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Nitrous Oxide Emissions Increase Exponentially When Optimum Nitrogen Fertilizer Rates Are Exceeded in the North China Plain

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journal contribution
posted on 17.10.2018, 00:00 authored by Xiaotong Song, Min Liu, Xiaotang Ju, Bing Gao, Fang Su, Xinping Chen, Robert M Rees
The IPCC assume a linear relationship between nitrogen (N) application rate and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in inventory reporting, however, a growing number of studies show a nonlinear relationship under specific soil-climatic conditions. In the North China plain, a global hotspot of N2O emissions, covering a land as large as Germany, the correlation between N rate and N2O emissions remains unclear. We have therefore specifically investigated the N2O response to N applications by conducting field experiments with five N rates, and high-frequency measurements of N2O emissions across contrasting climatic years. Our results showed that cumulative and yield-scaled N2O emissions both increased exponentially as N applications were raised above the optimum rate in maize (Zea mays L.). In wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) there was a corresponding quadratic increase in N2O emissions with the magnitude of the response in 2012–2013 distinctly larger than that in 2013–2014 owing to the effects of extreme snowfall. Existing empirical models (including the IPCC approach) of the N2O response to N rate have overestimated N2O emissions in the North China plain, even at high N rates. Our study therefore provides a new and robust analysis of the effects of fertilizer rate and climatic conditions on N2O emissions.