The Role of Conservation Agricultural Practices on Reducing GHG Emissions & Enhancing C Sequestration

The September/October 2021 edition of the Soil Science Society of America Journal (SSSAJ) features a special section titled “The Role of Conservation Agricultural Practices on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Enhancing C Sequestration”.

The section brings together studies from across the globe and was edited by Craig Drury (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Ontario Canada), Chuck Rice (Kansas State University, Kansas USA) and Jane Johnson (United States Department of Agriculture, Minnesota, USA).

The editors had the idea for a SSSAJ special section in 2019 at the Global Research Alliance’s (GRA) meeting of the Croplands Research Group.

An excellent overview article by DJ McCauley can be found in CSA News, first published 8 Nov 2021.

  • Conservation agriculture covers a range of practices, including cover crops, crop rotations, improved irrigation systems, crop residue management, and no-till or minimum tillage.
  • A new special section in the Soil Science Society of America Journal highlights new research detailing conservation agriculture’s impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing carbon sequestration.
  • One standout study uses meta-analysis to better understand which conservation agriculture practices positively impact carbon sequestration on a global scale.


Introduction to the Special Section (read more here).

Greenhouse gas emissions have been and continue to increase at regional, national, and global scales; thus, mitigation practices are required to reduce and/or offset these emissions. Agriculture can be both a source of CO2, N2O, and CH4 emissions as well as a sink (soil organic C). Conservation agriculture (CA) is a suite of management practices that can be used to reduce emissions and/or enhance C sequestration in soils. For example, some CA practices may improve soil conditions to enhance crop growth, nutrient utilization, and soil organic C. The Conservation Agriculture Network is a network of the Croplands Research Group of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. The CA network identified reduced tillage, crop rotations, cover crops, residue management, and improved irrigation systems as some of the management strategies that can be used to achieve these goals (GRA-CRG-CA, 2017). This special section identifies and promotes current research on CA practices related to greenhouse gas emissions and/or C sequestration.

Ten peer-reviewed papers are published in this special section of the Soil Science Society of America Journal. They include seven field studies, two modeling studies (using field data), and one meta-analysis paper. The CA practices covered in these manuscripts include conservation tillage, crop rotations, cover crops, and residue management. Several studies include a combination of CA practices (e.g., two papers included both tillage and residue management treatments). The research represents field sites in four countries (United States, Canada, Argentina, and Denmark) across three continents (North and South America and Europe). The meta-analysis study uses published data from 121 field sites in 19 countries across six continents. Collectively, these articles provide examples of CA benefits related to reducing N2O emissions and enhancing C sequestration in soils.