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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES FOR IMPROVING ORGANIC FARMING IN THE MID-ATLANTIC REGION Title: US agricultural nitrous oxide emissions: context, status, and trends

Authors
item Cavigelli, Michel
item Del Grosso, Stephen
item Liebig, Mark
item Snyder, Clifford -
item Fixen, Paul -
item Venterea, Rodney
item Leytem, April
item McLain, Jean
item Watts, Dexter

Submitted to: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 11, 2012
Publication Date: January 11, 2013
Citation: Cavigelli, M.A., Del Grosso, S.J., Liebig, M.A., Snyder, C.S., Fixen, P.E., Venterea, R.T., Leytem, A.B., McLain, J.E., Watts, D.B. 2013. US agricultural nitrous oxide emissions: context, status, and trends. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 10:537-546.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural soil management accounts for 69% of total US nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a greenhouse gas (GHG) and an important catalyst of stratospheric ozone depletion whose atmospheric concentration is increasing at 0.6 to 0.9 parts per billion per year. A review of the literature showed that increased productivity in crop and livestock production during the last 30 to 70 years has resulted in decreased N2O emissions per unit of production. However, N2O emissions from US agriculture continue to increase, though at a lower rate than during the 20th century. These data suggest that while continuing productivity improvements are necessary, they are likely not sufficient to reduce overall N2O emissions from agriculture, without also implementing strategies specifically targeted to reducing N2O emissions. Policy makers who are interested in reducing GHG emissions from US agriculture will benefit from this information.

Technical Abstract: Nitrogen (N) fertilizers have contributed to enormous increases in agricultural productivity in the US. However, nitrogen losses from agricultural systems have contributed to a number of deleterious environmental impacts, including a continuing increase in atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas (GHG) and an important catalyst of stratospheric ozone depletion. While agricultural systems account for about 6 to 8% of total US GHG emissions, soil management alone accounts for 69% of total US N2O emissions. Increased productivity in crop and livestock production during the last 30 to 70 years has resulted in decreased N2O emissions per unit of production. However, N2O emissions from US agriculture continue to increase, though at a lower rate than during the 20th century. While continuing productivity improvements are necessary, they are likely not sufficient to reduce overall N2O emissions from agriculture, without also implementing strategies specifically targeted to reducing N2O emissions.

Last Modified: 12/17/2014
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