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Scenario analysis of fertilizer management practices for N2O mitigation from corn systems in Canada

Abalos, Diego; Smith, Ward N; Grant, Brian B; Drury, Craig F; MacKell, Sarah; Wagner-Riddle, Claudia 2016. Scenario analysis of fertilizer management practices for N2O mitigation from corn systems in Canada. Science of The Total Environment. 573: 356-365.

Abstract

� 2016 Elsevier B.V. Effective management of nitrogen (N) fertilizer application by farmers provides great potential for reducing emissions of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). However, such potential is rarely achieved because our understanding of what practices (or combination of practices) lead to N2O reductions without compromising crop yields remains far from complete. Using scenario analysis with the process-based model DNDC, this study explored the effects of nine fertilizer practices on N2O emissions and crop yields from two corn production systems in Canada. The scenarios differed in: timing of fertilizer application, fertilizer rate, number of applications, fertilizer type, method of application and use of nitrification/urease inhibitors. Statistical analysis showed that during the initial calibration and validation stages the simulated results had no significant total error or bias compared to measured values, yet grain yield estimations warrant further model improvement. Sidedress fertilizer applications reduced yield-scaled N2O emissions by c. 60% compared to fall fertilization. Nitrification inhibitors further reduced yield-scaled N2O emissions by c. 10%; urease inhibitors had no effect on either N2O emissions or crop productivity. The combined adoption of split fertilizer application with inhibitors at a rate 10% lower than the conventional application rate (i.e. 150�kg�N�ha−�1) was successful, but the benefits were lower than those achieved with single fertilization at sidedress. Our study provides a comprehensive assessment of fertilizer management practices that enables policy development regarding N2O mitigation from agricultural soils in Canada.

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