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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Research Project #415081


Location: Soil and Water Management Research

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
This project will integrate research, education, and extension activities to address the Measurement/Monitoring and Mitigation Priorities of the Air Quality Program via the following inter-related objectives: 1. Develop improved methods and protocols for monitoring direct and indirect N2O emissions from fertilized soils including a mobile on-site Nitrogen Emissions Laboratory; 2. Quantify the effectiveness of alternative agricultural management practices for mitigating N2O emissions and related N losses using the above protocols; and 3. Disseminate information obtained from the above activities to non-scientific stakeholders that encourages improved management practices to reduce impacts on air quality. Outputs from the project include: Objective 1. Error analysis tools including chamber dynamics models will be developed that allow scientists engaged in N2O, NH3, and other trace gas research to evaluate and improve methods. Documentation of method protocols and description of the NEL in the scientific literature will encourage the development of similar procedures and facilitate on-field collaboration with farmers and commodity groups. Target date to completion: Week 32. Objective 2. The experimental data will generate improved estimates of time-integrated total N2O emissions for specific site management regimes including potential mitigation strategies. These data will be useful to farmers, fertilizer and agricultural equipment manufacturers, local conservation officials, state and federal environmental officials, and policy makers. The monitoring efforts will also provide unique data sets of interest to scientists and will provide improved understanding of process controls over key mechanisms of N loss, which in turn will allow testing and refinement of process models of N2O emissions from agricultural systems. Target date to completion: Week 48. Objective 3. Results will be used to generate information tools that will be disseminated via formal programs of the University of Minnesota Extension Service and via the web, including: A. A series of educational bulletins written in concise, layman's terms which will provide an overview of the environmental impacts of off-site N losses, (ii) the capabilities of the mobile, on-site Nitrogen Emissions Laboratory (NEL), and (iii) the basic principles of fertilizer N management, with focus on minimizing gaseous N emissions as well as overall N losses. Target date to completion: Week 48. B. A web-based nutrient management calculator for agricultural producers will be developed. The calculator will be based upon current University of Minnesota Extension Service recommendations and supplemented with information regarding N gas emissions and losses generated from this study. Users will be prompted to input basic information including crop, soil type, location, other management factors such as irrigation, rotation, and method, timing and chemical form of fertilizer applications. Target date to completion: Week 48.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Objective 1: Methods for determining soil-to-atmosphere fluxes of N2O and NH3 will be evaluated and improved using laboratory and field tests and by comparison of data to chamber dynamics models. A comprehensive monitoring system for quantifying direct and indirect sources of N2O emissions will be established by integrating existing capabilities with newly developed methods. A mobile on-site Nitrogen Emissions Laboratory (NEL) which can be efficiently moved from site to site will be enhanced and implemented. Objective 2: The methods and protocols established in Objective 1 will be applied to field experiment studies at multiple contrasting site locations where specific practices for reducing total N2O emissions will be compared with conventional management. Use of the same measurement methods across all sites will also increase the validity of the data. The treatments described below have been identified after consultation with Stakeholder Advisory Board members. Additional treatment details (e.g. N application rates and timing) as well as additional possible treatments (e.g. use of manure-based fertilizers) will be determined after further consultation with the Board prior to initiating experiments at each site. Objective 3: A key aim of the project is to disseminate practical information to agricultural producers, industry, conservation officials and others who will ultimately benefit from the research. In addition to input that the Stakeholder Advisory Board has already had on this proposal, their input will continue through meetings and interactions to assist in the development of information tools. Technology transfer will also be expedited by University of Minnesota professors with substantial experience in Extension service and collaboration with farmers and commodity groups. We will also involve the graduate student in these interactions in order to provide extension experience which often is lacking or difficult to incorporate into graduate studies. To assist in the development of information products described below and to identify other potential issues to be addressed, a survey of current N management practices and information needs among agricultural producers across the state of Minnesota will be conducted. University of Minnesota Extension Service personnel with expertise in surveys will design and conduct the survey. Initial input into the survey design will be provided by the Advisory Board. The survey will help to identify potential users of the information, to generate mailing lists, and to assess preferences for web-based versus printed material. The survey will also collect information such as: current N fertilizer management practices with respect to application rates (lbs/acre), timing (fall or spring, single or multiple applications), method (surface or subsurface), and chemical form; impacts of increased fertilizer costs on practices; general concerns about N management and losses; interest in information regarding methods for minimizing N losses.

3. Progress Report:
Two field studies initiated in 2011 were repeated for a second growing season in 2012: (i) one experiment in a tile-drained soil in Lamberton, MN examining fertilizer source and drainage management effects on nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching, and (ii) one experiment in a naturally-drained, moderately textured soil in St. Paul, MN examining effects of fertilizer source and application method on nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions. The St. Paul study is utilizing the on-site gas emissions laboratory and automated trace gas flux measuring system previously developed under the project. One manuscript, currently being prepared is planned to be submitted before the end of the fiscal year 2012 which describes results of a 2-yr study of fertilizer source effects on nitrous oxide emissions, nitrate leaching, grain yields, and nitrogen use efficiency in a coarse-textured soil both with and without irrigation. This progress contributes to meeting Objective 3 of our NP212 Project Plan which is to “Enable reduced nitrous oxide emissions from fertilized cropping systems through improved understanding of controlling mechanisms, as a contributor to the ARS Greenhouse Gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement network (GRACEnet).”

4. Accomplishments