Greenhouse gas abatement on southern Australian grains farms: Biophysical potential and financial impacts

Elizabeth A. Meier, Peter J. Thorburn, Marit Kragt, Nikki Dumbrell, Jody S. Biggs, Frances Hoyle, Harm van Rees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The agricultural sector generates a substantial proportion of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Changes to agricultural practices can provide GHG abatement by maintaining or increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) stored in soils or vegetation, or by decreasing N2O emissions. However, it can be difficult to identify practices that achieve net abatement because practices that increase SOC stocks may also increase N2O emissions from the soil. This study simulated the net on-farm GHG abatement and gross margins for a range of management scenarios on two grain farms from the western and southern grain growing regions of Australia using the Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) model. The soils and practices selected for the study were typical of these regions. Increased cropping intensity consistently provided emissions reductions for all site-soil combinations. The practice of replacing uncropped or unmanaged pasture fallows with a winter legume crop was the only one of nine scenarios to decrease GHG emissions and increase gross margins relative to baseline practice at both locations over the 100-year simulation period. The greatest abatement was obtained by combining this practice with an additional summer legume crop grown for a short period as green manure. However, adding the summer legume decreased farm gross margins because the summer crop used soil moisture otherwise available to the following cash crop, thus reducing yield and revenue. Annual N2O emissions from the soil were an order of magnitude lower from sandy-well-drained soils at the Western Australian location (Dalwallinu) than at the other location (Wimmera) with clay soil, highlighting the importance of interactions between climate and soil properties in determining appropriate GHG abatement practices. Thus, greatest abatement at Dalwallinu was obtained from maintaining or increasing SOC, but managing both N2O emissions and SOC storage were important for providing abatement at Wimmera.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147–157
Number of pages11
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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