Greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from soil: the effect of organic matter and fertilisation method

Published by: Italian Journal of Agronomy


Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere derived from the use of fertilisers is a
serious issue for the sustainability of agricultural systems, also considering that the growing
global demand for food requires an increasingly productive agriculture. Emissions dynamics
are very variable and are determined by many factors and their reciprocal interactions.
Among driving factors, soil type (mineral, organic and microbiological composition),
fertilisation method, climate, and the cropping system. In the present experiment, the
combined effect of soil organic matter (SOM) and fertilisation method on the emissions of
GHGs and ammonia (NH3) was investigated. Liquid fraction of digestate from pig slurries,
compost from organic fraction of municipal solid wastes, and urea were applied on bare soil
with two levels of organic matter (OM1: 1.3% and OM2: 4.3%). Emissions were directly
monitored by a static chamber system and a portable gas analyser. Results show that soil
organic matter as well as the composition of the fertilisers affect greenhouse gasses
emissions. Emissions of methane (CH4) produced by digestate and compost during
experimental period were higher in correspondence of lower organic matter content (0.58 –
0.49 kg CH4 C/ha/ day and 0.37 – 0.32 kg CH4 C/ha/day for digestate and compost
respectively), contrary to what was observed for urea. For all fertilisers, carbon dioxide (CO2)
and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions were higher in correspondence of higher organic matter
level. In particular, CO2 emissions were 11.05%, 67.48% and 82.84% higher in OM2 than
OM1 for digestate, urea and compost respectively. Likewise, N2O emissions were 87.45%,
68.97% and 92.11% higher in OM2 than OM1 for digestate, urea and compost respectively.
The obtained results show that the content of organic matter in soils plays a key role on the
emissions of GHGs, generally enhancing the levels of gas emissions.