Nitrogen performance indicators for dairy production systems

Cecile A.M. De Klein*, Ross M. Monaghan, Marta A. Alfaro, Cameron J.P. Gourley, Oene Oenema, J. Mark Powell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nitrogen (N) is invaluable for maintaining agricultural production, but its use, and particularly inefficient use, can lead to environmental losses. This paper reviews N use efficiency (NUE) and N surplus indicators for dairy production systems to assess their utility for optimising N use outcomes and minimising environmental N losses. Using case-study examples, we also assess realistic goals for these indicators and discuss key issues associated with their use. Published whole-farm NUE and whole-farm N surplus values ranged within 10-65% and 40-700kg N ha-1 year-1 respectively. In a study of five catchments across New Zealand, whole-farm NUE was more strongly affected by catchment differences in soil and climatic conditions than by differences in management. In contrast, whole-farm N surplus differed both between-and within-catchments and was a good indicator of N losses to water. Realistic goals for both NUE and N surplus thus depend on the agro-climatic context of the dairy system and on its economic and environmental goals. Crop and animal NUE values can be valuable indicators for optimising fertiliser and feed use and minimising N losses. However, global or national whole-farm NUE values appear of limited value if the ultimate goal for setting targets is to reduce the environmental impact of N use; whole-farm level targets based on N surplus would be a more useful indicator for this purpose. Our review also reinforces the importance of standardising the variables that should be used to estimate NUE and N surplus values, to ensure equitable comparisons between different systems. Finally, NUE and N surplus targets should also be set in the context of other agro-environmental considerations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-488
Journal Soil Research
Volume55
Issue number5-6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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surpluses
production system
milk production
production technology
farm
nitrogen
farms
catchment
surplus
indicator
agricultural production
dairies
environmental impact
fertilizer
fertilizers
agriculture
case studies
economics
crop
loss

Keywords

  • animal NUE
  • crop NUE
  • dairy systems
  • nitrogen use efficiency (NUE)
  • whole-farm NUE

Cite this

De Klein, C. A. M., Monaghan, R. M., Alfaro, M. A., Gourley, C. J. P., Oenema, O., & Mark Powell, J. (2017). Nitrogen performance indicators for dairy production systems. Soil Research, 55(5-6), 479-488. https://doi.org/10.1071/SR16349
De Klein, Cecile A.M. ; Monaghan, Ross M. ; Alfaro, Marta A. ; Gourley, Cameron J.P. ; Oenema, Oene ; Mark Powell, J. / Nitrogen performance indicators for dairy production systems. In: Soil Research. 2017 ; Vol. 55, No. 5-6. pp. 479-488.
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De Klein, CAM, Monaghan, RM, Alfaro, MA, Gourley, CJP, Oenema, O & Mark Powell, J 2017, 'Nitrogen performance indicators for dairy production systems', Soil Research, vol. 55, no. 5-6, pp. 479-488. https://doi.org/10.1071/SR16349

Nitrogen performance indicators for dairy production systems. / De Klein, Cecile A.M.; Monaghan, Ross M.; Alfaro, Marta A.; Gourley, Cameron J.P.; Oenema, Oene; Mark Powell, J.

In: Soil Research, Vol. 55, No. 5-6, 2017, p. 479-488.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Nitrogen performance indicators for dairy production systems

AU - De Klein, Cecile A.M.

AU - Monaghan, Ross M.

AU - Alfaro, Marta A.

AU - Gourley, Cameron J.P.

AU - Oenema, Oene

AU - Mark Powell, J.

PY - 2017

Y1 - 2017

N2 - Nitrogen (N) is invaluable for maintaining agricultural production, but its use, and particularly inefficient use, can lead to environmental losses. This paper reviews N use efficiency (NUE) and N surplus indicators for dairy production systems to assess their utility for optimising N use outcomes and minimising environmental N losses. Using case-study examples, we also assess realistic goals for these indicators and discuss key issues associated with their use. Published whole-farm NUE and whole-farm N surplus values ranged within 10-65% and 40-700kg N ha-1 year-1 respectively. In a study of five catchments across New Zealand, whole-farm NUE was more strongly affected by catchment differences in soil and climatic conditions than by differences in management. In contrast, whole-farm N surplus differed both between-and within-catchments and was a good indicator of N losses to water. Realistic goals for both NUE and N surplus thus depend on the agro-climatic context of the dairy system and on its economic and environmental goals. Crop and animal NUE values can be valuable indicators for optimising fertiliser and feed use and minimising N losses. However, global or national whole-farm NUE values appear of limited value if the ultimate goal for setting targets is to reduce the environmental impact of N use; whole-farm level targets based on N surplus would be a more useful indicator for this purpose. Our review also reinforces the importance of standardising the variables that should be used to estimate NUE and N surplus values, to ensure equitable comparisons between different systems. Finally, NUE and N surplus targets should also be set in the context of other agro-environmental considerations.

AB - Nitrogen (N) is invaluable for maintaining agricultural production, but its use, and particularly inefficient use, can lead to environmental losses. This paper reviews N use efficiency (NUE) and N surplus indicators for dairy production systems to assess their utility for optimising N use outcomes and minimising environmental N losses. Using case-study examples, we also assess realistic goals for these indicators and discuss key issues associated with their use. Published whole-farm NUE and whole-farm N surplus values ranged within 10-65% and 40-700kg N ha-1 year-1 respectively. In a study of five catchments across New Zealand, whole-farm NUE was more strongly affected by catchment differences in soil and climatic conditions than by differences in management. In contrast, whole-farm N surplus differed both between-and within-catchments and was a good indicator of N losses to water. Realistic goals for both NUE and N surplus thus depend on the agro-climatic context of the dairy system and on its economic and environmental goals. Crop and animal NUE values can be valuable indicators for optimising fertiliser and feed use and minimising N losses. However, global or national whole-farm NUE values appear of limited value if the ultimate goal for setting targets is to reduce the environmental impact of N use; whole-farm level targets based on N surplus would be a more useful indicator for this purpose. Our review also reinforces the importance of standardising the variables that should be used to estimate NUE and N surplus values, to ensure equitable comparisons between different systems. Finally, NUE and N surplus targets should also be set in the context of other agro-environmental considerations.

KW - animal NUE

KW - crop NUE

KW - dairy systems

KW - nitrogen use efficiency (NUE)

KW - whole-farm NUE

U2 - 10.1071/SR16349

DO - 10.1071/SR16349

M3 - Article

VL - 55

SP - 479

EP - 488

JO - Soil Research

JF - Soil Research

SN - 1838-675X

IS - 5-6

ER -

De Klein CAM, Monaghan RM, Alfaro MA, Gourley CJP, Oenema O, Mark Powell J. Nitrogen performance indicators for dairy production systems. Soil Research. 2017;55(5-6):479-488. https://doi.org/10.1071/SR16349