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Greenhouse gas emission intensities and economic efficiency in crop production: A systems analysis of 95 farms

Bonesmo, H., Skjelvåg, A.O., Henry Janzen, H., Klakegg, O., Tveito, O.E. (2012). Greenhouse gas emission intensities and economic efficiency in crop production: A systems analysis of 95 farms, 110 142-151.


To increase food production while mitigating climate change, cropping systems in the future will need to reduce greenhouse gas emission per unit of production. We conducted an analysis of 95 arable farms in Norway to calculate farm scale emissions of greenhouse gases, expressed both as CO 2 eq per unit area, and CO 2 eq per kg DM produced and to describe relationships between the farms' GHG intensities and their economic efficiencies (gross margin). The study included: (1) design of a farm scale model for net GHG emission from crop production systems; (2) establishing a consistent farm scale data set for the farms with required soil, weather, and farm operation data; (3) a stochastic simulation of the variation in the sources of GHG emission intensities, and sensitivity analysis of selected parameters and equations on GHG emission intensities; and (4) describing relationships between GHG emission intensities and gross margins on farms. Among small seed and grain crops the variation in GHG emissions per kg DM was highest in oilseed (emission intensity at the 75th percentile level was 1.9 times higher than at the 25th percentile). For barley, oats, spring wheat, and winter wheat, emissions per kg DM at the 75th percentile levels were between 1.4 and 1.6 times higher than those at the 25th percentiles. Similar trends were observed for emissions per unit land area. Invariably soil N 2O emission was the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for almost half of the emissions. The second largest source was the off farm manufacturing of inputs (∼25%). Except for the oilseed crop, in which soil carbon (C) change contributed least, the on farm emissions due to fuel use contributed least to the total GHG intensities (∼10%). The soil C change contributed most to the variability in GHG emission intensities among farms in all crops, and among the sensitivity elasticities the highest one was related to environmental impacts on soil C change. The high variation in GHG intensities evident in our study implies the potential for significant mitigation of GHG emissions. The GHG emissions per kg DM (intensity) decreased with increasing gross margin in grain and oilseed crops, suggesting that crop producers have economic incentives to reduce GHG emissions. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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