Methods for Measuring Greenhouse Gas Balances and Evaluating Mitigation Options in Smallholder Agriculture is an open access book with the following benefits:

    1. Provides guidelines for low-cost assessment of greenhouse gas emissions in smallholder farming systems.
    2. Discusses methods for assessing economic and social acceptability of climate change mitigation measures​.
    3. Will bring attention to trade-offs between carbon sequestration, farmers income, and other social outcomes.

The book is designed to provide needed guidance on measurement methods to:

    1. National agricultural research centers (NARS).
    2. Compilers of national GHG inventories.
    3. Developers of national and subnational mitigation plans that include agriculture.
    4. Agricultural commodity companies and agricultural development projects.
    5. Students and instructors.

The entire book is available for free to download at Or click on a chapter link in the table of contents below to start reading online or download a specific chapter. Easily access references and additional resources from these pages!


In this book, the author team describes concepts and methods for measurement of greenhouse gas emissions and assessment of mitigation options in smallholder agricultural systems, developed as part of the SAMPLES project. The SAMPLES (Standard Assessment of Agricultural Mitigation Potential and Livelihoods) system adapts existing internationally accepted methodologies to allow a range of stakeholders to assess greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from different agricultural activities, to identify how these emissions might be reduced (i.e., mitigation), and to provide data through an online dataset that can be used to aid in these efforts.

The book is divided into three sections: (1) designing a measurement program to allow users to identify what measurements are needed and how to go about taking the measurements, (2) data acquisition, describing how to deal with complex issues such as land-use change, and (3) identifying mitigation options, which deals with scaling issues, how to use models, and how to assess trade-offs. Within each section is a series of chapters, written by leading experts in the field, providing clear guidelines on how to deal with each of the issues raised.

The work was begun at an international workshop in 2012, and the authors have since produced this synthesis. Through this work, the authors provide a comprehensive and transparent system to allow stakeholders to calculate and reduce agricultural GHG emissions and assess other impacts. Since it builds on established and internationally accepted methodologies it is robust, yet the authors have managed to break down the complex and potentially overwhelming concepts and methods into bite-sized chunks. Difficult subjects such as inaccuracy and uncertainty are not avoided, yet the authors manage to make these topics accessible and the process manageable.

Potential users include, but are not limited to, national agricultural research centers, developers of national and subnational mitigation plans that include agriculture, agricultural commodity companies and agricultural development projects, and students and instructors. Anyone with an interest in agriculture, greenhouse gas emissions, and how to minimize these emissions will find the book immensely useful.

Pete Smith

Table of Contents

Designing a measurement program
  1. Introduction
    1. Motivation for these guidelines
    2. Utilization of these guidelines
    3. Conceptual framework of the guidelines
  2. Targeting measurements
    1. Introduction
    2. Initial steps
    3. Top-down
    4. Bottom-up
    5. Combining top-down and bottom-up: the basis for scaling up
  3. Conclusions
Data acquisition
  1. Land use and land cover change
    1. Introduction
    2. Determining change in LULC
    3. Developing a baseline
    4. Calculating carbon stock changes
    5. Assessing accuracy and calculating uncertainty
    6. Challenges, limitations and emerging technologies
  2. Soil emissions (See this video summary)
    1. Introduction
    2. What technique is most suitable for measuring biosphere-atmosphere exchange processes of GHG’s?
    3. Measurement of GHG fluxes in rice paddies
    4. Analytical instruments used for chamber measurements
    5. Conclusion
  3. Enteric methane emissions from livestock
    1. Introduction
    2. Indirect estimation
    3. Direct measurement
    4. Short-term measurement
    5. Emerging and future technologies
  4. Tree biomass carbon
    1. Why quantify carbon in trees in agricultural landscapes?
    2. Accuracy, scale and cost
    3. Quantification of five carbon pools of representative plots
    4. Additional sources of information
  5. Soil carbon (See this overview video in English or French)
    1. Introduction
    2. Quantification of soil carbon stocks
    3. Quantification of soil carbon stock changes
  6. Yield estimation
    1. Introduction
    2. Crop productivity estimation
    3. Critical analysis and comparison of yield estimation methods with regards to cost, scale and accuracy
    4. Conclusion
Identifying mitigation options
  1. Scaling point measurements to farms and landscapes
    1. Why estimate GHG impacts at whole-farm and landscape level?
    2. Scaling methods
    3. Using empirical and process-based models with disaggregated data
    4. Conclusion
  2. Trade-off analysis
    1. Introduction
    2. The nature of trade-off analysis
    3. Research approaches and tools
    4. A tiered approach