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Alternatives to regular urea for abating N losses in lettuce production under sub-tropical climate

Cantú, R.R., Aita, C., Doneda, A., Giacomini, D.A., Dessbesell, A., Arenhardt, M., De Bastiani, G.G., Pujol, S.B., Rochette, P., Chantigny, M.H., Giacomini, S.J. (2017). Alternatives to regular urea for abating N losses in lettuce production under sub-tropical climate, 53(6), 589-599.


© 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Alternative fertilization practices are needed for reducing gaseous and leaching N losses at high urea application rates. The objective of this study was to compare gaseous N emissions (N2O and NH3) and NO3− concentrations in the soil solution during two successive lettuce cropping seasons under contrasting fertilization practices. Treatments were fertilization with regular urea (U), urea treated with urease [N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT)] and nitrification [dicyandiamide (DCD)] inhibitors (UIs), non-acidified pig slurry compost (PSC), acidified pig slurry compost (APSC), and an unfertilized control (C). Acidification of pig slurry during composting had no impact on soil cumulative N2O emissions during the cropping seasons. The use of composts resulted in emission factors (EFs) (PSC, 0.09% of applied N; APSC, 0.16%) an order of magnitude smaller than with regular urea (1.63%). Similarly, adding NBPT and DCD to urea reduced the N2O EF from 1.63 to 0.37% of applied N and fertilizer-induced NH3 emissions from 30.2 to 3.4% of applied N. Composts and UI resulted in yield-scaled N2O emissions that were 33 to 49% lower than the unfertilized control and 64 to 73% lower than the regular urea estimates, indicating a greater efficiency of supplied N with composts and UI. Nitrate concentration of the soil solution (at 0.1 and 0.3 m) in PSC, APSC, and UI plots was similar to the control and up to 17 times lower than with regular urea, indicating reduced risks for leaching losses. We conclude that, as compared to regular urea, the use of composted pig slurry, with and without acidification, and the addition of NBPT and DCD inhibitors to urea are good practices to reduce environmental N losses from lettuce production under sub-tropical climate.

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