Improving farming practices reduce the carbon footprint of spring wheat production.

Gan, Y.T., Liang, C., Chai, Q., Lemke, R.L., Campbell, C.A., and Zentner, R.P. (2014). "Improving farming practices reduce the carbon footprint of spring wheat production.", Nature Communications, 5(Article number 5012). doi : 10.1038/ncomms6012  Access to full text


Wheat is one of the world’s most favoured food sources, reaching millions of people on a daily basis. However, its production has climatic consequences. Fuel, inorganic fertilizers and pesticides used in wheat production emit greenhouse gases that can contribute negatively to climate change. It is unknown whether adopting alternative farming practices will increase crop yield while reducing carbon emissions. Here we quantify the carbon footprint of alternative wheat production systems suited to semiarid environments. We find that integrating improved farming practices (that is, fertilizing crops based on soil tests, reducing summerfallow frequencies and rotating cereals with grain legumes) lowers wheat carbon footprint effectively, averaging −256 kg CO2 eq ha1 per year. For each kg of wheat grain produced, a net 0.027–0.377 kg CO2 eq is sequestered into the soil. With the suite of improved farming practices, wheat takes up more CO2 from the atmosphere than is actually emitted during its production.

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