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  • Author or Editor: G. Brett Runion x
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Increased trace gas emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) are widely believed to be a primary cause of global warming. Agriculture is a large contributor to these emissions; however, its role in climate change is unique in that it can act as a source of trace gas emissions or it can act as a major sink. Furthermore, agriculture can significantly reduce emissions through changes in production management practices. Much of the research on agriculture’s role in mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been conducted in row crops and pastures as well as forestry and animal production systems with little focus on contributions from specialty crop industries such as horticulture. Our objective was to determine efflux patterns of CO2, CH4, and N2O associated with three different fertilization methods (dibble, incorporated, and topdressed) commonly used in nursery container production. Weekly measurements indicated that CO2 fluxes were slightly lower when fertilizer was dibbled compared with the other two methods. Nitrous oxide fluxes were consistently highest when fertilizer was incorporated. Methane flux was generally low with few differences among treatments. Results from this study begin to provide data that can be used to implement mitigation strategies in container plant production, which will help growers adapt to possible emission regulations and benefit from future GHG mitigation or offset programs.

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Empirical records provide incontestable evidence for the global rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the earth's atmosphere. Plant growth can be stimulated by elevation of CO2; photosynthesis increases and economic yield is often enhanced. The application of more CO2 can increase plant water use efficiency and result in less water use. After reviewing the available CO2 literature, we offer a series of priority targets for future research, including: 1) a need to breed or screen varieties and species of horticultural plants for increased drought tolerance; 2) determining the amount of carbon sequestered in soil from horticulture production practices for improved soil water-holding capacity and to aid in mitigating projected global climate change; 3) determining the contribution of the horticulture industry to these projected changes through flux of CO2 and other trace gases (i.e., nitrous oxide from fertilizer application and methane under anaerobic conditions) to the atmosphere; and 4) determining how CO2-induced changes in plant growth and water relations will impact the complex interactions with pests (weeds, insects, and diseases). Such data are required to develop best management strategies for the horticulture industry to adapt to future environmental conditions.

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Over the past three decades, one issue that has received significant attention from the scientific community is climate change and the possible impacts on the global environment. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration along with other trace gases [i.e., methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)] are widely believed to be the driving factors behind global warming. Much of the work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon (C) sequestration has been conducted in row crop and forest systems; however, virtually no work has focused on contributions from sectors of the specialty crop industry such as ornamental horticulture. Ornamental horticulture is an industry that impacts rural, suburban, and urban landscapes. Although this industry may have some negative impacts on the global environment (e.g., CO2 and trace gas efflux), it also has potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase C sequestration. The work described here outlines the causes and environmental impacts of climate change, the role of agriculture in reducing emissions and sequestering C, and potential areas in ornamental horticulture container-grown plant production in which practices could be altered to increase C sequestration and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

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