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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-90
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-90
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Apr 2019

Research article | 10 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Nitrogen use efficiency and N2O and NH3 losses attributed to three fertiliser types applied to an intensively managed silage crop

Nicholas Cowan1, Peter Levy1, Andrea Moring4, Ivan Simmons1, Colin Bache1, Amy Stephens1, Joana Marinheiro1, Jocelyn Brichet1, Ling Song2, Amy Pickard1, Connie McNeill1, Roseanne McDonald1, Juliette Maire1,3,4, Benjamin Loubet5, Polina Voylokov5, Mark Sutton1, and Ute Skiba1 Nicholas Cowan et al.
  • 1Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik EH34 5DR, UK
  • 2Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
  • 3Scotland’s Rural College, King’s Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK
  • 4School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, High School Yards, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, UK
  • 5Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, UMR ECOSYS, INRA, AgroParisTech, Univerité Paris-Saclay, 78850 Thiverval-Grignon, France

Abstract. Three different nitrogen fertilizer types, ammonium nitrate, urea and urea coated with a urease inhibitor (Agrotain®), were applied at standard rates (70 kg N ha−1) to experimental plots in a typical and intensively managed grassland area at Easter Bush Farm Estate (Scotland). The nitrogen use efficiency of the fertilisers was investigated as well as nitrogen losses in the form of nitrous oxide fluxes (N2O) and ammonia (NH3) and during fertilisation events in the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons. Nitrous oxide was measured by the standard static chamber technique and analysed using Bayesian statistics. Ammonia was measured using passive samplers combined with the FIDES inverse dispersion model. On average, fertilisation with ammonium nitrate supported largest yields and had the highest nitrogen use efficiency, but as large spatial and seasonal variation persisted across the plots, yield differences between the three fertilizer types and zero N control were not consistent. Overall, ammonium nitrate treatment was found to increase yields significantly (p-value < 0.05) when compared to the urea fertilisers. Ammonium nitrate was the largest emitter of N2O (0.76 % of applied Nr) and the urea was the largest emitter of NH3 (16.5 % of applied Nr). The urea coated with a urease inhibitor did not significantly increase yields; however, ammonia emissions were substantially smaller (90 %) when compared to the uncoated urea and N2O emissions were also smaller (47 %) when compared with ammonium nitrate fertiliser. This study suggests that urea coated with a urease inhibitor is environmentally the best choice in regards to nitrogen pollution, but because of its larger cost and lack of agronomic benefits, it is not economically attractive when compared to ammonium nitrate.

Nicholas Cowan et al.
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Nicholas Cowan et al.
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Short summary
Commonly used nitrogen fertilisers, ammonium nitrate, urea and urea coated with a urease inhibitor, were applied to experimental plots. Fertilisation with ammonium nitrate supported largest yields, but also resulted in the largest nitrous oxide emissions. Urea was the largest emitter of ammonia. The coated urea did not significantly increase yields; however, ammonia emissions were substantially smaller than urea. The coated urea was the best environmentaly, but is economicaly unattractive.
Commonly used nitrogen fertilisers, ammonium nitrate, urea and urea coated with a urease...
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