Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 49, Issue 1–3, pp 221–228 | Cite as

Global estimates of potential mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions by agriculture

  • C.V. Cole
  • J. Duxbury
  • J. Freney
  • O. Heinemeyer
  • K. Minami
  • A. Mosier
  • K. Paustian
  • N. Rosenberg
  • N. Sampson
  • D. Sauerbeck
  • Q. Zhao


Technologies to reduce net emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide within the agriculture sector were reviewed to estimate the global potential for mitigation of these radiatively active greenhouse gases. Our estimates of the potential reduction of radiative forcing by the agricultural sector range from 1.15-3.3 Gt C equivalents per year. Of the total potential reduction, approximately 32% could result from reduction in CO2 emissions, 42% of carbon offsets by biofuel production on 15% of existing croplands, 16% from reduced CH4 emissions and 10% from reduced emissions of N2O. Agriculture encompasses large regional differences in management practices and rates of potential adoption of mitigation practices. Acceptability of mitigation options will depend on the extent to which sustainable production will be achieved or maintained and benefits will accrue to farmers. Technologies such as no-till farming and strategic fertilizer placement and timing are now being adopted for reasons other than concern for climate change issues.

agriculture carbon dioxide methane mitigation nitrous oxide 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amentano TV & Menges ES (1986) Patterns of change in the carbon balance of organic soil-wetlands of the temperate zone. Ecology 74: 755–774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benckiser G & Simarmata T (1994) Environmental impact of fertilizing soils by using sewage and animal wastes. Fertilizer Research 37: 1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bouwman AF (1990) Global distribution of the major soils and land cover types. In: Bouwman AF (ed) Soils and the Greenhouse Effect. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester-New York-Brisbane-Toronto-SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  4. Bouwman AF (1994) Method to estimate direct nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils. Report 773004004, National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection, Bilthoven, the Netherlands, 28Google Scholar
  5. Campbell CA, Zentner RP, Janzen HH & Bowren KE (1990) Crop rotation studies on the Canadian prairies. Research Branch Agriculture Canada, Publication 1841/EGoogle Scholar
  6. Clayton H, Arah JRM & Smith KA (1994) Measurement of nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized grassland using closed chambers. J Geophys Res 99: 16599–16607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cole CV, Flach K, Lee J, Sauerbeck D & Stewart B (1993) Agricultural sources and sinks of carbon. Water, Air, Soil Pollut 70: 111–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crutzen PJ (1981) Atmospheric chemical processes of the oxides of nitrogen including nitrous oxide. In: Delwiche CC (ed) Denitrification, Nitrification and Atmospheric Nitrous Oxide. Wiley, New York, 17–44Google Scholar
  9. Darmstadter J (1993) Climate change impacts on the energy sector and possible adjustments in the MINK region. In: Rosenberg NJ (ed) Towards an Integrated Impact Assessment of Climate Change: the MINK Study. Paper 5, Climatic Change 24: 117–129Google Scholar
  10. Davidson EA & Ackerman IL (1993) Changes in soil carbon inventories following cultivation of previously untilled soils. Biogeochemistry 20: 161–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duxbury JM & McConnaughey PK (1986) Effect of fertilizer source on denitrification and nitrous oxide emissions in a maize field. Soil Sci Soc Am J 50: 644–648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Follett RF (1993) Global climate change, US agriculture, and carbon dioxide. J Prod Agric 6: 181–190Google Scholar
  13. Hogan KB (1993) Methane reductions are a cost-effective approach for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. In: van Amstel AR (ed) Methane and Nitrous Oxide: Methods in National Emissions Inventories and Options for Control. RIVM Report No. 481507003. Bilthoven, the Netherlands. pp 187–201Google Scholar
  14. Houghton RA, Hobbie JE, Melillo JM, Moore B, Peterson BJ, Shaver GR & Woodwell GM (1983) Changes in the carbon content of terrestrial biota and soils between 1860 and 1980: A net release of CO2 to the atmosphere. Ecol Monogr 53: 235–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Houghton RA & Skole DL (1990) Carbon. In: Turner BL, Clark WC, Kates RW, Richards JF, Mathews JT & Meyer WB (eds) The Earth as Transformed by Human Action. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Houghton RA (1994) The worldwide extent of land-use change. BioScience 44: 305–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. IPCC (1996) Climate Change (1995): Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change: Scientific-Technical Anlayses. Contribution of Working Group II to the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Watson RT, Zinyowera MC & Moss RH (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York. 880 ppGoogle Scholar
  18. Isermann K (1994a) Agriculture's share in the emission of trace gases affecting the climate and some cause-oriented proposals for sufficiently reducing this share. Environ Pollut 83: 95–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Isermann K (1994b) Ammoniak. Enquete-Kommission “Schutz der Erdatmosphaere” (ed) Landwirtschaft, Studienprogramm, Economica Verlag, BonnGoogle Scholar
  20. Janzen HH (1987) Soil organic matter characteristics after long-term cropping to various spring wheat rotations. Can J Soil Sci 67: 845CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johansson BJ, Kelly H, Reddy AKN & Williams RH (eds) (1993) Renewables for Fuels and Electricity. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnson DE, Ward GM & Torrent J 1991 The environmental impact of the use of bST in dairy cattle. J Environ Qual 21: 157–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson DE, Hill TM, Ward GM, Johnson KA, Branine ME, Carmean BR & Lodman DW (1993) Ruminants and other animals. In: Khalil MAK (ed) Atmospheric Methane: Sources, Sinks, and Role in Global Change. Springer-Verlag, NY, pp 199–229Google Scholar
  24. Kern JS & Johnson MG (1993) Conservation tillage impacts on national soil and atmospheric carbon levels. Soil Sci Soc Am J 57: 200–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Leng RA (1991) Improving ruminant production and reducing methane emissions from ruminants by strategic supplementation. USEPA Report 400/1-91/004. Office of Air and Radiation, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Lin E, Dong H & Li Y (1994) Methane emissions of China: Agricultural sources and mitigation options. In: van Ham J et al. (eds) Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases. Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp 405–410Google Scholar
  27. Lindau CW, Bollich PK, DeLaune RD, Mosier AR & Bronson KF (1993) Methane mitigation in flooded Louisiana rice fields. Biol Fertil Soils 15: 174–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McTaggart I, Clayton H & Smith K (1994) Nitrous Oxide flux from fertilized grassland: Strategies for reducing emissions. In: van Ham J et al. (eds) Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases, Kluwer Academic Publishers, the Netherlands, pp 421–426Google Scholar
  29. Mosier AR (1993) Nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils. In: van Amstel AR (ed) Methane and Nitrous Oxide: Methods in National Emission Inventories and Options for Control Proceedings. National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection, Bilthoven, The Netherlands, pp 273–285Google Scholar
  30. Mosier AR, Duxbury JM, Freney JR, Heinemeyer O & Minami K Nitrous oxide emission from agricultural fields: Assessment, measurements and mitigation. Plant and Soil 181: 95–108Google Scholar
  31. Neue HU (1992) Agronomic practices affecting methane fluxes from rice cultivation. In: Ojima DS & Svensson BH (eds) Trace Gas Exchange in a Global Perspective, DS Ojima & Svensson BH (eds). Ecol Bull, Copenhagen 42: 174–182Google Scholar
  32. Oldeman LR, van Engelen VWP & Pulles JHM, (1992) The extent of human-induced soil degradation. In: Oldeman LR, Hakkeling RTA & Sombroek WG (eds) World Map of the Status of Human-Induced Soil Degradation: An Explanatory Note. International Soil Reference and Information Centre, Wageningen, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  33. Reeburgh WS, Whalen SC & Alpern MJ (1993) The role of methylotrophy in the global methane budget. Microbial Growth on C1 Compounds 1–14Google Scholar
  34. Sampson RN, Wright LL, Winjum JK, Kinsman JD, Benneman J, Kursten E & Scurlock JMO (1993) Biomass management and energy. In: Wisniewski J & Sampson RN (eds) Terrestrial Biospheric Carbon Fluxes: Quantification of Sinks and Sources of CO2. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp 139–162Google Scholar
  35. Sass RL, Fisher FM, Turner FT & Jud MF (1991) Methane emissions from rice fields as influenced by solar radiation, temperature, and straw incorporation. Global Biogeochem Cycles 5: 335–350Google Scholar
  36. Sass RL, Fisher FM, Wang YB, Turner FT & Jud MF (1992) Methane emission from rice fields: the effect of floodwater management. Global Biogeochem Cycles 6: 249–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sass RL (1994) Short summary chapter for methane. In: Minami K, Mosier A & Sass R (eds) CH4 and N2O: Global Emissions and Controls from Rice Fields and Other Agricultural and Industrial Sources. NIAES, Yokendo Publishers, Tokyo, 1–7Google Scholar
  38. Sauerbeck D (1993) CO2 emissions from agriculture: sources and mitigation potentials. Water, Air, Soil Pollut 70: 381–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sauerbeck D (1994) Die Landwirtschaft als Verursacherin und Betroffene moeglicher Klimaveraenderungen. Klimaforschung in Bayern. In: Bayrische Adademie der Wissenschaften (ed) Rund-gespraeche der Kommission fuer Oekologie. Bd 8, Verlg F. Pfeil, Muenchen, 151–168Google Scholar
  40. Smith KA (1990) Greenhouse gas fluxes between land surfaces and the atmosphere. Progress in Phys Geogr 14: 349–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sombroek WG, Nachtergaele FO & Hebel A (1993) Amounts, dynamics and sequestering of carbon in tropical and subtropical soils. Ambio 22: 417–426Google Scholar
  42. US Government Executive Office (1995) Economic Report of the President. US Government Printing OfficeGoogle Scholar
  43. Yagi K & Minami K (1990) Effect of organic matter application on methane emission from some Japanese paddy fields. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 36: 599–610Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • C.V. Cole
    • 1
  • J. Duxbury
    • 2
  • J. Freney
    • 3
  • O. Heinemeyer
    • 4
  • K. Minami
    • 5
  • A. Mosier
    • 6
  • K. Paustian
    • 1
  • N. Rosenberg
    • 7
  • N. Sampson
    • 8
  • D. Sauerbeck
    • 9
  • Q. Zhao
    • 10
  1. 1.Natural Resource Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Soil, Crop and Atmospheric ScienceCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.CSIRO, Division of Plant IndustryCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.Institut fur Bodenbiologie, FAL BraunschweigBraunschweigGermany
  5. 5.JIRCASTsukuba, IbarakiJapan
  6. 6.USDA/ARSFort CollinsUSA
  7. 7.Battelle, Pacific Northwest LaboratoriesWashington, D.CUSA
  8. 8.American ForestsWashington, D.CUSA
  9. 9.BraunschweigGermany
  10. 10.Institute of Soil ScienceAcademica SinicaNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations