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Global metaanalysis of the nonlinear response of soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions to fertilizer nitrogen.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 06-09-2014
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Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that also depletes stratospheric ozone. Nitrogen (N) fertilizer rate is the best single predictor of N2O emissions from agricultural soils, which are responsible for ? 50% of the total global anthropogenic flux, but it is a relatively imprecise estimator. Accumulating evidence suggests that the emission response to increasing N input is exponential rather than linear, as assumed by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change methodologies. We performed a metaanalysis to test the generalizability of this pattern. From 78 published studies (233 site-years) with at least three N-input levels, we calculated N2O emission factors (EFs) for each nonzero input level as a percentage of N input converted to N2O emissions. We found that the N2O response to N inputs grew significantly faster than linear for synthetic fertilizers and for most crop types. N-fixing crops had a higher rate of change in EF (?EF) than others. A higher ?EF was also evident in soils with carbon >1.5% and soils with pH <7, and where fertilizer was applied only once annually. Our results suggest a general trend of exponentially increasing N2O emissions as N inputs increase to exceed crop needs. Use of this knowledge in GHG inventories should improve assessments of fertilizer-derived N2O emissions, help address disparities in the global N2O budget, and refine the accuracy of N2O mitigation protocols. In low-input systems typical of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, modest N additions will have little impact on estimated N2O emissions, whereas equivalent additions (or reductions) in excessively fertilized systems will have a disproportionately major impact.
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Perennial grasslands enhance biodiversity and multiple ecosystem services in bioenergy landscapes.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 01-13-2014
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Agriculture is being challenged to provide food, and increasingly fuel, for an expanding global population. Producing bioenergy crops on marginal lands--farmland suboptimal for food crops--could help meet energy goals while minimizing competition with food production. However, the ecological costs and benefits of growing bioenergy feedstocks--primarily annual grain crops--on marginal lands have been questioned. Here we show that perennial bioenergy crops provide an alternative to annual grains that increases biodiversity of multiple taxa and sustain a variety of ecosystem functions, promoting the creation of multifunctional agricultural landscapes. We found that switchgrass and prairie plantings harbored significantly greater plant, methanotrophic bacteria, arthropod, and bird diversity than maize. Although biomass production was greater in maize, all other ecosystem services, including methane consumption, pest suppression, pollination, and conservation of grassland birds, were higher in perennial grasslands. Moreover, we found that the linkage between biodiversity and ecosystem services is dependent not only on the choice of bioenergy crop but also on its location relative to other habitats, with local landscape context as important as crop choice in determining provision of some services. Our study suggests that bioenergy policy that supports coordinated land use can diversify agricultural landscapes and sustain multiple critical ecosystem services.
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Initial nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and methane costs of converting conservation reserve program grassland to row crops under no-till vs. conventional tillage.
Glob Chang Biol
PUBLISHED: 02-08-2013
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Around 4.4 million ha of land in USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts will expire between 2013 and 2018 and some will likely return to crop production. No-till (NT) management offers the potential to reduce the global warming costs of CO2 , CH4 , and N2 O emissions during CRP conversion, but to date there have been no CRP conversion tillage comparisons. In 2009, we converted portions of three 9-21 ha CRP fields in Michigan to conventional tillage (CT) or NT soybean production and reserved a fourth field for reference. Both CO2 and N2 O fluxes increased following herbicide application in all converted fields, but in the CT treatment substantial and immediate N2 O and CO2 fluxes occurred after tillage. For the initial 201-day conversion period, average daily N2 O fluxes (g N2 O-N ha(-1)  d(-1) ) were significantly different in the order: CT (47.5 ± 6.31, n = 6) ? NT (16.7 ± 2.45, n = 6) ? reference (2.51 ± 0.73, n = 4). Similarly, soil CO2 fluxes in CT were 1.2 times those in NT and 3.1 times those in the unconverted CRP reference field. All treatments were minor sinks for CH4 (-0.69 ± 0.42 to -1.86 ± 0.37 g CH4 -C ha(-1)  d(-1) ) with no significant differences among treatments. The positive global warming impact (GWI) of converted soybean fields under both CT (11.5 Mg CO2 e ha(-1) ) and NT (2.87 Mg CO2 e ha(-1) ) was in contrast to the negative GWI of the unconverted reference field (-3.5 Mg CO2 e ha(-1) ) with on-going greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation. N2 O contributed 39.3% and 55.0% of the GWI under CT and NT systems with the remainder contributed by CO2 (60.7% and 45.0%, respectively). Including foregone mitigation, we conclude that NT management can reduce GHG costs by ~60% compared to CT during initial CRP conversion.
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Sustainable bioenergy production from marginal lands in the US Midwest.
Nature
PUBLISHED: 01-16-2013
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Legislation on biofuels production in the USA and Europe is directing food crops towards the production of grain-based ethanol, which can have detrimental consequences for soil carbon sequestration, nitrous oxide emissions, nitrate pollution, biodiversity and human health. An alternative is to grow lignocellulosic (cellulosic) crops on marginal lands. Cellulosic feedstocks can have positive environmental outcomes and could make up a substantial proportion of future energy portfolios. However, the availability of marginal lands for cellulosic feedstock production, and the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, remains uncertain. Here we evaluate the potential for marginal lands in ten Midwestern US states to produce sizeable amounts of biomass and concurrently mitigate GHG emissions. In a comparative assessment of six alternative cropping systems over 20 years, we found that successional herbaceous vegetation, once well established, has a direct GHG emissions mitigation capacity that rivals that of purpose-grown crops (-851?±?46 grams of CO(2) equivalent emissions per square metre per year (gCO(2)e?m(-2)?yr(-1))). If fertilized, these communities have the capacity to produce about 63?±?5 gigajoules of ethanol energy per hectare per year. By contrast, an adjacent, no-till corn-soybean-wheat rotation produces on average 41?±?1 gigajoules of biofuel energy per hectare per year and has a net direct mitigation capacity of -397?±?32?gCO(2)e?m(-2)?yr(-1); a continuous corn rotation would probably produce about 62?±?7 gigajoules of biofuel energy per hectare per year, with 13% less mitigation. We also perform quantitative modelling of successional vegetation on marginal lands in the region at a resolution of 0.4 hectares, constrained by the requirement that each modelled location be within 80 kilometres of a potential biorefinery. Our results suggest that such vegetation could produce about 21 gigalitres of ethanol per year from around 11 million hectares, or approximately 25 per cent of the 2022 target for cellulosic biofuel mandated by the US Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, with no initial carbon debt nor the indirect land-use costs associated with food-based biofuels. Other regional-scale aspects of biofuel sustainability, such as water quality and biodiversity, await future study.
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Carbon debt of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands converted to bioenergy production.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 08-08-2011
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Over 13 million ha of former cropland are enrolled in the US Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), providing well-recognized biodiversity, water quality, and carbon (C) sequestration benefits that could be lost on conversion back to agricultural production. Here we provide measurements of the greenhouse gas consequences of converting CRP land to continuous corn, corn-soybean, or perennial grass for biofuel production. No-till soybeans preceded the annual crops and created an initial carbon debt of 10.6 Mg CO(2) equivalents (CO(2)e)·ha(-1) that included agronomic inputs, changes in C stocks, altered N(2)O and CH(4) fluxes, and foregone C sequestration less a fossil fuel offset credit. Total debt, which includes future debt created by additional changes in soil C stocks and the loss of substantial future soil C sequestration, can be constrained to 68 Mg CO(2)e·ha(-1) if subsequent crops are under permanent no-till management. If tilled, however, total debt triples to 222 Mg CO(2)e·ha(-1) on account of further soil C loss. Projected C debt repayment periods under no-till management range from 29 to 40 y for corn-soybean and continuous corn, respectively. Under conventional tillage repayment periods are three times longer, from 89 to 123 y, respectively. Alternatively, the direct use of existing CRP grasslands for cellulosic feedstock production would avoid C debt entirely and provide modest climate change mitigation immediately. Incentives for permanent no till and especially permission to harvest CRP biomass for cellulosic biofuel would help to blunt the climate impact of future CRP conversion.
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The biogeochemistry of bioenergy landscapes: carbon, nitrogen, and water considerations.
Ecol Appl
PUBLISHED: 07-22-2011
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The biogeochemical liabilities of grain-based crop production for bioenergy are no different from those of grain-based food production: excessive nitrate leakage, soil carbon and phosphorus loss, nitrous oxide production, and attenuated methane uptake. Contingent problems are well known, increasingly well documented, and recalcitrant: freshwater and coastal marine eutrophication, groundwater pollution, soil organic matter loss, and a warming atmosphere. The conversion of marginal lands not now farmed to annual grain production, including the repatriation of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and other conservation set-aside lands, will further exacerbate the biogeochemical imbalance of these landscapes, as could pressure to further simplify crop rotations. The expected emergence of biorefinery and combustion facilities that accept cellulosic materials offers an alternative outcome: agricultural landscapes that accumulate soil carbon, that conserve nitrogen and phosphorus, and that emit relatively small amounts of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere. Fields in these landscapes are planted to perennial crops that require less fertilizer, that retain sediments and nutrients that could otherwise be transported to groundwater and streams, and that accumulate carbon in both soil organic matter and roots. If mixed-species assemblages, they additionally provide biodiversity services. Biogeochemical responses of these systems fall chiefly into two areas: carbon neutrality and water and nutrient conservation. Fluxes must be measured and understood in proposed cropping systems sufficient to inform models that will predict biogeochemical behavior at field, landscape, and regional scales. Because tradeoffs are inherent to these systems, a systems approach is imperative, and because potential biofuel cropping systems and their environmental contexts are complex and cannot be exhaustively tested, modeling will be instructive. Modeling alternative biofuel cropping systems converted from different starting points, for example, suggests that converting CRP to corn ethanol production under conventional tillage results in substantially increased net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can be only partly mitigated with no-till management. Alternatively, conversion of existing cropland or prairie to switchgrass production results in a net GHG sink. Outcomes and policy must be informed by science that adequately quantifies the true biogeochemical costs and advantages of alternative systems.
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Agricultures impact on microbial diversity and associated fluxes of carbon dioxide and methane.
ISME J
PUBLISHED: 04-14-2011
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Agriculture has marked impacts on the production of carbon dioxide (CO(2)) and consumption of methane (CH(4)) by microbial communities in upland soils-Earths largest biological sink for atmospheric CH(4). To determine whether the diversity of microbes that catalyze the flux of these greenhouse gases is related to the magnitude and stability of these ecosystem-level processes, we conducted molecular surveys of CH(4)-oxidizing bacteria (methanotrophs) and total bacterial diversity across a range of land uses and measured the in situ flux of CH(4) and CO(2) at a site in the upper United States Midwest. Conversion of native lands to row-crop agriculture led to a sevenfold reduction in CH(4) consumption and a proportionate decrease in methanotroph diversity. Sites with the greatest stability in CH(4) consumption harbored the most methanotroph diversity. In fields abandoned from agriculture, the rate of CH(4) consumption increased with time along with the diversity of methanotrophs. Conversely, estimates of total bacterial diversity in soil were not related to the rate or stability of CO(2) emission. These combined results are consistent with the expectation that microbial diversity is a better predictor of the magnitude and stability of processes catalyzed by organisms with highly specialized metabolisms, like CH(4) oxidation, as compared with processes driven by widely distributed metabolic processes, like CO(2) production in heterotrophs. The data also suggest that managing lands to conserve or restore methanotroph diversity could mitigate the atmospheric concentrations of this potent greenhouse gas.
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Energy efficiency of conventional, organic, and alternative cropping systems for food and fuel at a site in the U.S. Midwest.
Environ. Sci. Technol.
PUBLISHED: 04-21-2010
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The prospect of biofuel production on a large scale has focused attention on energy efficiencies associated with different agricultural systems and production goals. We used 17 years of detailed data on agricultural practices and yields to calculate an energy balance for different cropping systems under both food and fuel scenarios. We compared four grain and one forage systems in the U.S. Midwest: corn (Zea mays) - soybean (Glycine max) - wheat (Triticum aestivum) rotations managed with (1) conventional tillage, (2) no till, (3) low chemical input, and (4) biologically based (organic) practices, and (5) continuous alfalfa (Medicago sativa). We compared energy balances under two scenarios: all harvestable biomass used for food versus all harvestable biomass used for biofuel production. Among the annual grain crops, average energy costs of farming for the different systems ranged from 4.8 GJ ha(-1) y(-1) for the organic system to 7.1 GJ ha(-1) y(-1) for the conventional; the no-till system was also low at 4.9 GJ ha(-1) y(-1) and the low-chemical input system intermediate (5.2 GJ ha(-1) y(-1)). For each system, the average energy output for food was always greater than that for fuel. Overall energy efficiencies ranged from output:input ratios of 10 to 16 for conventional and no-till food production and from 7 to 11 for conventional and no-till fuel production, respectively. Alfalfa for fuel production had an efficiency similar to that of no-till grain production for fuel. Our analysis points to a more energetically efficient use of cropland for food than for fuel production and large differences in efficiencies attributable to management, which suggests multiple opportunities for improvement.
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Carbon sequestration potential of extensive green roofs.
Environ. Sci. Technol.
PUBLISHED: 10-24-2009
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Two studies were conducted with the objective of quantifying the carbon storage potential of extensive green roofs. The first was performed on eight roofs in Michigan and four roofs in Maryland, ranging from 1 to 6 years in age. All 12 green roofs were composed primarily of Sedum species, and substrate depths ranged from 2.5 to 12.7 cm. Aboveground plant material was harvested in the fall of 2006. On average, these roofs stored 162 g C x m(-2) in aboveground biomass. The second study was conducted on a roof in East Lansing, MI. Twenty plots were established on 21 April 2007 with a substrate depth of 6.0 cm. In addition to a substrate only control, the other plots were sown with a single species of Sedum (S. acre, S. album, S. kamtshaticum, or S. spurium). Species and substrate depth represent typical extensive green roofs in the United States. Plant material and substrate were harvested seven times across two growing seasons. Results at the end of the second year showed that aboveground plant material storage varied by species, ranging from 64 g C x m(-2) (S. acre) to 239 g C x m(-2) (S. album), with an average of 168 g C x m(-2). Belowground biomass ranged from 37 g C x m(-2) (S. acre) to 185 g C x m(-2) (S. kamtschaticum) and averaged 107 g C x m(-2). Substrate carbon content averaged 913 g C x m(-2), with no species effect, which represents a sequestration rate of 100 g C x m(-2) over the 2 years of this study. The entire extensive green roof system sequestered 375 g C x m(-2) in above- and belowground biomass and substrate organic matter.
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Functional gene differences in soil microbial communities from conventional, low-input, and organic farmlands.
Appl. Environ. Microbiol.
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Various agriculture management practices may have distinct influences on soil microbial communities and their ecological functions. In this study, we utilized GeoChip, a high-throughput microarray-based technique containing approximately 28,000 probes for genes involved in nitrogen (N)/carbon (C)/sulfur (S)/phosphorus (P) cycles and other processes, to evaluate the potential functions of soil microbial communities under conventional (CT), low-input (LI), and organic (ORG) management systems at an agricultural research site in Michigan. Compared to CT, a high diversity of functional genes was observed in LI. The functional gene diversity in ORG did not differ significantly from that of either CT or LI. Abundances of genes encoding enzymes involved in C/N/P/S cycles were generally lower in CT than in LI or ORG, with the exceptions of genes in pathways for lignin degradation, methane generation/oxidation, and assimilatory N reduction, which all remained unchanged. Canonical correlation analysis showed that selected soil (bulk density, pH, cation exchange capacity, total C, C/N ratio, NO(3)(-), NH(4)(+), available phosphorus content, and available potassium content) and crop (seed and whole biomass) variables could explain 69.5% of the variation of soil microbial community composition. Also, significant correlations were observed between NO(3)(-) concentration and denitrification genes, NH(4)(+) concentration and ammonification genes, and N(2)O flux and denitrification genes, indicating a close linkage between soil N availability or process and associated functional genes.
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JoVE Visualize is a tool created to match the last 5 years of PubMed publications to methods in JoVE's video library.

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In developing our video relationships, we compare around 5 million PubMed articles to our library of over 4,500 methods videos. In some cases the language used in the PubMed abstracts makes matching that content to a JoVE video difficult. In other cases, there happens not to be any content in our video library that is relevant to the topic of a given abstract. In these cases, our algorithms are trying their best to display videos with relevant content, which can sometimes result in matched videos with only a slight relation.