Development of a new model for the simulation of N2O emissions: a case-study on wheat cropping systems under humid Mediterranean climate

  • P. Gallejones
  • A. Aizpurua
  • M.A. Ortuzar-Iragorri
  • A. del Prado
Original Article


Improving the quantification of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from agricultural land has become an issue of major concern due to its strong contribution to the greenhouse effect and to the fact that N2O is now the most significant ozone-depleting emission to the atmosphere. The aim of this paper is to describe the development of a new field-scale, simple and empirical model that simulates monthly nitrogen (N) flows in cropping systems based on site characteristics and management practices. We explored its sensitivity for a Basque region of Spain growing winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) under humid Mediterranean conditions to varied weather conditions and different scenarios of: (i) fertiliser rates, (ii) soil texture, (iii) organic/mineral fertilisation, (iv) slurry injection/no injection and (v) tillage/no tillage. The model showed sensitivity to most of the changes in the tested parameters. On average, simulated N2O emissions decreased: (i) with the decrease in N fertiliser rates, (ii) in lighter textured soils, (iii) with organic fertilisation, (iv) after non-injecting slurry and (v) under no-tillage. The model showed that it could be useful to simulate some of the potential trade-offs that may occur after implementation of specific N pollution mitigation measures (e.g. trade-offs in crop productivity and ammonia (NH3) volatilisation after implementation of measures that target a reduction in N2O emissions). In a validation exercise, simulated and measured yield and soil moisture showed reasonable agreement. Although the model showed discrepancies for monthly-averaged N2O fluxes, the peak after fertilisation application was reasonably well simulated. These results and the simplicity and user-friendliness of the model suggest that its structure is appropriate and, if properly calibrated for different soil types and weather conditions, it could be a useful model to be used in carbon footprint studies or to develop site-specific emission factors for current or future climatic scenarios.


Climate change mitigation Empirical Modelling N2O emissions Nitrogen Wheat 



The authors would like to thank the Spanish National R + D + i Plan (CGL2009–10,176, AGL2012–37,815–C05–04) and Department of Education, Universities and Research of the Basque Country (PC2010–33A).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Gallejones
    • 1
  • A. Aizpurua
    • 2
  • M.A. Ortuzar-Iragorri
    • 3
  • A. del Prado
    • 1
  1. 1.Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)BilbaoSpain
  2. 2.Institute of Agricultural Research and DevelopmentDerioSpain
  3. 3.Department of Environmental and Chemical EngineeringUniversity of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)VitoriaSpain

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