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Limited potential of no-till agriculture for climate change mitigation

By: Powlson, D.S.
Contributor(s): Cassman, K.G [coaut.] | Palm, C.A [coaut.] | Sanchez, P.A [coaut.] | Jat, M.L [coaut.] | Stirling, C [coaut.] | Gerard, B.
Material type: materialTypeLabelArticlePublisher: 2014ISSN: 1758-6798 (Revista en electrónico); 1758-678X. In: Nature Climate Change v. 4, p. 678-683Summary: The Emissions Gap Report 2013 from the United Nations Environment Programme restates the claim that changing to no-till practices in agriculture, as an alternative to conventional tillage, causes an accumulation of organic carbon in soil, thus mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration. But these claims ignore a large body of experimental evidence showing that the quantity of additional organic carbon in soil under no-till is relatively small: in large part apparent increases result from an altered depth distribution. The larger concentration near the surface in no-till is generally beneficial for soil properties that often, though not always, translate into improved crop growth. In many regions where no-till is practised it is common for soil to be cultivated conventionally every few years for a range of agronomic reasons, so any soil carbon benefit is then lost. We argue that no-till is beneficial for soil quality and adaptation of agriculture to climate change, but its role in mitigation is widely overstated.
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Article CIMMYT Knowledge Center: John Woolston Library

Lic. Jose Juan Caballero Flores

 

CIMMYT Staff Publications Collection Available
Total holds: 0

Peer-review: Yes - Open Access: Yes|http://ip-science.thomsonreuters.com/cgi-bin/jrnlst/jlresults.cgi?PC=MASTER&ISSN=1758-678X

The Emissions Gap Report 2013 from the United Nations Environment Programme restates the claim that changing to no-till practices in agriculture, as an alternative to conventional tillage, causes an accumulation of organic carbon in soil, thus mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration. But these claims ignore a large body of experimental evidence showing that the quantity of additional organic carbon in soil under no-till is relatively small: in large part apparent increases result from an altered depth distribution. The larger concentration near the surface in no-till is generally beneficial for soil properties that often, though not always, translate into improved crop growth. In many regions where no-till is practised it is common for soil to be cultivated conventionally every few years for a range of agronomic reasons, so any soil carbon benefit is then lost. We argue that no-till is beneficial for soil quality and adaptation of agriculture to climate change, but its role in mitigation is widely overstated.

Conservation Agriculture Program

English

CIMMYT Informa No. 1899

INT3349|INT3372|INT3072

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