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Preliminary Estimates of the Potential for Carbon Mitigation in European Soils Through No-Till Farming

DOI: 10.3334/CDIAC/tcm.003

Global Change Biology 4:679-685 (1998)

P. Smith, D. Powlson, M. Glendining, J. Smith
School of Biological Sciences
University of Aberdeen
Cruikshank Building, St Machar Drive
Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, UK

Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom


In this paper we estimate the European potential for carbon mitigation of no-till farming using results from European tillage experiments. Our calculations suggest some potential in terms of (a) reduced agricultural fossil fuel emissions, and (b) increased soil carbon sequestration. We estimate that 100% conversion to no-till farming would be likely to sequester about 23 Tg C y–1 in the European Union or about 43 Tg C y–1 in the wider Europe (excluding the former Soviet Union). In addition, up to 3.2 Tg C y–1 could be saved in agricultural fossil fuel emissions. Compared to estimates of the potential for carbon sequestration of other carbon mitigation options, no-till agriculture shows nearly twice the potential of scenarios whereby soils are amended with organic materials. Our calculations suggest that 100% conversion to no-till agriculture in Europe could mitigate all fossil fuel-carbon emissions from agriculture in Europe. However, this is equivalent to only about 4.1% of total anthropogenic CO2-carbon produced annually in Europe (excluding the former Soviet Union) which in turn is equivalent to about 0.8% of global annual anthropogenic CO2-carbon emissions.

Reprint available from Blackwell Science, Ltd.

With permission from the authors, some of the data used in this study are available in PDF format, as an Excel spreadsheet, and as a comment-delimited ASCII text file.

For related work, see:

  • Smith et al. (1997). Potential for carbon sequestration in European soils: preliminary estimates for five scenarios using results from long-term experiments. Global Change Biology 3:67-79. Abstract and data.
  • Smith et al. (2000). Meeting Europe's climate chanage committments: quantitative estimates of the potential for carbon mitigation by agriculture. Global Change Biology 6:525-539. Abstract.
  • Smith et al. (2001). Enhancing the carbon sink in European agricultural soils: Including trace gas fluxes in estimates of carbon mitigation potential. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 60:237-252.
  • Smith et al. (1997). Opportunities and limitations for C sequestration in European agricultural soils through changes in management. In: Management of Carbon Sequestration in Soil (R. Lal ed.), pp. 143-152. Advances in Soil Science. CRC press, Boca Raton, Florida.
  • Smith et al. (eds). (1997). Evaluation and comparison of soil organic matter models using datasets from seven long-term experiments. Special Isssue of Geoderma, 81:1-225.

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