Nitrogen use efficiency and N2O and NH3 losses attributed to three fertiliser types applied to an intensively managed silage crop

Cowan, Nicholas; Levy, Peter; Moring, Andrea; Simmons, Ivan; Bache, Colin; Stephens, Amy; Marinheiro, Joana; Brichet, Jocelyn; Song, Ling; Pickard, Amy; McNeill, Connie; McDonald, Roseanne; Maire, Juliette; Loubet, Benjamin; Voylokov, Polina; Sutton, Mark; Skiba, Ute. 2019 Nitrogen use efficiency and N2O and NH3 losses attributed to three fertiliser types applied to an intensively managed silage crop. Biogeosciences, 16 (23). 4731-4745.

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Three different nitrogen (N) fertiliser types, ammonium nitrate, urea and urea coated with a urease inhibitor (Agrotain®), were applied at standard rates (70 kg N ha−1) to experimental plots in a typical and intensively managed grassland area at the Easter Bush Farm Estate (Scotland). The nitrogen use efficiency of the fertilisers was investigated as well as nitrogen losses in the form of nitrous oxide fluxes (N2O) and ammonia (NH3) during fertilisation events in the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons. Nitrous oxide was measured by the standard static chamber technique and analysed using Bayesian statistics. Ammonia was measured using passive samplers combined with the Flux Interpretation by Dispersion and Exchange over Short Range (FIDES) inverse dispersion model. On average, fertilisation with ammonium nitrate supported the largest yields and had the highest nitrogen use efficiency, but as large spatial and seasonal variation persisted across the plots, yield differences between the three fertiliser types and zero N control were not consistent. Overall, ammonium nitrate treatment was found to increase yields significantly (p value < 0.05) when compared to the urea fertilisers used in this study. Ammonium nitrate was the largest emitter of N2O (0.76 % of applied N), and the urea was the largest emitter of NH3 (16.5 % of applied N). Urea coated with a urease inhibitor did not significantly increase yields when compared to uncoated urea; however, ammonia emissions were only 10 % of the magnitude measured for the uncoated urea, and N2O emissions were only 47 % of the magnitude of those measured for ammonium nitrate fertiliser. This study suggests that urea coated with a urease inhibitor is environmentally the best choice in regards to nitrogen pollution, but because of its larger cost and lack of agronomic benefits, it is not economically attractive when compared to ammonium nitrate.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects (Science Area 2017-)
Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1726-4170
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 19 Dec 2019 15:58 +0 (UTC)

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