Quantifying changes to the global warming potential of rice wheat systems with the adoption of conservation agriculture in northwestern India
Published in: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 2016, vol. 219, p.125-137
Field trials were conducted in Haryana representing the northwestern Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) to assess the changes brought about by management, including conservation agriculture (CA) practices, in the global warming potential (GWP) of conventional rice–wheat systems. Conservation agriculture is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, by way of minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover with organic matter or cover crops and crop rotation. Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes were measured using static chambers. Experiments involved four cropping system scenarios with different CA components, and different N rates. In addition, emissions of CH4 and N2O fluxes were measured in farmers’ fields to establish baselines. The dynamics of CH4 emissions were controlled by floodwater levels, and fertilizer N had no effect. On the other hand, N application rates and timing in relation to soil water status determined the N2O emissions in rice fields. Nitrous oxide fluxes could be avoided by applying N fertilizer to wet soil or by irrigating the field not later than 1 day after N application. Applying crop residues on soil surface had no significant effect on the seasonal CH4 and N2O emissions. It was estimated that switching rice crop establishment method from conventional to CA-based practices in Haryana could reduce GWP for rice by 23% or by 1.26 Tg CO2 eq yr−1. An intensive CA-based rice–wheat and maize–wheat system reduced GWP by 16–26% or by 1.3–2.0 Tg CO2 eq yr−1 compared with the conventional rice–wheat system. However, this reduction in GWP would be from a decrease in diesel and electricity consumption and not from direct emissions of CH4 and N2O, which were higher in the maize–wheat system than in the rice–wheat system.