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Title: Trace gas flux from container production of woody landscape plants

item MARBLE, S - Auburn University
item Prior, Stephen - Steve
item Runion, George
item Torbert, Henry - Allen
item GILLIAM, CHARLES - Auburn University
item SIBLEY, JEFF - Auburn University
item KNIGHT, PATRICIA - Mississippi State University

Submitted to: Southern Nursery Association Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/19/2012
Publication Date: 6/25/2012
Citation: Marble, S.C., Prior, S.A., Runion, G.B., Torbert III, H.A., Gilliam, C.H., Sibley, J.L., Knight, P.R. 2012. Trace gas flux from container production of woody landscape plants. In: Proceedings Southern Nursery Association Proceedings. 57:43-47.

Interpretive Summary: The global climate may be altered by increases in greenhouse gases (GHG) associated with agriculture. Our objective was to determine the effects of nursery container size on GHG emissions. Our data show that loss of both CO2 and N2O were greatest in the largest containers. Understanding the relationship between potting media volume and gas emissions could be used to estimate industry-wide trace gas emissions. Future work should account for carbon sequestered in growing biomass or carbon sequestered by placing large amounts of carbon rich media (pinebark, etc.) belowground when plants are planted into the landscape. There is still uncertainty regarding the overall impact of the nursery industry on climate change, however results from this study begin to provide baseline data of trace gas emissions from container nursery production.

Technical Abstract: The agriculture industry is a large source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which are widely believed to be causing increased global temperatures. Reduction of these emissions has been heavily researched, with most of the work focusing on row crop and animal production sectors. Little attention has been given to the environmental impact of specialty crop industries such as horticulture. There is speculation that future legislation limiting CO2 and other GHG emissions from agricultural production could occur. There is a need for all sectors of agriculture to take preemptive action to determine ways in which management practices could be altered to comply with possible new legislation and reduce GHG emissions. To determine methods of reducing GHG from nursery container production systems, baseline trace gas emissions (CO2, N2O, and CH4) from common practices must be established. The objective of this research is to determine efflux patterns of CO2, CH4, and N2O associated with different nursery container sizes under common production practices. Our data show a significant relationship between container size and CO2 efflux, with flux increasing as container size increased. Nitrous oxide flux was also highest in the largest containers. Determining gas flux from different container sizes establishes both a baseline for common nursery container production practices and the relative importance of container size on GHG fluxes. If estimates on the number and size of container-grown plants are developed for each state, the relationship between potting media volume and gas emissions can be scaled to develop estimates of industry-wide emission levels.