Ammonia volatilization from intensively managed dairy pastures

D.W. Bussink

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    <br/>The objectives of this thesis are (i) to quantify NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> volatilization from grassland, (ii) to gain understanding of the NH3 volatilization processes on grassland and (iii) to study measures how to reduce NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> volatilization from grassland as such and on farm scale. Volatilization of NH3 was studied of N fertilized grassland under grazing by dairy cows, of mown N fertilized grassland during regrowth and of cattle slurry application.<p>Grazed pastures on a loamy soil showed large variations in NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> emissions between individual cuts. Rainfall and sward management affected NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> volatilization rate. There was not much difference in NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> emissions between years. At a N fertilizer rate of 550 kg ha <sup><font size="-2">-1</font></SUP>yr <sup><font size="-2">-1</font></SUP>, NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> losses were 8.5%, 7.7% and 6.9% in 1987, 1988 and 1990, respectively, of the N returned to the sward in urine and faeces. At 250 kg N ha <sup><font size="-2">-1</font></SUP>yr <sup><font size="-2">-1</font></SUP>they were 3.1 % and 3.3 % in 1988 and 1990, respectively. Whole season measurements are required to obtain reliable data on NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> volatilization. Volatilization of NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> was related to N excretion and N application rate. A calculation model was developed to estimate NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> volatilization from N application rate. Measurements on the same soil showed that a mown-only sward released NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> during a few days after fertilization with calcium nitrate (100 kg N ha <sup><font size="-2">-1</font></SUP>). Thereafter a net uptake was observed until harvest. On average a net uptake of aerial NH3 was measured of a few kg N ha <sup><font size="-2">-1</font></SUP>per regrowth period. The measured NH3 fluxes were much greater during the day than during the night. The NH3 compensation point (on average 14 μg NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> -N m <sup><font size="-2">-3</font></SUP>) could be related to grass N content and soil water content. It is suggested that on grazed swards reabsorption of emitted NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> from urine and dung spots is important. Because of this micrometeorological techniques are required to determine NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> losses from grazed swards.<p>Urea (U) fertilizers may emit NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> whereas calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) fertilizers may emit N <sub><font size="-2">2</font></sub> O or may be susceptible for nitrate leaching. Agronomic trials in the Netherlands (NL) confirmed the superiority of CAN to urea, whereas in the UK and Ireland U was effective as CAN, especially in the first cut. It was proved that especially the higher amount of rainfall in the UK and Ireland compared to NL caused the observed differences. Optimizing herbage yield, thereby minimizing N losses may be the best approach to decide which fertilizer to use. A calculation model was developed to improve decision analysis whether to use U or CAN. Under prevailing NL conditions for the first and second cut, it is only once every 5 and 7 years profitable to use U instead of CAN.<p>Acidification of cattle slurry with nitric acid resulted in marked reductions in NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> emissions. Micrometeorological. experiments showed reductions of on average 85, 72 and 55% for acidified slurry with pH values of 4.5, 5.0 and 6.0, respectively. The measured losses could be related to temperature, slurry pH, potential water evaporation and NH<font size="-2"><sup>+</SUP><sub>4</sub></font>concentration. It was possible to calculate which pH would be required to obtain a certain reduction in NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> emission.<p>Losses of NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> occur during slurry application, housing, slurry storage, grazing, fertilizer application and from crops, in descending order of importance. The main strategies to reduce potential NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> loss are lowering the excretion of urea with urine and/or reducing the rate of NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> from slurry loss by technical means. However, reducing NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> loss may increase other N losses. To prevent this a farm scale approach is required. Modelling showed great scope for reducing NH <sub><font size="-2">3</font></sub> 3 losses and N budget surpluses on dairy farms by improved management.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • 't Mannetje, L., Promotor, External person
    Award date11 Dec 1996
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789054856290
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


    • air pollution
    • ammonia
    • emission
    • volatilization
    • grasslands
    • dairy cattle
    • dairy farming
    • nitrogen fertilizers
    • slurries
    • farmyard manure

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