Assessing the ecological limits of conservation management to sequester soil organic carbon, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, enhance soil quality, and improve agricultural resiliency.

The Conservation Agriculture Network is a network of the Croplands Research Group of the Global Research Alliance. The aim of the Conservation Agriculture Network is to understand how conservation agriculture practices, including reduced till systems, permanent soil cover and reduced fallow periods can reduce N2O emissions. Other strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from crops include enhancing soil carbon sequestration, improved soil quality, increased nutrient use efficiency, and increased water use efficiency.

The activities of the Network include understanding where each practice is able to reduce emissions, what conditions are required and how this enhances productivity. The Network will also estimate the mitigation impact of crop rotations and cover crops, multi-intervention practices and how these change greenhouse gases, as well as considering where alternative conservation tillage practices might be beneficial if no-till is not appropriate.

Activities for the Network could include:

  • Cover crops and crop rotation, where does it work or not (dryland and water constraints)
  • Bringing together results from multiple regions and countries to understand the options
  • Cover crops, where these increase N2O emissions and how mange this practice
  • Natural vegetation and ecosystems that can be mimicked in agricultural systems
  • Review the uptake of nitrogen across the whole system – rotation, tillage, and cover crops
  • Global assessment of where cover crops work – and if not what the options would be instead.

The next steps for the Network include:

  • Finalising the databases and running the meta-analysis on GHG emissions
  • Writing a manuscript based upon the meta-analysis
  • Organising a special issue on the role of Conservation Agricultural Practices on mitigating GHG emissions with Soil Science Society of America Journal. The Guest Editors for the Special Issue will be Craig Drury, Charles Rice and Jane Johnson.