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Optimizing urease inhibitor usage to reduce ammonia emission following urea application over crop residues

Mira, A.B., Cantarella, H., Souza-Netto, G.J.M., Moreira, L.A., Kamogawa, M.Y., Otto, R.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2017 v.248 pp. 105-112
ammonia, ammonium nitrate, colorimetry, emissions, field experimentation, flow injection analysis, foams, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, soil, straw, sugarcane trash, urea, urease, urease inhibitors, volatilization, Brazil
Nitrogen loss as ammonia (NH3) is a major problem when urea is topdressed over crop residues. The treatment of urea with N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT) temporarily inhibits urease activity and reduces NH3 volatilization loss under many agro­ecological conditions. However, the amount of straw on the soil in green sugarcane trash blanketing (GCTB) systems affects the success of NBPT in reducing NH3 loss. We hypothesized that an increase in the NBPT concentration in urea above the current level (530mg NBPT kg−1 urea) in Brazil is necessary to reduce the NH3 volatilization and to improve the efficiency of urea in GCTB systems. We evaluated the NH3 loss from urea treated with NBPT under field conditions in GCTB systems. Six field trials were conducted across the State of São Paulo, the main sugarcane-growing region in Brazil. The treatments were urea, ammonium nitrate, urea treated with NBPT at concentrations of 530, 850, 1500, and 2000mgkg−1, and a control plot without N fertilizer. The amount of volatized NH3 was assessed through a closed semi-static collector containing two acid-trap foam disks, and analyzed by colorimetry using flow injection analysis. NBPT concentrations above 530mgkg−1 delayed the time of maximum rate of loss and also reduced cumulative NH3 loss. Ammonia emissions were linearly reduced with increasing NBPT concentrations until 1000mgkg−1. Any further increase in the NBPT concentration did not result in a substantial reduction of NH3 volatilization. Increasing the NBPT concentration in urea is an effective approach to optimize the adoption of urea-based fertilizers in tropical GCTB systems.