Managing the trade-offs among yield, economic benefits and carbon and nitrogen footprints of wheat cropping in a semi-arid region of China

Linlin Wang, Lingling Li, Junhong Xie, Zhuzhu Luo, Renzhi Zhang, Liqun Cai, Jeffrey A. Coulter, Jairo A. Palta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

It is critical to understand how farming practices affect the carbon and nitrogen footprints of agricultural production. Grain yield, economic return, and carbon and nitrogen footprints of spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) were examined under different tillage-mulch practices. Wheat was grown over 15 years (2002–2016) in the semi-arid region of the western Loess Plateau of China under six tillage-mulch practices: traditional plough with no straw mulching (T), no-till without straw mulching (NT), traditional plough with straw mulching (TS), no-till without straw mulching (NTS), traditional plough with plastic mulching (TP), no-till with plastic mulching (NTP). Average wheat yield over 15 years under NTS, NTP, TP and TS was increased by 28, 24, 22, and 13%, respectively, compared to T. Average net return was greatest under NTS and lowest under TP. The soils under all six tillage-mulch practices gained a considerably large amount of soil organic carbon (SOC) over the 15 yr. The increase in SOC in the 0–30 cm soil layer was greatest under NTS and lowest under T. When changes in soil C were included in the calculations, treatments of NT, TS, NTS, and NTP sharply reduced total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission compared to T. Compared to T, the carbon footprint was decreased by 180, 44, and 123% under NTS, NT, and TS, respectively, but was increased by 153% under TP. Compared to T, the nitrogen footprint was 24–26% lower in TP and NTP, but was not significantly different under NTS, NT, and TS. Therefore, NTS enhanced yield and net return, and reduced GHG and the carbon footprint without increasing the nitrogen footprint, and should be adopted to mitigate the environmental impacts of wheat production in the semiarid Loess Plateau.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number145280
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume768
DOIs
StatePublished - May 10 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 31660373 , 31761143004 ), the Gansu Provincial Key Laboratory of Aridland Crop Science, Gansu Agricultural University ( GSCS-2019-9 and GSCS-2019-Z4 ), the start-up funds from Gansu Agricultural University for openly-recruited Ph.D. graduates ( GAU-KYQD-2018-20 ), and the Science and Technology Department of Gansu Province ( GSPT-2018-56 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Carbon footprint
  • Economic return
  • Nitrogen footprint
  • Tillage
  • Wheat

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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