, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 252-260

Nitrous oxide emissions from fertilised grassland: A 2-year study of the effects of N fertiliser form and environmental conditions

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The aim was to investigate the effects of different N fertilisers on nitrous oxide (N2O) flux from agricultural grassland, with a view to suggesting fertiliser practices least likely to cause substantial N2O emissions, and to assess the influence of soil and environmental factors on the emissions. Replicate plots on a clay loam grassland were fertilised with ammonium sulphate (AS), urea (U), calcium nitrate (CN), ammonium nitrate (AN), or cattle slurry supplemented with AN on three occasions in each of 2 years. Frequent measurements were made of N2O flux and soil and environmental variables. The loss of N2O-N as a percentage of N fertiliser applied was highest from the supplemented slurry (SS) treatment and U, and lowest from AS. The temporal pattern of losses was different for the different fertilisers and between years. Losses from U were lower than those from AN and CN in the spring, but higher in the summer. The high summer fluxes were associated with high water-filled pore space (WFPS) values. Fluxes also rose steeply with temperature where WFPS or mineral N values were not limiting. Total annual loss was higher in the 2nd year, probably because of the rainfall pattern: the percentage losses were 2.2, 1.4, 1.2, 1.1 and 0.4 from SS, U, AN, CN and AS, respectively. Application of U in the spring and AN twice in the summer in the 2nd year gave an average emission factor of 0.8% – lower than from application of either individual fertiliser. We suggest that similar varied fertilisation practices, modified according to soil and crop type and climatic conditions, might be employed to minimise N2O emissions from agricultural land.