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Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Nontilled, Permanent Raised, and Conventionally Tilled Beds in the Central Highlands of Mexico

L. Dendooven, L. Patiño-Zúñiga, N. Verhulst, K. Boden, A. García-Gaytán, M. Luna-Guido, B. Govaerts
Journal of crop improvement 2014 v.28 no.4 pp. 547-574
carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, crop residues, farmers, fuels, global warming, glyphosate, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, highlands, methane, nitrogen content, nitrogen fertilizers, organic matter, plant growth, raised beds, reduced tillage, soil temperature, soil water, water content, Mexico
Organic matter content increases in soil with no-tilled permanent raised beds (PBs) compared with soil with conventionally tilled beds (CBs), and this might affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Greenhouse gas (CO ₂, N ₂O, and CH ₄) emissions were measured from PBs, from which crop residue was either removed or retained and from CBs where crop residue was retained. The CO ₂ emission was not affected by tillage, but CH ₄ and N ₂O emissions were lower in PBs when residue was retained than in CBs. Removing crop residue from PBs reduced CO ₂ emissions compared with when it was retained, but it had no effect on N ₂O and CH ₄ emissions. The global warming potential (GWP) of GHG emissions was higher in CBs (801 kg CO ₂/ha/year) than in PBs (517 kg CO ₂/ha/year) with crop-residue retention, but more C was sequestered in the 0–60 cm soil layer in PBs (83.4 Mg C/ha) than in CBs (79.2 Mg C/ha). Crop-residue removal in PBs had little effect on the GWP of GHG compared with PBs with crop residue retained, but less C was sequestered in the latter (63.1 Mg C/ha). Net GWP (considering soil C sequestration, GHG emissions, fuel used, glyphosate application, fertilizer and seed production) was lower in CBs with crop-residue retention (1062 kg CO ₂/ha/year) than in PBs with crop-residue removal (6,120 kg CO ₂/ha/year), but it was larger than in PBs with crop-residue retention (−681 kg CO ₂/ha/year). We found that reduced tillage when beds were made permanent and crop-residue retention greatly reduced net GWP compared with when beds were tilled and remade each year.We found that retention of crop residue in PBs increased the emission of CO ₂ compared with where it was removed, but tillage did not affect fluxes of CO ₂. Emission of CH ₄ and N ₂O was larger from CBs than from PBs, but crop-residue management in PBs had no significant effect on fluxes of CH ₄ and N ₂O. Concentrations of mineral N were larger in CBs than in PBs, whereas the removal of crop residue from PBs increased mineral N concentration. Soil temperature was higher in CBs than in PBs and in PBs with crop residue retained compared with where it was removed. Soil water was better preserved in PBs than in CBs and in PBs where residue was retained than where it was removed. The higher water content in the PB compared with the CB will favor plant growth during dry spells. However, retaining crop residues in PBs will require sufficient application of inorganic N, as mineral N in soil is lower in PBs than in CBs or PBs with crop residue removed. Limited N availability in PBs with crop residue retained might reduce yields as poor farmers in the central highlands of Mexico apply little or no N fertilizer. Reduced tillage on PBs and crop-residue retention strongly reduced the net GWP of the system compared with the case when beds were remade each year. PBs with residue retention reduced net GWP by 50% compared with CBs with residue retention, but the removal of residues from the PBs more than doubled it.