Atmospheric concentration of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas (GHG), is rising largely due to agriculture. At the plot scale, N2O emissions from crops are known to be controlled by local agricultural practices such as fertilisation, tillage and residue management. However, knowledge of greenhouse gas emissions at the scale of the cropping system is scarce, notably because N2O monitoring is time consuming. Strategies to reduce impact of farming on climate should therefore be sought at the cropping system level. Agro-ecosystem models are simple alternative means to estimate N2O emissions. Here, we combined ecosystem modelling and field measurements to assess the effect of agronomic management on N2O emissions. The model was tested with series of daily to monthly N2O emission data. It was then used to evaluate the N2O abatement potential of a low-emission system designed to halve greenhouse gas emissions in comparison with a system with high productivity and environmental performance. We found a 29 % N2O abatement potential for the low-emission system compared with the high-productivity system. Among N2O abatement options, reduction in mineral fertiliser inputs was the most effective. © 2012 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
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