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Decreasing ammonia loss from an Australian pasture with the use of enhanced efficiency fertilizers

Lam, Shu Kee, Suter, Helen, Bai, Mei, Walker, Charlie, Mosier, Arvin R., van Grinsven, Hans, Chen, Deli
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2019 v.283 pp. 106553
European Union, ammonia, autumn, cost effectiveness, environmental sustainability, farmers, fertilizer technology, field experimentation, pastures, polymer-coated urea, spring, urea, urease inhibitors, volatilization, Australia
Mitigating ammonia (NH3) volatilization from intensive pasture systems is critical for environmental sustainability. However, field-scale evaluation on the potential of enhanced efficiency fertilizers (e.g. urease inhibitors and controlled-release fertilizers) in mitigating NH3 volatilization is limited. Using a micrometeorological technique, we conducted two field trials to investigate the effects of Green UreaNV® (urea coated with the urease inhibitor N-(n-butyl)thiophosphoric triamide, NBPT) and polymer-coated urea (a controlled-release fertilizer) on NH3 volatilization from an intensive rainfed pasture in southern Australia. We found that NH3 volatilization from urea was 5.8 and 5.6 kg N ha–1, respectively, in the autumn and spring trials, equivalent to 11–12% of the applied urea in each season. The use of Green UreaNV® and polymer-coated urea decreased the cumulative NH3 volatilization by 45–55% and 80%, respectively. Taking into consideration the high environmental damage cost of NH3 as found in the European Union, we hypothesize that both Green UreaNV® and polymer-coated urea can be cost-effective in mitigating NH3 loss from this pasture. Our findings suggest that the extra cost of using these enhanced efficiency fertilizers for farmers is not compensated by the fertilizer N value of decreased NH3 loss. However, from a societal perspective the extra cost for Green UreaNV® is likely outweighed by reduced environmental cost of NH3. New fertilizer technology should be developed to improve the cost-effectiveness of polymer-coated urea to the farmers.