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Does the adoption of zero tillage reduce greenhouse gas emissions? An assessment for the grains industry in Australia


  • Maraseni, T.N.
  • Cockfield, G.


The Australian Government has recommended that farmers move from cultivation-based dryland farming to reduced or zero tillage systems. The private benefits could include improvements in yields and a decrease in costs while the public benefits could include a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to a diminution in the use of heavy machinery. The aim of this study is to estimate and compare total on-farm GHG emissions from conventional and zero tillage systems based on selected grain crop rotations in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia. The value chain was identified, including all inputs, and emissions. In addition, studies of soil carbon sequestration and nitrous oxide emissions under the different cropping systems were reviewed. The value chain analysis revealed that the net effect on GHG emissions by switching to zero tillage is positive but relatively small. In addition though, the review of the sequestration studies suggests that there might be soil-based emissions that result from zero tillage that are being under-estimated. Therefore, zero tillage may not necessarily reduce overall GHG emissions. This could have major implication on current carbon credits offered from volunteer carbon markets for converting conventional tillage to reduced tillage system.

Suggested Citation

  • Maraseni, T.N. & Cockfield, G., 2011. "Does the adoption of zero tillage reduce greenhouse gas emissions? An assessment for the grains industry in Australia," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(6), pages 451-458, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:104:y:2011:i:6:p:451-458

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Uwe A. Schneider & Pete Smith, 2008. "Greenhouse Gas Emission Mitigation and Emission Intensities in Agriculture," Working Papers FNU-164, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Jul 2008.
    2. Graham, Paul W. & Williams, David J., 2003. "Optimal technological choices in meeting Australian energy policy goals," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 691-712, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Krishna, Vijesh V. & Veettil, Prakashan C., 2014. "Productivity and efficiency impacts of conservation tillage in northwest Indo-Gangetic Plains," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 126-138.
    2. Torres, Carlos M.M. Eleto & Kohmann, Marta M. & Fraisse, Clyde W., 2015. "Quantification of greenhouse gas emissions for carbon neutral farming in the Southeastern USA," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 64-75.
    3. Massam, G. & Kragt, Marit Ellen & Burton, Michael P., 2013. "Community values for the benefits of carbon farming: a choice experiment study," 2013 Conference (57th), February 5-8, 2013, Sydney, Australia 152167, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.


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