Institute of

Climate-Smart Agriculture

Greenhouse gas emissions

Understanding and modelling processes

Automatic chamber system (measuring since November 2011) measures greenhouse gase emissions at the field site Buttelstedt (Weimar). Cooperation with Thüringer Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft.
Automatic chamber system (measuring since November 2011) measures greenhouse gase emissions at the field site Buttelstedt (Weimar). Cooperation with Thüringer Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft. (© Thünen-Institut/AK)

Agriculture faces the challenge to meet the growing demand for food and fibre while concurrently reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In Germany, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from peatlands drained for agriculture, nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from fertilizer application and nitrogen turnover in soil and methane (CH4) emissions from animal rank among the most important greenhouse gas sources.

We measure, analyze and model the formation, turnover and release of greenhouse gases in agriculture. The results form the foundation of a science-based policy consultation and serve for improving the national emission inventory. In addition, new agricultural production methods can be assessed in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation measures can be evaluated, taking diverse soil and climate conditions into account.

Our research acitivities focus on

  • low-emission, effective fertilizer application,
  • the assessment and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands drained and used for agriculture,
  • the impact of land-use changes, such as the ploughing-up and conversion of grassland to cropland, on greenhouse gas forming processes,
  • modelling and regionalization of emissions from agricultural soils.

Our research approaches span across scales from laboratory experiments to field studies to national surveys. We strive for improving and standardizing the measurement methodologies of greenhouse gas fluxes and for understanding the functioning of ecosystems in national and international collaborative research projects.