Articles | Volume 11, issue 8
Biogeosciences, 11, 2287–2294, 2014
Biogeosciences, 11, 2287–2294, 2014

Research article 24 Apr 2014

Research article | 24 Apr 2014

Trade-offs between high yields and greenhouse gas emissions in irrigation wheat cropland in China

Z. L. Cui1,*, L. Wu1,*, Y. L. Ye2, W. Q. Ma3, X. P. Chen1, and F. S. Zhang1 Z. L. Cui et al.
  • 1Center for Resources, Environment and Food Security, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
  • 2College of Resources and Environmental Science, Henan Agricultural University, Zhengzhou 450000, China
  • 3College of Resources and Environmental Science, Hebei Agricultural University, Baoding 071001, China
  • *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Although the concept of producing higher yields with reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a goal that attracts increasing public and scientific attention, the trade-off between high yields and GHG emissions in intensive agricultural production is not well understood. Here, we hypothesize that there exists a mechanistic relationship between wheat grain yield and GHG emission, and that could be transformed into better agronomic management. A total 33 sites of on-farm experiments were investigated to evaluate the relationship between grain yield and GHG emissions using two systems (conventional practice, CP; high-yielding systems, HY) of intensive winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in China. Furthermore, we discussed the potential to produce higher yields with lower GHG emissions based on a survey of 2938 farmers. Compared to the CP system, grain yield was 39% (2352 kg ha−1) higher in the HY system, while GHG emissions increased by only 10%, and GHG emission intensity was reduced by 21%. The current intensive winter wheat system with farmers' practice had a median yield and maximum GHG emission rate of 6050 kg ha−1 and 4783 kg CO2 eq ha−1, respectively; however, this system can be transformed to maintain yields while reducing GHG emissions by 26% (6077 kg ha−1, and 3555 kg CO2 eq ha−1). Further, the HY system was found to increase grain yield by 39% with a simultaneous reduction in GHG emissions by 18% (8429 kg ha−1, and 3905 kg CO2 eq ha−1, respectively). In the future, we suggest moving the trade-off relationships and calculations from grain yield and GHG emissions to new measures of productivity and environmental protection using innovative management technologies.

Final-revised paper