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

Nicholas Cowan*, Peter Levy, Andrea Moring, Ivan Simmons, Colin Bache, Amy Stephens, Joana Marinheiro, Jocelyn Brichet, Ling Song, Amy Pickard, Connie McNeill, Roseanne McDonald, Juliette Maire, Benjamin Loubet, Polina Voylokov, Mark Sutton, Ute Skiba

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Three different nitrogen (N) fertiliser types, ammonium nitrate, urea and urea coated with a urease inhibitor (Agrotain®), were applied at standard rates (70&thinsp;kg&thinsp;N&thinsp;ha<span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">-1</span>) 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 (<span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">N2O</span>) and ammonia (<span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">NH3</span>) 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 (<span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">p</span> value&thinsp;&lt;&thinsp;0.05) when compared to the urea fertilisers used in this study. Ammonium nitrate was the largest emitter of <span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">N2O</span> (0.76&thinsp;% of applied N), and the urea was the largest emitter of <span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">NH3</span> (16.5&thinsp;% 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&thinsp;% of the magnitude measured for the uncoated urea, and <span classCombining double low line"inline-formula">N2O</span> emissions were only 47&thinsp;% 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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
Pages (from-to)4731-4745
Number of pages15
JournalBiogeosciences
Volume16
Issue number23
Early online date13 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - 13 Dec 2019

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    Cowan, N., Levy, P., Moring, A., Simmons, I., Bache, C., Stephens, A., Marinheiro, J., Brichet, J., Song, L., Pickard, A., McNeill, C., McDonald, R., Maire, J., Loubet, B., Voylokov, P., Sutton, M., & Skiba, U. (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. [16]. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-16-4731-2019