Global picture of crop production greenhouse gas emissions

Global food systems contribute about one-third of human-induced GHG emissions, including carbon dioxide from peatland draining, methane from rice paddies and nitrous oxide from fertilizer. With demand for food and fiber expected to grow as global populations increase and people become richer, reducing GHG emissions from agriculture is imperative. Where do we start?

To help answer this pressing question, researchers from the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment used models and geospatial data to determine which crops and cropping practices are the biggest emissions culprits. In a paper published November 21 in the journal Nature Climate Change, they report that peatland drainage and rice paddy cultivation together contribute about 80 percent of total global cropland GHG emissions. The study provides the first subnational, crop-specific estimates of emissions from cropland management. It also delivers methods, data and maps for estimating emissions and reducing emissions from the agricultural sector.

The authors focused not only on total emissions but also on emissions intensity, which compares GHG emissions to the corresponding amount of calories produced.

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