Pathways for Agricultural Decarbonization in the United States

Brittany Staie, Austin Kinzer, Jordan Macknick, Yong Wang, Randy Cortright, Thomas Foust, Sami Ghantous, Patrick Lamers, Darlene Steward

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


In the United States, agricultural production is both a significant source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2022) and uniquely susceptible to climate change impacts (Vermeulen et al., 2012). Decarbonization solutions have been proposed for addressing agricultural GHGs; however, research has been limited in synthesizing qualitative and quantitative analysis of potential GHG mitigation solutions in the United States. In this report, we review U.S. agricultural GHG sources by activity and quantify potential mitigation solutions based on a comprehensive data and literature analysis. We also discuss agricultural carbon sequestration options to offset GHG emissions. In our analysis, we identified two significant and hard-to-abate GHG sources (N2O from soil management, and CH4 from enteric fermentation from livestock) as well as high-impact GHG mitigation solutions (e.g. agroforestry, reforestation, and biochar application) and cross-cutting GHG mitigation solutions (renewable energy production, precision agriculture, no-till, integrated nutrient management, and biochar). This report is meant to provide initial analysis and establish a foundation for future agricultural decarbonization research - it is not an exhaustive analysis of all available studies. However, to our knowledge this report is the most comprehensive assessment of agricultural GHG emissions and associated mitigation opportunities in the United States to date. Future empirical research is recommended to close research gaps in different climates, soils, and agricultural systems. Meta-analyses for all mitigation solutions would increase confidence in the estimated GHG mitigation potentials. To conclude this report, we discuss short-term and long-term pathways for agricultural decarbonization in the United States, the importance of accounting for total GHG fluxes, potential co-benefits of agricultural decarbonization, analysis of study data confidence, and research gaps.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages109
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5100-86071


  • agriculture
  • decarbonization
  • GHG emissions
  • GHG mitigation


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