Fig. 8.2 Radiative forcing of all the long-lived greenhouse gases relative to 1750
Fig. 8.2 Radiative forcing of all the long-lived greenhouse gases relative to 1750
gases. Of the five long-lived greenhouse gases that contribute 97% to radiative climate forcing, CO2 and N2O are the only ones that continue to increase at a regular rate. The contribution to radiative forcing by methane and CFCs has been nearly constant or declining, respectively, in recent years. While the radiative forcing of the long-lived, well-mixed greenhouse gases increased by about 22% from 1990 to 2006 (~0.50 watts m-2), CO2 has accounted for about 80% of this increase (~0.40 watts m-2). Had the ozone-depleting gases not been regulated by the Montreal Protocol, it is estimated that climate forcing would have been as much as 0.2 watt m-2 higher (Velders et al. 2007), or about one-half of the increase in radiative forcing due to CO2 alone since 1990. According to IPCC estimates, nitrous oxide has caused an atmospheric radiative forcing of 0.15 Wm-2 or 6% of the enhanced radiative forcing by well-mixed greenhouse gases from pre-industrial to present times. To total radiative foring of 2.43 Wm-2, other contributions are 1.46, 0.48 and 0.34 Wm-2 by CO2, CH4 and halocarbons, respectively (IPCC 2001).
Radiative forcing by N2O emitted from crop fields would vary widely from experiment to experiment due to wide variability in the emissions itself. Even though N2O is much more potent than CH4, another major greenhouse gas contributed by crop fields, seasonal emission per unit area of the former is lesser under rice, for example, and so is its radiative forcing, calculated as kg-CO2 equivalent (Ghosh et al. 2003; Malla et al. 2005; Bhatia et al. 2005). When radiative forcing is calculated from the data of Ghosh et al. (2003), CH4 had much higher global warming potential than N2O on all time scales on seasonal basis but when calculated from Cai et al. (1999), N2O had higher radiative forcing on hourly emission basis than CH4 on 100 and 500-year time scales, both under rice. But, the combined seasonal radiative forcing of CH4 and N2O is quite significant and considering the large area under crop cultivation worldwide, the contribution of crop cultivation to global warming may be appreciable. Yan et al. (2003) have found that total GWP of CH4 and N2O emissions in the rice-growing season, under the condition of increasing organic matter application (such as that of 4.5 thm-2), with drainage only 60% of that of permanent flooding. Thus, it can be concluded that intermittent drainage may be an effective strategy for the minimization of total radiative forcing from emissions of N2O and CH4 from rice fields. On the other hand, N2O emissions from crops grown under aerobic soil condition are often more than CH4 emissions, latter even showing negative emissions sometimes (Bronson and Mosier 1993). In many occasions, N2O emissions have been found to be more from wheat fields than rice, two of the most important crops worldwide, implying that CO2-equivalent emissions and radiative forcing of N2O could be higher from wheat cultivation under a given set of climate and soil conditions (Bhatia et al. 2005). Since global crop production needs to be increased to feed world's burgeoning population and it implies that high nitrogen input to crop cultivation remains unabated and hence positive radiative forcing of atmosphere will continue unabated. Efforts are to be made to optimize CH4 and N2O emission trade-off from crop fields, so that their combined radiative forcing remains at a minimum.
The underlying principle of N2O mitigation from agriculture is increasing fertilizer N use efficiency. Several practices have been followed for the last three-four decades to increase N use efficiency in field crops even before the days of N2O monitoring, since N use efficiency has always been of prime importance in crop production (Katyal et al. 1985; DeDatta 1995). According to IPCC (1995), by better matching of N supply to crop demand and more closely integrating animal waste and crop-residue management with crop production, N2O emission could be reduced by about 0.38MtN2O-N from agriculture, while by using improved techniques, like controlled release fertilizers, nitrification inhibitors, timing and water management, additional 0.30MtN2O-N can be reduced (Table 8.7). Regional or country wise mitigation strategies have also been mooted by several research groups e.g. Follett et al. (2005) for USA and Gregorich et al. (2005) for Canada.
Several strategies have been also formulated to mitigate N2O emissions from rice cultivation (Beauchamp 1997; Mosier et al. 1996). Majumdar (2003) has proposed several N2O mitigation strategies for irrigated rice. Exclusive rice agronomic practices, like water management, suitable fertilizer placements (Schnier 1995) and common practices, like coated urea (Majumdar et al. 2000), nitrification inhibitors (Kumar et al. 2000; Ghosh et al. 2003; Mosier et al. 1994), have been tried to increase N-use efficiency in rice, many of which were able to increase N-use efficiency and simultaneously mitigate N2O emissions.
Table 8.7 A list of practices to improve use efficiency of synthetic fertilizer and manure N in agriculture and expected reduction of N2O emissions assuming global application of mitigation practices (Mt N yr'1) (IPCC 1995)_
Estimated decrease in Practices followed N2O emissions
Match N supply with crop demand 0.24a
Use soil/plant testing to determine fertilizer N needs Minimize fallow periods to limit mineral N accumulation Optimize split application schemes
Match N application to reduced production goals in regions of crop over-production
Tighten N flow cycles 0.14b
Integrate animal and crop production systems in terms of manure reuse in plant production Maintain plant residue N on the production site
Use advanced fertilization techniques 0.15c
Controlled release fertilizers
Place fertilizers below the soil surface
Foliar application of fertilizers
Use nitrification inhibitors
Match fertilizer type to seasonal precipitation
Optimize tillage, irrigation and drainage 0.15d
a Assumed that fertilizer N use efficiency can be increased to save 20% of N applied in North America, Europe and FSU (CAST 1992; Doerge et al. 1991; Iserman 1994; Peoples et al. 1995). bTightening N cycles may decrease the need for 20% of the N that is used currently in North America, Europe and FSU, thus saving 20% of fertilizer and reducing N2O from manure by the same amount where applicable (Buresh et al. 1993; Iserman 1994).
cControlled release fertilizers (Minami 1994), nitrification inhibitors (Bronson et al. 1992; Keerthisinghe et al. 1993; McTaggart et al. 1994; Minami 1994) and matching fertilizer type with seasonal precipitation can decrease N2O emissions in the range of 40-90%. We assume that 10% of all fertilizer-derived N2O production can be decreased by 50%.
dThere is little published data to confirm this assumption (Granli and Bockman 1994). A conservative assumption of a 5% decrease, that can be achieved globally, is used.
We are in the fourth decade of nitrous oxide monitoring from crop fields and this period has witnessed an evolution of N2O monitoring methods and detectors, tapping of possibly all pathways of N2O loss from crop fields, development of N2O mitigation strategies, development of N2O simulation models and streamlining of methodologies and calculations for regional and global N2O budgets. There are several doubts and uncertainties still, but no doubt, monitoring, quantification and prediction are better than ever before. This is a welcome development keeping in view the gloomy future under the shadows of enhanced global warming predicted by IPCC (http://www.ipcc.ch). After appreciating the importance and magnitude of N2O emissions from crop fields, primary emphasis has been laid on N2O mitigation management and practices that ensure no yield reduction, negligible environmental damage and no burden on financial resources. A reduction in application of N
fertilizers and organic manures would surely reduce N2O emissions from crops, but would also reduce crop production unless either acreage or yield potential of crop is increased. Though nitrification inhibitors and slow release N-fertilizers can mitigate N2O emission, they are not popularly used in farmers' fields due to lack of publicity, non-availability, high price etc. Farmers need to be enlightened about the benefits of nitrification inhibitors and slow release N-fertilizers in N-use efficiency and crop yield through proper extension activities and policy changes in favour of their use could lead to a larger scale application.
Simultaneous monitoring of all the greenhouse gases (e.g. N2O, CH4 and CO2) emitted from crop fields and their control to keep the total CO2 equivalent emissions at minimum should be the target. Since several of the control strategies of these gases are conflicting i.e. they minimize one but favour another, it puts an onus on the researchers to formulate special control measures to keep the overall CO2 equivalent emissions at minimum. Further, mitigation practices should be targeted for the entire cropping system, by adjustments, like no fallowing, various other post-harvest land management practices, no excessive fertilization and more use of nitrification and urease inhibitors and slow release/controlled availability N-fertilizers for better N use efficiency and crop yield. The strategies should be effective, easily applicable, technically feasible, remunerative, less time taking and at the same time easily understood and accepted by farmers. Labor requirement, effects on crop yield and soil fertility and short and long term environmental sustainability are other important considerations. More research impetus and funding on the greenhouse gas mitigation have to be generated. Even IPCC (IPCC 1996b) has recognized that only a little national and international funding is available for extensive research in this area, which is needed to make realistic regional and global N2O budgets.
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