U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



2019 Published by Elsevier Ltd.


C.R. Locker et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 226 (2019) 1116e1127


Measured field data were used to compare two allocation methods on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from corn (Zea mays L.) stover production in the Midwest U.S. We used publicly-available crop yield, nitrogen fertilizer, and direct soil nitrous oxide emissions data from the USDA-ARS Resilient Economic Agricultural Practices research program. Field data were aggregated from 9 locations across 26 site-years for 3 stover harvest rates (no removal; moderate removal e 3.1Mg ha-1; high removal e 7.2Mg ha-1) and 2 tillage practices (conventional; reduced/no-till). Net carbon uptake by crops was computed from measured plant carbon content. Monte Carlo simulations sampled input distributions to assess variability in farm-to-gate GHG emissions. The base analysis assumed no change in soil organic carbon stocks. In all cases, net CO2 uptake during crop growth and soil-respired CO2 dominated system emissions. Emissions were most sensitive to co-product accounting method, with system expansion emissions ~15% lower than mass allocation. Regardless of accounting method, lowest emissions occurred for a moderate removal rate under reduced/no-till management. The absence of correlations between N fertilization rate and stover removal rate or soil N2O emissions in this study challenges the use of such assumptions typically employed in life cycle assessments Storage of all carbon retained on the field as SOC could reduce emissions by an additional 15%. Our results highlight how variability in GHG emissions due to location and weather can overshadow the impact of farm management practices on field-to-farm gate emissions.