Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 365–376 | Cite as

Nitrous oxide emissions from cool-season pastures under managed grazing

  • Randall D. Jackson
  • Lawrence G. OatesEmail author
  • Walter H. Schacht
  • Terry J. Klopfenstein
  • Daniel J. Undersander
  • Matthew A. Greenquist
  • Michael M. Bell
  • Claudio Gratton
Original Article


High stocking densities on grazed pastures may promote nitrous oxide (N2O) loss from soil to the atmosphere. However, studies of N2O fluxes in cool-season pastures of North America are lacking. We performed two experiments in which measured N2O fluxes were bootstrapped with re-sampling (n = 100, with 10,000 iterations), which allowed us to generate an empirical distribution of mean fluxes to understand how pasture management strategies might affect N2O emissions. In Experiment 1, N2O fluxes were estimated in southern Wisconsin pastures under rotational grazing, continuous grazing, haymaking, and no agronomic production. Nitrous oxide fluxes were significantly positive under rotational grazing at our research farm [21.6 (se = 10.3) μg m−2 h−1], but not significantly different than zero under the other three treatments or rotationally grazed paddocks across eight working farms. In Experiment 2, we measured N2O fluxes in eastern Nebraska before, during, and after two rotational grazing events under two N-input treatments—inorganic N fertilizer and supplemented dried distillers grains—and an unfertilized control. Nitrous oxide fluxes were positive (20–100 μg m−2 h−1) in periods following rain, but otherwise not significantly different than zero. Post-grazing, N2O emissions were lower from the control than fertilized or supplemented treatments. These experiments show cool-season pastures can be a source of N2O to the atmosphere, but primarily following grazing events that coincide with significant precipitation. However, even though on-farm paddocks are in varying states of recovery from defoliation, farm scale emissions, although episodic, are likely to be positive in years with above average precipitation.


Grazed pastures Greenhouse gases Temperate grassland 



University of Nebraska-Lincoln Agricultural Research and Development Center


Animal units


Continuous grazing


Corn-based dried distillers grains with solubles


Inorganic N fertilizer




Management-intensive rotational grazing


Unfertilized control


No agronomic management


Supplemented dried distillers grains


Undegradeble intake protein



Thanks to Jon Bleier, John Albright, Jesse Rucker, Trish Oates, Liz Froelich, Kelly Brink, Jon Soper, Neal Bryan, and Andrea Watson for field and lab assistance. Graduate student support came from a UW College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Interdisciplinary Hatch Grant and Multi-State Project NC-1021 Nitrogen Cycling, Loading, and Use Efficiency in Forage-Based Livestock Production Systems, while supplies and expenses were supplied by grants from the UW Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, and the Nebraska Corn Board.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randall D. Jackson
    • 1
  • Lawrence G. Oates
    • 2
    Email author
  • Walter H. Schacht
    • 3
  • Terry J. Klopfenstein
    • 4
  • Daniel J. Undersander
    • 1
  • Matthew A. Greenquist
    • 3
  • Michael M. Bell
    • 5
  • Claudio Gratton
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of AgronomyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Nelson Institute for Environmental StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Animal ScienceUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  4. 4.Cargill Animal NutritionLincolnUSA
  5. 5.Department of Community and Environmental SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  6. 6.Entomology DepartmentUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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