Bowen Ratio Energy Balance Measurement of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Fluxes of No-Till and Conventional Tillage Agriculture in Lesotho


Global food demand requires that soils be used intensively for agriculture, but how these soils are managed greatly impacts soil fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2). Soil management practices can cause carbon to be either sequestered or emitted, with corresponding uncertain influence on atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The situation is further complicated by the lack of CO2 flux measurements for African subsistence farms. For widespread application in remote areas, a simple experimental methodology is desired. As a first step, the present study investigated the use of Bowen Ratio Energy Balance (BREB) instrumentation to measure the energy balance and CO2 fluxes of two contrasting crop management systems, till and no-till, in the lowlands within the mountains of Lesotho. Two BREB micrometeorological systems were established on 100-m by 100-m sites, both planted with maize (Zea mays) but under either conventional (plow, disk-disk) or no-till soil mangement systems. The results demonstrate that with careful maintenance of the instruments by appropriately trained local personnel, the BREB approach offers substantial benefits in measuring real time changes in agroecosystem CO2 flux. The periods where the two treatments could be compared indicated greater CO2 sequestration over the no-till treatments during both the growing and non-growing seasons.

Share and Cite:

O’Dell, D. , Sauer, T. , Hicks, B. , Lambert, D. , Smith, D. , Bruns, W. , Basson, A. , Marake, M. , Walker, F. , Wilcox Jr., M. and Eash, N. (2014) Bowen Ratio Energy Balance Measurement of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Fluxes of No-Till and Conventional Tillage Agriculture in Lesotho. Open Journal of Soil Science, 4, 87-97. doi: 10.4236/ojss.2014.43012.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Stocker, T.F., Qin, D., Plattner, G.-K., Tignor, M., Allen, S.K., Boschung, J., Nauels, A., Xia, Y., Bex, V. and Midgley, P.M. (2013) IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York.
[2] Follett, R., Mooney, S., Morgan, J., Paustian, K., Allen Jr., L.H., Archibeque, S., Baker, J.M., Del Grosso, S.J., Derner, J., Dijkstra, F., Franzluebbers, A.J., Janzen, H., Kurkalova, L.A., McCarl, B.A., Ogle, S., Parton, W.J., Peterson, J.M., Rice, C.W. and Robertson, G.P. (2011) Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture: Challenges And Opportunities. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), Ames.
[3] Denef, K., Archibeque, S. and Paustian, K. (2011) Greenhouse Gas Emissions from US Agriculture and Forestry: A Review of Emission. USDA.
[4] Houghton, R.A. (2007). Balancing the Global Carbon Budget. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 35, 313-347.
[5] Wood, S., Sebastian, K. and Scherr, S.J. (2000) Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems: Agroecosystems. IFPRI, WRI, Washington DC.
[6] FAO (2009) Enabling Agriculture to Contribute to Climate Change Mitigation. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Washington DC.
[7] Schlesinger, W.H. (1999) Carbon Sequestration in Soils. Science, 284, 2095.
[8] Halvorson, A.D., Wienhold, B.J. and Black, A.L. (2002) Tillage, Nitrogen, and Cropping System Effects on Soil Carbon Sequestration. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 66, 906-912.
[9] West, T.O. and Post, W.M. (2002) Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration Rates. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 66, 1930-1946.
[10] Schlesinger, W.H. and Andrews, J.A. (2000) Soil Respiration and the Global Carbon Cycle. Biogeochemistry, 48, 7-20.
[11] Baker, J.M., Ochsner, T.E., Veterea, R.T. and Griffis, T.J. (2007) Tillage and Soil Carbon Sequestration. What Do We Really Know? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 118, 1-5.
[12] Manley, J., van Kooten, G.C., Moeltner, K. and Johnson, D.W. (2005) Creating Carbon Offsets in Agriculture through No-Till Cultivation: A Meta-Analysis of Costs and Carbon Benefits. Climate Change, 68, 41-65.
[13] Powlson, D.S., Whitmore, A.P. and Goulding, K.W.T. (2011) Soil Carbon Sequestration to Mitigate Climate Change: A Critical Re-Examination to Identify the True and the False. European Journal of Soil Science, 62, 42-55.
[14] Angers, D. and Eriksen-Hamel, N.S. (2008) Full-Inversion Tillage and Organic Carbon Distribution in Soil Profiles: A Meta-Analysis. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 72, 1370-1374.
[15] Six, J., Ogle, S.M., Conant, R.T., Mosier, A.R. and Paustian, K. (2004) The Potential to Mitigate Global Warming with No-Tillage Management Is Only Realized When Practised in the Long Term. Global Change Biology, 10, 155-160.
[16] UNFCCC (2013) Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).
[17] Smith, P. (2004) Carbon Sequestration in Croplands: The Potential in Europe and the Global Context. European Journal of Agronomy, 20, 229-236.
[18] FAO (2013) Conservation Agriculture.
[19] Bai, Z.G., Dent, D.L., Olsson, L. and Schaepman, M.E. (2008) Global Assessment of Land Degradation. Wageningen: International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC).
[20] Bai, Z.G., de Jong, R. and van Lynden, G.W.J. (2010) An Update of GLADA—Global Assessment of Land. ISRIC, Wageningen.
[21] Henao, J. and Baanante, C.A. (1999) Estimating Rates of Nutrient Depletion in Soils of Agricultural Lands of Africa. International Fertilizer Development Center, Muscle Shoals.
[22] Chakela, Q. and Stocking, M. (1988) An Improved Methodology for Erosion Hazard Mapping Part II: Application to Lesotho. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 70, 181-189.
[23] Eldredge, E.A. (2002) A South African Kingdom: The Pursuit of Security in Nineteenth-Century Lesotho. Vol. 78, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
[24] FAOSTAT (2013).
[25] Falloon, P. and Betts, R. (2010) Climate Impacts on European Agriculture and Water Management in the Context of Adaptation and Mitigation—The Importance of an Integrated Approach. Science of the Total Environment, 408, 5667-5687.
[26] Dugas, W.A. (1993) Micrometeorological and Chamber Measurements of CO2 Flux from Bare Soil. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 67, 115-128.
[27] Bruns, W.A. (2012) Energy Balance and Carbon Dioxide Flux in Conventional and No-Till Maize Fields in Lesotho. Master’s Thesis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
[28] Moeletsi, M.E. (2013) Agroclimatic Characterization of Lesotho for Dryland Maize Production. Master’s Thesis, 2004.
[29] Kalra, Y.P. (1996) Soil pH: First Soil Analysis Methods Validated by the AOAC International. Journal of Forest Research, 1, 61-64.
[30] Bowen, I.S. (1926) The Ratio of Heat Losses by Conduction and by Evaporation from Any Water Surface. Physical Review, 27, 779.
[31] Tanner, C. (1960) Energy Balance Approach to Evapotranspiration from Crops. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 24, 1-9.
[32] Held, A.A., Steduto, P., Orgaz, F., Matista, A. and Hsiao, T.C. (1990) Bowen Ratio/Energy Balance Technique for Estimating Crop Net CO2 Assimilation, and Comparison with a Canopy Chamber. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 42, 203-213.
[33] McGinn, S.M. and King, K.M. (1990) Simultaneous Measurements of Heat, Water Vapour and CO2 Fluxes above Alfalfa and Maize. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 49, 331-349.
[34] Perez, P.J., Castellvi, F., Ibanez, M. and Rosell, J.I. (1999) Assessment of Reliability of Bowen Ratio Method for Partitioning Fluxes. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 97, 141-150.
[35] Stull, R.B. (1988) An Introduction to Boundary Layer Meteorology. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.
[36] Webb, E.K., Pearman, G.I. and Leuning, R. (1980) Correction of Flux Measurements for Density Effects Due to Heat and Water Vapour Transfer. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 106, 85-100.
[37] Ohmura, A. (1982) Objective Criteria for Rejecting Data for Bowen Ratio Flux. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 21, 595-598.<0595:OCFRDF>2.0.CO;2

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.