• An integrated assessment of nitrogen source, transformation and fate within an intensive dairy system to inform management change

      Clagnan, Elisa; Thornton, Steven F.; Rolfe, Stephen A.; Wells, Naomi S.; Knoeller, Kay; Murphy, John; Tuohy, Patrick; Daly, Karen M.; Healy, Mark G.; Ezzati, Golnaz; et al. (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-07-23)
      From an environmental perspective optimised dairy systems, which follow current regulations, still have low nitrogen (N) use efficiency, high N surplus (kg N ha-1) and enable ad-hoc delivery of direct and indirect reactive N losses to water and the atmosphere. The objective of the present study was to divide an intensive dairy farm into N attenuation capacity areas based on this ad-hoc delivery. Historical and current spatial and temporal multi-level datasets (stable isotope and dissolved gas) were combined and interpreted. Results showed that the farm had four distinct attenuation areas: high N attenuation: characterised by ammonium-N (NH4+-N) below 0.23 mg NH4+-N l-1 and nitrate (NO3--N) below 5.65 mg NO3--N l-1 in surface, drainage and groundwater, located on imperfectly to moderately-well drained soils with high denitrification potential and low nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions (av. 0.0032 mg N2O-N l-1); moderate N attenuation: characterised by low NO3--N concentration in drainage water but high N2O production (0.0317 mg N2O-N l-1) and denitrification potential lower than group 1 (av. δ15N-NO3-: 16.4‰, av. δ18O-NO3-: 9.2‰), on well to moderately drained soils; low N attenuation—area 1: characterised by high NO3--N (av. 6.90 mg NO3--N l-1) in drainage water from well to moderately-well drained soils, with low denitrification potential (av. δ15N-NO3-: 9.5‰, av. δ18O-NO3-: 5.9‰) and high N2O emissions (0.0319 mg N2O l-1); and low N attenuation—area 2: characterised by high NH4+-N (av. 3.93 mg NH4+-N l-1 and high N2O emissions (av. 0.0521 mg N2O l-1) from well to imperfectly drained soil. N loads on site should be moved away from low attenuation areas and emissions to air and water should be assessed.