Agronomy and Horticulture Department



Date of this Version



Eagle, A. J., McLellan, E. L., Brawner, E. M., Chantigny, M. H., Davidson, E. A., Dickey, J. B., et al. (2020). Quantifying on‐farm nitrous oxide emission reductions in food supply chains. Earth's Future, 8, e2020EF001504. 10.1029/2020EF001504


2020 The Authors.


Reducing nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from agriculture is critical to limiting future global warming. In response, a growing number of food retailers and manufacturers have committed to reducing N2O emissions from their vast networks of farmer suppliers by providing technical assistance and financial incentives. A key challenge for such companies is demonstrating that their efforts are leading to meaningful progress toward their climate mitigation commitments. We show that a simplified version of soil surface nitrogen (N) balance—or partial N balance—the difference between N inputs to and outputs

from a farm field (fertilizer N minus crop N), is a robust indicator of direct N2O emissions from fields with maize and other major rainfed temperate‐region crops. Furthermore, we present a generalized environmental model that will allow food‐supply‐chain companies to translate aggregated and anonymized changes in average N balance across their supplying farms into aggregated changes in N2O emissions. This research is an important first step, based on currently available science, in helping companies demonstrate the impact of their sustainability efforts.