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Nitrogen fertilization but not soil tillage affects nitrous oxide emissions from a clay loam soil under a maize-soybean rotation

Pelster, D.E., Larouche, F., Rochette, P., Chantigny, M.H., Allaire, S., Angers, D.A. (2011). Nitrogen fertilization but not soil tillage affects nitrous oxide emissions from a clay loam soil under a maize-soybean rotation, 115-116 16-26.


Conversion of agricultural systems from conventional to no tillage practices usually increases soil carbon storage. However, adoption of no tillage may increase emissions of N2O, a very potent greenhouse gas. The objective of the study was to determine the effects of tillage (mouldboard plough [MP] and no-tillage [NT]) and three mineral N application rates (0, 80 and 160kgNha-1) on annual and biennial (2004-2005) N2O fluxes. The experiment was organized using a split-plot design using tillage as the main plots and fertilizer rates as the sub-plot. The site was an artificially drained and therefore well structured humic gleysol near Montreal QC, on a maize (Zea mays L.)-soybean (Glycine max L.) rotation. Emissions (April-November) ranged from 1.0 to 2.5kgN2O-Nha-1. Throughout both years tillage had no effect (P>0.05) on N2O emissions. During 2004, under maize cultivation, N2O emissions increased with the N fertilization rate (P<0.001). Between 0.9 and 1.3% of applied fertilizer N was lost as N2O-N, similar to the IPCC estimate of 1%. There was also no significant interaction between tillage and N fertilization rate on N2O emissions during either year (P=0.79). During the second year, under soybean cultivation, no N fertilizer was applied. As N2O emissions from the different fertilizer treatments were similar (P=0.99), we concluded that there was no carry-over effect of the fertilization applied to maize in the previous year. Yield-based N2O emissions were similar between the different tillage types (P=0.63 and 0.12 for 2004 and 2005, respectively) and fertilization rates (P=0.30 and 0.84 for 2004 and 2005, respectively) and ranged from 17.0 to 22.7gN2O-Nkg-1 N export in 2004 and 6.6 to 12.8gN2O-Nkg-1 N export in 2005. Overall our results indicate that for this well-drained soil: (i) N fertilizer applications increased N2O emissions, supporting the use of IPCC-type emission factors; and (ii) soil tillage and the tillage-fertilization interaction had no measurable effect, consistent with previous reports that tillage of well-aerated agricultural soils has little effect on N2O emissions. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

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