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Open AccessArticle

Carbon Footprint of Mediterranean Pasture-Based Native Beef: Effects of Agronomic Practices and Pasture Management under Different Climate Change Scenarios

Department of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences (DAFNE), University of Tuscia, Viterbo 01100, Italy
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Animals 2020, 10(3), 415; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10030415
Received: 29 January 2020 / Revised: 22 February 2020 / Accepted: 26 February 2020 / Published: 2 March 2020
The livestock sector requires a significant amount of natural resources and has an important role in climate change. Although the carbon footprint has become a widely accepted indicator for assessing the greenhouse gases emitted per unit of product, due to the lack of a commonly accepted methodology, there are still few studies that have included soil organic carbon sequestration in their calculations. In this study, by including soil organic carbon dynamics, the carbon footprint of a Mediterranean pasture-based beef cattle farm was estimated using current weather data and farming management policies. Subsequently, different soil management strategies, grazing systems, and climate scenarios were compared to the current ones to investigate the effects of these variables on the greenhouse gases emitted. The results showed that the current beef carbon footprint could be significantly reduced by switching to reduced tillage systems. The modeled combination of no-tillage practices with higher organic fertilizer application rates showed a greater potential carbon footprint reduction. No significant differences were found between carbon footprint values modeled under different climate scenarios and grazing systems. By including a process-based model into its carbon footprint calculations, this study highlights the climate mitigation potential of different farming practices and the importance of considering soil carbon sequestration.
A better understanding of soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics is needed when assessing the carbon footprint (CFP) of livestock products and the effectiveness of possible agriculture mitigation strategies. This study aimed (i) to perform a cradle-to-gate CFP of pasture-based beef cattle in a Mediterranean agropastoral system (ii) and to assess the effects on the CFP of alternative tillage, fertilizing, and grazing practices under current (NCC) and future climate change (CC) scenarios. Minimum (Mt) and no-tillage (Nt) practices were compared to current tillage (Ct); a 50% increase (Hf) and decrease (Lf) in fertilization was evaluated against the current (Cf) rate; and rotational grazing (Rg) was evaluated versus the current continuous grazing (Cg) system. The denitrification–decomposition (DNDC) model was run using NCC as well as representative concentration pathways to investigate the effects of farm management practices coupled with future CC scenarios on SOC dynamics, N2O fluxes, and crop yield. Within NCC and CtCf, an emission intensity of 26.9 ± 0.7 kg CO2eq per kg live body weight was estimated. Compared to Ct, the adoption of Mt and Nt reduced the CFP by 20% and 35%, respectively, while NtHf reduced it by 40%. Conservation tillage practices were thus shown to be effective in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. View Full-Text
Keywords: greenhouse gases; soil management; mitigation; N2O; SOC; DNDC model; RCP greenhouse gases; soil management; mitigation; N2O; SOC; DNDC model; RCP
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MDPI and ACS Style

Grossi, G.; Vitali, A.; Lacetera, N.; Danieli, P.P.; Bernabucci, U.; Nardone, A. Carbon Footprint of Mediterranean Pasture-Based Native Beef: Effects of Agronomic Practices and Pasture Management under Different Climate Change Scenarios. Animals 2020, 10, 415. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10030415

AMA Style

Grossi G, Vitali A, Lacetera N, Danieli PP, Bernabucci U, Nardone A. Carbon Footprint of Mediterranean Pasture-Based Native Beef: Effects of Agronomic Practices and Pasture Management under Different Climate Change Scenarios. Animals. 2020; 10(3):415. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10030415

Chicago/Turabian Style

Grossi, Giampiero; Vitali, Andrea; Lacetera, Nicola; Danieli, Pier P.; Bernabucci, Umberto; Nardone, Alessandro. 2020. "Carbon Footprint of Mediterranean Pasture-Based Native Beef: Effects of Agronomic Practices and Pasture Management under Different Climate Change Scenarios" Animals 10, no. 3: 415. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10030415

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