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Greenhouse gas emissions from cropping and grazed pastures are similar: a simulation analysis in Australia


Meier, EA and Thorburn, PJ and Bell, LW and Harrison, MT and Biggs, JS, Greenhouse gas emissions from cropping and grazed pastures are similar: a simulation analysis in Australia, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 3 Article 121. ISSN 2571-581X (2020) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 Meier, Thorburn, Bell, Harrison and Biggs. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.3389/fsufs.2019.00121


The agricultural sector has potential to provide greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation by sequestering soil organic carbon (SOC). Replacing cropland with permanent pasture is one practice promoted for its potential to sequester soil carbon. However, pastures frequently support livestock, which produce other GHG emissions that could negate the abatement from increased SOC, especially given the declining rate of SOC sequestration through time. Our purpose was to determine whether the abatement provided by SOC storage in permanent pastures was offset by livestock emissions, and to thus compare emissions from grazed pasture systems with those from cropping systems. We investigated this question for three case study farms in locations with contrasting climate, soils and management representative of Australian cropping and livestock systems. Three cropping scenarios were defined that had increasing amounts of SOC inputs: Cropburn, crop residues burned before sowing (lowest SOC input); Cropstubble, crop residues retained; and Cropintensity, uncropped fallow phases replaced with short-term green manure legume crops. The on-farm GHG emissions profiles of these cropping scenarios were compared with those from two livestock scenarios utilizing continuous stocking: Livestockgrass, stocked permanent grass pasture; and Livestocklegume, stocked permanent legume pasture; the latter having higher SOC input than the former. Crop yields, pasture growth rates and emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from the soil were simulated with the APSIM farming systems model. Livestock emissions were predicted using Australian GHG accounting emission factors. For the farms in this study, the SOC sequestered in the stocked permanent pastures was offset by emissions from livestock, and emissions from cropping scenarios were similar to or significantly less than those from the livestock scenarios. These findings: (1) demonstrate the importance of using net GHG abatement potentials from combined emissions rather than a single GHG abatement process when evaluating potential abatement practices, and (2) demonstrate that characteristics of different locations can alter the abatement potential of management practices.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:greenhouse gas emissions, livestock, pasture, cropping, soil organic carbon, grazing, methane, nitrous oxides, stubble burning, Mallee, Western Australia, New South Wales, global warming potential APSIM, whole farm greenhouse gas emissions
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Agriculture, land and farm management
Research Field:Agricultural systems analysis and modelling
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Mitigation of climate change
Objective Field:Climate change mitigation strategies
UTAS Author:Harrison, MT (Associate Professor Matthew Harrison)
ID Code:136884
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:TIA - Research Institute
Deposited On:2020-01-22
Last Modified:2021-07-19
Downloads:22 View Download Statistics

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