Limits of agricultural greenhouse gas calculators to predict soil N2O and CH4 fluxes in tropical agriculture

Meryl Richards, Ruth Metzel, Ngonidzashe Chirinda, Proyuth Ly, George Nyamadzawo, Quynh Duong Vu, Andreas De Neergaard, Myles Oelofse, Eva Wollenberg, Emma Keller, Daniella Malin, Jørgen E. Olesen, Jonathan Hillier, Todd S. Rosenstock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Demand for tools to rapidly assess greenhouse gas impacts from policy and technological change in the agricultural sector has catalyzed the development of ' GHG calculators'-simple accounting approaches that use a mix of emission factors and empirical models to calculate GHG emissions with minimal input data. GHG calculators, however, rely on models calibrated from measurements conducted overwhelmingly under temperate, developed country conditions. Here we show that GHG calculators may poorly estimate emissions in tropical developing countries by comparing calculator predictions against measurements from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Estimates based on GHG calculators were greater than measurements in 70% of the cases, exceeding twice the measured flux nearly half the time. For 41% of the comparisons, calculators incorrectly predicted whether emissions would increase or decrease with a change in management. These results raise concerns about applying GHG calculators to tropical farming systems and emphasize the need to broaden the scope of the underlying data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26279
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date20 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2016

Bibliographical note

This work was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which is a strategic partnership of CGIAR and Future Earth. This research was carried out with funding by the European Union (EU) and with technical support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The UN FAO Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) Programme funded data collection in Kenya and Tanzania. The views expressed in the document cannot be taken to reflect the official opinions of CGIAR, Future Earth, or donors. We thank Louis Bockel of the UN FAO Agricultural Development Economics Division (ESA) for his comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.


  • attribution
  • climate-change mitigation


Dive into the research topics of 'Limits of agricultural greenhouse gas calculators to predict soil N2O and CH4 fluxes in tropical agriculture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this