Project on sustainable management and gas emission reduction in irrigation farming

December 13, 2013

Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is used by plants to build their tissues, and when plants die, the carbon can reach the soil in which they grow. If the way of cultivating the earth can be optimized to prevent some of this carbon from returning to the atmosphere in the form of CO2, it will be contributing towards cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, one of the main causes of global warming and climate change. The Soil Management Group of the Public University of Navarre, which is now participating alongside INTIA (The Navarrese Institute of Agrifood Technologies and Infrastructure) and Fundagro (Foundation for Rural Development in Navarre) in the European LIFE project RegaDIOX, has been working in this line of research for the last ten years.

The project, being coordinated by Fundagro, is due to run for three years. The main aim is to design, test and disseminate the impact that can be exerted by an improved model of sustainable management of irrigation farming with respect to CO2 capture and GHG emissions. Various indicators will be assessed and analysed, among other things, to be able to estimate carbon sequestration, energy consumed and the quantity of emissions generated in relation to soil management, crop typology, irrigation systems, fertilisation, etc.

The NUP/UPNA researchers Paloma Bescansa, Iñigo Virto and Alberto Enrique will be responsible for a very specific part of the project which is related to soil management. "For the last ten years we've been working on the processes involved in incorporating and stabilising organic matter in the soil," said Paloma Bescansa. "A fresh approach is linked to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and to keeping part of that CO2 in the soil, in the stored organic matter."

In this respect, Alberto Enrique explains how the fixing of carbon in the soil is a natural process, but when the soil began to be cultivated, they lost part of the carbon which until that moment they had managed to retain. "Organic matter is good for soil. Let's consider a beech grove, for example. The tree converts CO2 molecules into carbon chains that form leaf tissue. When the leaves fall to the ground, they constitute highly beneficial organic matter for the soil in terms of fertility, and chemical and physical properties, etc. Finally, they end up being turned into nutrients, but in the meantime they provide the soil with a number of properties: they improve porosity, allow water to be transported, etc. In many agricultural soils, this content is reckoned to be between 1 and 3%, which seems very low but which nevertheless plays a very significant role in how the soil functions."

Irrigation crops

What the researchers are now looking at is how to raise this input of natural carbon in the soil by means of better treatment and management of agricultural land, water, etc. so that with a specific soil and climate it is possible to achieve a greater capacity to retain CO2. "If the soil gains organic matter," says Iñigo Virto, "not only can it partially prevent that return of CO2 to the atmosphere but it can also offer advantages from the point of view of soil fertility and help to cut erosion, for example. Agriculture, with different systems of management, can influence the whole process and, in the case of irrigation, the soil may be able to retain more carbon because, in some way, we are changing the conditions of a soil that used to be arid and which is now going to have more water; to simplify this a lot, we could say that the organic matter potential in the soil in a semi-arid area would turn into that of a more humid area."

The NUP/UPNA researchers are participating directly in three of the six tasks set out by the RegaDIOX project: firstly, they will be comparing traditional dry regions with irrigation; secondly, they will be assessing various herbaceous crops (maize, vegetables, forage, alfalfa, etc.); and thirdly, within permanent crops, they will be focussing on vines and olive trees, because their soils are better suited to management with or without plant cover.

In this initial phase of the work the researchers are selecting a number of plots throughout the area affected by the Navarre Canal (areas which have been turned into irrigated land over the last fifteen years) before proceeding to characterise the soils. "We'll be seeing what types of soils exist, because it's one of the factors that has the greatest influence on this whole process and we're going to see how the amount and type of organic matter in the soil evolve depending on the different systems of crop management," explained Paloma Bescansa.

To their work will be added that developed by INTIA; this will produce a balance of the energy used and the GHG emissions associated with each agro-system; that way, it will be possible to estimate how much energy is used on a crop, how much fertiliser, the amount of emissions associated with that system, etc. "The idea," as Iñigo Virto pointed out, "is to evaluate as broad a range as possible: water use, management systems, fertilisation, etc. and to quantify the GHG balance associated with all the actions linked to irrigation activity."

For its part, the Fundagro Foundation will capitalising on and pursuing the advances made in the research and experimentation of the project with the agricultural sector in mind so that they can be transmitted to farmers; in turn, the practical application of them can be turned into reality by means of techniques and management systems with proven effectiveness.
-end-


Elhuyar Fundazioa

Related Emissions Articles from Brightsurf:

Multinationals' supply chains account for a fifth of global emissions
A fifth of carbon dioxide emissions come from multinational companies' global supply chains, according to a new study led by UCL and Tianjin University that shows the scope of multinationals' influence on climate change.

A new way of modulating color emissions from transparent films
Transparent luminescent materials have several applications; but so far, few multicolor light-emitting solid transparent materials exist in which the color of emission is tunable.

Can sunlight convert emissions into useful materials?
A team of researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering has designed a method to break CO2 apart and convert the greenhouse gas into useful materials like fuels or consumer products ranging from pharmaceuticals to polymers.

Methane: emissions increase and it's not a good news
It is the second greenhouse gas with even a global warming potential larger than CO2.

Tracking fossil fuel emissions with carbon-14
Researchers from NOAA and the University of Colorado have devised a breakthrough method for estimating national emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels using ambient air samples and a well-known isotope of carbon that scientists have relied on for decades to date archaeological sites.

COVID-19 puts brakes on global emissions
Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources reached a maximum daily decline of 17 per cent in April as a result of drastic decline in energy demand that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Egregious emissions
Call them 'super polluters' -- the handful of industrial facilities that emit unusually high levels of toxic chemical pollution year after year.

Continued CO2 emissions will impair cognition
New CU Boulder research finds that an anticipated rise in carbon dioxide concentrations in our indoor living and working spaces by the year 2100 could lead to impaired human cognition.

Capturing CO2 from trucks and reducing their emissions by 90%
Researchers at EPFL have patented a new concept that could cut trucks' CO2 emissions by almost 90%.

Big trucks, little emissions
Researchers reveal a new integrated, cost-efficient way of converting ethanol for fuel blends that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More: Emissions News and Emissions Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.