Received: 18 Nov 2013 – Accepted for review: 07 Dec 2013 – Discussion started: 02 Jan 2014
Abstract. We examine past and future carbon emissions from global croplands, considering land-use change, changes in crop productivity, tillage practices, and residue removal. We find that emissions over the historical period are sensitive to the assumed productivity of arable land that is not planted in a given year and the assumed fraction of soil carbon that is released during land conversion. The role of this "other" arable land, both at present and over the historical period, is not well understood and should be examined further. The carbon balance of croplands over 21st century depends on changes in management practices, particularly the adoption of conservation tillage and the potential removal of residue for use as energy feedstocks. We find that croplands will not become large carbon sinks in the future, however, unless most crop residue is left on fields. Given the relatively low carbon "penalty" incurred by removal, residue use for energy feedstocks may be the preferred option.
How to cite. Smith, S. J.: Historical and future carbon emissions from croplands, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., 5, 1–27, https://doi.org/10.5194/esdd-5-1-2014, 2014.