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    Ecological services of faba bean

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    Abstract
    The key environmental benefits of faba bean are its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen symbiotically under a broad spectrum of environmental conditions and making this renewable resource available to show positive precrop effects in diversified crop rotations. Non-nitrogen precrop effects entail potential benefits via increased availability of soil phosphorus to the subsequent crops. Faba bean acts as a break crop in intensive cereal-dominated crop rotations.
    Faba bean enables diversification of the agroecosystem, i.e. planned biodiversity in time via diversified crop rotations and in space via intercrops, indirectly enhancing associated diversity of wild flora, wild fauna and soil microbes that may affect the sustainability of agricultural systems. Nevertheless, most effects are indirect effects on soil fertility, productivity, and system stability, as well as resilience of the entire agroecosystems, effects that can seldom be attributed solely to this crop.

    The environmental impacts of grain legumes have been studied at different levels by means of life cycle assessment (LCA). Considering the individual crops, it can be shown that faba bean enables savings of energy and reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is difficult to assess all precrop effects at the individual crop level. First, comparisons of whole crop rotations with and without grain legumes show reductions of energy consumption, global warming, ozone formation, and acidification and ecotoxicity in intensive cereal-rich crop rotations. Eutrophication was at a similar level, with a tendency for increased nitrate leaching and a decrease of other N emissions. Replacement of imported soybean meal by locally produced pulses could have a favourable effect, particularly for pulses produced and used on-farm. However, depending on the raw materials used to replace soybean meal, the effects can also be unfavourable. Finally, shifting the human diet toward less reliance on meat has the potential to reduce environmental burdens, but care must be taken that the plant products are not too highly processed.

    Article Outline
    1. Introduction
    2. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF)
    2.1. BNF: potential and limitations
    2.2. BNF and nitrogen balances
    2.3. Fossil energy saving—impact on climate
    3. Diversification of ecosystems
    3.1. Diversification in time: crop rotation and precrop effects
    3.1.1. Nitrogen effects
    3.1.2. Nitrate leaching – nitrogen retention – sparing
    3.1.3. Non-nitrogen precrop effects
    3.1.4. Other nutrients
    3.1.5. Mycorrhiza
    3.1.6. Soil microbes—H2 oxidising bacteria and soil biology
    3.1.7. Water use
    3.1.8. Sanitary effects and plant health
    3.1.9. Soil structurization—biopore formation
    3.2. Diversification in space: intercropping
    4. Other effects
    4.1. Reducing CO2 emission by reduced tillage/direct seeding
    4.2. Associated biodiversity: habitat management
    5. Assessing the environmental benefits and impacts of faba bean production and use
    5.1. Environmental benefits and impacts on crop level
    5.2. Environmental benefits and impacts on the crop rotation level
    5.3. Environmental benefits and impacts in animal feed
    5.4. Environmental benefits and impacts on human nutrition
    6. Conclusion and directions for future research
    Acknowledgements
    References
     

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    作者:K?pke, Ulrich,Nemecek, Thomas 来源:Elsevier 发布时间:2011年07月12日