Nitrous Oxide

Current research programme

The current focus of the NZAGRC’s nitrous oxide (N2O) research programme is on measuring the effects pasture plants and pasture plant communities have on nitrous oxide emissions.

This work is closely aligned to the MBIE P21 and Forages for Nitrate Leaching programmes (FRNL). In addition, an investigative project on a technology to locate and treat urine patches was completed in 2015/16.

Learn more about:

Principal investigators

Dr Cecile de Klein, AgResearch
Professor Hong Di, Lincoln University

Research Stories

Wide variation in nitrification activity in soil associated with different forage plant cultivars and genotypes

Bowatte, S., Newton, P. C. D., Hoogendoorn, C. J., Hume, D. E., Stewart, A. V., Brock, S. C. and Theobald, P. W. (2016), Wide variation in nitrification activity in soil associated with different forage plant cultivars and genotypes. Grass Forage Sci, 71: 160–171. doi:10.1111/gfs.12175

There is a growing interest in using plants to manipulate the nitrification rate in soils with the object of reducing losses of nitrogen from the soil–plant system – lower rates of nitrification being associated with reduced leaching of nitrate and reduced emissions of nitrous oxide. Here we screened the potential nitrification rate in soil associated with 126 cultivars from 26 species representing three functional groups used in temperate managed grassland. Plants were grown in pots, and the nitrification was measured using two approaches: (i) a measure of potential nitrification carried out in the laboratory on soil samples and (ii) a measure of nitrification in the presence of the growing plants using the ratio of nitrate to ammonium (NO3-/NH4+) measured on in situ ion exchange membranes after the application of urine. There was about a twofold difference among cultivars in nitrification measured using the potential assay and a 10-fold difference using the ratio approach. The ranking of nitrification was different using the two approaches perhaps suggesting that the presence of plants in the ratio approach had an effect on the outcome although further work will be necessary to confirm this. Irrespective of the method used, the results demonstrate substantial differences between cultivars but also within cultivars offering the possibility of selection to enhance plant effects on nitrification.

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