Nitrogen use efficiency and nitrous oxide emissions from five UK fertilised grasslands

LM Cardenas, A Bhogal, DR Chadwick, K McGeough, T Misselbrook, RM Rees, RE Thorman, CJ Watson, JR Williams, KA Smith, S Calvet

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Intensification of grasslands is necessary to meet the increasing demand of livestock products. The application of nitrogen (N) on grasslands affects the N balance therefore the nitrogen use efficiency (NUE). Emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) are produced due to N fertilisation and low NUE. These emissions depend on the type and rates of N applied. In this study we have compiled data from 5 UK N fertilised grassland sites (Crichton, Drayton, North Wyke, Hillsborough and Pwllpeiran) covering a range of soil types and climates. The experiments evaluated the effect of increasing rates of inorganic N fertiliser provided as ammonium nitrate (AN) or calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN). The following fertiliser strategies were also explored for a rate of 320 kg N ha−1: using the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide (DCD), changing to urea as an N source and splitting fertiliser applications. We measured N2O emissions for a full year in each experiment, as well as soil mineral N, climate data, pasture yield and N offtake. N2O emissions were greater at Crichton and North Wyke whereas Drayton, Hillsborough and Pwllpeiran had the smallest emissions. The resulting average emission factor (EF) of 1.12% total N applied showed a range of values for all the sites between 0.6 and 2.08%. NUE depended on the site and for an application rate of 320 kg N ha−1, N surplus was on average higher than 80 kg N ha−1, which is proposed as a maximum by the EU Nitrogen Expert Panel. N2O emissions tended to be lower when urea was applied instead of AN or CAN, and were particularly reduced when using urea with DCD. Finally, correlations between the factors studied showed that total N input was related to Nofftake and Nexcess; while cumulative emissions and EF were related to yield scaled emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696 - 710
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date9 Jan 2019
Publication statusPrint publication - 15 Apr 2019


  • Emission factor
  • Intensification
  • Nitrogen use efficiency
  • Synthetic fertiliser
  • Yield scaled N 2 O emissions


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