The contribution of cattle urine and dung to nitrous oxide emissions: quantification of country specific emission factors and implications for national inventories

DR Chadwick, LM Cardenas, MS Dhanoa, N Donovan, T Misselbrook, JR Williams, RE Thorman, KL McGeough, CJ Watson, M Bell, SG Anthony, RM Rees

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Urine patches and dung pats from grazing livestock create hotspots for production and emission of the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide (N2O), and represent a large proportion of total N2O emissions in many national agricultural greenhouse gas inventories. As such, there is much interest in developing country specific N2O emission factors (EFs) for excretal nitrogen (EF3, pasture, range and paddock) deposited during gazing. The aims of this study were to generate separate N2O emissions data for cattle derived urine and dung, to provide an evidence base for the generation of a country specific EF for the UK from this nitrogen source. The experiments were also designed to determine the effects of site and timing of application on emissions, and the efficacy of the nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide (DCD) on N2O losses. This co-ordinated set of 15 plot-scale, year-long field experiments using static chambers was conducted at five grassland sites, typical of the soil and climatic zones of grazed grassland in the UK. We show that the average urine and dung N2O EFs were 0.69% and 0.19%, respectively, resulting in a combined excretal N2O EF (EF3), of 0.49%, which is <25% of the IPCC default EF3 for excretal returns from grazing cattle. Regression analysis suggests that urine N2O EFs were controlled more by composition than was the case for dung, whilst dung N2O EFs were more related to soil and environmental factors. The urine N2O EF was significantly greater from the site in SW England, and significantly greater from the early grazing season urine application than later applications. Dycandiamide reduced the N2O EF from urine patches by an average of 46%. The significantly lower excretal EF3 than the IPCC default has implications for the UK's national inventory and for subsequent carbon footprinting of UK ruminant livestock products.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607 - 617
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date24 Apr 2018
Publication statusFirst published - 24 Apr 2018


Bibliographical note



  • Cattle
  • Dicyandiamide
  • Dung pat
  • Grassland
  • Greenhouse gas
  • Inventory
  • Nitrification inhibitor
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Urine patch

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