Cropping is expanding in the southern Australian high rainfall zone, with an increasing proportion of land being converted from pasture to cereals. This change in land use can have significant ramifications for greenhouse gas emissions: soils under grass and clover pasture typically have high levels of fixed nitrogen which breaks down and is lost as NO when the soil is prepared for cropping.
To reduce these emissions, it is important to provide farmers with management options that minimise the loss of NO from the soil without reducing productivity.
The research team are evaluating the effect of different management options on NO emissions from soil:
In the first experiment, a legume-rich pasture was sprayed out and planted (April 2010) with winter wheat by either direct drilling or sowing into cultivated soil. Half the area was also sprayed with DCD. Automatic gas collection chambers sited across the experimental plots monitored the NO gas losses from February 2010 to February 2011.
Cumulative NO emissions across all treatments in the first year was 35 kg nitrogen per hectare - a relatively high level of emissions even by international standards. The high level of NO was most likely the result of a combination of factors:
The research team are now repeating the experiment at an adjacent site. The results of the project will be communicated to government, policy makers and scientists through scientific and conference papers, and to the farming community through field days, workshops and a series of best management practice recommendations.
The project will result in options for practice change in the farming community that reduce emissions and provide information to inform models such as the National Carbon Accounting System for industry and government decision makers.
This project was part of the national Nitrous Oxide Research Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry under its Australia’s Farming Future Climate Change Research Program.
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