Challenges of accounting nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural crop residues

Jørgen E. Olesen*, Robert M. Rees, Sylvie Recous, Marina A. Bleken, Diego Abalos, Ishita Ahuja, Klaus Butterbach‐Bahl, Marco Carozzi, Chiara De Notaris, Maria Ernfors, Edwin Haas, Sissel Hansen, Baldur Janz, Gwenaëlle Lashermes, Raia S. Massad, Søren O. Petersen, Tatiana F. Rittl, Clemens Scheer, Kate E. Smith, Pascal ThiébeauArezoo Taghizadeh‐Toosi, Rachel E. Thorman, Cairistiona F. E. Topp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

5 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Crop residues are important inputs of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) to soils and thus directly and indirectly affect nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. As the current inventory methodology considers N inputs by crop residues as the sole determining factor for N2O emissions, it fails to consider other underlying factors and processes. There is compelling evidence that emissions vary greatly between residues with different biochemical and physical characteristics, with the concentrations of mineralizable N and decomposable C in the residue biomass both enhancing the soil N2O production potential. High concentrations of these components are associated with immature residues (e.g., cover crops, grass, legumes, and vegetables) as opposed to mature residues (e.g., straw). A more accurate estimation of the short‐term (months) effects of the crop residues on N2O could involve distinguishing mature and immature crop residues with distinctly different emission factors. The medium‐term (years) and long‐term (decades) effects relate to the effects of residue management on soil N fertility and soil physical and chemical properties, considering that these are affected by local climatic and soil conditions as well as land use and management. More targeted mitigation efforts for N2O emissions, after addition of crop residues to the soil, are urgently needed and require an improved methodology for emission accounting. This work needs to be underpinned by research to (1) develop and validate N2O emission factors for mature and immature crop residues, (2) assess emissions from belowground residues of terminated crops, (3) improve activity data on management of different residue types, in particular immature residues, and (4) evaluate long‐term effects of residue addition on N2O emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6846-6855
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number24
Early online date6 Oct 2023
Publication statusPrint publication - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Authors. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • inventory
  • nitrous oxide
  • mature
  • immature
  • soil
  • accounting
  • nitrogen
  • crop residues
  • Soil/chemistry
  • Nitrous Oxide/analysis
  • Poaceae
  • Nitrogen/analysis
  • Biomass
  • Fertilizers
  • Agriculture
  • Crops, Agricultural


Dive into the research topics of 'Challenges of accounting nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural crop residues'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this