Management opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from Chinese agriculture

Dali Nayak*, Eli Saetnan, Kun Cheng, Wen Wang, Frank Koslowski, Yan-Fen Cheng, Wei Yun Zhu, Jia-Kun Wang, Jian-Xin Liu, Dominic Moran, Xiaoyuan Yan, Laura Cardenas, Jamie Newbold, Genxing Pan, Yuelai Lui, Pete Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


Agriculture accounts for approximately 11% of China's national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Through adoption of region-specific best management practices, Chinese farmers can contribute to emission reduction while maintaining food security for its large population (>1300 Million). This paper presents the outcome of a bottom-up assessment to quantify technical potential of mitigation measures for Chinese agriculture using meta-analysis of data from 240 publications for cropland, 67 publications for grassland and 139 publications for livestock, and provides the reference scenario for the cost analysis of identified mitigation measures. Management options with greatest mitigation potential for rice, or rice-based cropping systems are conservation tillage, controlled irrigation; replacement of urea with ammonium sulphate, nitrogen (N) inhibitor application, reduced N fertilizer application, integrated rice-fish-duck farming and biochar application. A 15% reduction in current average synthetic N fertilizer application for rice in China i.e., 231 kg N ha(-1), would result in 12% decrease in direct soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. Combined application of chemical and organic fertilizer, conservation tillage, biochar application and reduced N application are possible measures that can reduce overall GHG emissions from upland cropping systems. Conventional fertilizer inputs for greenhouse vegetables are more than 2-8 times the optimal crop nutrient demand. A 20-40% reduction in N fertilizer application to vegetable crops can reduce N2O emissions by 32-121%, while not negatively impacting the yield. One of the most important mitigation measures for agricultural grasslands could be conversion of low yielding cropland, particularly on slopes, to shrub land or grassland, which is also a promising option to decrease soil erosion. In addition, grazing exclusion and reduced grazing intensity can increase SOC sequestration and decrease overall emissions while improving the largely degraded grasslands. For livestock production, where poor quality forage is commonly fed, improving grazing management and diet quality can reduce methane (CH4) emissions by 11% and 5%, on average. Dietary supplements can reduce CH4 emissions further, with lipids (15% reduction) and tannins or saponins (11% reduction) showing the greatest potential. We also suggest the most economically cost-effective mitigation measures, drawing on related work on the construction of marginal abatement cost curves for the sector. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-124
Number of pages17
JournalAgriculture Ecosystems & Environment
Early online date27 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • agriculture
  • management
  • technical potential
  • economic potential
  • cropland
  • grassland
  • livestock
  • MACC
  • China
  • soil organic-carbon
  • land-use change
  • nitrous-oxide emissions
  • direct N2O emissions
  • rice-growing-season
  • methane production
  • Northern China
  • paddy fields
  • biochar amendment
  • meta analysis


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