Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 100, Issue 2, pp 177–187 | Cite as

Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in response to increasing fertilizer addition in maize (Zea mays L.) agriculture in western Kenya

  • Jonathan E. Hickman
  • Cheryl A. Palm
  • Patrick Mutuo
  • Jerry M. Melillo
  • Jianwu Tang
Original Article


National and regional efforts are underway to increase fertilizer use in sub-Saharan Africa, where attaining food security is a perennial challenge and mean fertilizer use in many countries is <10 % of nationally recommended rates. Increases in nitrogen (N) inputs will likely cause increased emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). We established experimental plots with different rates of N applied to maize (Zea mays) in a field with a history of nutrient additions in western Kenya and measured N2O fluxes. Fertilizer was applied by hand at 0, 50, 75, 100, and 200 kg N ha−1 in a split application on March 22 and April 20, 2010. Gas sampling was conducted daily during the week following applications, and was otherwise collected weekly or biweekly until June 29, 2010. Cumulative fluxes were highest from the 200 kg N ha−1 treatment, with emissions of 810 g N2O–N ha−1; fluxes from other treatments ranged from 620 to 710 g N2O–N ha−1, but with no significant differences among treatments. Emissions of N2O during the 99-day measurement period represented <0.1 % of added fertilizer N for all treatments. Though limited to a single year, these results provide further evidence that African agricultural systems may have N2O emission factors substantially lower than the global mean.


Nitrogen Africa Greenhouse gas Agricultural intensification Carbon dioxide Methane 



We would like to thank Peter Groffman for the use of equipment and for providing comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, and Louis Verchot for the use of equipment. This research was funded in part through a grant to the Earth Institute from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan E. Hickman
    • 1
  • Cheryl A. Palm
    • 1
  • Patrick Mutuo
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jerry M. Melillo
    • 4
  • Jianwu Tang
    • 4
  1. 1.Agriculture and Food Security CenterThe Earth Institute of Columbia UniversityPalisadesUSA
  2. 2.Millennium Village ProjectKisumuKenya
  3. 3.Conservation InternationalNairobiKenya
  4. 4.The Ecosystems CenterMarine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA

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