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Carbon footprint of cropping systems with grain legumes and cover crops: A case-study in SW France

AuthorsPlaza-Bonilla, Daniel ; Nogué-Serra, Irene; Raffaillac, Didier; Cantero-Martínez, Carlos; Justes, Eric
KeywordsExternal emissions
Greenhouse gases
Nitrous oxide
On-site emissions
STICS model
Issue DateNov-2018
CitationPlaza-Bonilla D, Nogué-Serra I, Raffaillac D, Cantero-Martínez C, Justes E. Carbon footprint of cropping systems with grain legumes and cover crops: A case-study in SW France. Agricultural Systems 167: 92-102 (2018)
AbstractAgriculture contributes to a significant proportion of global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) but can also participate in climate change mitigation. The introduction of legumes in crop rotations reduces the dependence on N fertilizers and may mitigate the carbon (C) footprint of cropping systems. The aim of this study was to quantify the C footprint of six low-input arable cropping systems resulting from the combination of three levels of grain legumes introduction in a 3-yr rotation (GL0: no grain legumes, GL1: 1 grain legume, GL2: 2 grain legumes) and the use of cover crops (CC) or bare fallow (BF) between cash crops, covering two rotation cycles (6 years). The approach considered external emissions, on-site emissions and soil organic carbon (SOC) stock changes, and prioritized (i) field observations and (ii) simulation of non-measured variables with the STICS model, rather than default emission factors. As expected, fertilizers accounted for 80–90% of external emissions, being reduced by 50% and 102% with grain legumes introduction in GL1-BF and GL2-BF, compared to the cereal-based rotation (GL0-BF). Cover crops management increased machinery emissions by 24–35% compared to BF. Soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions were low, ranging between 205 and 333 kg CO2 eq. ha−1 yr−1 in GL1-BF and GL0-BF, respectively. Nitrate leaching represented the indirect emission of 11.6 to 27.2 kg CO2 eq. ha−1 yr−1 in the BF treatments and 8.2 to 10.7 kg CO2 eq. ha−1 yr−1 in the CC treatments. Indirect emissions due to ammonia volatilization ranged between 8.4 and 41.8 kg CO2 eq. ha−1 yr−1. The introduction of grain legumes strongly influenced SOC changes and, consequently, the C footprint. In the BF systems, grain legumes introduction in the rotations led to a significant increase in the C footprint, because of higher SOC losses. Contrarily, the use of cover crops mitigated SOC losses, and lowered the C footprint. These results indicated the need of CC when increasing the number of grain legumes in cereal-based rotations. Despite the multiple known benefits of introducing grain legumes in cropping systems our research highlights the need to consider soil organic carbon changes in environmental assessments.
Description47 pags.- 6 Tabls.- 5 Figs. The definitive version is available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/0308521X
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2018.09.004
Appears in Collections:(EEAD) Artículos
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