Direct tracing of NH 3 and N2O emissions associated with urea fertilization approaches, using static incubation cells

Oz Kira, Avi Shaviv, Yael Dubowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Nitrogen fertilization contributes significantly to crop production globally. However, low efficiency application management approaches lead to substantial N losses of which ammonia and nitrous oxide are known as environmental threats. Urea, the largest N fertilization source globally, is associated with high ammonia losses. A large variety of application modes are practiced under different environmental conditions worldwide. Yet, the complexity of N-processes in different soils, under changing agro-environmental conditions, challenges the evaluation of fertilization approaches efficiency in reducing N-gaseous losses. In this research a simply designed static incubation cell was connected to a Long-Path gas cell and a Fourier Transform IR spectrometer (LP-FTIR), allowing online determination of ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions in parallel to tracking mineral N-dynamics in soil samples. The static chamber was used to evaluate different application approaches of urea (i.e., incorporation or surface application with or without wetting) in a Sandy Loam and to compare surface applied regular urea vs. urea amended with the urease inhibitors NPPT+NBPT [N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide and N-(n-propyl) thiophosphoric triamide, respectively] in four different representative soils. Ammonia emissions peaked few days after application, where highest losses were observed for surface application mode. Highest emissions, up to 5% (w/w) of applied Urea-N, were obtained with the lighter and more basic soils (Sandy Loam and Loess; pH > 7.9). Nitrous oxide emissions showed a lag period of ~1 week and were higher under lower urea application rates, and when nitrification was faster (~1–1.3% (w/w) of applied N). Urease inhibitors significantly reduced ammonia losses in all tested soils and particularly in the Sandy Loam and Loess. Their effect on nitrous oxide losses were observed with the Sandy Loam and particularly after 2 weeks. The static system may underestimate realistic ammonia losses, but it offers a rather simply operated system, providing information about N-gaseous losses for improving N-fertilization management.

Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)75-85
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonia
  • FTIR spectroscopy
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Urease inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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