• The effect of renovation of long-term temperate grassland on N2O emissions and N leaching from contrasting soils

      Krol, Dominika; Jones, M. B.; Williams, M.; Richards, Karl G.; Bourdin, F.; Lanigan, Gary; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; 07 RSF 527 (Elsevier, 19/04/2016)
      Renovation of long-term grassland is associated with a peak in soil organic N mineralisation which, coupled with diminished plant N uptake can lead to large gaseous and leaching N losses. This study reports on the effect of ploughing and subsequent N fertilisation on the N2O emissions and DON/NO3− leaching, and evaluates the impact of ploughing technique on the magnitude and profile of N losses. This study was carried out on isolated grassland lysimeters of three Irish soils representing contrasting drainage properties (well-drained Clonakilty, moderately-drained Elton and poorly-drained Rathangan). Lysimeters were manually ploughed simulating conventional (CT) and minimum tillage (MT) as two treatments. Renovation of grassland increased N2O flux to a maximum of 0.9 kg N2O–N ha− 1 from poorly-drained soil over four days after treatment. Although there was no difference between CT and MT in the post-ploughing period, the treatment influenced subsequent N2O after fertiliser applications. Fertilisation remained the major driver of N losses therefore reducing fertilisation rate post-planting to account for N mineralised through grassland renovation could reduce the losses in medium to longer term. Leaching was a significant loss pathway, with the cumulative drainage volume and N leached highly influenced by soil type. Overall, the total N losses (N2O + N leached) were lowest from poorly and moderately draining soil and highest for the well draining soil, reflecting the dominance of leaching on total N losses and the paramount importance of soil properties.
    • An evaluation of urine patch simulation methods for nitrous oxide emission measurement

      Forrestal, Patrick J.; Krol, Dominika; Lanigan, Gary; Jahangir, Mohammad M. R.; Richards, Karl G. (Cambridge University Press, 28/11/2016)
      Global nitrous oxide (N2O) inventory estimates for pasture systems are refined based on measurements of N2O loss from simulated urine patches. A variety of methods are used for patch simulation but they frequently use a uniform wetted area (UWA), often smaller than a bovine urine patch. However, natural patches follow non-uniform infiltration patterns expanding naturally from a point of deposit with a non-wetted zone of influence. Using 2 litres of urine the UWA method was compared, using a 0·156 m2 collar, with a naturally expanding effective area (NEEA) method, using a 0·462 m2 collar under high (HL) and low (LL) N2O loss conditions. The method chosen affects urine nitrogen (N) loading to the soil. Under HL the UWA method induced a N2O-N loss of 280·6 mg/patch, significantly less than the 434·8 mg/patch loss for the NEEA method, for the same simulated urination. Under LL there was no method effect. Efforts should be made to employ patch simulation methods, which mimic natural deposits and can be achieved, at least in part, by: (a) Using a urine volume and N content similar to that of the animal of interest. (b) Allowing natural infiltration of the chosen urine volume to permit tapering towards the edges. (c) Measuring from the zone of influence in addition to the wetted area, i.e. the patch effective area.
    • Groundwater nitrate reduction versus dissolved gas production: A tale of two catchments

      McAleer, E.B.; Coxon, Catherine E.; Richards, Karl G.; Jahangir, Mohammad M. R.; Grant, Jim; Mellander, Per-Erik; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 20/02/2017)
      At the catchment scale, a complex mosaic of environmental, hydrogeological and physicochemical characteristics combine to regulate the distribution of groundwater and stream nitrate (NO3−). The efficiency of NO3− removal (via denitrification) versus the ratio of accumulated reaction products, dinitrogen (excess N2) & nitrous oxide (N2O), remains poorly understood. Groundwater was investigated in two well drained agricultural catchments (10 km2) in Ireland with contrasting subsurface lithologies (sandstone vs. slate) and landuse. Denitrification capacity was assessed by measuring concentration and distribution patterns of nitrogen (N) species, aquifer hydrogeochemistry, stable isotope signatures and aquifer hydraulic properties. A hierarchy of scale whereby physical factors including agronomy, water table elevation and permeability determined the hydrogeochemical signature of the aquifers was observed. This hydrogeochemical signature acted as the dominant control on denitrification reaction progress. High permeability, aerobic conditions and a lack of bacterial energy sources in the slate catchment resulted in low denitrification reaction progress (0–32%), high NO3− and comparatively low N2O emission factors (EF5g1). In the sandstone catchment denitrification progress ranged from 4 to 94% and was highly dependent on permeability, water table elevation, dissolved oxygen concentration solid phase bacterial energy sources. Denitrification of NO3 − to N2 occurred in anaerobic conditions, while at intermediate dissolved oxygen; N2O was the dominant reaction product. EF5g1 (mean: 0.0018) in the denitrifying sandstone catchment was 32% less than the IPCC default. The denitrification observations across catchments were supported by stable isotope signatures. Stream NO3− occurrence was 32% lower in the sandstone catchment even though N loading was substantially higher than the slate catchment.
    • Improving and disaggregating N2O emission factors for ruminant excreta on temperate pasture soils

      Krol, Dominika; Carolan, Rachael; Minet, E.; McGeough, K. L.; Watson, C. J.; Forrestal, Patrick J.; Lanigan, Gary; Richards, Karl G.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; RSF10/RD/SC/716; et al. (Elsevier, 11/06/2016)
      Cattle excreta deposited on grazed grasslands are a major source of the greenhouse gas (GHG) nitrous oxide (N2O). Currently, many countries use the IPCC default emission factor (EF) of 2% to estimate excreta-derived N2O emissions. However, emissions can vary greatly depending on the type of excreta (dung or urine), soil type and timing of application. Therefore three experiments were conducted to quantify excreta-derived N2O emissions and their associated EFs, and to assess the effect of soil type, season of application and type of excreta on the magnitude of losses. Cattle dung, urine and artificial urine treatments were applied in spring, summer and autumn to three temperate grassland sites with varying soil and weather conditions. Nitrous oxide emissions were measured from the three experiments over 12 months to generate annual N2O emission factors. The EFs from urine treated soil was greater (0.30–4.81% for real urine and 0.13–3.82% for synthetic urine) when compared with dung (− 0.02–1.48%) treatments. Nitrous oxide emissions were driven by environmental conditions and could be predicted by rainfall and temperature before, and soil moisture deficit after application; highlighting the potential for a decision support tool to reduce N2O emissions by modifying grazing management based on these parameters. Emission factors varied seasonally with the highest EFs in autumn and were also dependent on soil type, with the lowest EFs observed from well-drained and the highest from imperfectly drained soil. The EFs averaged 0.31 and 1.18% for cattle dung and urine, respectively, both of which were considerably lower than the IPCC default value of 2%. These results support both lowering and disaggregating EFs by excreta type.
    • Nitrogen fertilisers with urease inhibitors reduce nitrous oxide and ammonia losses, while retaining yield in temperate grassland

      Krol, Dominika; Forrestal, P. J.; Wall, David P.; Lanigan, G. J.; Sanz-Gomez, J.; Richards, K. G.; Irish Research Council; EPSPD/2016/54 (Elsevier, 2020-04-02)
      Nitrogen fertilisation, although a cornerstone of modern agricultural production, negatively impacts the environment through gaseous losses of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), and ammonia (NH3), a known air pollutant. The aim of this work was to assess the feasibility of urea treated with urease inhibitors to reduce gaseous N losses in temperate grassland, while maintaining or improving productivity compared to conventional fertiliser formulations. Urease inhibitors were N-(n-butyl)-thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT) (urea + NBPT) and N-(n-propyl)-thiophosphoric triamide (NPPT) (urea+ NBPT + NPPT), while conventional fertilisers were urea and calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN). N2O emission factors were 0.06%, 0.07%, 0.09% and 0.58% from urea + NBPT, urea, urea + NBPT + NPPT and CAN, respectively, with CAN significantly higher than all the urea formulations, which were not significantly different from each other. Ammonia loss measured over one fertiliser application was significantly larger from urea, at 43%, compared with other formulations at 13.9%, 13.8% and 5.2% from urea + NBPT, urea + NBPT + NPPT and CAN, respectively. Changing fertiliser formulation had no significant impact on grass yield or N uptake in four out of five harvests. In the last harvest urea + NBPT significantly out-yielded urea, but not CAN or urea + NBPT + NPPT. Overall, urea treated with either one or both urease inhibitors significantly reduced emissions of N2O and NH3, while preserving yield quantity and quality. Therefore, changing fertiliser formulation to these products should be encouraged as a strategy to reduce GHG and air pollution from agricultural practices in temperate climate.
    • A review of nitrous oxide mitigation by farm nitrogen management in temperate grassland-based agriculture

      Li, Dejun; Watson, C. J.; Yan, Ming Jia; Lalor, Stanley T. J.; Rafique, Rashid; Hyde, Bernard; Lanigan, Gary; Richards, Karl G.; Holden, Nicholas M.; Humphreys, James; et al. (Elsevier, 20/07/2013)
      Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission from grassland-based agriculture is an important source of atmospheric N2O. It is hence crucial to explore various solutions including farm nitrogen (N) management to mitigate N2O emissions without sacrificing farm profitability and food supply. This paper reviews major N management practices to lower N2O emission from grassland-based agriculture. Restricted grazing by reducing grazing time is an effective way to decrease N2O emissions from excreta patches. Balancing the protein-to-energy ratios in the diets of ruminants can also decrease N2O emissions from excreta patches. Among the managements of synthetic fertilizer N application, only adjusting fertilizer N rate and slow-released fertilizers are proven to be effective in lowering N2O emissions. Use of bedding materials may increase N2O emissions from animal houses. Manure storage as slurry, manipulating slurry pH to values lower than 6 and storage as solid manure under anaerobic conditions help to reduce N2O emissions during manure storage stage. For manure land application, N2O emissions can be mitigated by reducing manure N inputs to levels that satisfy grass needs. Use of nitrification inhibitors can substantially lower N2O emissions associated with applications of fertilizers and manures and from urine patches. N2O emissions from legume based grasslands are generally lower than fertilizer-based systems. In conclusion, effective measures should be taken at each step during N flow or combined options should be used in order to mitigate N2O emission at the farm level.
    • Sward composition and soil moisture conditions affect nitrous oxide emissions and soil nitrogen dynamics following urea-nitrogen application

      Bracken, Conor J.; Lanigan, Gary J.; Richards, Karl G.; Müller, Christoph; Tracy, Saoirse R.; Grant, James; Krol, Dominika; Sheridan, Helen; Lynch, Mary Bridget; Grace, Cornelia; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2020-06)
      Increased emissions of N2O, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), from agricultural soils is a major concern for the sustainability of grassland agriculture. Emissions of N2O are closely associated with the rates and forms of N fertilisers applied as well as prevailing weather and soil conditions. Evidence suggests that multispecies swards require less fertiliser N input, and may cycle N differently, thus reducing N loss to the environment. This study used a restricted simplex-centroid experimental design to investigate N2O emissions and soil N cycling following application of urea-N (40 kg N ha−1) to eight experimental swards (7.8 m2) with differing proportions of three plant functional groups (grass, legume, herb) represented by perennial ryegrass (PRG, Lolium perenne), white clover (WC, Trifolium repens) and ribwort plantain (PLAN, Plantago lanceolata), respectively. Swards were maintained under two contrasting soil moisture conditions to examine the balance between nitrification and denitrification. Two N2O peaks coincided with fertiliser application and heavy rainfall events; 13.4 and 17.7 g N2O-N ha−1 day−1 (ambient soil moisture) and 39.8 and 86.9 g N2O-N ha−1 day−1 (wet soil moisture). Overall, cumulative N2O emissions post-fertiliser application were higher under wet soil conditions. Increasing legume (WC) proportions from 0% to 60% in multispecies swards resulted in model predicted N2O emissions increasing from 22.3 to 96.2 g N2O-N ha−1 (ambient soil conditions) and from 59.0 to 219.3 g N2O-N ha−1 (wet soil conditions), after a uniform N application rate. Soil N dynamics support denitrification as the dominant source of N2O especially under wet soil conditions. Significant interactions of PRG or WC with PLAN on soil mineral N concentrations indicated that multispecies swards containing PLAN potentially inhibit nitrification and could be a useful mitigation strategy for N loss to the environment from grassland agriculture.