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Sward composition and soil moisture conditions affect nitrous oxide emissions and soil nitrogen dynamics following urea-nitrogen application
2020-06-20, Bracken, Conor, Lanigan, Gary, Richards, Karl, Müller, Christoph, Tracy, Saoirse, Grant, Jim, Krol, D. J., Sheridan, Helen, Lynch, Bridget, Grace, C., Fritch, Rochelle, Murphy, Paul
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.
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Source partitioning using N2O isotopomers and soil WFPS to establish dominant N2O production pathways from different pasture sward compositions
2021-08-10, Bracken, Conor, Lanigan, Gary, Richards, Karl, Müller, Christoph, Tracy, Saoirse, Grant, Jim, Krol, D. J., Sheridan, Helen, Lynch, Bridget, Grace, C., Fritch, Rochelle, Murphy, Paul
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted from agricultural soils and is influenced by nitrogen (N) fertiliser management and weather and soil conditions. Source partitioning N2O emissions related to management practices and soil conditions could suggest effective mitigation strategies. Multispecies swards can maintain herbage yields at reduced N fertiliser rates compared to grass monocultures and may reduce N losses to the wider environment. A restricted-simplex centroid experiment was used to measure daily N2O fluxes and associated isotopomers from eight experimental plots (7.8 m2) post a urea-N fertiliser application (40 kg N ha−1). Experimental pastures consisted of differing proportions of grass, legume and forage herb represented by perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), white clover (Trifolium repens) and ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata), respectively. N2O isotopomers were measured using a cavity ring down spectroscopy (CRDS) instrument adapted with a small sample isotope module (SSIM) for the analysis of gas samples ≤20 mL. Site preference (SP = δ15Nα – δ15Nβ) and δ15Nbulk ((δ15Nα + δ15Nβ) / 2) values were used to attribute N2O production to nitrification, denitrification or a mixture of both nitrification and denitrification over a range of soil WFPS (%). Daily N2O fluxes ranged from 8.26 to 86.86 g N2O-N ha−1 d−1. Overall, 34.2% of daily N2O fluxes were attributed to nitrification, 29.0% to denitrification and 36.8% to a mixture of both. A significant diversity effect of white clover and ribwort plantain on predicted SP and δ15Nbulk indicated that the inclusion of ribwort plantain may decrease N2O emission through biological nitrification inhibition under drier soil conditions (31%–75% WFPS). Likewise, a sharp decline in predicted SP indicates that increased white clover content could increase N2O emissions associated with denitrification under elevated soil moisture conditions (43%–77% WFPS). Biological nitrification inhibition from ribwort plantain inclusion in grassland swards and management of N fertiliser source and application timing to match soil moisture conditions could be useful N2O mitigation strategies.