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Computer Models Show How Crop Production Increases Soil Nitrous Oxide Emissions

The study found expansion of agricultural land and the application of nitrogen fertilizers have driven the increase in nitrous oxide emissions from U.S. soils.

Credit: Loren King

Iowa State University (ISU) scientists used computer models to determine the increase in emissions of greenhouse gas nitrous oxide over the last century by U.S. crop production.

The researchers factored in government data on crops, land use, weather, and other variables, as well as historic and survey data from growers and other landowners.

ISU's Chaoqun Lu said, "We divide land into thousands of pixels at a uniform size and run algorithms that simulate how ecological processes respond to changes in climate, air composition, and human activities."

The analysis found nitrous oxide emissions from U.S. soil have risen more than threefold since 1900, from 133 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMT CO2 eq) annually to 404 MMT CO2 eq annually in the 2010s. They found nearly two-thirds of that expansion is rooted in agricultural soils, with corn and soybean production fueling over 90% of the agriculture-related emissions increase.

From Iowa State University News Service
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