Reducing agricultural emissions

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a natural part of the carbon and nitrogen cycles. What this means is that a certain level of emissions from any biological system is inevitable. There is no way that all methane (CH4) emissions from ruminant animals can be totally eliminated or that we can avoid nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from decomposing crop residues.

Similarly, emissions of N2O and CH4 from livestock manure cannot be avoided.

However, there are some GHG emissions from crop and livestock production that are avoidable. These emissions represent leakages or inefficiencies in the system, both of which have environmental and economic consequences.

Emissions of N2O imply the inefficient use of nitrogen fertilizer. Emissions of CH4 from ruminant livestock indicate that the feed is not being efficiently converted to milk or meat products.

A great deal of research has been done that shows that plant and animal production systems can reduce GHG emissions and offer positive economic benefits.

Some examples of this include using inputs, such as fertilizers and machinery, more efficiently and adopting management practices that increase the amount of carbon stored in soils.

Using some of the biomass produced on agricultural land to produce bio-energy can help partly replace fossil fuels and using agricultural wastes to generate energy are additional examples of ways to reduce GHG emissions.


Holos is a whole-farm modelling software program that estimates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on information entered for individual farms. Holos estimates carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions and carbon storage and loss. The main purpose of Holos is to envision and test possible ways of reducing GHG emissions from farms.

Date modified: