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Title: No‐till establishment improves the climate benefit of bioenergy crops on marginal grasslands
Abstract

Expanding biofuel production is expected to accelerate the conversion of unmanaged marginal lands to meet biomass feedstock needs. Greenhouse gas production during conversion jeopardizes the ensuing climate benefits, but most research to date has focused only on conversion to annual crops and only following tillage. Here we report the global warming impact of converting USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands to three types of bioenergy crops using no‐till (NT) vs. conventional tillage (CT). We established replicated NT and CT plots in three CRP fields planted to continuous corn, switchgrass, or restored prairie. For the 2 yr following an initial soybean year in all fields, we found that, on average, NT conversion reduced nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions by 50% and CO2emissions by 20% compared with CT conversion. Differences were higher in Year 1 than in Year 2 in the continuous corn field, and in the two perennial systems the differences disappeared after Year 1. In all fields net CO2emissions (as measured by eddy covariance) were positive for the first 2 yr following CT establishment, but following NT establishment net CO2emissions were close to zero or negative, indicating net C sequestration. Overall, NT improved the global warming impact of biofuel crop establishment following CRP conversion by over 20‐fold compared with CT (−6.01 Mg CO2e ha−1 yr−1for NT vs. −0.25 Mg CO2e ha−1 yr−1for CT, on average). We also found that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates of N2O emissions (as measured by static chambers) greatly underestimated actual emissions for converted fields regardless of tillage. Policies should encourage adoption of NT for converting marginal grasslands to perennial bioenergy crops to reduce C debt and maximize climate benefits.

 
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Award ID(s):
1832042
NSF-PAR ID:
10456201
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Soil Science Society of America Journal
Volume:
84
Issue:
4
ISSN:
0361-5995
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1280-1295
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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Variate    Description year    year of the observation method    methods of poplar biomass sampling date    day of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 diameter_at_ground    poplar diameter (milliMeter) at the ground diameter_at_15cm    poplar diameter (milliMeter) at 15 cm height biomass_tree    biomass per plot (Grams_Per_Tree) biomass_ha    biomass (megaGrams_Per_Hectare) by multiplying biomass per tree with 0.01 4. Spreadsheet: annual N leaching_vol-wtd conc Description: Annual leaching rate (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) and volume-weighted mean N concentrations (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) of nitrate (no3) and dissolved organic nitrogen (don) in the leachate samples collected from corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2016. Data for nitrogen leached and volume-wtd mean N concentration shown in Figure 3a and Figure 3b, respectively. Note that ammonium (nh4) concentration were much lower and often undetectable (<0.07 milliGrams_N_Per_Liter). Also note that in 2009 and 2010 crop-years, data from some replicates are missing.    Variate    Description crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” crop-year    year of the observation replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 no3 leached    annual leaching rates of nitrate (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) don leached    annual leaching rates of don (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) vol-wtd no3 conc.    Volume-weighted mean no3 concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) vol-wtd don conc.    Volume-weighted mean don concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) 5. 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Variate    Description crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” date    date of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 nh4 conc    nh4 concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) no3 conc    no3 concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter)   9. Spreadsheet: correlations_don VS no3_doc VS don Description: Correlations of don and nitrate concentrations (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter); and doc (milliGrams_Per_Liter) and don concentrations (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) in the leachate samples of corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2013-2015. Data of correlation of don and nitrate concentrations shown in Figure S4 a and doc and don concentrations shown in Figure S4 b. 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  5. Abstract

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