Global mapping of crop-specific emission factors highlights hotspots of nitrous oxide mitigation

Xiaoqing Cui, Feng Zhou, Philippe Ciais, Eric A. Davidson, Francesco N. Tubiello, Xiaoyue Niu, Xiaotang Ju, Josep G. Canadell, Alexander F. Bouwman, Robert B. Jackson, Nathaniel D. Mueller, Xunhua Zheng, David R. Kanter, Hanqin Tian, Wulahati Adalibieke, Yan Bo, Qihui Wang, Xiaoying Zhan, Dongqiang Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Mitigating soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions is essential for staying below a 2 °C warming threshold. However, accurate assessments of mitigation potential are limited by uncertainty and variability in direct emission factors (EFs). To assess where and why EFs differ, we created high-resolution maps of crop-specific EFs based on 1,507 georeferenced field observations. Here, using a data-driven approach, we show that EFs vary by two orders of magnitude over space. At global and regional scales, such variation is primarily driven by climatic and edaphic factors rather than the well-recognized management practices. Combining spatially explicit EFs with N surplus information, we conclude that global mitigation potential without compromising crop production is 30% (95% confidence interval, 17–53%) of direct soil emissions of N2O, equivalent to the entire direct soil emissions of China and the United States combined. Two-thirds (65%) of the mitigation potential could be achieved on one-fifth of the global harvested area, mainly located in humid subtropical climates and across gleysols and acrisols. These findings highlight the value of a targeted policy approach on global hotspots that could deliver large N2O mitigation as well as environmental and food co-benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)886-893
Number of pages8
JournalNature Food
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Global mapping of crop-specific emission factors highlights hotspots of nitrous oxide mitigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this