This calculator was created to help farmers, extension educators, agencies, policymakers, and others learn about greenhouse gas emissions from field crop agriculture in order to make informed decisions about crop management and environmental stewardship.

Field crop agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions

About 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are associated with the agricultural sector. Farmers already play an important role in reducing the impact of greenhouse gases, for example, through non-crop land management. Recent research indicates there are more opportunities for farmers to enhance their environmental stewardship. By altering or adopting management practices for field crops, farmers can reduce their greenhouse gas footprint, and make a substantial contribution to reducing the severity of climate change both regionally and at the global scale.
The two major greenhouse gases from field crop agriculture are carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Carbon dioxide is emitted through fossil fuel use on and off the farm, from activities such as vehicle use and fertilizer production. It can also be emitted or sequestered (stored) in the soil. Whether or not soil carbon sequestration occurs depends on the type of land and the farming practices, for example, soil tillage and plant residue management. Nitrous oxide is a very powerful greenhouse gas and is emitted primarily through soil management activities such as nitrogen fertilizer application.

Calculate and compare the greenhouse gas impact of different cropping systems

The calculator allows you to compare the greenhouse gas footprint from different cropping systems. Begin by clicking on a county on the map below. The next screen will show an estimate of the greenhouse gas cost (in a unit called CO2 equivalents) of a ‘baseline scenario’ corn-soybean rotation in that county, based upon USDA data. Next, change the crop, tillage type, fertilizer rate and environmental variables to create new scenarios that will be compared to the baseline scenario.

Click on your county of interest below to begin!