Existing evidence on the impacts of within-field farmland management practices on the flux of greenhouse gases from arable cropland in temperate regions: a systematic map
Reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is vital for mitigating climate change and meeting commitments to international agreements such as the COP 21 Paris Agreement of 2015. Agriculture is reported to account for approximately 11 percent of total global GHG emissions such that: the agricultural sector has an important role to play in meeting climate change mitigation objectives. However, there is currently little consensus on how farm management and interventions, along with interactions with in-field variability, such as soil type, affect the production and assimilation of GHGs in arable crop lands. Practical recommendations for farmers are often vague or generalised, and models (e.g. on the amount of nitrogen fertiliser applied) are used despite limited understanding of the influence of local conditions, such as the importance of soil type. Here, we report the findings of a systematic map of the evidence relating to the impact on GHG flux from the in-field management of arable land in temperate regions.
We searched for, collated and catalogued research relating to the effects of in-field arable farming practices in temperate systems on GHG emissions. Results from 6 bibliographic databases, a web-based search engine and organisational websites were combined with evidence from stakeholders. Duplicates were removed and the results were then screened for relevance at title and abstract, and full-text levels according to a predefined set of eligibility criteria (following consistency checking). Relevant studies were then coded and their meta-data extracted and used to populate a systematic map database describing each study’s settings, methods and measured outcomes.
The mapping process identified 538 relevant studies from 351 articles. Nearly all of these (96%) were found from traditional research papers, with 42% from European countries and nearly half (203 studies) lasting for 12 months or less. Over half of all studies (55%) investigated multiple interventions with chemical fertiliser (n = 100), tillage (n = 70), and organic fertiliser (n = 30) the most frequently studied single intervention types. When combining individually studied and multiple interventions, the top three intervention types most frequently studied were: chemical fertiliser (n = 312); organic fertiliser (n = 176) and tillage (n = 158). Nitrous oxide was the most commonly studied outcome, with over double the number of studies compared to carbon dioxide, the next most studied outcome. Sandy loam and silty loam were the most commonly studied soils but there was a good distribution of studies across other types. However, studies predominately focused on humid sub-tropical (Cfa) and temperate oceanic (Cfb) climates, with hot summer Mediterranean (CSa) and warm summer Mediterranean (Csb) climate zones less represented.
The mapping process identified clusters of research for chemical and organic fertiliser especially in relation to nitrous oxide emissions and for both carbon dioxide and nitrous dioxide in relation to tillage. Therefore, there is potential for further synthesis for these interventions. The spread of research across soil textures and in the humid sub-tropical and temperate oceanic climates may enable further synthesis to provide tailored in-field advice for farmers and provide an evidence base to inform subsidies policy. However, smaller amounts of research relating to biochar, cover crops, crop rotation, and nitrogen inhibitors highlight gaps where further research would be beneficial.
Carbon emissions, Global warming, Climate change, Climate mitigation, Arable farming, Farmland management, Evidence synthesis
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a vital step in limiting climate change and meeting the goals outlined in the COP 21 Paris Agreement of 2015. Studies have suggested that agriculture accounts for around 11% of total greenhouse gas emissions and the industry has a significant role in meeting international and national climate change reduction objectives. However, there is currently little consensus on the mechanisms that regulate the production and assimilation of greenhouse gases in arable land and the practical factors that affect the process. Practical advice for farmers is often overly general, and models based on the amount of nitrogen fertiliser applied, for example, are used despite a lack of knowledge of how local conditions affect the process, such as the importance of humus content and soil types. Here, we propose a systematic map of the evidence relating to the impact on greenhouse gas flux from the agricultural management of arable land in temperate regions.
Using established methods for systematic mapping in environmental sciences we will search for, collate and catalogue research studies relating to the impacts of farming in temperate systems on greenhouse gas emissions. We will search 6 bibliographic databases using a tested search string, and will hand search a web-based search engine and a list of organisational web sites. Furthermore, evidence will be sought from key stakeholders. Search results will then be screened for relevance at title, abstract and full text levels according to a predefined set of eligibility criteria. Consistency checking will be employed to ensure the criteria are being applied accurately and consistently. Relevant studies will then be subjected to coding and meta-data extraction, which will be used to populate a systematic map database describing each relevant study’s settings, methods and measured outcomes. The mapping process will help to identify knowledge gaps (subjects lacking in evidence warranting further primary research) and knowledge clusters (subjects with sufficient studies to allow a useful full systematic review), and will highlight best and suboptimal research methods.