Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 51–64 | Cite as

The effect of nitrification inhibitors on soil ammonia emissions in nitrogen managed soils: a meta-analysis

  • Dong-Gill KimEmail author
  • Surinder Saggar
  • Pierre Roudier
Original Article


Nitrification inhibitors (NI) retain nitrogen (N) in the ammonium (NH4 +) form longer in soil providing more time for plant uptake of NH4 +. They can also reduce production of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) by inhibiting nitrification and subsequent denitrification processes. However, this extended retention of N in the NH4 + form in the soils treated with NI can increase ammonia (NH3) emission. Studies conducted so far provide conflicting results on the effect of NI treatment on NH3 emissions. Here we have collated results available to date from peer-reviewed literature (46 data set from 21 studies from 1970 to 2010) and categorized the reported results into three groups—increase, no change, and decrease in % applied N lost as NH3 (hereafter NH3 loss) in NI treatments. Significant increase in NH3 loss in NI treatment was observed in both pasture and cropping soils and from both applied urine and urea with NI (e.g., dicyandiamide (DCD), ATC [4-amino- 1.2,4-triazole]). This increase in NH3 loss was between 0.3 and 25.0 % (n = 26, mean 6.7 ± standard error 1.3 %). No change in NH3 loss with DCD was also observed in some soils (n = 14), while a small number of studies reported a decrease which was between −0.3 and −4.1 % (n = 6, −1.3 ± 0.6 %). Overall, the soils with higher pH and lower cation exchange capacity (CEC) lost more NH3 with NIs irrespective of land use and type of N input. The combined addition of both NI and urease inhibitor reduced NH3 loss compared to sole NI application (n = 4, −5.9 ± 1.3 %). Collectively, the analysed results from the small number of available data sets reported suggest that NH3 loss significantly increases with NI application, depending on soil properties such as soil pH and CEC. More studies are needed both to quantitatively determine the effect of NIs on NH3 loss and to mitigate the loss.


Nitrification inhibitor Ammonia emission Nitrous oxide emission Urease inhibitor Soil pH Soil cation exchange capacity 



We are grateful to Johannes Laubach, Donna Giltrap for constructive and valuable comments, and Anne Austin for editing and New Zealand Ministry for Science and Innovation for funding.


  1. Abbasi MK, Adams WA (2000) Estimation of simultaneous nitrification and denitrification in grassland soil associated with urea-N using 15N and nitrification inhibitor. Biol Fert Soils 31:38–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akiyama H, Yan X, Yagi K (2010) Evaluation of effectiveness of enhanced-efficiency fertilizers as mitigation options for N2O and NO emissions from agricultural soils: meta-analysis. Glob Change Biol 16:1837–1846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al-Kanani T, MacKenzie AF, Barthakur NN (1991) Soil water and ammonia volatilization relationships with surface-applied nitrogen fertilizer solutions. Soil Sci Soc Am J 55:1761–1766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asing J, Saggar S, Singh J, Bolan NS (2008) Assessment of nitrogen losses from urea and an organic manure with and without nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide, applied to lettuce under glasshouse conditions. Aust J Soil Res 46:535–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Banerjee B, Pathak H, Aggarwal PK (2002) Effects of dicyandiamide, farmyard manure and irrigation on crop yields and ammonia volatilization from an alluvial soil under a rice (Oryza sativa L.)-wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cropping system. Biol Fert Soils 36:207–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bobbink R, Heil GW, Raessen MBAG (1992) Atmospheric deposition and canopy exchange processes in heathland ecosystems. Environ Pollut 75:29–37PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bolan NS, Saggar S, Luo JF, Bhandral R, Singh J (2004) Gaseous emissions of nitrogen from grazed pastures: processes, measurements and modelling, environmental implications, and mitigation. Adv Agron 84:37–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bundy LG, Bremner JM (1974) Effects of nitrification inhibitors on transformations of urea nitrogen in soils. Soil Biol Biochem 6:369–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clay DE, Malzer GL, Anderson JL (1990) Ammonia volatilization from urea as influenced by soil temperature, soil water content and nitrification and hydrolysis inhibitors. Soil Sci Soc Am J 54:263–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cornforth I, Chesney H (1971) Nitrification inhibitors and ammonia volatilization. Plant Soil 34:497–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davies DM, Williams PJ (1995) The effect of the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide on nitrate leaching and ammonia volatilization: A U.K. nitrate sensitive areas perspective. J Environ Manage 45:263–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dendooven L, Bonhomme E, Merckx R, Vlassak K (1998) N dynamics and sources of N2O production following pig slurry application to a loamy soil. Biol Fert Soils 26:224–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Di HJ, Cameron KC (2004) Treating grazed pasture soil with a nitrification inhibitor, eco-n™, to decrease nitrate leaching in a deep sandy soil under spray irrigation—a lysimeter study. New Zeal J Agric Res 47:351–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Di HJ, Cameron KC, Sherlock RR (2007) Comparison of the effectiveness of a nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide, in reducing nitrous oxide emissions in four different soils under different climatic and management conditions. Soil Use Manag 23:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Di HJ, Cameron KC, Shen JP, Winefield CS, O’Callaghan M, Bowatte S, He JZ (2009) Nitrification driven by bacteria and not archaea in nitrogen-rich grassland soils. Nature Geosci 2:621–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forster P, Ramaswamy V, Artaxo P, Berntsen T, Betts R, Fahey DW, Haywood J, Lean J, Lowe DC, Myhre G, Nganga J, Prinn R, Raga G, Schulz M, Van Dorland R (2007) Changes in atmospheric constituents and in radiative forcing. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Climate Change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  17. Fox RH, Bandel VA (1989) Dicyandiamide (DCD) research in agriculture in the mid-Atlantic region. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 20:1957–1968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Francis DD, Vigil MF, Moiser AR (2008) Gaseous losses of nitrogen other than through denitrification. In: Schepers JS, Raun WR (eds) Nitrogen in agricultural systems. Agronomy monograph 49. American Society of Agronomy Madison, WI, USA, pp 255–279Google Scholar
  19. Gioacchini P, Nastri A, Marzadori C, Giovannini C, Vittori Antisari L, Gessa C (2002) Influence of urease and nitrification inhibitors on N losses from soils fertilized with urea. Biol Fert Soils 36:129–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hargrove W (1988) Evaluation of ammonia volatilization in the field. J Prod Agric 1:104–111Google Scholar
  21. Hauck RD, Bremner JM (1969) Significance of the nitrification reaction in nitrogen balances, biology and ecology of nitrogen. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, pp 31–39Google Scholar
  22. IPCC—Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2006) Guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories. Available at [verified 16 Dec 2011]. Geneva, Switzerland
  23. Klein C, Ledgard S (2005) Nitrous oxide emissions from New Zealand agriculture—key sources and mitigation strategies. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 72:77–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Martikainen PJ (1985) Nitrous oxide emission associated with autotrophic ammonium oxidation in acid coniferous forest soil. Appl Environ Microbiol 50:1519–1525PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Mkhabela MS, Gordon R, Burton D, Madani A, Hart W (2006a) Effect of lime, dicyandiamide and soil water content on ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions following application of liquid hog manure to a marshland soil. Plant Soil 284:351–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mkhabela MS, Gordon R, Burton D, Madani A, Hart W, Elmi A (2006b) Ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions from two acidic soils of Nova Scotia fertilised with liquid hog manure mixed with or without dicyandiamide. Chemosphere 65:1381–1387PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nelson DW (1982) Gaseous losses of nitrogen other than through denitrification. In: Stevenson FJ (ed) Nitrogen in Agricultural Soils. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WI, USA, pp 327–363Google Scholar
  28. Prakasa Rao E, Puttanna K (1987) Nitrification and ammonia volatilisation losses from urea and dicyandiamide-treated urea in a sandy loam soil. Plant Soil 97:201–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rennenberg H, Gessler A (1999) Consequences of N deposition to forest ecosystems—recent results and future research needs. Water Air Soil Pollut 116:47–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rodgers GA (1983) Effect of dicyandiamide on ammonia volatilisation from urea in soil. Fert Res 4:361–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rodgers GA, Widdowson F, Penny A, Hewitt M (1984) Comparison of the effects of aqueous and of prilled urea, used alone or with urease or nitrification inhibitors, with those of ‘Nitro-Chalk’ on ryegrass leys. J Agr Sci 103:671–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rodgers GA, Penny A, Hewitt MV (1986) Comparison of the effects of prilled urea, used alone or with a nitrification or urease inhibitor, with those of ‘Nitro-Chalk’ on ryegrass leys. J Agric Sci 106:515–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Saggar S, Luo J, Giltrap DL, Maddena M (2009) Nitrous oxide emission from temperate grasslands: process, measurements, modelling and mitigation. In: Sheldon AI, Barnhart EP (eds) Nitrous oxide emissions research progress. Nova Science Publisher, New York, pp 1–66Google Scholar
  34. Sharpe RR, Harper LA (1997) Ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions from sprinkler irrigation applications of swine effluent. J Environ Qual 26:1703–1706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Singh J, Bolan NS, Saggar S, Zaman M (2008) The role of inhibitors in controlling the bioavailability and losses of nitrogen. In: Naidu R, Bolan NS, Megharaj M, Juhasz A, Gupta S, Clothier B, Schulin R (eds) Chemical bioavailability in terrestrial environment. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 329–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Singh J, Saggar S, Bolan NS (2009) Influence of dicyandiamide on nitrogen transformation and losses in cow-urine-amended soil cores from grazed pasture. Anim Prod Sci 49:253–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sommer SG, Génermont S, Cellier P, Hutchings NJ, Olesen JE, Morvan T (2003) Processes controlling ammonia emission from livestock slurry in the field. Eur J Agron 19:465–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tao X, Matsunaka T, Sawamoto T (2008) Dicyandiamide application plus incorporation into soil reduces N2O and NH3 emissions from anaerobically digested cattle slurry. Aust J Exp Agric 48:169–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Van Der Eerden L, De Vries W, Van Dobben H (1998) Effects of ammonia deposition on forests in the Netherlands. Atmos Environ 32:525–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wang W, Yung Y, Lacis A, Mo T, Hansen J (1976) Greenhouse effects due to man-mad perturbations of trace gases. Science 194:685–690PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Watson CJ, Akhonzada NA, Hamilton JTG, Matthews DI (2008) Rate and mode of application of the urease inhibitor N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide on ammonia volatilization from surface-applied urea. Soil Use Manag 24:246–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Whitehead D, Raistrick N (1993) The volatilization of ammonia from cattle urine applied to soils as influenced by soil properties. Plant Soil 148:43–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zaman M, Blennerhassett JD (2010) Effects of the different rates of urease and nitrification inhibitors on gaseous emissions of ammonia and nitrous oxide, nitrate leaching and pasture production from urine patches in an intensive grazed pasture system. Agric Ecosyst Environ 136:236–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zaman M, Nguyen M, Blennerhassett J, Quin B (2008) Reducing NH3, N2O and N losses from a pasture soil with urease or nitrification inhibitors and elemental S-amended nitrogenous fertilizers. Biol Fert Soils 44:693–705CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zaman M, Saggar S, Blennerhassett JD, Singh J (2009) Effect of urease and nitrification inhibitors on N transformation, gaseous emissions of ammonia and nitrous oxide, pasture yield and N uptake in grazed pasture system. Soil Biol Biochem 41:1270–1280CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dong-Gill Kim
    • 1
    Email author
  • Surinder Saggar
    • 1
  • Pierre Roudier
    • 1
  1. 1.Landcare ResearchPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations