In silico assessment of the potential of basalt amendments to reduce N2O emissions from bioenergy crops

Elena Blanc-Betes, Ilsa B. Kantola, Nuria Gomez-Casanovas, Melennie D. Hartman, William J. Parton, Amy L. Lewis, David J. Beerling, Evan H. DeLucia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The potential of large-scale deployment of basalt to reduce N2O emissions from cultivated soils may contribute to climate stabilization beyond the CO2-removal effect from enhanced weathering. We used 3 years of field observations from maize (Zea mays) and miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus) to improve the nitrogen (N) module of the DayCent model and evaluate the potential of basalt amendments to reduce N losses and increase yields from two bioenergy crops. We found 20%–60% improvement in our N2O flux estimates over previous model descriptions. Model results predict that the application of basalt would reduce N2O emissions by 16% in maize and 9% in miscanthus. Lower N2O emissions responded to increases in the N2:N2O ratio of denitrification with basalt-induced increases in soil pH, with minor contributions from the impact of P additions (a minor component of some basalts) on N immobilization. The larger reduction of N2O emissions in maize than in miscanthus was likely explained by a synergistic effect between soil pH and N content, leading to a higher sensitivity of the N2:N2O ratio to changes in pH in heavily fertilized maize. Basalt amendments led to modest increases in modeled yields and the nitrogen use efficiency (i.e., fertilizer-N recover in crop production) of maize but did not affect the productivity of miscanthus. However, enhanced soil P availability maintained the long-term productivity of crops with high nutrient requirements. The alleviation of plant P limitation led to enhanced plant N uptake, thereby contributing to lower microbial N availability and N2O emissions from crops with high nutrient requirements. Our results from the improved model suggest that the large-scale deployment of basalt, by reducing N2O fluxes of cropping systems, could contribute to the sustainable intensification of agriculture and enhance the climate mitigation potential of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-241
Number of pages18
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • agriculture
  • biogeochemical model
  • greenhouse gases
  • nitrogen cycle
  • soil phosphorus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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