Soil moisture determines the effectiveness of two urease inhibitors to decrease N2O emission

  • Alberto Sanz-CobenaEmail author
  • Diego Abalos
  • Ana Meijide
  • Laura Sanchez-Martin
  • Antonio Vallejo
Original Article


Among the mitigation strategies to prevent nitrogen (N) losses from ureic fertilizers, urease inhibitors (UIs) have been demonstrated to promote high N use efficiency by reducing ammonia (NH3) volatilization. In the last few years, some field experiments have also shown its effectiveness in reducing nitrous oxide (N2O) losses from fertilized soils under conditions of low soil moisture. An incubation experiment was carried out with the aim of assessing the main biotic mechanisms behind N2O emissions once that the UIs N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamid (NBPT) and phenil phosphorodiamidate (PPDA) were applied with Urea (U) under different soil moisture conditions (40, 60 and 80 % water-filled pore space, WFPS). In the same study we tried to analyze to what extent soil WFPS regulates the effect of these inhibitors on N2O emissions. The use of PPDA in our study allowed us to compare the effect of NBPT with that of another commercially available urease inhibitor, aiming to see if the results were inhibitor-specific or not. Based on the results from this experiment, a WFPS (i.e. 60 %) was chosen for a second study (i.e. mesocosm experiment) aiming to assess the efficiency of the UIs to indirectly affect N2O emissions through influencing the pool of soil mineral N. The N2O emissions at 40 % WFPS were almost negligible, being significantly lower from all fertilized treatments than that produced at 60 and 80 % WFPS. When compared to U alone, NBPT+U reduced the N2O emissions at 60 % WFPS but had no effect at 80 % WFPS. The application of PPDA significantly increased the emissions with respect to U at 80 % WFPS whereas no significant effect was found at 60 %. At 80 % WFPS, denitrification was the main source of N2O emissions for all treatments. In the mesocosm study, the application of NBPT+U was an effective strategy to reduce N2O emissions (75 % reduction compared to U alone), due to a lower soil ammonium (NH4 +) content induced by the inhibitor. These results suggest that adequate management of the UI NBPT could provide, under certain soil conditions, an opportunity for mitigation of N2O emissions from fertilized soils.


Urease inhibitors WFPS Ammonia Nitrous oxide Urea NBPT 



The authors are grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, the Autonomous Community of Madrid (through the AGL-2012-378815-C05-01 and Agrisost projects, respectively) for financing this research. It is a pleasure to acknowledge Ana Ros, Pilar Ortiz, Sofia Serrano and Mark Theobald for their technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberto Sanz-Cobena
    • 1
    Email author
  • Diego Abalos
    • 1
  • Ana Meijide
    • 2
  • Laura Sanchez-Martin
    • 1
  • Antonio Vallejo
    • 1
  1. 1.ETSIAgrónomosTechnical University of MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Chair of Bioclimatology, Georg-August University of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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