Sugarcane farming practices contribute to global warming

May 5, 2010, University of Queensland

( -- The global market for sugarcane is expanding, and new research at UQ is informing improved farming practices to reduce its environmental footprint.

In the study, a UQ team, in collaboration with Department of Environment and Resource Management, analysed from an experimental sugarcane farm near Jacobs Well, 45km south-east of Brisbane.

Emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from soil were considerable when "higher-than-recommended" fertiliser rates were applied and when soil became waterlogged during flood-irrigation.

Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas with a global-warming potential 300 times higher than , the Earth's most problematic climate warmer.

"Nitrous oxide originates from nitrogen stored in the soil. Concentrations of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere are rapidly increasing and contribute 10 percent to . Much of the increases in atmospheric N2O are being caused by nitrogen fertilisers applied in all of agriculture," said Dr Susanne Schmidt, from the School of Biological Sciences.

"Our study demonstrates that N2O is emitted from sugarcane soil early in the growing season. Approximately one percent of fertiliser-nitrogen is emitted as N2O, but this emission can increase to be five times higher when high amounts of nitrogen fertiliser are applied.

"Our study gives clear guidance of how N2O emissions can be effectively reduced. growers who apply less nitrogen fertiliser will reduce emissions. Avoiding accumulation of soluble nitrogen in the soil, the precursor for N2O, and preventing water-logging, strongly reduces emissions.

"Growers are aware that sustainable practices are key to future productivity and efficiency. There has been a significant change in the industry in addressing environmental issues and adopting sustainable farming practices."

Explore further: Nitrous oxide: definitely no laughing matter

Related Stories

Nitrous oxide: definitely no laughing matter

February 18, 2008

Farmers, food suppliers, policy-makers, business leaders and environmentalists are joining forces to confront the threat of the ‘forgotten greenhouse gas’ by taking part in an influential new forum at the University of ...

Aquatic 'dead zones' contributing to climate change

March 11, 2010

The increased frequency and intensity of oxygen-deprived "dead zones" along the world's coasts can negatively impact environmental conditions in far more than just local waters. In the March 12 edition of the journal Science, ...

An invisible threat could change Britain’s landscapes

February 12, 2005

People and farm animals are helping an invisible pollutant to change the types of plants that grow in Britain, particularly in remote and rural regions such as the Lake District. Nitrogen deposits are the cause of the problem. ...

Studying Fertilizers to Cut Greenhouse Gases

November 18, 2009

( -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have found that using alternative types of fertilizers can cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, at least in one part of the country. They are currently examining ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover new material to help power electronics

March 18, 2019

Electronics rule our world, but electrons rule our electronics. A research team at The Ohio State University has discovered a way to simplify how electronic devices use those electrons—using a material that can serve dual ...

Semimetals are high conductors

March 18, 2019

Researchers in China and at UC Davis have measured high conductivity in very thin layers of niobium arsenide, a type of material called a Weyl semimetal. The material has about three times the conductivity of copper at room ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) May 05, 2010
These news reports remind me an anecdote about a dude who studied a globe model under the microscope and discovered a new island in the pacific ocean. (Unfortunately, the ubiquity of google maps/earth stripped much of the humor content of this story).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.