Maize silage for dairy cows: mitigation of methane emissions can be offset bij and use change

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Increasing the digestibility of cattle rations by feeding grains and whole plant silages from maize have been identified as effective options to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The effect of ploughing grassland for maize crops have not been taken into account yet. A intensive dairy farm is used as an example to demonstrate the trade offs by this type of land use change when more maize silage is fed to dairy cows. The model DAIRY WISE has been used to calculate the mitigation by the changed ration, the Introductory Carbon Balance Model to calculate the changes in soil organic carbon and nitrogen caused by ploughing grassland for maize crops. The losses of soil carbon and the loss of sequestration potential are much larger than the annual mitigation by feeding more maize. The ecosystem carbon payback time defines the years of mitigation that are needed before the emissions due to land use change are compensated. For ploughing grassland on sandy soils, the carbon payback time is 60 years. A higher global warming potential for methane can reduce the carbon payback time with 30%. Ploughing clay soils with a higher equilibrium level of soil organic matter increases the payback time by maximally 70%. The payback times occur only in the case of permanent maize cropping, grass maize rotations cause annual losses of nitrous oxide that are larger than the mitigation by feeding more maize.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-426
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • greenhouse-gas emissions
  • ruminant livestock systems
  • carbon balance model
  • long-term
  • soil
  • management
  • strategies
  • tillage
  • impacts
  • fluxes


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