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Effects of fertilizer placement on trace gas emissions from nursery container production

Marble, S. Christopher, Prior, Stephen A., Runion, G. Brett, Torbert, H. Allan, Gilliam, Charles H., Fain, Glenn B., Sibley, Jeff L., Knight, Patricia R.
Hortscience 2012 v.47 no.8 pp. 1056
carbon dioxide, container-grown plants, crop production, fertilizer application, fertilizers, gas emissions, greenhouse gases, methane, methane production, nitrous oxide, plant containers, plant nurseries, risk reduction, top dressings
Increased trace gas emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) are widely believed to be a primary cause of global warming. Agriculture is a large contributor to these emissions; however, its role in climate change is unique in that it can act as a source of trace gas emissions or it can act as a major sink. Furthermore, agriculture can significantly reduce emissions through changes in production management practices. Much of the research on agriculture’s role in mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been conducted in row crops and pastures as well as forestry and animal production systems with little focus on contributions from specialty crop industries such as horticulture. Our objective was to determine efflux patterns of CO2, CH4, and N2O associated with three different fertilization methods (dibble, incorporated, and topdressed) commonly used in nursery container production. Weekly measurements indicated that CO2 fluxes were slightly lower when fertilizer was dibbled compared with the other two methods. Nitrous oxide fluxes were consistently highest when fertilizer was incorporated. Methane flux was generally low with few differences among treatments. Results from this study begin to provide data that can be used to implement mitigation strategies in container plant production, which will help growers adapt to possible emission regulations and benefit from future GHG mitigation or offset programs.