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Legumes for mitigation of climate change and the provision of feedstock for biofuels and biorefineries. A review

Jensen, Erik S.; Peoples, Mark B.; Boddey, Robert M.; Gresshoff, Peter M.; Hauggaard-Nielsen, Henrik; Alves, Bruno J.R. and Morrison, Malcolm J. (2012) Legumes for mitigation of climate change and the provision of feedstock for biofuels and biorefineries. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 32 (2), 329- 364.

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Document available online at: http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13593-011-0056-7


Legumes are unique plants which contribute with several functions and services of great value for agriculture and society. Including legume food, forage and tree crops in farming systems is one approach to mitigate climate change. We have shown that the ability of the legumes to fix there own N via the symbiosis with rhizobia will reduce CO2 and N2O emissions compared to crops fertilized with industrial N. There is, however, a requirement to better understand the potential residual effects of legumes on N2O emissions. We have similarly shown that legumes have a key role in soilC sequestration and that the inclusion of legumes as sole crops, cover crops or intercrops usually enhances the rate of soil C accumulation even within relative short time periods.
Legumes are not likely, in the short-term, to be used as monoculture crops for biorefinery feedstock, due to their relatively low DM yield. They are, however, important components of future diversified sustainable cropping systems that are not in direct competition with land for food production and can be production on marginal/surplus lands and degraded or drastically disturbed soils including production of biomass for non-food purposes to substitute fossil hydrocarbons. Perennial legumes (alfalfa, clover, various tree and shrub species) as sole crops or mixtures with grasses could have a unique role in producing biomass for biorefinery and simultaneously building soil organic matter and fertility without the requirement for N-fertilization
Future sustainable agricultural systems require novel solutions for agriculture to help society with climate change mitigation producing biofuels, materials and chemicals. One of the key paradigms for future sustainable agriculture is multifunctionality of system and crops. Agriculture must supply several services from the use of the same piece of land and the key principle to obtain this is diversity time ond space involving cropping systems as well as crop species. Thus, legume species, with their multiple arrays of potential services should be an important component of future sustainable agricultural systems for human prosperity.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Subjects: Food systems > Recycling, balancing and resource management
Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Crop husbandry > Greenhouses and coverings
Farming Systems > Farm nutrient management
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF III (2005-2010) > BIOCONCENS - Biomass and bio-energy production in organic agriculture
Deposited By: Hauggaard-Nielsen, Senior scientist Henrik
ID Code:20912
Deposited On:13 Jun 2012 06:56
Last Modified:13 Jun 2012 06:56
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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