This information is vital for examining changes in cropland production and management techniques and could play an even bigger role as more land is devoted to bioenergy crops, said Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Tristram West, lead author of a paper published on line in the Journal of Environmental Quality.
"By looking at changes in energy consumption and CO2 emissions that take place with conventional and alternative crop production, we can do a better job of measuring the effects of various carbon sequestration strategies," West said. "This information can also contribute to future policy directions for energy use and agricultural production."
West and co-authors at the University of Tennessee, Kansas State University and ORNL looked at data from 1990 to 2004 and calculated energy consumption and CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion associated with U.S. cropland production. For this project they used a combination of independent survey data, national inventory data, established energy consumption parameters for field-scale operation budgets and CO2 emissions coefficients.
The researchers used a number of other resources, including the University of Tennessee's Agriculture Budget System, which consists of more than 3,500 conventional and alternative management practices for corn, soybean, wheat, sorghum, barley, oat, rice, cotton and hay. As of 2006 these nine crops accounted for about 96 percent of total crop production in the U.S.
On-site energy use and emissions result from fossil fuel combustion that occurs on the farm. Off-site energy and emissions result from fossil fuel combustion linked to the production and transport of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. Off-site emissions also include those from power plants that produce electricity used on the farm.
The researchers were particularly interested in variations in energy consumption that occur when field management strategies change. For example, they found that the adoption of reduced tillage practices from 1990 to 2004 resulted in a net fossil emissions reduction of 8.8 million metric tons of CO2. Above-average rainfall in 1993 caused fields to be flooded in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. As a result, farmers planted fewer crops and CO2 emissions fell.
"Changes in agriculture policy and extreme weather events influence agricultural land use and subsequent energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with crop production," West said.
Looking at the nation's total CO2 picture, less than 2 percent of the 6,090 million metric tons is the result of farming activities. Electricity generation is the largest source of emissions followed by transportation, industrial, residential and commercial use.
Among the findings was that energy use and emissions do not always change proportionately with the area of cropland in production. Instead, they vary by crop and management practices. Researchers also found that on-site emissions can be reduced by half for some crops if farmers change from conventional tillage to no-till.
This study did not take into account nitrogen oxide emissions from the use of nitrogen fertilizers. It did, however, consider CO2 emissions from the production of fertilizer. Those are included in the off-site estimates.
Another key aspect of the project is that the data provide a spatial distribution of carbon flux, which will allow researchers to compare this information to atmospheric measurements that are part of the North American Carbon Program (http://www.nacarbon.org/nacp/).
The authors conclude the paper by saying, "Through continued analyses, we will have a better understanding of how carbon dynamics in U.S. agriculture are being impacted by changes in land cover and land management."
The research was funded by the Department of Energy's biomass program, within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Office of Science. Additional resources were contributed by NASA. Energy and emissions data from U.S. cropland production are archived with the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (http://cdiac.ornl.gov/carbonmanagement/cropfossilemissions).
UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy. The Journal of Environmental Quality (http://jeq.scijournals.org) is a peer-reviewed, international journal of environmental quality in natural and agricultural ecosystems published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America.
Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
22.02.2018 | Life Sciences
22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences