Agriculture can reduce its effect on the climate even more

Even though agriculture has reduced emissions of greenhouse gases by more than 20 percent since the 1990s, more can - and should - be done.

2018.01.10 | Janne Hansen

Acidification of manure or addition af nitrification inhibitors to the manure can contribute to reducing climate gases from agriculture. Photo: Colourbox

Agriculture is behind approximately 19 percent of Denmark’s total greenhouse gas emissions even though these emissions have fallen by more than 20 percent since the 1990s. There is a need to reduce greenhouse gases from agriculture even more – and it can be done. 

Agriculture’s largest contributions are from methane and nitrous oxide. This is partly due to the fact that these two greenhouse gases have 25 and 298 times more powerful greenhouse effects, respectively, than CO2. In addition to the 19 percent that agriculture emits directly, are the emissions from grasslands and land in crop rotation, amounting to about three million tons of CO2-equivalents. These contributions stem in particular from drainage and cultivation of peat soils. 

What can farmers do? Professor Jørgen E. Olesen from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University explains that there are two types of actions: 

- One type of action focuses on increasing production efficiency. This reduces emissions per produced unit. The other type of action is to develop technologies and management systems that reduce emissions without affecting production size, avoiding solutions that are too expensive, he says. 

As things stand at present, producing biogas based on animal manure and ceasing to cultivate organic soils are the only two measures that fulfill the requirements. They are prioritised in the Danish climate context but more developments are underway. 

- There are several other interesting measures that can play a significant role in the future with regard to reducing emissions from agriculture. What we are missing is better documentation and more research, Jørgen E. Olesen points out.  

Measures that he highlights are nitrification inhibitors for both commercial fertiliser and animal manure, acidification of animal manure to reduce methane from the manure, and additives (nitrate and other substances) for cattle feed to reduce methane from the enteric fermentation. 

For more information please contact: Section Manager, Professor Jørgen E. Olesen, Department of Agroecology, email:, telephone: +45 8715 7778, mobile: +45 4082 1659 

Climate-Smart Agri-Food Systems is one of the research areas in which the Department of Agroecology is particularly strong and from which results are delivered in line with national and global societal challenges and goals.



Plantekongres, Agro, DCA