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Effects of alternative management practices on the economics, energy and GHG emissions of a wheat-pea cropping system in the Canadian prairies

Khakbazan, M., Mohr, R.M., Derksen, D.A., Monreal, M.A., Grant, C.A., Zentner, R.P., Moulin, A.P., McLaren, D.L., Irvine, R.B., Nagy, C.N. (2009). Effects of alternative management practices on the economics, energy and GHG emissions of a wheat-pea cropping system in the Canadian prairies, 104(1), 30-38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2008.11.005

Abstract

In recent years alternative farming practices have received considerable attention from Canadian producers as a means to improve their net return from grain and oilseed production. Enhancing the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer use, including a pulse crop in the rotation, reducing tillage and pesticide use are seen as viable options to reduce reliance on fossil fuel, lower input costs and decrease the risk of soil, air and water degradation. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of 16 alternative management practices for a 2-year spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-field pea (Pisum sativum L.) rotation on economic returns, non-renewable energy use efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions. The alternative management methods for wheat consisted of a factorial combination of high vs. low soil disturbance one pass seeding, four nitrogen (N) fertilizer rates (20 kg N ha-1, 40 kg N ha-1, 60 kg N ha-1 and 80 kg N ha-1), and recommended vs. reduced rates of in-crop herbicide application. Alternative management practices for field pea were high vs. low soil disturbance one pass seeding. The resulting 16 cropping systems were evaluated at the whole farm level based on 4 years (two rotation cycles) of data from field experiments conducted on two Orthic Black Chernozem soils (clay loam and loam textures) in Manitoba, Canada. The highest net returns on the clay loam soil were for the high disturbance system with 60 kg N ha-1 applied to wheat and the recommended rates of in-crop herbicides. The lowest application rate of N, together with low disturbance seeding, provided the highest economic returns on the loam soil. Energy use efficiency was highest for the lowest rate of N application for both tillage systems. The highest rate of N fertilizer and recommended rates of in-crop herbicide produced little additional yield response, lower net returns, and higher GHG emissions. An increase in N fertilizer application from 20 kg ha-1 to 80 kg ha-1 increased whole farm energy requirements by about 40%, while reducing herbicide rates had negligible effects on grain yields and total energy input. Overall, as N fertilizer rate increased, the associated GHG emissions were not offset by an increase in carbon retained in the above-ground crop biomass. Moderate to high soil test NO3-N levels at experimental sites reduced the potential for positive yield responses to N fertilizer in this study, thus minimizing the economic benefits derived from N fertilizer application. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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