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

Science Profile - Dr Cecile de Klein

Cecile’s Journey from the Sports Field to the Kiwi Farm Paddock

Dr Cecile De Klein was captain of the Dutch women’s rugby team which reached the semi-finals of the Plate competition at the 1991 Women’s World Cup.

Away from the sports field, her career path led her to become an internationally-recognised expert on nitrous oxide emissions from soils, and co-leader of the NZAGRC’s Plant’s and Greenhouse Gases research programme.

Born and educated in The Netherlands, Cecile’s academic interest was initially in biology at the University of Utrecht, from there she branched out to study landscape ecology and agricultural science.

The environmental impact of agriculture was a particular area of study, working with a group of farmers on effluent. “We helped them define problems or pressure points and what they could do to improve how they use their effluent,” says Cecile.

That became a joint PhD project with the Netherlands’ agricultural university in Wageningen, in which Cecile studied nitrous oxide and the way nitrogen cycles through the soil, contributing to greenhouse gases.

Following a postdoc in Cambridge, UK, she came to New Zealand in 1995 and took a position with AgResearch along with her Kiwi husband, scientist Ross Monaghan.

Cecile’s international reputation meant she led an international Global Research Alliance project on developing guidelines for measuring N2O emissions using chamber methodologies and was New Zealand’s representative on the international panel to review the IPCC inventory methodology for estimating N2O emissions.

“The GRA project involved bringing together N2O experts from across the globe, to write a guideline document on the chamber methodology for measuring N2O emissions from soil,” says Cecile.

“We started with a workshop in Lincoln where we agreed the outline for the guidelines and who would lead the different chapters. Mike Harvey (from NIWA) and myself were editors as well as co-authors on some of the chapters. The guidelines are available on the GRA website.”

“We are currently working on a revision of the guidelines and have managed to get agreement with a scientific journal (Journal of Environmental Quality) to get the revision published as an open access special issue of the journal.”

Prior to the setting up of the NZAGRC, Cecile was already working on nitrous oxide emissions, conducting many trials on emissions from animal urine to help improve the NZ GHG inventory methodology.

This was largely funded by MPI and coordinated through NzOnet, the national nitrous oxide research network. She was also leading phase 1 of the P21 programme: Delivering Environmental Solutions for Sustainable Productivity Outcomes for New Zealand’s Pastoral Industries.

Now, as a Principal Investigator for the NZAGRC, she leads a research programme focused on measuring the effects of pasture plants and pasture plant communities on nitrous oxide emissions.

She says “the research is showing that there is no easy answer to the nitrous oxide challenge. There is no silver bullet that can help us meet the multiple, often contrasting, economic social and environmental goals. A multi-pronged approach is required and collaboration/co-development with all stakeholders is critical. Work through NzOnet has also highlighted the value of collaboration with MPI and across science providers.”

Particular priorities at present include investigating plant traits (e.g. plantain) for low GHG emissions, mitigation practices to reduce nitrous oxide at paddock scale and the use of inhibitors.

Overall, Cecile is convinced continuing research into nitrous oxide mitigation could prove fruitful as part of New Zealand’s efforts to achieve GHG reductions, and is likely to produce co-benefits from N2O mitigation minimising the loss of nitrates into waterways.

Outside of work, Dunedin-based Cecile’s interests include walking and tramping with husband Ross and son Ben, singing in a rock choir and contributing to the local school community.


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