EGU General Assembly 2021
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the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Applying slurry with different techniques in spring – which pathway does the nitrogen take?

Caroline Buchen-Tschiskale, Heinz Flessa, and Reinhard Well
Caroline Buchen-Tschiskale et al.
  • Thünen-Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture, Braunschweig, Germany (

One of the most important measures to reduce ammonia (NH3) and nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes from crop production is the adoption of low-emission application techniques for slurry. Application techniques may also impact dinitrogen (N2) emission, as they can influence denitrification activity by changing slurry and soil aeration (e.g. by injection techniques), nitrate formation (e.g. by adding nitrification inhibitors) and the pH value (e.g. by slurry acidification). However, measuring N2 emissions and following pathways of slurry nitrogen (N) transformation under field conditions is still challenging.

Thus, we set up a field experiment using undisturbed soil cores with growing winter wheat as small lysimeters. Cattle slurry treatments include the following application techniques: trailing hose with and without acidification (H2SO4), slot injection with and without nitrification inhibitor (DMPP). Soil cores without slurry application were used as control. In a first step, soil nitrate was 15N labelled by homogeneous injection of a K15NO3 solution (98 at% 15N, equal to 4 kg N ha-1). One week later, we applied 72 kg N ha-115N-labelled slurry (NH4+ labelled at 65 at% 15N). NH3 emissions were measured by Dräger-Tube method (Pacholski, 2016). N2O and N2 emission were measured using the 15N gas flux method with N2-depleted atmosphere (Well et al., 2018). To close the N balance and follow the different N transformation pathways, 15N losses by leaching, 15N uptake by plant and residual 15N in roots, plant residues, microbial biomass and soil were analysed by IRMS.

N2O emission were very low (up to 0.1 kg N2O-N ha-1) and not significantly different between treatments during the experimental period of 60 days. Since the N2O/(N2+N2O) ratio of denitrification (N2Oi) was also very low, most labelled N was lost via N2 (up to 3 kg N ha-1). Nevertheless, the major gaseous loss pathway was NH3 with up to 8 kg N ha-1 in the trailing hose treatment. Slot injection significantly reduced NH3 emission, while N leaching losses were up 5 kg N ha-1. Recovery of 15N was higher in the soil N pool (32-48 %) than in plants (19-37 %) and roots (5-7 %). Total 15N recovery was almost complete, indicating that the experiment was able to catch the relevant N pathways.


Pacholski, A., 2016. Calibrated passive sampling-multi-plot field measurements of NH3 emissions with a combination of dynamic tube method and passive samplers. Journal of visualized experiments: JoVE 109, e53273.

Well, R., Burkart, S., Giesemann, A., Grosz, B., Köster, J., Lewicka-Szczebak, D., 2018. Improvement of the 15N gas flux method for in situ measurement of soil denitrification and its product stoichiometry. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 33, 437–448.

How to cite: Buchen-Tschiskale, C., Flessa, H., and Well, R.: Applying slurry with different techniques in spring – which pathway does the nitrogen take?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-674,, 2021.

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