Contribution of old wheat varieties to climate change mitigation (article)


  • C footprint of old vs modern wheat under organic & conventional farming was studied.
  • Old wheat varieties promoted biomass production without decreasing yields.
    The lowest C footprint was achieved by old wheat varieties under organic farming.
  • SOC balance contributed the most to the reduction of the C footprint.
  • Old wheat rainfed cultivation could be a useful climate change mitigation strategy.


Agriculture represents about 11% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe). Many climate change mitigation strategies have been evaluated in Mediterranean agroecosystems, including their soil organic carbon sequestration potential. High residue yielding old varieties could constitute a useful alternative, especially for organic farming, which lacks specific genetic material. In this study, old and modern wheat varieties were evaluated under organic (ORG) and conventional (CON) management during a 3-year field experiment under rainfed Mediterranean conditions. Field measurements of biomass components, literature emission factors, and soil organic carbon modeling were combined in an attributional Life Cycle Assessment, in order to estimate GHGe from “cradle to farm gate”. The resulting yield-based carbon footprints of old wheat varieties were significantly lower than those of modern varieties both under CON management, decreasing from 263 to 144 g CO2e kg−1, and under ORG management, decreasing from 29 to −43 g CO2e kg−1. Our results indicate that climate change mitigation strategies in Mediterranean rainfed cereal cropping systems should focus on diminishing GHGe from machinery and fertilizer use, and promoting carbon sequestration. The combination of organic management and old cereal varieties can constitute a promising climate change mitigation strategy in these systems, as low area-scaled GHGe of organic management are combined with enhanced carbon sequestration and a good yield performance of old varieties under these conditions.

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Carranza-Gallego G, Guzmán GI, García-Ruíz R, González de Molina M, Aguilera E (2018) Contribution of old wheat varieties to climate change mitigation under contrasting managements and rainfed Mediterranean conditions. Journal of Clearer Production, 195, 111-121,

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