The effect of crop rotation and soil amendments on soil N bioavailability and N2O emissions
The majority of N2O emissions result from bacterial denitrification and to a lesser extent nitrification, occurring in agricultural soils. Therefore, the overall N economy of a system, along with soluble C and limited O2 are the key drivers in the release of N2O. Crop rotations and soil amendments readily add to or deplete the soil N economy depending on the C:N ratio of the biomass returned to the field. This paper synthesizes the results of three varied studies to further elucidate the role of management on key drivers of N2O release. Study one examined how N2O emissions during potato production are influenced by choice of preceding crop in two-year potato rotations. There was a significant effect of preceding crop (PC) on cumulative growing season N2O emissions from the potato crop. Preceding crops of red clover and Italian ryegrass (average of 1.7 kg N2O-N ha-1) produced significantly higher cumulative N2O emissions when compared to preceding crops of corn, canola, soybean, barley and potato (average of 0.8 kg N2O-N ha-1). A second study on potatoes conducted by Lynch et al. (2009) using Plant Root Simulator (PRS)™-probes found that a PC containing red clover increased soil N supply rates compared to a PC containing pea-oat-vetch. This increase in PRS™–N supply rates was associated with increased N2O emission during the five-year potato rotation. The use of by-products from biofuel processing as soil amendments and N2O emissions during canola production was assessed by Schoenau et al. (2009). Wet distillers’ grain and thin stillage resulted in the greatest N2O production compared with soil amendments of alfalfa powder and glycerol. PRS™–N supply rates were closely linked with these patterns of N2O emissions. These results suggest that selection of rotation crops and soil amendments can have significant effects on N2O emissions as affected by soil N bioavailability.
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