Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 95, Issue 2, pp 175–185 | Cite as

Influence of urea fertiliser formulation, urease inhibitor and season on ammonia loss from ryegrass

  • Helen SuterEmail author
  • Humaira Sultana
  • Debra Turner
  • Rohan Davies
  • Charlie Walker
  • Deli ChenEmail author
Original Article


This paper reports the results of experiments to determine whether ammonia (NH3) loss can be reduced and nitrogen (N) use efficiency improved by using two relatively new commercial urea formulations rather than granular urea and urea ammonium nitrate. Four nitrogen treatments were applied at a rate of 40 kg N ha−1: granular urea, ‘Green Urea™ 14’ [containing 45.8 % N as urea and ‘Agrotain®’ (N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide) @ 5 L t−1 of urea as a urease inhibitor], ‘Nhance’, a fine particle spray [containing 46 % N as urea, ‘Agrotain’ @ 1 L t−1 of urea and gibberellic acid (applied at a rate of 10 g ha−1)] and urea ammonium nitrate in solution (UAN) surface applied. Ammonia loss was determined in autumn and spring using a micrometeorological method. In autumn, use of the Green Urea and Nhance reduced NH3 loss from the 30 % of applied N lost from the granular urea to 9 and 23 % respectively. Loss from all treatments in spring was very small (<2 % of applied N), because 4 mm of rain fell within 24 h of application onto an already wet site. The use of the Nhance and Green Urea instead of granular urea did not result in increased agronomic efficiency or recovery efficiency of the applied N, and this is most likely due to the presence of sufficient available N from both fertiliser application and the soil. A 15N study recovered 72.8 % of the applied N in the plants and soil, and showed that 30 % of the total N taken up by the plant was derived from the fertiliser, and 70 % from the soil.


Green urea N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide Agrotain Fine particle spray Ammonia loss Pasture production 



The authors thank the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Grains Research and Development Corporation, Incitec Pivot Ltd and ARC for funding the project. Laboratory and field assistance was provided by Mr M. Mahoney, Dr X. Chen, Associate Professor R. Edis, Y. Liu, L. Chen and M. Benfell.


  1. Cai G, Chen D, Ding H, Fan XH, Pacholski A, White RE (2002) Gaseous nitrogen losses from urea applied to maize on a calcareous fluvo-aquic soil in the North China plain. Aust J Soil Res 40:737–748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chen D, Suter HC, Islam A, Edis R, Freney JR, Walker CN (2008) Prospects of improving efficiency of fertilizer nitrogen in Australian agriculture; a review of enhanced efficiency fertilizers. Aust J Soil Res 46:289–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dawar K, Zaman M, Rowarth JS, Blennerhassett J, Turnbull MH (2011) Urease inhibitor reduces N losses and improves plant-bioavailability of urea applied in fine particle and granular forms under field conditions. Agric Ecosyst Environ 144:41–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Douglas LA, Bremner JM (1971) A rapid method of evaluating different compounds as inhibitors of urease activity in soils. Soil Biol Biochem 3:309–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. DPIV (Department of Primary Industries Victoria) (2011) Fertilising dairy pastures—nitrogenous fertilisers. Accessed June 2012
  6. Eckard RJ, Chen D, White RE, Chapman DF (2003) Gaseous nitrogen loss from temperate perennial grass and clover dairy pastures in south–eastern Australia. Aust J Agric Res 54:561–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Feyter C, O’Connor MB, Addison B (1985) Effects of rates and times of nitrogen application on the production and composition of dairy pastures in Waikato district, New Zealand. New Zeal J Exp Agric 13(3):247–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Frank DA, Evans RD, Tracy BF (2004) The role of ammonia volatilization in controlling the natural 15 N abundance of a grazed grassland. Biogeochem 68(2):169–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Freney JR, Leuning R, Simpson JR, Denmead OT (1985) Estimating ammonia volatilization from flooded rice fields by simplified techniques. Soil Sci Soc Am J 49:1049–1054CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Galloway JN, Townsend AR, Erisman JW, Bekunda M, Cai Z, Freney JR, Martinelli LA, Seitzinger SP, Sutton MA (2008) Transformation of the nitrogen cycle: recent trends, questions, and potential solutions. Science 320:889–892PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Grant CA, Jia S, Brown KR, Bailey LD (1996) Volatile losses of NH3 from surface applied urea and urea ammonium nitrate with and without the urease inhibitors NBTP or ammonium thiosulphate. Can J Soil Sci 76:417–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Harper LA, Catchpoole V, Vallis I (1983) Ammonia loss from fertilizer applied to tropical pastures. In: Simpson JR (ed) Gaseous loss of nitrogen from plant-soil systems; developments in plant and soil sciences vol 9. Junk Publishers, The Hague, pp 195–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hornik K (2009) The R project for statistical computing.
  14. Hoult E, McGarity J (1986) The measurement and distribution of urease activity in a pasture system. Plant Soil 93:359–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. IFA (2011) Urea consumption Australia.
  16. Isbell RF (1996) The Australian soil classification. Australian soil and land survey handbook. CSIRO Publishing, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  17. Jarvis SC, Scholefield D, Pain BF (1995) Nitrogen cycling in grazing systems. In: Bacon PE (ed) Nitrogen fertilization in the environment. Marcel Dekker, New York, pp 381–491Google Scholar
  18. Koenig R, Proctor C, Johnston W (2007) Golob C (2007) urea and ammonia volatilization in dryland grass seed systems. Western Nutrient Management Conference, Salt Lake CityGoogle Scholar
  19. Leuning R, Freney JR, Denmead OT, Simpson JR (1985) A sampler for measuring atmopheric ammonia flux. Atmos Environ 19:1117–1124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Meyer RD, Olson RA, Rhoades HF (1961) Ammonia losses from fertilized Nebraska soils. Agron J 53:241–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mosier A, Kroeze C, Nevison C, Oenema O, Seitzinger S, van Cleemput O (1998) Closing the global N2O budget: nitrous oxide emissions through the agricultural nitrogen cycle. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyt 52:225–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Prasertsak P, Freney JR, Denmead OT, Saffigna PG, Prove BG (2001) Significance of gaseous nitrogen loss from a tropical dairy pasture fertilized with urea. Aust J Exp Agric 41:625–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Quin BF, Blennerhassett JD, Zaman M (2005) The use of urease inhibitor-based products to reduce nitrogen losses from pasture. In: Currie LD, Hanly JA (eds) Proceedings of the workshop developments in fertiliser application technologies and nutrient management, Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North, 9–10 February 2005 pp 288–304Google Scholar
  24. Quinfert (2011) Quinfert : optimising production, protecting the environment. Accessed Feb 2012
  25. Rawluk CDL, Grant CA, Racz GJ (2001) Ammonia volatilization from soils fertilized with urea and varying rates of urease inhibitor NBPT. Can J Soil Sci 81:239–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rayment GE, Lyons DJ (2011) 7A2b Total soil-N, semi micro Kjeldahl - automated colour, FIA. In: Rayment GE, Lyons DJ (eds) Soil chemical methods. Australasia, CSIRO Publishing, pp 104–108Google Scholar
  27. Sanz-Cobena A, Misselbrook TH, Arce A, Mingot JI, Diez JA, Vallejo A (2008) An inhibitor of urease activity effectively reduces ammonia emissions from soil treated with urea under Mediterranean conditions. Agric Ecosyst Environ 126:243–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sanz-Cobena A, Misselbrook T, Camp V, Vallejo A (2011) Effect of water addition and the urease inhibitor NBPT on the abatement of ammonia emission from surface applied urea. Atmos Environ 45(8):1517–1524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sherlock RR, Black AS, Smith NP (1987) Micro-environment soil pH around broadcast urea granules and its relationship to ammonia volatilization. In: Bacon PE, Evans J, Stonier RR, Taylor AC (eds) Nitrogen cycling in temperate agricultural systems. Australian Society of Soil Science, Australia, pp 316–326Google Scholar
  30. Stiegler JC, Richardson MD, Karcher DE, Patton AJF (2010) Foliar nutrient uptake by cool-season and warm-season turfgrasses. Green Section Record, Jan-Feb, pp 7–9Google Scholar
  31. Turner D, Edis R, Chen D, Freney J, Denmead O, Christie R (2010) Determination and mitigation of ammonia loss from urea applied to winter wheat with N-(n-butyl) thiophosphorictriamide. Agric Ecosyst Environ 137:261–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Vaio N, Cabrera ML, Kissel DE, Rema JA, Newsome JF, Calvert VH II (2008) Ammonia volatilization from urea-based fertilizers applied to tall fescue pastures in Georgia, USA, 10.2136/sssaj2007.0300. Soil Sci Soc Am J 72:1665–1671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Watson CJ, Miller H (1996) Short-term effects of urea amended with the urease inhibitor N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide on perennial ryegrass. Plant Soil 184:33–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Watson CJ, Stevens RJ, Laughlin RJ (1990) Effectiveness of the urease inhibitor NBPT (N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide) for improving the efficiency of urea for ryegrass production. Fert Res 24:11–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 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
  36. Wilson JD, Thurtell GW, Kidd GE, Beauchamp EG (1967) Estimation of the rate of gaseous mass transfer from a surface source plot to the atmosphere. Atmos Environ 16(8):1861–1867Google Scholar
  37. Zaman M, Nguyen ML, Blennerhassett JD, Quin BF (2008) Reducing NH3, N2O and NO3–N losses from a pasture soil with urease or nitrification inhibitors and elemental S-amended nitrogenous fertilizers. Biol Fert Soils 44:693–705CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agriculture and Food Systems, Melbourne School of Land and EnvironmentThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Incitec Pivot LimitedNorth GeelongAustralia

Personalised recommendations