Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 60, Issue 1–3, pp 149–158 | Cite as

A farm-scale basis for predicting nitrous oxide emissions from dairy farms

  • L. Brown
  • S.C. Jarvis
  • D. Headon


The IPCC methodology was used to provide farm-scale estimates of N2O emissions from 2 dairy farms in S.W. England. Emissions were 16.5 and 15.9 kg N2O-N per ha from Farm A and B, respectively, but a large degree of uncertainty was associated with these estimates (range 5.5–50.1 and 4.6–42.5 kg N2O-N per ha for Farm A and B, respectively). The generalised assumptions and emission factors employed in this methodology can be refined at a farm scale, where more detailed information is available. Two alternative methodologies were therefore developed. The first was an improved IPCC approach using emission factors based on current literature and approaches and incorporating predictions of leached N from an existing UK model (NCYCLE). The second used the process-based model DNDC to provide estimates of N2O emission from soil. Using the improved IPCC approach, total emission was 5.1 and 8.9 kg N2O-N per ha from Farm A and B, respectively. Emission from the soil sector was decreased by 64% and 23% for Farm A and B, respectively, relative to the IPCC method. The decrease in the soil sector was largely due to a reduction in emission from grazing animals and applied animal manures. The use of NCYCLE-based estimates of nitrate leaching in the improved IPCC approach resulted in a 77% and 61% reduction in indirect emission at Farms A and B, respectively, reducing both the total emission and the proportion of the total that was due to the indirect sector. The large effect of components of the indirect sector calculations on IPCC estimates was demonstrated in a sensitivity analysis of the methodology. Data on which to base estimates of emission from indirect sources remain scarce. Preliminary measurements of indirect losses on a farm taken over 6 months confirm that indirect sources make a substantial contribution to the total emission. Estimates from the DNDC method of emission from the soil sector were larger than those of the other methods (8.2 and 7.0 kg N2O-N per ha from Farm A and B, respectively) . Use of a dynamic model such as DNDC for the estimation of emissions at a farm scale would provide a greatly improved capability for scenario testing and hence the development of mitigation strategies. However, some calibration and development of DNDC would be required before confident estimates of emissions from all sectors could be made.

indirect sources IPCC models sensitivity analysis uncertainty 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen AG, Jarvis, SC & Headon, D (1996) Nitrous oxide emissions from soils due to inputs of nitrogen from excreta return from livestock on grazed grassland in the UK. Soil Biol Biochem 28: 597–607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bouwman, AF (1996) Direct emission of nitrous oxide from agricultural soils. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 46: 53–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 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. Chichester, UK: Wiley and SonsGoogle Scholar
  4. Bremner JM & Blackmer SM (1981) Terrestrial nitrification as a source of atmospheric nitrous oxide. In: Delwiche CC (ed) Denitrification, Nitrification and Atmospheric Nitrous Oxide, pp 151–170, New York: John WileyGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown L, Armstrong Brown S, Jarvis S C, Syed B, Goulding KWT, Phillips, VR, Sneath, RW & Pain BF (2000). An inventory of nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture in the UK using the IPCC methodology: emission estimate, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis. Agri Ecosyst Environ (in press)Google Scholar
  6. Chadwick DR, Sneath RW, Phillips, VR & Pain BF (1999) A UK inventory of nitrous oxide emissions from farmed livestock. Atmos Environ 33: 3345–3354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chambers B, Nicholson N, Smith K, Pain BF, Cumby T & Scotford I. (1999). Managing livestock manures, Booklet 2: Making better use of livestock manures on grassland. London: MAFFGoogle Scholar
  8. Eggleston HS & Williams ML (1989) UK Emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. 1960–1987, Warren Spring Laboratory Report, Warren Spring, StevenageGoogle Scholar
  9. Firestone MA & Davidson EA (1989) Microbiological basis of NO and N2O production and consumption in soil, In: Andae MO and Schimel DS (eds) Exchange of trace gases between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere, pp 7–22. Chichester: JohnWiley and SonsGoogle Scholar
  10. Frolking SE, Mosier AR, Ojima DS, Li C, Parton WJ, Potter CS, Priesack E, Stenger R, Haberbosch C, Dorsch P, Flessa H & Smith KA (1998) Comparison of N2O emissions from soils at three temperate agricultural sites: simulations of yearround measurements by four models. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 52: 77–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Groffman PM, Gold AJ, Jacinthe P (1998) Nitrous oxide production in riparian zones and groundwater. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 52: 179–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. IPCC (1997) Greenhouse Gas emissions from agricultural soils. In: Houghton JT et al. (eds) Greenhouse Gas Inventory Reference Manual. Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. IPCC/OECD/IES. UK Meteorological Office, Bracknell, UKGoogle Scholar
  13. Jarvis SC (1993) Nitrogen cycling and losses from dairy farms. Soil Use Manage. 9: 99–105Google Scholar
  14. Jarvis SC & Pain BF (1994) Greenhouse gas emissions from intensive livestock systems: their estimation and technologies for reduction. Clim Change 27: 27–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jarvis SC (1999) Nitrogen Management and Sustainability. In: Cherney JH & Cherney DJR (eds) Grass for Dairy Cattle, pp 161–192. Wallingford, UK: CABI PublishingGoogle Scholar
  16. Jarvis SC, Wilkins RJ & Pain BF (1996) Opportunities for reducing the environmental impact of dairy farm managements: a systems approach. Grass Forage Sci 51: 21–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Li C, Frolking S & Frolking TA (1992a) A model of nitrous oxide evolution from soil driven by rainfall events: 1. Model structure and sensitivity. J Geophys Res 97: 9759–9776Google Scholar
  18. Li C, Frolking S & Frolking TA (1992b) A model of nitrous oxide evolution from soil driven by rainfall events: 2. Model Applications. J Geophys Res 97: 9777–9783Google Scholar
  19. Mosier A, Kroeze C, Nevison C, Oenema O, Seitzinger S & van Cleemput O (1998) Closing the global N2O budget: Nitrous oxide emissions through the agricultural nitrogen cycle. Nutr Cycl Agroecosys 52: 223–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Oenema O, Gebauer G, Rodriguez M, Sapek A, Jarvis SC, Corre WJ & Yamulki S (1998) Controlling nitrous oxide emissions from grassland livestock production systems. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 52: 141–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Palisade (1997) Guide to using @RISK. Palisade Corporation, USAGoogle Scholar
  22. Scholefield D, Lockyer DR, Whitehead DC & Tyson KC (1991) A model to predict transformations and losses of nitrogen in UK pastures grazed by beef cattle. Plant Soil 132: 165–177Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Brown
    • 1
  • S.C. Jarvis
    • 2
  • D. Headon
    • 2
  1. 1.North Wyke Research Station, OkehamptonInstitute of Grassland and Environmental ResearchDevonUK
  2. 2.North Wyke Research Station, OkehamptonInstitute of Grassland and Environmental ResearchDevonUK

Personalised recommendations