Preliminary estimates of the potential for carbon mitigation in European soils through no-till farming

Pete Smith, D S Powlson, M J Glendining, Joanne Ursula Smith

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In this paper we estimate the European potential for carbon mitigation of no-till farming using results from European tillage experiments. Our calculations suggest some potential in terms of (a) reduced agricultural fossil fuel emissions, and (b) increased soil carbon sequestration. We estimate that 100% conversion to no-till farming would be likely to sequester about 23 Tg C y(-1) in the European Union or about 43 Tg C y(-1) in the wider Europe (excluding the former Soviet Union). In addition, up to 3.2 Tg C y(-1) could be saved in agricultural fossil fuel emissions. Compared to estimates of the potential for carbon sequestration of other carbon mitigation options, no-till agriculture shows nearly twice the potential of scenarios whereby soils are amended with organic materials. Our calculations suggest that 100% conversion to no-till agriculture in Europe could mitigate all fossil fuel-carbon emissions from agriculture in Europe. However, this is equivalent to only about 4.1% of total anthropogenic CO2-carbon produced annually in Europe (excluding the former Soviet Union) which in turn is equivalent to about 0.8% of global annual anthropogenic CO2-carbon emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-685
Number of pages7
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1998


  • agricultural fossil-fuel carbon emissions
  • carbon sequestration
  • Europe
  • European Union
  • no-till farming
  • soil organic carbon
  • soil organic matter
  • tillage
  • biomass

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