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DAFM Award

DAFM National Call 2011 11 S 138 Teagasc (UCD, AFBI) €640,177

Project Title:

Sustainable nitrogen fertiliser Use and Disaggregated Emissions of Nitrogen

Project Coordinator:

Dr. Karl Richards

Project Abstract

Fertiliser use is the largest variable cost on Irish farms, currently accounting for over €400m annually. Nitrogen fertiliser is the critical nutrient limiting crop growth. It is also an important source of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, which accounts for 15% of total Irish agricultural emissions. The dominant N fertiliser used in Ireland is Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN). Increasing nitrogen use efficiency is an important factor for achieving the Food Harvest 2020 targets to ensure sustainability, both financially and environmentally. Under wet temperate Irish conditions, CAN fertiliser may increase annual greenhouse gas emissions three fold compared to urea. Switching from CAN to urea fertiliser reduces on farm costs but may result in reduced yields due to ammonia volatilization. Urea amended with the urease inhibitor Agrotain can decrease ammonia emissions by up to 70%, resulting in similar yield responses to CAN. In addition, using a nitrification inhibitor could further increase yields and reduce nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing national CAN use by 36%, by substitution with urea and inhibitors, could ultimately save Irish farmers €9.5m annually. This represents a win-win solution in reducing fertiliser costs, greenhouse gas emissions and lowering the farm carbon footprint. This proposal focuses on assessing the potential of replacing CAN with urea fertiliser (with inhibitors) to: 1. Reduce direct farm costs 2. Lower nitrogen emissions to the environment 3. Maintain or increase grassland and spring barley productivity on a range of soil types/climates in Ireland. The project will: 1. Establish the relationship between the rate and form of nitrogen fertiliser applied; 2. Establish the effect this relationship has on yield and N losses; 3. Assess the cost implications of the fertiliser strategies; 4. Provide essential information to support the sustainable expansion of the grassland and tillage sectors.

Final Report:

11 S 138 Final Report (pdf 622Kb)