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Title: Measuring and mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas production in the U.S. Great Plains 1870-2000

item PARTON, W - Colorad0 State University
item GUTMANN, M - University Of Michigan
item MERCHANT, E - University Of Michigan
item HARTMAN, M - Colorad0 State University
item Adler, Paul
item McNeal, Fred
item LUTZ, S - Colorad0 State University

Submitted to: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/15/2015
Publication Date: 8/3/2015
Citation: Parton, W.J., Gutmann, M.P., Merchant, E.R., Hartman, M.D., Adler, P.R., Mcneal, F.M., Lutz, S. 2015. Measuring and mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas production in the U.S. Great Plains 1870-2000. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112(34):E4681-E4688.

Interpretive Summary: Agriculture production has a long history in the Great Plains region of the United States and the land use has seen many changes during this timeframe. Land use change can be a dominate factor in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. We found that the dominant factors contributing the greenhouse gas emissions from this region have changed over time, from the initial plowout and loss of soil carbon, to increased livestock production and use of fossil fuels. This study identified the critical factors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture production in the Great Plains region and proposed best management practices for cattle and crop production which could reduce these emissions by over 60%.

Technical Abstract: In the last 150 years the Great Plains region of the United States has become a major center of agricultural production for the global market. The initial agricultural settlement of this area and subsequent changes in production content and farming techniques have resulted in significant greenhouse gas releases, first from the plowout (initial cultivation) of native grasslands and then increasingly from livestock, farm equipment, irrigation pumping, and fertilizer application. Using historical data and innovative modeling methods, this article estimates the magnitude of greenhouse gas fluxes from all of these sources at an annual resolution for the entire period from 1870 to 2000, finding a total release of over 2.7 million Gg CO2-Ce, an average of just over 21,000 Gg CO2-Ce each year. This analysis reveals marked change over time in the sources of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from soil to livestock and fossil fuels. It concludes by examining existing methods of reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, and suggests that annual greenhouse gas fluxes could be reduced by 64% if current best management practices were used to raise cattle and produce crops.