BC3 Journal Article “Strategies for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation in Mediterranean agriculture: A review”

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Sanz-Cobena, A. , Lassaletta, L., Aguilera, E.,del Prado, A. , Garniere, J., Billen, G., Iglesias, A., Sánchez, B., Guardia, G., Abalos, D., Plaza-Bonilla, D., Puigdueta-Bartolomé, I., Moral, R., Galán, E., Arriaga, H., Merino, P., Infante-Amate, J.  2017. Strategies for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation in Mediterranean agriculture: A review. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment.238, 5-24. DOI (10.1016/j.agee.2016.09.038).


An integrated assessment of the potential of different management practices for mitigating specific components of the total GHG budget (N2O and CH4 emissions and C sequestration) of Mediterranean agrosystems was performed in this study. Their suitability regarding both yield and environmental (e.g. nitrate leaching and ammonia volatilization) sustainability, and regional barriers and opportunities for their implementation were also considered. Based on its results best strategies to abate GHG emissions in Mediterranean agro-systems were proposed. Adjusting N fertilization to crop needs in both irrigated and rain-fed systems could reduce N2O emissions up to 50% compared with a non-adjusted practice. Substitution of N synthetic fertilizers by solid manure can be also implemented in those systems, and may abate N2O emissions by about 20% under Mediterranean conditions, with additional indirect benefits associated to energy savings and positive effects in crop yields. The use of urease and nitrification inhibitors enhances N use efficiency of the cropping systems and may mitigate N2O emissions up to 80% and 50%, respectively. The type of irrigation may also have a great mitigation potential in the Mediterranean region. Drip-irrigated systems have on average 80% lower N2O emissions than sprinkler systems and drip-irrigation combined with optimized fertilization showed a reduction in direct N2O emissions up to 50%. Methane fluxes have a relatively small contribution to the total GHG budget of Mediterranean crops, which can mostly be controlled by careful management of the water table and organic inputs in paddies. Reduced soil tillage, improved management of crop residues and agro-industry by-products, and cover cropping in orchards, are the most suitable interventions to enhance organic C stocks in Mediterranean agricultural soils. The adoption of the proposed agricultural practices will require farmers training. The global analysis of life cycle emissions associated to irrigation type (drip, sprinkle and furrow) and N fertilization rate (100 and 300 kg N ha−1 yr−1) revealed that these factors may outweigh the reduction in GHG emissions beyond the plot scale. The analysis of the impact of some structural changes on top-down mitigation of GHG emissions revealed that 3–15% of N2O emissions could be suppressed by avoiding food waste at the end-consumer level. A 40% reduction in meat and dairy consumption could reduce GHG emissions by 20–30%. Reintroducing the Mediterranean diet (i.e. ∼35% intake of animal protein) would therefore result in a significant decrease of GHG emissions from agricultural production systems under Mediterranean conditions.

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