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The global warming potential of straw-return can be reduced by application of straw-decomposing microbial inoculants and biochar in rice-wheat production systems

Ma, Yuchun, Liu, De Li, Schwenke, Graeme, Yang, Bo
Environmental pollution 2019 v.252 pp. 835-845
biochar, carbon footprint, carbon sequestration, fertilizers, global warming potential, grain yield, greenhouse gas emissions, methane, methane production, nitrous oxide, nitrous oxide production, organic carbon, production technology, risk, topsoil, wheat straw, China
Straw-return methods that neither negatively impact yield nor bring environmental risk are ideal patterns. To attain this goal, it is necessary to conduct field observation to evaluate the environmental influence of different straw-return methods. Therefore, we conducted a 2-year field study in 2015–2017 to investigate the emissions of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) and the changes in topsoil (0–20 cm) organic carbon (SOC) density in a typical Chinese rice-wheat rotation in the Eastern China. These measurements allowed a complete greenhouse gas accounting (net GWP and GHGI) of five treatments including: FP (no straw, plus fertilizer), FS (wheat straw plus fertilizer), FB (straw-derived biochar plus fertilizer), FSDI (wheat straw with straw-decomposing microbial inoculants plus fertilizer) and CK (control: no straw, no fertilizer). Average annual SOC sequestration rates were estimated to be 0.20, 0.97, 1.97 and 1.87 t C ha−1 yr−1 (0–20 cm) for the FP, FS, FB and FSDI treatments respectively. Relative to the FP treatment, the FS and FSDI treatments increased CH4 emissions by 12.4 and 17.9% respectively, but decreased N2O emissions by 19.1 and 26.6%. Conversely, the FB treatment decreased CH4 emission by 7.2% and increased N2O emission by 10.9% compared to FP. FB increased grain yield, but FS and FSDI did not. Compared to the net GWP (11.6 t CO2-eq ha−1 yr−1) and GHGI (1.20 kg CO2-eq kg−1 grain) of FP, the FS, FB and FSDI treatments reduced net GWP by 12.6, 59.9 and 34.6% and GHGI by 10.5, 65.8 and 37.7% respectively. In rice-wheat systems of eastern China, the environmentally beneficial effects of returning wheat straw can be greatly enhanced by application of straw-decomposing microbial inoculants or by applying straw-derived biochar.