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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #387615

Research Project: Improving Plant, Soil, and Cropping Systems Health and Productivity through Advanced Integration of Comprehensive Management Practices

Location: Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit

Title: Applying decision support tools to estimate current and future climate mitigation potential for US agriculture

item Moore, Jennifer
item Manter, Daniel
item BRUNER, EMILY - American Farmland Trust
item BOWMAN, MARIA - Economic Research Serivce (ERS, USDA)
item HUNTER, MITCH - American Farmland Trust
item MCCLELLAND, S.C. - Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations (FAO)

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/9/2022
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: To help combat the growing climate crisis, U.S. agriculture needs to increase the use of management practices to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and draw carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and into soils. Our paper estimates 1) the amount of GHG (in CO2-equivalents, CO2-e) reduced through current adoption of these practices, and 2) the amount of future reductions possible under increased practice adoption in the future. We found that the current adoption of these practices on U.S. cropland reduced emissions equal to the annual emissions of more than 291 million passenger vehicles (i.e., 1,342 million tonnes CO2-e). Over the next ten years, a gradual increase in the adoption of these practices could result in an additional 486 million tonnes of CO2-e reduced. If more ambitious adoption rates are achieved, these practices could reduce more than 1 billion tonnes of CO2-e. Our work demonstrates that agriculture currently contributes to substantial GHG emissions reductions, additional GHG emissions reductions benefits can be achieved by increasing adoption of improved practices, and, that presenting these emissions reductions at the national and regional level can help inform climate action through targeted programs and policies.

Technical Abstract: The US agriculture sector would need to substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit atmospheric warming in line with the national Paris Agreement commitment. Improved management of agricultural soils can both mitigate GHG emissions and increase C sequestration, but disagreement exists regarding what levels of adoption are possible and to what extent they may mitigate net GHG emissions. In this paper, we provide a framework for setting reasonable, short-term conservation practice adoption targets and quantifying the associated net emissions reductions. The framework includes current levels of conservation practice adoption and two future scenarios based on adoption trends between 2012 and 2017 at the level of USDA Resource Regions. Based on existing (2017) survey data, we estimate that 1,342 million (M) tonnes CO2e have been reduced through the adoption of seven management practices on 133.5 M hectares (h)a of cropland. Projecting current adoption growth rates over the next 10 y (i.e., Business-As-Usual), we estimate an additional 53.9 Mha of adoption will result in 486 M tonnes of new CO2e reduction potential. Under accelerated growth rates, we estimate an additional conversion of 110.1 Mha will result in 1,185 M tonnes of CO2e reduction. This framework for analyzing potential future adoption highlights three key outcomes: 1) agriculture has had a substantial impact on GHG mitigation through existing/historical adoption of seven cropland management practices and conversion of lands to the Conservation Reserve Program; 2) these shifts in adoption provide an important baseline to make future projections of changes in practice adoption given regional trends and the resulting GHG mitigation potentials; and 3) disaggregating national estimates to the Resource Region level can help inform and prioritize programs and policies consistent with existing climate goals.