How do soil emissions of N2O, CH4 and CO2 from perennial bioenergy crops differ from arable annual crops?

Drewer, Julia; Finch, Jon W.; Lloyd, Colin R.; Baggs, Elisabeth M.; Skiba, Ute. 2012 How do soil emissions of N2O, CH4 and CO2 from perennial bioenergy crops differ from arable annual crops? Global Change Biology Bioenergy, 4 (4). 408-419.

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It is important to demonstrate that replacing fossil fuel with bioenergy crops can reduce the national greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. We compared field emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and soil respiration rates from the C4 grass Miscanthus × giganteus and willow (salix) with emissions from annual arable crops grown for food production. The study was carried out in NE England on adjacent fields of willow, Miscanthus, wheat (Triticum aetivum) and oilseed rape (Brassica napus). N2O, CH4 fluxes and soil respiration rates were measured monthly using static chambers from June 2008 to November 2010. Net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of carbon dioxide (CO2) was measured by eddy covariance on Miscanthus from May 2008 and on willow from October 2009 until November 2010. The N2O fluxes were significantly smaller from the bioenergy crops than that of the annual crops. Average fluxes were 8 and 32 μg m−2 h−1 N2O-N from wheat and oilseed rape, and 4 and 0.2 μg m−2 h−1 N2O-N from Miscanthus and willow, respectively. Soil CH4 fluxes were negligible for all crops and soil respiration rates were similar for all crops. NEE of CO2 was larger for Miscanthus (−770 g C m−2 h−1) than willow (−602 g C m−2 h−1) in the growing season of 2010. N2O emissions from Miscanthus and willow were lower than for the wheat and oilseed rape which is most likely a result of regular fertilizer application and tillage in the annual arable cropping systems. Application of 15N-labelled fertilizer to Miscanthus and oil seed rape resulted in a fertilizer-induced increase in N2O emission in both crops. Denitrification rates (N2O + N2) were similar for soil under Miscanthus and oilseed rape. Thus, perennial bioenergy crops only emit less GHGs than annual crops when they receive no or very low rates of N fertilizer.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biogeochemistry
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > EHFI
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Billett (to November 2013)
UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 1757-1693
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This document is the author’s final manuscript version of the journal article, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer review process. Some differences between this and the publisher’s version remain. You are advised to consult the publisher’s version if you wish to cite from this article. The definitive version is available at
Additional Keywords: bioenergy, methane, Miscanthus, nitrous oxide, short rotation coppice, soil respiration, willow
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 17 Jan 2012 11:00 +0 (UTC)

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