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Improving farming practices reduces the carbon footprint of spring wheat production

Gan, Y., Liang, C., Chai, Q., Lemke, R.L., Campbell, C.A., Zentner, R.P. (2014). Improving farming practices reduces the carbon footprint of spring wheat production, 5 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms6012

Abstract

© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. 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 ha-1 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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