal Hamel
    • 1
  • Herb Cutforth
    • 1
  • Hong Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research CentreAgriculture and Agri-Food CanadaSwift CurrentCanada
  2. 2.Greenhouse Gas Emission DivisionEnvironment CanadaGatineauCanada

Personalised recommendations