Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 67–76 | Cite as

Measurement of Net Global Warming Potential in Three Agroecosystems

  • A.R. Mosier
  • A.D. Halvorson
  • G.A. Peterson
  • G.P. Robertson
  • L. Sherrod


When appraising the impact of food and fiber production systems on the composition of the Earth's atmosphere and the ‘greenhouse’ effect, the entire suite of biogenic greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) – needs to be considered. Storage of atmospheric CO2 into stable organic carbon pools in the soil can sequester CO2 while common crop production practices can produce CO2, generate N2O, and decrease the soil sink for atmospheric CH4. The overall balance between the net exchange of these gases constitutes the net global warming potential (GWP) of a crop production system. Trace gas flux and soil organic carbon (SOC) storage data from long-term studies, a rainfed site in Michigan that contrasts conventional tillage (CT) and no-till (NT) cropping, a rainfed site in northeastern Colorado that compares cropping systems in NT, and an irrigated site in Colorado that compares tillage and crop rotations, are used to estimate net GWP from crop production systems. Nitrous oxide emissions comprised 40–44% of the GWP from both rain-fed sites and contributed 16–33% of GWP in the irrigated system. The energy used for irrigation was the dominant GWP source in the irrigated system. Whether a system is a sink or source of CO2, i.e. net GWP, was controlled by the rate of SOC storage in all sites. SOC accumulation in the surface 7.5 cm of both rainfed continuous cropping systems was approximately 1100 kg CO2 equivalents ha−1 y−1. Carbon accrual rates were about three times higher in the irrigated system. The rainfed systems had been in NT for >10 years while the irrigated system had been converted to NT 3 years before the start of this study. It remains to be seen if the C accrual rates decline with time in the irrigated system or if N2O emission rates decline or increase with time after conversion to NT.

Key words

Climate change Greenhouse gases Nitrous oxide No-till Soil organic carbon 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bronson, K.F., Mosier, A.R. 1993

    Nitrous oxide emissions and methane consumption in wheat and corn-cropped systems in Northeastern Colorado

    Harper, L.A.Mosier, A.R.Duxbury, J.M.Rolston, D.E. eds. Agricultural Ecosystem Effects on Trace Gases and Global Climate ChangeAm. Soc. AgronMadison, WI133144ASA Special Publication 55.
    Google Scholar
  2. Caldeira, K., Morgan, G., Baldocchi, D., Brewer, P., Chen, C.T.A., Nabuurs, G.-J., Nakicenovic, N., Robertson, G.P. 2004

    A portfolio of carbon management options

    Field, C.B. eds. Towards CO2 StabilizationIsland PressNew York
    Google Scholar
  3. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) 2004. Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: Challenges and Opportunities for AgricultureTask Force Report No. 141. CAST, Ames, IAUSA720 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Cole, C.V., Duxbury, J., Freney, J., Heinemeyer, O., Minami, K., Mosier, A., Paustian, K., Rosenberg, N, Sampson, N., Sauerbeck, D., Zhao, Q. 1997Global estimates of potential mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions by agricultureNutr. Cycl. Agroecosyst.49221228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Del Grosso, S.J., Ojima, D.S., Parton, W.J., Mosier, A.R. 2002

    Simulated effects of tillage and timing of N fertilizer application on net greenhouse gas fluxes and N losses from agricultural soils in the Midwestern USA

    Ham , J.Baede, A.P.M.Guicherit, R.Williams-Jacobse, G.F.M. eds. Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases; Proceedings NCGG-3MillpressRotterdamthe Netherlands2329Maastrichtthe Netherlands, 21–23 January 2002.
    Google Scholar
  6. Follett, R.F. 2001Soil management concepts and carbon sequestration in cropland soilsSoil Till. Res.617792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Halvorson, A.D., Mosier, A.R., Reule, C.A. 2004

    Nitrogen and crop management influence irrigated corn yields and greenhouse gas emissions

    Alan Schlegel,  eds. Proc. 2004 Great Plains Soil Fertility Conf.Vol. 10DenverCO. Kansas State Univ.Manhattan, KS2127March 2–3, 2004
    Google Scholar
  8. Hutchinson, G.L., Mosier, A.R. 1981Improved soil cover method for field measurement of nitrous oxide fluxesSoil Sci. Soc. Am. J.45311316Google Scholar
  9. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001. Technical Summary of the 3rd Assessment Report of Working Group 1. D.L. Albritton and L.G. Meira Filho (Co-ordinating lead authors). 63 pp.Google Scholar
  10. Kroeze, C., Mosier, A.R., Bouwman, L. 1999Closing the global N2O budget: a retrospective analysis 1500–1994Global Biogeochem. Cycles1318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Livingston, G.P., Hutchinson, G.L. 1995

    Enclosurebased measurement of trace gas exchange: applications and sources of error

    Matson, P.A.Harriss, R.C. eds. Biogenic Trace Gases: Measuring Emissions from Soil and WaterBlackwell ScienceLondon1451
    Google Scholar
  12. Mosier, A.R., Mack, L. 1980Gas chromatographic system for preciserapid analysis of N2OSoil Sci. Soc. Am. J.4411211123Google Scholar
  13. Mosier, A.R., Schimel, D.S., Valentine, D.W., Bronson, K.F., Parton, W.J. 1991Methane and nitrous oxide fluxes in nativefertilized and cultivated grasslandsNature350330332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mosier, A.R., Parton, W.J., Valentine, D.W., Ojima, D.S., Schimel, D.S., Delgado, J.A. 1996CH4N2O fluxes in the Colorado shortgrass steppe: I. Impact of landscape and nitrogen additionGlobal Biogeochem. Cycles10387399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mosier, A.R., Parton, W.J., Valentine, D.W., Ojima, D.S., Schimel, D.S., Heinemeyer, O. 1997CH4N2O fluxes in the Colorado shortgrass steppe. 2. Long-term impact of land use changeGlobal Biogeochem. Cycles112942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Peterson, G.A., Westfal, D.G., Cole, C.V. 1993Agroecosystem approach to soil and crop management researchSoil Sci. Soc. Am. J.5713541360Google Scholar
  17. Robertson, G.P. 2004

    Abatement of nitrous oxidemethaneand the other non-CO2 greenhouse gases

    Field, C.B. eds. Towards CO2 StabilizationIsland PressWashington, DC
    Google Scholar
  18. Robertson, G.P., Grace, P.R. 2004Greenhouse gas fluxes in tropical and temperate agriculture: the need for a full-cost accounting of global warming potentialsEnviron. Dev. Sustainability65163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Robertson, G.P., Klingensmith, K.M., Klug, M.J., Paul, E.A., Crum, J.C., Ellis, B.G. 1997Soil resources, microbial activity, and primary production across an agricultural ecosystemEcol. Appl.7158170Google Scholar
  20. Robertson, G.P., Paul, E.A., Harwood, R.R. 2000Greenhouse gases in intensive agriculture: contributions of individual gases to the radiative forcing of the atmosphereScience28919221925CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Sherrod, L.A., Peterson, G.A., Westfall, D.G., Ahuja, L.R. 2003Cropping intensity enhances soil organic carbon and nitrogen in a no-till agroecosystemSoil Sci. Soc. Am. J.6715331543Google Scholar
  22. Six, J., Ogle, S.M., Breidt, F.J., Conant, R.T., Mosier, A.R., Paustian, K. 2004The potential to mitigate global warming with no-tillage management is only realized when practiced in the long termGlobal Change Biol.10155160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) 2002. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2000. Office of Atmospheric Programs (6201J). Environmental Protection Agency 236-R-00-001.Google Scholar
  24. West, T.O., Marland, G. 2002A synthesis of carbon sequestration, carbon emissions, and net carbon flux in agriculture: comparing tillage practices in the United StatesAgricult. Ecosyst. Environ.91217232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. West, T.O., Post, W.M. 2002Soil organic carbon sequestration rates by tillage and crop rotation: a global data analysisSoil Sci. Soc. Am. J.6619301946Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • A.R. Mosier
    • 1
  • A.D. Halvorson
    • 1
  • G.A. Peterson
    • 2
  • G.P. Robertson
    • 3
  • L. Sherrod
    • 1
  1. 1.USDA – ARSFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Soil and Crop ScienceColo. St. UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Department of Crop and Soil SciencesMichigan St. UniversityHickory CornersUSA

Personalised recommendations