Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Responsible for 6% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) production, agricultural land use has significant potential to reduce these emissions and capture additional carbon in the soil. Many different activities have been proposed for such mitigation, but assessments of the biophysical potential have been limited and have not provided direct comparison among the many options. We present an in-depth review of the scientific literature, with a side-by-side comparison of net biophysical GHG mitigation potential for 42 different agricultural land management activities in the United States, many of which are likely applicable in other regions. Twenty of these activities are likely to be beneficial for GHG mitigation and have sufficient research to support this conclusion. Limited research leads to uncertainty for 15 other activities that may have positive mitigation potential, and the remaining activities have small or negative GHG mitigation potential or life-cycle GHG concerns. While we have sufficient information to move forward in implementing a number of activities, there are some high-priority research needs that will help clarify problematic uncertainties.