Measuring emissions from streams, study shows officials underestimated greenhouse gas coming from corn belt

July 25, 2015

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas, 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide and a significant contributor to global warming. Agriculture is a big emitter of the gas, but a new study led by University of Minnesota researchers show it is a far bigger problem than previously thought.

"Even very small amounts of nitrous oxide can be very harmful from a greenhouse gas balance perspective," lead author Peter Turner, a PhD candidate at the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate.

"We found that there was a nine fold underestimation with streams in the area, which translates to about a 40% underestimation of the agricultural budget."

The study's results can be used to inform strategies for addressing climate change and nitrous oxide emissions, and may serve as a benchmark for areas that don't have accurate information.
Researchers hope to confirm similar nitrous oxide degassing also occurs in other agricultural regions, such as China and India.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and authored by Peter Turner, Timothy Griffis, John Baker, Rodney Venterea, and Jeffrey Wood from the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota and Xuhui Lee from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University.