Institute of

Climate-Smart Agriculture


Steffanie Schirren
Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture

Bundesallee 65
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 2602
Fax: +49 531 596 2699

 (c) B. Tiemeyer

Soil use for climate change mitigation

Agriculture shall produce high-grade food and renewable resources in a reliable manner. In future, agricultural production will face increasing pressure to release fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants. International agreements on climate change mitigation and air pollution control oblige Germany to reduce emissions.

As agriculture is the largest source of some greenhouse gases – nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3) - it has a special responsibility for emission reductions. Likewise agricultural land management will decide whether soils are a source or sink of climate relevant CO2-carbon.

We carry out research between the conflicting priorities of agricultural production and climate change mitigation with an interdisciplinary team of scientists. We support the development of resource-efficient, climate-smart and environmentally-friendly agriculture with our research and produce scientifically sound solutions and decision support for policymakers:

  • We assess how agricultural production methods, land use and agricultural policy measures affect emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants.
  • We analyse the formation and turnover of greenhouse gases in agriculture.
  • We carry out the National Agricultural Soil Survey, which enables us for the first time to systematically quantify the organic matter stocks in German agricultural soils.
  • We annually compile the national greenhouse gas inventory for the sectors agriculture and land use as part of the German reports under international climate conventions.
  • We develop strategies for climate change mitigation in agriculture.

Our research approach extends from fields to farms and up to the national level and differentiates by environmental conditions. It comprises our own experimental studies how to quantify and reduce greenhouse gases and air pollutants, the co-ordination of national and international research projects, the integrated assessment of research findings, and the modelling and regionalisation of emissions and of the effect of climate change mitigation measures. On the one hand, we aim to elaborate and assess climate change mitigation measures that are effective for the agricultural sector as a whole. On the other hand we tailor measures to regions, processes, farm types and environmental conditions. We see our role as an interdisciplinary task. We therefore include economic and technical assessments in close co-operation with several other Thünen institutes .

Fields of Activity

Paper and pencil are often used for methodological progress (©  Thünen-Institut/AK)
Emission inventories
We annually calculate emission inventories of greenhouse gases and air pollutants from agriculture.
Automatic chamber system (©  Thünen-Institut/AK)
Greenhouse gas emissions
We measure, analyse and model how greenhouse gases are produced and released from agriculture.
Sampling of a 120 cm deep ploughed forest soil close to Gifhorn, Northern Germany  (©  Thünen-Institut/Axel Don)
Soil organic carbon
We measure, analyse and model how site properties, agricultural soil use and management measures affect the amount and quality of soil organic matter.
Slurry application by trailing hose (©  Thünen-Institut/AK)
Ammonia emissions
We measure and analyse ammonia emissions from various application techniques of nitrogen fertilizers and assess emission mitigation measures.
Greenhouse gas measurement in wet peat grassland (©  Thünen-Institut/Annette Freibauer)
Climate relevance of production systems
We integrate new results into systemic assessments of agricultural production processes in light of combatting climate change and air pollution.
Prof. Dr. Heinz Flessa gives an oral presentation about „Climate change and agriculture“  (©  Landesvertretung Saarland)
Climate change mitigation measures
We study and assess climate change mitigation strategies for agriculture via interdisciplinary research approaches.