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Nitrous Oxide Emissions Coming from Legume Cover Crops, Manure, Can Be Reduced

Nitrogen input from legume cover crops and manure prior to corn planting made the corn phase of rotations the main source of nitrous oxide emissions. Corn field image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The application of manure after the growth and demise of legume cover crops in rotations is a recipe to increase nitrous oxide releases during ensuing corn growth, according to Penn State University researchers.

Nitrous oxide is important because it is about 300 times better at trapping heat than is carbon dioxide. With organic agriculture growing in significance, nitrous oxide emissions are undergoing added scrutiny because soil fertility in organic agriculture relies on microbial cycling of nutrient inputs from legume cover crops and animal manure.

Researchers proposed several strategies to reduce those emissions, such as removing a fraction of the legume aboveground biomass before corn planting. Funding was provided by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, read this Penn State News article.

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