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Sugarcane is a widespread bioenergy crop in tropical regions, and the growing global demand for renewable energy in recent years has led to a dramatic expansion and intensification of sugarcane agriculture in Brazil. Currently, extensive areas of low-intensity pasture are being converted to sugarcane, while management in the remaining pasture is becoming more intensive, i.e., includes tilling and fertilizer use. In this study, we assessed how such changes in land use and management practices alter emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as CO2, N2O and CH4 by measuring in situ fluxes for one year after conversion from low-intensity pasture to conventional sugarcane agriculture and management-intensive pasture. Results show that CO2 and N2O fluxes increased significantly in pasture and sugarcane with tillage, fertilizer use, or both combined. Emissions were highly variable for all GHGs, yet, cumulatively, it was clear that annual emissions in CO2-equivalent (CO2-eq) were higher in management-intense pasture and sugarcane than in unmanaged pasture. Surprisingly, tilled pasture with fertilizer (management-intensive pasture) resulted in higher CO2-eq emissions than conventional sugarcane. We concluded that intensification of pasture management and the conversion of pasture to sugarcane can increase the emission factor (EF) estimated for sugarcane produced in Brazil. The role of management practices and environmental conditions and the potential for reducing emissions are discussed.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of environmental management
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