BACKGROUND: The UK government has published plans to reduce UK agriculture's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At the same time, the goal of global food security requires an increase in arable crop yields. Foliar disease control measures such as fungicides have an important role in meeting both objectives.
RESULTS: It is estimated that UK winter barley production is associated with GHG emissions of 2770 kg CO2 eq. ha−1 of crop and 355 kg CO2 eq. t−1 of grain. Foliar disease control by fungicides is associated with decreases in GHG emissions of 42–60 kg CO2 eq. t−1 in UK winter barley and 29–39 kg CO2 eq. t−1 in UK spring barley. The sensitivity of these results to the impact of disease control on yield and to variant GHG emissions assumptions is presented. Fungicide treatment of the major UK arable crops is estimated to have directly decreased UK GHG emissions by over 1.5 Mt CO2 eq. in 2009.
CONCLUSION: Crop disease control measures such as fungicide treatment reduce the GHG emissions associated with producing a tonne of grain. As national demand for food increases, greater yields as a result of disease control also decrease the need to convert land from non-arable to arable use, which further mitigates GHG emissions. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry