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Title: Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions for irrigated corn production in the U.S. great plains
Agricultural management practices improve crop yields to satisfy food demand of the growing population. However, these activities can have negative consequences, including the release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to global climate change. To mitigate this global environmental problem, the management practices that contribute the most to system GHG emissions should be identified and targeted to mitigate emissions. Accordingly, we estimated the cradle-to-product GHG emissions of irrigated corn production under various farmer-selected scenarios at an experimental testing field in the semi-arid U.S. Great Plains. We applied a carbon footprint approach to quantify life cycle GHG emissions associated with pre-field (e.g., energy production, fertilizer production) and in-field (e.g., groundwater pumping, fertilizer application) activities within fourteen scenarios in the 2020 Oklahoma Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) sprinkler corn competition. We determined that 63% of the total GHG emission from corn production was associated with in- field activities and that agricultural soil emissions were the overall driving factor. Soil biochemical processes within agricultural soils were expected to contribute an average of 89 ± 18 g CO2-eq kg− 1 corn of the total 271 ± 46 g CO2-eq kg− 1 corn estimated from these systems. On-site natural gas combustion for agricultural groundwater pumping, pre-field fertilizer production, and pre-field energy production for groundwater pumping were the next most influential parameters on total GHG emissions. Diesel fuel, seed, and herbicide production had insignificant contributions to total GHG emissions from corn production. The model was most sensitive to the modeled GHG emissions from agricultural soil, which had significant uncertainty in the emission factor. Therefore, future efforts should target field measurements to better predict the contribution of direct soil emissions to total GHG emissions, particularly under different managements. In addition, identifying the optimal application rate of irrigation water and fertilizer will help to decrease GHG emissions from groundwater irrigated crops.  more » « less
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Environmental Challenges
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National Science Foundation
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