Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 52, Issue 2–3, pp 123–130 | Cite as

Emissions of N2O from Scottish agricultural soils, as a function of fertilizer N

  • Keith A. Smith
  • Iain P. McTaggart
  • Karen E. Dobbie
  • Franz Conen


Potato fields and cut (ungrazed) grassland in SE Scotland gave greater annual N2O emissions per ha (1.0–3.2 kg N2O–N ha-1) than spring barley or winter wheat fields (0.3–0.8 kg N2O–N ha-1), but in terms of emission per unit of N applied the order was potatoes > barley > grass > wheat. On the arable land, especially the potato fields, a large part of the emissions occurred after harvest.

When the grassland data were combined with those for 2 years' earlier work at the same site, the mean emission over 3 years, for fertilization with ammonium nitrate, was 2.24 kg N2O–N ha-1 (0.62% of the N applied). Also, a very strong relationship between N2O emission and soil nitrate content was found for the grassland, provided the water-filled pore space was > 70%. Significant relationships were also found between the emissions from potato fields and the soil mineral N content, with the added feature that the emission per unit of soil mineral N was an order of magnitude larger after harvest than before, possibly due to the effect of labile organic residues on denitrification.

Generally the emissions measured were lower, as a function of the N applied, than those used as the basis for the current value adopted by IPCC, possibly because spring/early summer temperatures in SE Scotland are lower than those where the other data were obtained. The role of other factors contributing to emissions, e.g. winter freeze–thaw events and green manure inputs, are discussed, together with the possible implications of future increases in nitrogen fertilizer use in the tropics.

arable crops global warming grassland nitrogen fertilizer nitrous oxide soils 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arah JRM, Crichton IJ, Smith KA, Clayton H & Skiba U (1994) Automated gas chromatographic analysis system for micrometeorological measurements of trace gas fluxes. J Geophys Res 99: 16593-16598Google Scholar
  2. Bøckman OC & Olfs HW (1997) Fertilizers, agronomy and N2O. In: Proceedings of the International Workshop on Dissipation of N from the Human N-Cycle and its Role in Present and Future N2O Emissions to the Atmosphere, Oslo, May 1997Google Scholar
  3. Bolle HJ, Seiler W & Bolin B (1986) Other greenhouse gases and aerosols. In: Bolin B, Döös BR, Jäger J & Warrick RA (eds) The Greenhouse Effect, Climate Change and Ecosystems, pp 157-203. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Bouwman AF (1990) Exchange of greenhouse gases between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. In: Bouwman AF (ed) Soils and the Greenhouse Effect, pp 61-127. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Bouwman AF (1994) Method to estimate direct nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils. Tech. Report 773004004, Nat. Inst. Public Health and Environmental Protection (RIVM), Bilthoven, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  6. Bouwman AF (1996) Direct emission of nitrous oxide from agricultural soils. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 46:53-70Google Scholar
  7. Byrnes BH (1990) Environmental effects of N fertilizer use -an overview. Fert Res 26: 209-215Google Scholar
  8. Clayton H, Arah JRM & Smith KA (1994) Measurement of nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized grassland using closed chambers. J Geophys Res 99: 16,599-16,607Google Scholar
  9. Clayton H, McTaggart IP, Parker J, Swan L & Smith KA (1997) Nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized grassland: a two-year study of the effects of N fertilizer form and environmental conditions. Biol Fertil Soils 25: 252-260Google Scholar
  10. Cole V, Cerri C, Minami K, Mosier A & Rosenberg N (1996) Agricultural options for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. In: Watson RT, Zinyowera MC, Moss RH & Dokken DJ (eds) Climate Change 1995. Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change: Scientific-Technical Analyses, pp 745-771. Cambridge Univ. Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Crutzen PJ (1976) The influence of nitrogen oxides on the atmospheric ozone content. Quart J Royal Meteorol Soc 96:320-325Google Scholar
  12. Eichner MJ (1990) Nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized soils: Summary of available data. J Environm Qual 19: 272-280Google Scholar
  13. Firestone MK & Davidson EA (1989) Microbiological basis of NO and N2O production and consumption in soil. In: Andreae MO & Schimel DS (eds) Exchange of trace Gases Between Terrestrial Ecosystems and the Atmosphere, pp 7-21. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  14. Flessa H, Dörsch P & Beese F (1995) Seasonal variation of N2O and CH4 fluxes in differently managed arable soils in southern Germany. J Geophys Res 100: 23,115-23,124Google Scholar
  15. Galbally IE (1985) The emission of nitrogen to the remote atmosphere. In: Galbally IE, Charlson RJ, Andreae MO & Rohde H (eds) The Biogeochemical Cycling of Sulfur and Nitrogen in the Remote Atmosphere, pp 27-53. D Reidel Publishing Co, Dordrecht, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  16. Galloway JN, Schlesinger WH, Levy H, Michaels A & Schnoor JL (1995) Nitrogen fixation: Anthropogenic enhancement-environmental response. Global Biogeochem Cycles 9: 235-252Google Scholar
  17. Granli T & Bøckman OC (1994) Nitrous oxide from agriculture. Norwegian J Agricul Sci Suppl No. 12: 1-128Google Scholar
  18. IPCC (1997) Revised 1996 IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  19. Keller M, Kaplan WA, Wofsy SC & DaCosta JM (1988) Emissions of nitrous oxide from tropical forest soils: Response to fertilization with ammonium, nitrate, and phosphate. J Geophys Res 93: 1600-1604Google Scholar
  20. Matthews E (1994) Nitrogenous fertilizers: Global distribution of consumption and associated emissions of nitrous oxide and ammonia. Global Biogeochem Cycles, 8: 411-439Google Scholar
  21. Mosier AR (1994) Nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils. Fert Res 37: 191-200Google Scholar
  22. Mosier AR, Delgado JA, Cochran VL, Valentine DW & Parton WJ (1997) Impact of agriculture on soil consumption of atmospheric CH4 and a comparison of CH4 and N2O flux in subarctic, temperate and tropical grasslands. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 49: 71-83Google Scholar
  23. Ortiz-Monasterio JI, Matson PA, Panek J & Naylor RL (1996) Nitrogen fertilizer management for N2O and NO emissions in Mexican irrigated wheat. Transactions of the 9th Nitrogen Workshop, pp 531-534. Braunschweig, Germany, Sept. 1996Google Scholar
  24. Prather M, Derwent R, Ehhalt D, Fraser P, Sanhueza E & Zhou X (1995) Other trace gases and atmospheric chemistry. In: Houghton JT et al. (eds) Climate Change 1994: Radiative Forcing of Climate Change and an Evaluation of the IPCC IS92 Emission Scenarios, pp 73-126. Cambridge Univ. Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  25. Rees RM, Roelcke M, Li SX, Wang XQ, Li SQ, Stockdale EA, McTaggart IP, Smith KA & Richter J (1997) The effect of fertilizer placement on nitrogen uptake and yield of wheat and maize in Chinese loess soils. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 47: 81-91Google Scholar
  26. Ruser R, Flessa H & Beese F (1996) Plant-type and N-fertilizer dependent variation of nitrous oxide emisisons. Transactions of the 9th Nitrogen Workshop, pp 539-542. Braunschweig, Germany, Sept. 1996Google Scholar
  27. Ryden JC (1981) Nitrous oxide exchange between a grassland soil and the atmosphere. Nature (London) 292: 235-237Google Scholar
  28. Smith KA (1997) The potential for feedback effects induced by global warming on emissions of nitrous oxide by soils. Global Change Biology 3: 327-338Google Scholar
  29. Smith KA, Clayton H, McTaggart IP, Thomson PE, Arah JRM & Scott A (1995) The measurement of nitrous oxide emissions from soil by using chambers. Phil Trans Roy Soc Lond, Series A 351: 327-338Google Scholar
  30. Smith KA, Thomson PE, Clayton H, McTaggart IP & Conen F (1998) Effects of temperature, water content and mineral nitrogen on emissions of nitrous oxide by soils. Atmospheric Environ (in press)Google Scholar
  31. Stevens RJ & Laughlin RJ (1998) Measurement of nitrous oxide and di-nitrogen emissions from agricultural soils. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 52: 131-138Google Scholar
  32. Tiedje JM, Sexstone AJ, Parkin TB, Revsbech NP & Shelton DR (1984) Anaerobic processes in soil. Plant and Soil 76: 197-212Google Scholar
  33. Veldkamp E & Keller M (1997) Nitrogen oxide emissions from a banana plantation in the humid tropics. J Geophys Res 102: 15889-15898Google Scholar
  34. Veldkamp E, Keller M& Nuñez M(1998) Effect of pasture management on N2O and NO emissions from soils in the humid tropics of Costa Rica. Global Biogeochem Cycles 12: 71-79Google Scholar
  35. Velthof GL & Oenema O(1995) Nitrous oxide fluxes from grassland in the Netherlands: II. Effects of soil type, nitrogen fertilizer application and grazing. Europ J Soil Sci 46: 541-549Google Scholar
  36. Watson RT, Meira Filho LG, Sanhueza E & Janetos A (1992) Greenhouse gases: sources and sinks. In: Houghton JT, Callender BA & Varney SK (eds) Climate Change 1992: The Supplementary Report to the IPCC Scientific Assessment, pp 25-46. Cambridge Univ. Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  37. Watson RT, Rodhe H, Oeschger H & Siegenthaler U (1990) Greenhouse gases and aerosols. In: Houghton JT, Jenkins GJ & Ephraums JJ (eds) Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment, pp 1-40. Cambridge Univ. Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith A. Smith
  • Iain P. McTaggart
  • Karen E. Dobbie
  • Franz Conen

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations