Agriculture is responsible for a large share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially for methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Applying a bio-economic whole-farm model, we assessed five GHG mitigation options on their economic suitability to reduce emissions from grassland-based suckler cow farms. Among the assessed options, only compensation by agroforestry systems and the choice of an adequate production system showed the potential to significantly reduce emissions. If an adequate production system is chosen, GHG emissions per kilogram of meat can be reduced by up to 18% – from 21.9 to 18 kg CO2-eq./kg of meat – while total gross margin can be increased by up to 14%. Through the application of an agroforestry system, GHG emissions in all systems can be further reduced to 7.5 kg CO2-eq./kg meat – equating to a reduction of GHG emissions of 48% to 66% – at costs between 0.03 CHF/kg meat and 0.38 CHF/kg meat depending on the production system and the state of the system before the reduction. In contrast, the addition of lipids to the diet or a cover to the slurry tank has neither the potential to reduce GHG emissions significantly nor are they cost-effective enough to be implemented. Nitrification inhibitors can reduce GHG emissions up to 10%, but costs for this reduction are much higher than for agroforestry systems. The application of agroforestry systems to suckler farming in Switzerland therefore seems to be an adequate option to reduce GHG emission significantly for a relatively low price.


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