Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 340–348 | Cite as

Denitrification and nitrous oxide to nitrous oxide plus dinitrogen ratios in the soil profile under three tillage systems

  • Abdirashid A. Elmi
  • Chandra Madramootoo
  • Chantal Hamel
  • Aiguo Liu
Original Paper


There is a growing interest in the adoption of conservation tillage systems [no-till (NT) and reduced tillage (RT)] as alternatives to conventional tillage (CT) systems. A 2-year study was conducted to investigate possible environmental consequences of three tillage systems on a 2.4-ha field located at Macdonald Research Farm, McGill University, Montreal. The soil was a sandy loam (0.5 m depth) underlain by a clay layer. Treatments consisted of a factorial combination of CT, RT, and NT with the presence or absence of crop residue. Soil NO3--N concentrations tended to be lower in RT than NT and CT tillage treatments. Denitrification and N2O emissions were similar among tillage systems. Contrary to the popular assumption that denitrification is limited to the uppermost soil layer (0–0.15 m), large rates of N2O production were measured in the subsurface (0.15–0.45 m) soil, suggesting that a significant portion of produced N2O may be missed if only soil surface gas flux measurements are made. The N2O mole fraction (N2O:N2O+N2) was higher in the drier season of 1999 under CT than in 2000, with the ratio occasionally exceeding 1.0 in some soil layers. Dissolved organic C concentrations remained high in all soil depths sampled, but were not affected by tillage system.


Denitrification Nitrous oxide production Mole fraction Soil profile 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abdirashid A. Elmi
    • 1
  • Chandra Madramootoo
    • 2
  • Chantal Hamel
    • 3
  • Aiguo Liu
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of EngineeringNova Scotia Agricultural CollegeTruroCanada
  2. 2.Brace Center for Water Resources ManagementMcGill UniversitySte.-Anne-de-BellevueCanada
  3. 3.Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research CenterSwift CurrentCanada
  4. 4.Department of Natural Resource SciencesMcGill UniversitySte-Anne-de-BellevueCanada

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