Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment

G. Dersch and K. Böhm:

Austrian agriculture's share in the emission of trace gases affecting the climate


Agriculture's share including all direct and indirect processes such as clearing of forests in the tropics in anthropogenic global warming potential is about more than 30 %. When the inappropriate cultivation methods and land use changes in the tropic and subtropic areas, which cause especially high CO2-emissions, are excluded agriculture's share is about 13 %, now methane emissions (from livestock husbandry and rice paddies) and nitrous oxide emissions (due to nitrogen inputs to the soils) are predominating.

In Austria agriculture's share in national warming potential is about 10 %. If only emissions in direct connection with agricultural land use (incl. fuel consumption, use of mineral and organic N-fertilizers and use of plant protective agents, bur excl. emissions from livestock husbandry and from use of electricity power, gas and fuel oil for heating) are included agriculture's share is about 5 %.

In the past specialization in agricultural production resulting in unbalanced crop rotations and intensification of soil cultivation might have contributed to degradation of organic carbon on arable land. However, top soils are still an important carbon reservoir, which must be preserved by competent and sustainable soil cultivation (well balanced crop rotation, planting of cover crops, incorporation of crop residues in the soil).

Agriculture may contribute a relevant amount to reduce emissions of climate affecting trace gases when the potential for biomass production is used. Extensification strategies in all fields of plant production should be further optimised for preserving natural resources and using energy inputs efficiently.

Key words: Austria, agriculture, emission, greenhouse gases, global warming potential.