Novel technologies for emission reduction complement conservation agriculture to achieve negative emissions from row-crop production.
Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Because agriculture's productivity is based on this process, a combination of technologies to reduce emissions and enhance soil carbon storage can allow this sector to achieve net negative emissions while maintaining high productivity. Unfortunately, current row-crop agricultural practice generates about 5% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and European Union. To reduce these emissions, significant effort has been focused on changing farm management practices to maximize soil carbon. In contrast, the potential to reduce emissions has largely been neglected. Through a combination of innovations in digital agriculture, crop and microbial genetics, and electrification, we estimate that a 71% (1,744 kg CO2e/ha) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from row crop agriculture is possible within the next 15 y. Importantly, emission reduction can lower the barrier to broad adoption by proceeding through multiple stages with meaningful improvements that gradually facilitate the transition to net negative practices. Emerging voluntary and regulatory ecosystems services markets will incentivize progress along this transition pathway and guide public and private investments toward technology development. In the difficult quest for net negative emissions, all tools, including emission reduction and soil carbon storage, must be developed to allow agriculture to maintain its critical societal function of provisioning society while, at the same time, generating environmental benefits.
Northrup, DL; Basso, B; Wang, MQ; Morgan, CLS; Benfey, PN
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Pubmed Central ID
Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)