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"I think farmers in today's world are looking for reasons to avoid growing in a monoculture. They're looking to diversify and rotate their systems. If they're doing that partially out of a concern for the environment, well, it lowers greenhouse gasses. And it could potentially result in a substantial yield increase," says Gevan Behnke, research specialist and doctoral candidate in Maria Villamil's research group in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.
There are other studies out there looking at the link between crop rotation and greenhouse gas emissions, but Behnke's study is unique in a couple of ways. First and most significantly, he sampled greenhouse gas emissions from fields that had been maintained as continuous corn, continuous soybean, rotated corn-soybean, or rotated corn-soybean-wheat, under tillage and no-till management, for 20 years.
Plots - Systems - Impacts - Rotation - Tillage
"These long-term plots are very stable systems. Sometimes you don't see the impacts of rotation or tillage for years after those practices are imposed. That's one of the highlights of this study," Behnke says.
Comparing the corn phase of a corn-soybean rotation to continuous corn showed an average yield benefit of more than 20 percent and a cumulative reduction in nitrous oxide emissions of approximately 35 percent.
Oxide - Greenhouse - Gas - Warming - Potential
Nitrous oxide is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential -- how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere -- almost 300 times higher than carbon dioxide. It is a byproduct of the process of denitrification, during which bacteria in the soil break nitrate down...
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