• Open Access

Modelling the carbon and nitrogen balances of direct land use changes from energy crops in Denmark: a consequential life cycle inventory

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Abstract

This paper addresses the conversion of Danish agricultural land from food/feed crops to energy crops. To this end, a life cycle inventory, which relates the input and output flows from and to the environment of 528 different crop systems, is built and described. This includes seven crops (annuals and perennials), two soil types (sandy loam and sand), two climate types (wet and dry), three initial soil carbon level (high, average, low), two time horizons for soil carbon changes (20 and 100 years), two residues management practices (removal and incorporation into soil) as well as three soil carbon turnover rate reductions in response to the absence of tillage for some perennial crops (0%, 25%, 50%). For all crop systems, nutrient balances, balances between above- and below-ground residues, soil carbon changes, biogenic carbon dioxide flows, emissions of nitrogen compounds and losses of macro- and micronutrients are presented. The inventory results highlight Miscanthus as a promising energy crop, indicating it presents the lowest emissions of nitrogen compounds, the highest amount of carbon dioxide sequestrated from the atmosphere, a relatively high carbon turnover efficiency and allows to increase soil organic carbon. Results also show that the magnitude of these benefits depends on the harvest season, soil types and climatic conditions. Inventory results further highlight winter wheat as the only annual crop where straw removal for bioenergy may be sustainable, being the only annual crop not involving losses of soil organic carbon as a result of harvesting the straw. This, however, is conditional to manure application, and is only true on sandy soils.

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