Soil nitrous oxide flux following land‐use reversion from Miscanthus and SRC willow to perennial ryegrass

Jon McCalmont, Rebecca Rowe, Dafydd Elias, Whitaker Jeanette, Niall McNamara, Iain Donnison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (SciVal)
131 Downloads (Pure)


Decarbonization of the world's energy supply is essential to meet the targets of the 2016 Paris climate change agreement. One promising opportunity is the utilization of second generation, low input bioenergy crops such as Miscanthus and Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow. Research has previously been carried out on the greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of growing these feedstocks and land-use changes involved in converting conventional cropland to their production; however, there is almost no body of work understanding the costs associated with their end of life transitions back to conventional crops. It is likely that it is during crop interventions and land-use transitions that significant GHG fluxes might occur. Therefore, in this study, we investigated soil GHG fluxes over 82 weeks during transition from Miscanthus and SRC willow into perennial ryegrass in west Wales, UK. This study captured soil GHG fluxes at a weekly time step, alongside monthly changes in soil nitrogen and labile carbon and reports the results of regression modelling of suspected drivers. Methane fluxes were typically trivial; however, nitrous oxide (N 2O) fluxes were notably affected, reverted plots produced significantly more N 2O than retained controls and Miscanthus produced significantly higher fluxes overall than willow plots. N 2O costs of reversion appeared to be contained within the first year of reversion when the Miscanthus plots produced an average pregrass flux of 0.13 mg N 2O m −2 hr −1 while for willow, this was 0.03 mg N 2O m −2 hr −1. Total N 2O emission from reversion increased the carbon cost over the lifetime of the Miscanthus from 6.50 to 9.91 Mg CO 2 eq. ha −1 while for the willow, this increase was from 9.61 to 10.42 Mg CO 2 eq. ha −1. Despite these significant increases, the carbon cost of energy contained in these perennial crops remained far lower than the equivalent carbon cost of energy in coal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)914-929
Number of pages16
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number12
Early online date12 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2018


  • Miscanthus
  • willow
  • perennial rye grass
  • energy crops
  • nitrous oxide
  • N2O
  • nutrients
  • greenhouse gas balance
  • land-use change
  • crop reversion
  • Willow
  • Nutrients
  • perennial ryegrass
  • N O


Dive into the research topics of 'Soil nitrous oxide flux following land‐use reversion from Miscanthus and SRC willow to perennial ryegrass'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this