Large-scale deployment of grass in crop rotations as a multifunctional climate mitigation strategy

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: This is version 3 of this Preprint.

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.


Download Preprint


Oskar Englund , Blas Mola-Yudego, Pål Börjesson, Göran Berndes, Christel Cederberg, Ioannis Dimitriou, Nicolae Scarlat


The agriculture sector can contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, sequestering carbon in vegetation and soils, and providing biomass to substitute for fossil fuels and other GHG intensive products. The sector also needs to address water, soil, and biodiversity impacts caused by historic and current practices. Emerging EU policies create incentives for cultivation of perennial plants that provide biomass along with environmental benefits. One such option, common in northern Europe, is to include grass in rotations with annual crops to provide biomass while remediating soil organic carbon (SOC) losses and other environmental impacts. Here, we apply a spatially explicit model on >81,000 sub-watersheds in EU27+UK (Europe) to explore the effects of widespread deployment of such systems. Based on current accumulated SOC losses in individual sub-watersheds, the model identifies and quantifies suitable areas for increased grass cultivation and corresponding biomass- and protein supply, SOC sequestration, and reductions in nitrogen emissions to water as well as wind and water erosion. The model also provides information about possible flood mitigation. The results indicate a significant climate mitigation potential, with combined annual GHG savings from soil-carbon sequestration and displacement of natural gas with biogas from grass-based biorefineries, equivalent to 13-48% of current GHG emissions from agriculture in Europe. The environmental co-benefits are also notable, in some cases exceeding the estimated mitigation needs. Yield increases for annual crops in modified rotations mitigate the displacement effect of increasing grass cultivation. If the grass is used as feedstock in lieu of annual crops, the displacement effect can be negative, i.e., a reduced need for annual crop production elsewhere. Incentivizing widespread deployment will require supportive policy measures as well as new uses of grass biomass, e.g., as feedstock for green biorefineries producing protein concentrate, biofuels and other biobased products.



Agriculture, Bioresource and Agricultural Engineering, Natural Resources Management and Policy, Other Environmental Sciences, Soil Science


agriculture, land use, perennial crops, ley, soil carbon, environmental benefits


Published: 2021-10-26 18:56

Last Updated: 2022-09-23 03:39

Older Versions

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Data Availability (Reason not available):
Manuscript is under review and data will be shared publically at a later stage.