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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Articles

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator for Grain and Biofuel Farming Systems


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 39 No. 1, p. 125-131
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: July 1, 2009

    * Corresponding author(s): mcswiney@kbs.msu.edu
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  1. Claire P. McSwiney *a,
  2. Sven Bohma,
  3. Peter R. Graceb and
  4. G. Philip Robertsonc
  1. a W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Hickory Corners, MI 49060
    b School of Natural Resource Sciences, Queensland Univ. of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland 4000
    c Dep. of Crop and Soil Sciences and W. K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State Univ., Hickory Corners, MI 49060


Opportunities for farmers to participate in greenhouse gas (GHG) credit markets require that growers, students, extension educators, offset aggregators, and other stakeholders understand the impact of agricultural practices on GHG emissions. The Farming Systems Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator, a web-based tool linked to the SOCRATES soil carbon process model, provides a simple introduction to the concepts and magnitudes of gas emissions associated with crop management. Users choose a county of interest on an introductory screen and are taken to the input/output window, where they choose crops, yields, tillage practices, or nitrogen fertilizer rates. Default values are provided based on convention and county averages. Outputs include major contributors of greenhouse gases in field crops: soil carbon change, nitrous oxide (N2O) emission, fuel use, and fertilizer. We contrast conventional tillage and no-till in a corn–soybean–wheat (Zea mays L.–Glycine max (L.) Merr.–Triticum aestivum L.) rotation and compare continuous corn fertilized at 101 and 134 kg N ha−1 yr−1. In corn years, N2O was the dominant GHG, due to high fertilizer requirements for corn. No-till management reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 50% due to net soil carbon storage. Continuous corn fertilized at 101 kg N ha−1 yr−1 emitted 1.25 Mg CO2 equivalents ha−1 yr−1 compared with 1.42 Mg CO2 equivalents ha−1 yr−1 at 134 kg N ha−1 yr−1, providing a 12% GHG savings. The calculator demonstrates how cropping systems and management choices affect greenhouse gas emissions in field crops.

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