, Volume 202, Issue 1, pp 15-25

Denitrification and N2O emissions from a UK pasture soil following the early spring application of cattle slurry and mineral fertiliser

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Total denitrification and nitrous oxide (N2O) losses were measured from three contrasting dairy management systems representing good commercial practice (system 1), production maintained but with reduced N losses (system 2); and nitrate leaching less than 50 mg L-1 but with reduced production (system 3). Measurements were made following mineral fertiliser application and from two plot experiments where four treatments were applied: control, NH4NO3 at 60 kg N ha-1, cattle slurry applied to the surface (equivalent to 45 kg N ha-1), and cattle slurry injected. Despite low soil temperatures (<6 °C) and low rainfall (<3 mm), total denitrification and N2O losses peaked at 56 and 16 g N ha-1 d-1, respectively. Total denitrification losses decreased: system 1 ≥ system 2 > system 3, whereas N2O losses decreased: system 2 > system 3 > system 1. Total denitrification losses tended to decrease with decreasing fertiliser application rate, whereas fertiliser application rate was not the sole determinant of the N2O loss. The system 3 field was injected with cattle slurry for 2 yr, system 2 received some slurry by injection and system 1 received slurry to the surface. Thus, the amount, timing and method of previous cattle slurry application was important in determining the loss following subsequent fertiliser application. For the plot experiments, total denitrification and N2O losses decreased in the order: slurry injected > mineral fertiliser > slurry applied to the surface > control for 5 days following application. However, 16 and 19 days after application, N2O losses above the control were measured from plots that had received cattle slurry. It was inferred that the application of cattle slurry to the pasture soil stimulated greater N2O production and increased losses over a longer time period compared with mineral fertiliser additions.