Original Paper

Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 47, Issue 7, pp 753-766

First online:

Spatial variability and biophysicochemical controls on N2O emissions from differently tilled arable soils

  • Mohammad Mofizur Rahman JahangirAffiliated withDepartment of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering, Museum Building, Trinity College DublinLaboratory of Applied Physical Chemistry (ISOFYS), Ghent University Email author 
  • , Dries RoobroeckAffiliated withLaboratory of Applied Physical Chemistry (ISOFYS), Ghent University
  • , Oswald Van CleemputAffiliated withLaboratory of Applied Physical Chemistry (ISOFYS), Ghent University
  • , Pascal BoeckxAffiliated withLaboratory of Applied Physical Chemistry (ISOFYS), Ghent University

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Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, soil microbial community structure, bulk density, total pore volume, total C and N, aggregate mean weight diameter and stability index were determined in arable soils under three different types of tillage: reduced tillage (RT), no tillage (NT) and conventional tillage (CT). Thirty intact soil cores, each in a 25 × 25-m2 grid, were collected to a depth of 10 cm at the seedling stage of winter wheat in February 2008 from Maulde (50°3′ N, 3°43′ W), Belgium. Two additional soil samples adjacent to each soil core were taken to measure the spatial variance in biotic and physicochemical conditions. The microbial community structure was evaluated by means of phospholipid fatty acids analysis. Soil cores were amended with 15 kg NO 3 -N ha−1, 15 kg NH 4 + -N ha−1 and 30 kg ha−1 urea-N ha−1 and then brought to 65% water-filled pore space and incubated for 21 days at 15°C, with regular monitoring of N2O emissions. The N2O fluxes showed a log-normal distribution with mean coefficients of variance (CV) of 122%, 78% and 90% in RT, NT and CT, respectively, indicating a high spatial variation. However, this variability of N2O emissions did not show plot scale spatial dependence. The N2O emissions from RT were higher (p < 0.01) than from CT and NT. Multivariate analysis of soil properties showed that PC1 of principal component analysis had highest loadings for aggregate mean weight diameter, total C and fungi/bacteria ratio. Stepwise multiple regression based on soil properties explained 72% (p < 0.01) of the variance of N2O emissions. Spatial distributions of soil properties controlling N2O emissions were different in three different tillages with CV ranked as RT > CT > NT.


Spatial heterogeneity N2O emissions Aggregate distribution Denitrification Microbial community structure