Journal list menu

Volume 38, Issue 2 p. 418-425
Atmospheric Pollutant and Trace Gas

Energy Use and Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Cropland Production in the United States, 1990–2004

Richard G. Nelson

Richard G. Nelson

Engineering Extension, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan, KS, 66502

Search for more papers by this author
Chad M. Hellwinckel

Chad M. Hellwinckel

Agriculture Policy Analysis Center, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 37996

Search for more papers by this author
Craig C. Brandt

Craig C. Brandt

Environmental Sciences Div., Oak Ridge National Lab., Oak Ridge, TN, 37861-6335

Search for more papers by this author
Tristram O. West

Corresponding Author

Tristram O. West

Environmental Sciences Div., Oak Ridge National Lab., Oak Ridge, TN, 37861-6335

Corresponding author ([email protected]).Search for more papers by this author
Daniel G. De La Torre Ugarte

Daniel G. De La Torre Ugarte

Agriculture Policy Analysis Center, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 37996

Search for more papers by this author
Gregg Marland

Gregg Marland

Environmental Sciences Div., Oak Ridge National Lab., Oak Ridge, TN, 37861-6335

International Inst. for Applied Systems Analysis, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria

Search for more papers by this author
First published: 01 March 2009
Citations: 44

All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Abstract

Changes in cropland production and management influence energy consumption and emissions of CO2 from fossil-fuel combustion. A method was developed to calculate on-site and off-site energy and CO2 emissions for cropping practices in the United States at the county scale. Energy consumption and emissions occur on-site from the operation of farm machinery and occur off-site from the manufacture and transport of cropland production inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and agricultural lime. Estimates of fossil-fuel consumption and associated CO2 emissions for cropping practices enable (i) the monitoring of energy and emissions with changes in land management and (ii) the calculation and balancing of regional and national carbon budgets. Results indicate on-site energy use and total energy use (i.e., the sum of on-site and off-site) on U.S. croplands in 2004 ranged from 1.6 to 7.9 GJ ha−1 yr−1 and from 5.5 to 20.5 GJ ha−1 yr−1, respectively. On-site and total CO2 emissions in 2004 ranged from 23 to 176 kg C ha−1 yr−1 and from 91 to 365 kg C ha−1 yr−1, respectively. During the period of this analysis (1990–2004), national total energy consumption for crop production ranged from 1204 to 1297 PJ yr−1 (Petajoule = 1 × 1015 Joule) with associated total fossil CO2 emissions ranging from 21.5 to 23.2 Tg C yr−1 (Teragram = 1 × 1012 gram). The annual proportion of on-site CO2 to total CO2 emissions changed depending on the diversity of crops planted. Adoption of reduced tillage practices in the United States from 1990 to 2004 resulted in a net fossil emissions reduction of 2.4 Tg C.