Barley: Crop rotation can improve the climate impact.
Photo: © Zdeno Ceman (flickr)

Climate protection through crop rotation

Scientists are developing a new life cycle assessment method to calculate the CO2 footprint of agricultural products from crop rotation systems.

Scientists have further developed the life cycle assessment methods, as the Technical University of Berlin reported in January 2018. The results of the study were published in December 2017 in the periodical “Agronomy for Sustainable Development”.

If rape seed, barley and other crops follow each other in a field during the growing period, this is good for the soil. Farmers have used crop rotation for centuries to maintain soil fertility. However, crop rotation also affects the climate balance sheet of bread, milk and biofuels.

Further development of the life cycle assessment now enables agriculture to compare the CO2 footprints of different crop rotation schemes, optimising their management for climatic purposes.

In a multi-year study, the scientists of the Technical University of Berlin investigated and re-evaluated the climate balance sheets both of different products involving crop rotation and of the by-product straw and compared them with previous results. The study looked at bread from wheat, milk from cows, biodiesel from rape seed and bioethanol from straw.

Using their technique, the scientists can now calculate product-specific CO2 footprints of agricultural products grown in crop rotation systems. The calculation method is also harmonised with the international standards for environmental management (life cycle assessment, ISO 14040/14044).

Crop rotation proves to improve the product carbon footprints of bread, milk and biodiesel by 11 per cent, 22 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. However, according to the researchers, the by-product straw, relevant for livestock farming and soil fertility, led to an 80 per cent deterioration in the product carbon footprint of straw-based biofuels.


(TU Berlin/ile)


Agronomy for Sustainable Development: Crop rotations and crop residues are relevant parameters for agricultural carbon footprints


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