Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 41–46 | Cite as

Ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions from grass and alfalfa mulches

  • Lisbeth Larsson
  • Martin Ferm
  • Asa Kasimir-Klemedtsson
  • Leif Klemedtsson


Ammonia (NH3) and nitrous oxide (N-2O) emissions were measured in the field for three months from three different herbage mulches and from bare soil, used as a control. The mulches were grass with a low N-content (1.15% N in DM), grass with a high N-content (2.12% N in DM) and alfalfa with a high N-content (4.33% N in DM). NH3 volatilization was measured using a micrometeorological technique. N-2O emissions were measured using closed chambers. NH3 and N-2O emissions were found to be much higher from the N-rich mulches than from the low-N grass and bare soil, which did not differ significantly. Volatilization losses of NH3 and N-2O occurred mainly during the first month after applying the herbage and were highest from wet material shortly after a rain. The extent of NH3-N losses was difficult to estimate, due to the low frequency of measurements and some problems with the denuder technique, used on the first occasions of measurements. Nevertheless, the results indicate that NH3-N losses from herbage mulch rich in N can be substantial. Estimated losses of NH3-N ranged from the equivalent of 17% of the applied N for alfalfa to 39% for high-N grass. These losses not only represent a reduction in the fertilizer value of the mulch, but also contribute appreciably to atmospheric pollution. The estimated loss of N-2O-N during the measurement period amounted to 1% of the applied N in the N-rich materials, which is equivalent to at least 13 kg N-2O-N ha-1 lost from alfalfa and 6 kg ha-1 lost from high-N grass. These emission values greatly exceed the 0.2 kg N-2O-N ha-1 released from bare soil, and thus contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

closed chambers micrometeorological technique NH3 N-2


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bergstrom DW, Tenuta M and Beauchamp EG (1994) Increase in nitrous oxide production in soil induced by ammonium and organic carbon. Biol Fertil Soils 18: 1–6Google Scholar
  2. Bouwman AF, Van der Hoek KW and Olivier JGJ (1995) Uncertainties in the global source distribution of nitrous oxide. J Geophys Res 100: 2785–2800Google Scholar
  3. Dou Z, Fox RH and JD Toth (1995) Seasonal soil nitrate dynamics in corn as affected by tillage and nitrogen source. Soil Sci Soc Am J 59: 858–864Google Scholar
  4. Ferm M (1979) Method for determination of atmospheric ammonia. Atmospheric Environment 13: 1385-1393Google Scholar
  5. Ferm M (1983) Ammonia volatilization from arable land–An evaluation of the chamber technique. In: Observation and measurement of atmospheric contaminants. WMO Special environmental report 16: 145–172Google Scholar
  6. Flessa H and Beese F (1995) Effects of sugarbeet residues on soil redox potential and nitrous oxide emission. Soil Sci Soc Am J 59: 1044–1051Google Scholar
  7. Granli T and Bøckman OC (1994) Nitrous oxide from agriculture. Norwegian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, Supplement No 12, 128 ppGoogle Scholar
  8. Janzen HH and McGinn SM (1991) Volatile loss of nitrogen during decomposition of legume green manure. Soil Biol Biochem 23: 291–297Google Scholar
  9. Larsson L (1994) Mulching and cover cropping in organic growing of black currant, Ribes nigrum, cvs Öjebyn and Ben Nevis. Swedish Univ of Agr Sci, Alnarp, 48 ppGoogle Scholar
  10. Mosier AR and Klemedtsson L (1994) Measuring denitrification in the field. In: Weaver RW, Angle JS and Bottomley PS (eds) Methods of soil analysis, Part 2 Microbiological and biochemical properties, pp 1047–1065. Soil Science Society of America Book Series, No 5Google Scholar
  11. Nelson DW (1982) Gaseous losses of nitrogen other than through denitrification. In: Stevenson FJ (ed) Nitrogen in agricultural soils, pp 327–363. Madison, Wisc: American Society of AgronomyGoogle Scholar
  12. Marstorp H(1995) Initial events during decomposition of plant materials. Swedish Univ of Agr Sci, PhD Thesis, 28 ppGoogle Scholar
  13. McKenney DJ, Wang SW, Drury CF and Findlay WI (1993) Denitrification and mineralization in soil amended with legume, grass and corn residues. Soil Sci Soc Am J 57: 1013–1020Google Scholar
  14. McKenney DJ, Wang SW, Drury CF and Findlay WI (1995) Denitrification, immobilization and mineralization in nitrate limited and nonlimited residue–amended soil. Soil Sci Soc Am J 59: 118–124Google Scholar
  15. Ocio J.A., Martinez J. and Brookes P.C. (1991) Contribution of straw–derived N to total microbial biomass N following incorporation of cereal straw to soil. Soil Biol. Biochem. 23: 655–659.Google Scholar
  16. SAS Inst Inc (1988) SAS Procedure guide, SAS Language guide, SAS/STAT Users guide, Release 6.03, Edition. Cary; North CarolinaGoogle Scholar
  17. Skiba U, Hargreaves KJ, Fowler D and Smith KA (1992) Fluxes of nitric and nitrous oxides from agricultural soils in a cool temperate climate. Atmospheric Environment 26A: 2477–2488Google Scholar
  18. Svensson L and Ferm M (1993) Mass transfer coefficient and equilibrium concentration as key factors in a new approach to estimate ammonia emission from livestock manure. J Agric Engng Res 56: 1–11Google Scholar
  19. Svensson BH, Klemedtsson L, Simkins S, Paustian K and T Rosswall (1991) Soil denitrification in three cropping systems characterized by differences in nitrogen and carbon supply. Plant and Soil 138: 257–271Google Scholar
  20. Terman GL (1979) Volatilization losses of nitrogen as ammonia from surface–applied fertilizers, organic amendments and crop residues. Adv Agron 31: 189–223Google Scholar
  21. Quemada M and Cabrera ML (1995) Carbon and nitrogen mineralized from leaves and stems of four cover crops. Soil Sci Soc Am J 59: 471–477Google Scholar
  22. Weier KL, Macrae IC and Myers RJK (1991) Seasonal variation in denitrification in a clay soil under a cultivated crop and a permanent pasture. Soil Biol Biochem 23: 629–635Google Scholar
  23. Whitehead DC, Lockyer DR and Raistrick N (1988) The volatilization of ammonia from perennial ryegrass during decomposition, drying and induced senescence. Annals of Botany 61: 567–571Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisbeth Larsson
    • 1
  • Martin Ferm
    • 2
  • Asa Kasimir-Klemedtsson
    • 2
  • Leif Klemedtsson
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept. of HorticultureSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesSweden
  2. 2.Swedish Environmental Research InstituteGothenburgSweden

Personalised recommendations