Nitrous oxide emission factors of mineral fertilisers in the UK and Ireland: a Bayesian analysis of 20 years of experimental data

Cowan, Nicholas; Carnell, Edward; Skiba, Ute; Dragosits, Ulrike; Drewer, Julia; Levy, Peter. 2020 Nitrous oxide emission factors of mineral fertilisers in the UK and Ireland: a Bayesian analysis of 20 years of experimental data. Environment International, 135, 105366. 9, pp.

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In this study, we analysed datasets of N2O emission factors (EFs) from 21 separate studies carried out on arable and managed grasslands across the UK and Ireland over the past 20 years. A total of 641 separate events were collated from 40 experimental field sites. Individual EFs ranged over an order of magnitude (0–12% of applied N) for each fertiliser type, following a log-normal distribution in all cases. Our study shows that a Bayesian approach can provide a robust statistical method that is capable of performing uncertainty analysis on log-normal distributed data in a more defensible manner than conventional statistical methods allow. This method allowed for a national scale comparison of EFs between the most commonly applied mineral fertilisers based solely on previously published data (UK and Ireland in this case). The study shows that ammonium nitrate (AN) and Calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) are the largest emitting fertiliser types by mass across the British Isles (temperate climate zone), with EFs of 1.1 (1.0–1.2) % and 1.0 (0.7–1.3) % for all recorded events, respectively; however, emissions from AN applications were significantly lower for applications to arable fields (0.6%) than to grasslands (1.3%). EFs associated with urea (CO(NH₂)₂) were significantly lower than AN for grasslands with an EF of 0.6 (0.5–0.7) %, but slightly higher for arable fields with an EF of 0.7 (0.4–1.4) %. The study highlights the potential effectiveness of microbial inhibitors at reducing emissions of N2O from mineral fertilisers, with Dicyandiamide (DCD) treated AN reducing emissions by approximately 28% and urea treated with either DCD or N-(n)-butyl) thiophosphorictriamide (NBTP) reducing emissions by approximately 40%. Although limited by a relatively small sample size (n = 11), urea treated with both DCD and NBPT appeared to have the lowest EF of all treatments at 0.13 (0.08–0.21) %, highlighting the potential to significantly reduce N2O emissions at regional scales if applied instead of conventional nitrogen fertilisers.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0160-4120
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: N2O, ammonium nitrate, urea, microbial inhibitor, national inventory, agriculture, greenhouse gas
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 22 Jan 2020 17:05 +0 (UTC)

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