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Niels Halberg

Energy inputs and GHG emissions of tillage systems

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Different tillage systems result in different resource uses and environmental impacts. Reduced tillage generates savings in direct energy input and the amount of machinery items needed. As the basics for holistic Life Cycle Assessments, both the influencing direct and indirect energy as sources of greenhouse gas emissions are required. Life Cycle inventories (LCI) were aggregated for a number of optimised machinery systems and tillage scenarios integrating a four crop rotation consisting of spring barley, winter barley, winter wheat and winter rape seed. By applying Life Cycle Assessments to a number of tillage scenarios and whole field operations sequences, the energy efficiency and environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) were evaluated. Results showed that the total energy input was reduced by 26% for the reduced tillage system and by 41% for the no-tillage system. Energy used for traction and machine construction contributed between 6 and 8% of the total GHG emission per kg product. The total emission of GHG was 915 g CO equivalents per kg product by using the conventional tillage system, 817 g CO equivalents for the reduced tillage system and 855 g CO equivalents for the no tillage system. The no tillage system was expected to yield 10% less. The mineralisation in the soil contributed the most (50-60%) to this emission, while the fertiliser production contributed with 28-33%. The results stress the importance of applying a systems approach to capture the implications of, for example, sustained yields as otherwise the environmental benefits can be compromised.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiosystems Engineering
Volume120
Pages (from-to)2 -14
Number of pages13
ISSN1537-5110
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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