Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Morris, Minnesota » Soil Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #212189

Title: Agricultural opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions

item Johnson, Jane
item Franzluebbers, Alan
item Weyers, Sharon
item Reicosky, Donald

Submitted to: Environmental Pollution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/10/2007
Publication Date: 11/1/2007
Citation: Johnson, J.M., Franzluebbers, A.J., Lachnicht Weyers, S.L., Reicosky, D.C. 2007. Agricultural Opportunities to Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Environmental Pollution. 150:107-124.

Interpretive Summary: Agriculture in the United States plays an important role in providing food and fiber to its people. Agriculture shares the burden of releasing greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere. As a percentage of the total greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, agriculture contributes about 7%. Today, there is growing potential for agriculture to offset its greenhouse gas contributions by sequestering carbon in soil and providing bio-energy to replace fossil fuels. Scientists at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Morris, MN, and Watkinsville, GA, summarized the literature on agricultural contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and C sequestration and provided examples of how agriculture might lessen its burden on the greenhouse effect. Conservation practices that foster soil organic matter accumulation, limit erosion and reduce unnecessary leakage of nitrogen to the environment will help to improve agricultural profitability, sustainability, and its role in mitigating climate change. Future research approaches are suggested to improve the assessment of how agriculture impacts the global atmosphere. This information will educate scientists, producers and the general public including policy-makers of strategies that allow agriculture to help mitigate greenhouse gas emission, and lessen the risk of disastrous global climate change.

Technical Abstract: Agriculture is a source for three primary greenhouse gases (GHG): carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). It can also be a sink for CO2 through carbon (C) sequestration into biomass products and soil organic matter. We summarized the literature on GHG emissions and C sequestration providing a perspective on how agriculture can reduce its GHG burden and how it can help to mitigate GHG emissions through conservation measures. We reviewed impacts of agricultural practices and systems on GHG emission and discussed potential trade-offs among potential mitigation options. Conservation practices that help prevent soil erosion may also sequester soil C and enhance CH4 consumption. Managing N to match crop needs can reduce N2O emission and adverse impacts on water quality. Manipulating animal diet and manure management can reduce CH4 and N2O emission from animal agriculture. All segments of agriculture have management options, which can reduce agriculture's environmental footprint. [GRACEnet Publication]