Extensive grazing in contrast to mowing is climate-friendly based on the farm-scale greenhouse gas balance

Péter Koncz, Krisztina Pintér, János Balogh, Marianna Papp, Dóra Hidy, Z. Csintalan, Erik Molnár, Albert Szaniszló, Györgyi Kampfl, L. Horváth, Z. Nagy

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Livestock is both threatened by and contributing to climate change. The contribution of livestock to climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission greatly vary under different management regimes. A number of mitigation options comprise livestock management, although there are a lot of uncertainties as to which management regime to use for a given pedoclimatic and farming system. Therefore, we 1) tested if an extensive cattle livestock farm is a net sink or a net source for GHG (carbon–dioxide, CO2; methane, CH4; nitrous oxide N2O) in Central–Eastern Europe, 2) compared the annual GHG balances between the grazed and mowed treatments of the farm 3) and investigated the role of climate variability in shaping these balances. Net ecosystem exchange of CO2 (NEE) was measured with eddy covariance technique in both the grazed and mowed treatments. Estimations of lateral C fluxes were based on management data. Other GHG fluxes (CH4, N2O) were determined by chamber gas flux measurements technique (in case of soil) and IPCC guidelines (in case of manure decomposition and animal fermentation). Net greenhouse gas balance (NGHG) for the grazed treatment was 228 ± 283 g CO2 equivalent m−2 year−1 (net sink) and −475 ± 144 g CO2 equiv. m−2 year−1 (net source) for the mowed treatment. Net source activity at the mowed treatment was due to its higher herbage use intensity compared to the grazed treatment. At the farm scale the system was estimated to be a net sink for NGHG in a year with wet (135 g CO2 equiv. m−2 year−1), while a net source in years with dry soil moisture conditions (−267 ± 214 g CO2 equiv. m−2 year−1). We conclude that under a temperate continental climate extended extensive grazing could serve as a potential mitigation of GHG in contrast to mowing. Our study highlights the fact that livestock farming could create a net sink for GHG under proper management regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-134
Number of pages14
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2017



  • Carbon uptake
  • CH
  • Climate change mitigation
  • CO fluxes
  • Grassland management
  • NO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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