Plant and Soil

, Volume 359, Issue 1–2, pp 351–362 | Cite as

Nitrous oxide emissions from irrigated wheat in Australia: impact of irrigation management

  • Clemens Scheer
  • Peter R. Grace
  • David W. Rowlings
  • Jose Payero
Regular Article


Background and aims

Irrigation management affects soil water dynamics as well as the soil microbial carbon and nitrogen turnover and potentially the biosphere-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gasses (GHG). We present a study on the effect of three irrigation treatments on the emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from irrigated wheat on black vertisols in South-Eastern Queensland, Australia.


Soil N2O fluxes from wheat were monitored over one season with a fully automated system that measured emissions on a sub-daily basis. Measurements were taken from 3 subplots for each treatment within a randomized split-plot design.


Highest N2O emissions occurred after rainfall or irrigation and the amount of irrigation water applied was found to influence the magnitude of these “emission pulses”. Daily N2O emissions varied from −0.74 to 20.46 g N2O-N ha−1 day−1 resulting in seasonal losses ranging from 0.43 to 0.75 kg N2O-N ha−1 season − 1 for the different irrigation treatments. Emission factors (EF = proportion of N fertilizer emitted as N2O) over the wheat cropping season, uncorrected for background emissions, ranged from 0.2 to 0.4 % of total N applied for the different treatments. Highest seasonal N2O emissions were observed in the treatment with the highest irrigation intensity; however, the N2O intensity (N2O emission per crop yield) was highest in the treatment with the lowest irrigation intensity.


Our data suggest that timing and amount of irrigation can effectively be used to reduce N2O losses from irrigated agricultural systems; however, in order to develop sustainable mitigation strategies the N2O intensity of a cropping system is an important concept that needs to be taken into account.


Nitrous oxide emissions Irrigation management Fertilisation Emission factor Nitrous oxide intensity 



We thank Geoff Robinson for his valuable help in the field measuring campaign. The Department of Employment, Economic Development & Innovation (DEEDI) for providing the study site and the farm staff for planting and harvesting the experimental plots. This research was undertaken as part of the national Nitrous Oxide Research Program (NORP) funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Department of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry (DAFF).

We also thank two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clemens Scheer
    • 1
  • Peter R. Grace
    • 1
  • David W. Rowlings
    • 1
  • Jose Payero
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Sustainable ResourcesQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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