Nitrous oxide emissions increase exponentially when optimum nitrogen fertilizer rates are exceeded in the North China plain

X Song, M Liu, X Ju, B Gao, F Su, X Chen, RM Rees

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Abstract

The IPCC assume a linear relationship between nitrogen (N) application rate and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in inventory reporting, however, a growing number of studies show a nonlinear relationship under specific soil-climatic conditions. In the North China plain, a global hotspot of N2O emissions, covering a land as large as Germany, the correlation between N rate and N2O emissions remains unclear. We have therefore specifically investigated the N2O response to N applications by conducting field experiments with five N rates, and high-frequency measurements of N2O emissions across contrasting climatic years. Our results showed that cumulative and yield-scaled N2O emissions both increased exponentially as N applications were raised above the optimum rate in maize (Zea mays L.). In wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) there was a corresponding quadratic increase in N2O emissions with the magnitude of the response in 2012–2013 distinctly larger than that in 2013–2014 owing to the effects of extreme snowfall. Existing empirical models (including the IPCC approach) of the N2O response to N rate have overestimated N2O emissions in the North China plain, even at high N rates. Our study therefore provides a new and robust analysis of the effects of fertilizer rate and climatic conditions on N2O emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12504 - 12513
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume52
Issue number21
Early online date17 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - 6 Nov 2018

Keywords

  • Extreme weather event
  • Freeze-thaw cycle
  • N2O emission
  • Optimum N fertilizer rate
  • The North China plain
  • Wheat-maize double cropping system

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