Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 97–107 | Cite as

Relationship between soil profile accumulation and surface emission of N2O: effects of soil moisture and fertilizer nitrogen

  • Wennong Kuang
  • Xiaopeng GaoEmail author
  • Mario Tenuta
  • Dongwei Gui
  • Fanjiang Zeng
Original Paper


A soil column experiment was conducted to examine the effects of fertilizer N source and depth of placement on soil profile N2O accumulation and surface emissions at 44% and 77% water-filled pore space (WFPS). The used N fertilizers were polymer-coated urea, stabilized urea with urease and nitrification inhibitors, and conventional granular urea. Conventional urea and stabilized urea were applied either uniformly at 0–65 cm or deeply at a 40- to 65-cm depth of 65 cm repacked soil columns, whereas polymer-coated urea was subsurface banded at a 10-cm depth to reflect fertilizer application practices at a field scale. Profile N2O concentrations at 5, 15, 30, and 60 cm and surface flux were monitored over 3 months. Compared to conventional urea, stabilized urea and polymer-coated urea generally reduced N2O accumulation in the column, but not cumulative emissions. Across fertilizer sources, compared with uniform addition, deep placement reduced column N2O accumulation at 44% but not at 77% WFPS. Deep placement also reduced emissions 56–71% than for uniform placement. Column N2O accumulation doubled at 77% than 44% WFPS, whereas cumulative emissions and applied N–based emission factors were lower at the former WFPS value. Cumulative N2O emissions increased exponentially with total accumulation at 44% but not 77% WFPS. Reduced N2O emissions at high WFPS were likely due to consumption and low diffusivity of the gas in the soil profile, rather than low production by denitrification. These results suggest fertilizer N leached down the profile is less prone to N2O loss while emission reductions by using more efficient fertilizers may be limited.


Denitrification WFPS Deep placement Enhanced efficiency fertilizers N2O concentration Emission factor 



We thank Nutrien Ltd. and Koch Fertilizer Ltd. for providing polymer-coated urea and stabilized urea used in this study. The assistance of Zhiwen Ma on gas sampling is greatly appreciated.

Funding information

This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31570002, 31870499), the China 1000 Talent Program (Y472171), and China Scholarship Council (201704910732).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  2. 2.Cele National Station of Observation and Research for Desert-Grassland Ecosystem, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesCeleChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.Department of Soil ScienceUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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