Soil Research Soil Research Society
Soil, land care and environmental research

Assessment of nitrogen losses from urea and an organic manure with and without nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide, applied to lettuce under glasshouse conditions

Janice Asing A D , S. Saggar B , Jagrati Singh B and Nanthi S. Bolan C

A Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, New Zealand.

B Landcare Research, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

C Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment and Remediation (CERAR), University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Soil Research 46(7) 535-541
Submitted: 27 November 2007  Accepted: 26 May 2008   Published: 8 October 2008


Urea and organic manures such as ‘Garden galore’ (GG) are used to supply nitrogen (N) in vegetable farming and floriculture systems in New Zealand. However, a significant amount of the applied N is lost to the atmosphere via nitrous oxide (N2O) and ammonia (NH3) emissions, and leached to surface and ground water as nitrate (NO3) contributing to environmental degradation such as global warming and eutrophication. One of the mitigation options to reduce these losses is to use nitrification inhibitors (NI).

Glasshouse and laboratory incubation experiments were conducted under controlled moisture and temperature conditions to determine the effects of an NI, dicyandiamide (DCD), on N losses from urea and GG applied to lettuce grown in a Manawatu sandy soil. Nitrogen and DCD were applied at the rates of 9 and 1.3 g/m2, respectively, and the gaseous emission of N2O and NH3 were monitored over a 5-week period using a closed-chamber technique. At the end of the experiment the lettuce plant shoots and roots were harvested, and analysed for N concentration. Soils were leached with deionised water and leachates were analysed for ammonium (NH4+) and NO3.

The results showed greater loss of N as NH3 than N2O and the effect was more pronounced in the case of urea. Addition of DCD significantly reduced N2O emissions from both urea and GG, and increased NH3 emissions from both urea and GG, with the increase being significant only for urea. Addition of DCD maintained higher soil NH4+ concentration and lower NO3 concentration than without DCD. Overall, DCD was effective in reducing N losses of N2O emissions and NO3 leaching. Urea application resulted in shoot tip burning and the symptoms were enhanced with the addition of DCD. There was no significant effect of DCD addition on lettuce yield.

Additional keywords: ammonia, DCD, Garden galore, nitrification inhibitor, nitrate leaching, nitrous oxide, ammonium, nitrate.


Atkinson CJ 1985 Nitrogen acquisition in four coexisting species from an upland acidic grassland. Journal of Plant Physiology 63 375 387 doi:10.1111/j.1399-3054.1985.tb02313.x

Belastegui Macadam XM del Prado A Merino P Estavillo JM Pinto M Gonzalez-Murua C 2003 Dicyandiamide and 3,4-dimethyl pyrazole phosphate decrease N2O emissions from grassland but dicyandiamide produces deleterious effects in clover. Journal of Plant Physiology 160 1517 1523 doi:10.1078/0176-1617-01006

Blacquiere T Hofstra R Stulen I 1987 Ammonium and nitrate nutrition in Plantago lanceolata L. and Plantago major L. ssp. major. III. Nitrogen metabolism. Plant and Soil 104 129 141 doi:10.1007/BF02370635

Blakemore LC , Searle PL , Daly BK (1987) Methods for chemical analysis of soils. New Zealand Soil Bureau Scientific Report No. 80.

Bolan NS Saggar S Luo J Bhandral R Singh J 2004 Gaseous emissions of nitrogen from grazed pastures: processes, measurements and modeling, environmental implications, and mitigation. Advances in Agronomy 84 37 120 doi:10.1016/S0065-2113(04)84002-1

Bouwman AF (1990) Exchange of greenhouse gases between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. In ‘Soils and the greenhouse effect’. (Ed. AF Bouwman) pp. 66–127. (John Wiley & Sons Ltd: Chichester, UK)

Boxman AW Krabbendam H Bellemakers MJS Roelofs JGM 1991 Effects of ammonium and aluminium on the development and nutrition of Pinus nigra in hydroculture. Environmental Pollution 73 119 136 doi:10.1016/0269-7491(91)90018-R

Chaillou S Morot-Gaudry JF Salsac L Lesaint C Jolivet E 1986 Compared effects of NO3 or NH4 + on growth and metabolism of French bean. Physiologie Vegetale 27 679 687

Cookson WR Cornforth IS 2002 Dicyandiamide slows nitrification in dairy cattle urine patches: effects on soil solution composition, soil pH and pasture yield. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 34 1461 1465

Crutzen PJ (1981) Atmospheric chemical process of the oxides of nitrogen including nitrous oxide. In ‘Denitrification, nitrification and atmospheric nitrous oxide’. (Ed. CC Delwiche) pp. 17–44. (John Wiley & Sons: New York)

de Graaf MCC Bobbink R Verbeek PM Roelofs JGM 1998 Differential effects of ammonium and nirate on three healthland species. Plant Ecology 135 185 196 doi:10.1023/A:1009717613380

Di HJ Cameron KC 2002 The use of a nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide (DCD), to decrease nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions in a simulated grazed and irrigated grassland. Soil Use and Management 18 395 403 doi:10.1079/SUM2002151

Di HJ Cameron KC 2003 Mitigation of nitrous oxide emissions in spray-irrigated grazed grassland by treating the soil with dicyandiamide, a nitrification inhibitor. Soil Use and Management 19 284 290 doi:10.1079/SUM2003207

Di HJ Cameron KC 2004 Treating grazed pasture soil with a nitrification inhibitor, eco-nTM, to decrease nitrate leaching in a deep sandy soil under spray irrigation – a lysimeter study. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 47 351 361

Di HJ Cameron KC 2005 Reducing environmental impacts of agriculture by using a fine particle suspension nitrification inhibitor to decrease nitrate leaching from grazed pastures. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 109 202 212

Dobbie KE Smith KA 2003 Impact of different forms of N fertilizer on N2O emissions from intensive grassland. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 67 37 46 doi:10.1023/A:1025119512447

Fox RH Bandel VA 1989 Dicyandiamide (DCD) research in agriculture in the mid-Atlantic region. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 20 1957 1968

Gameh MA Angle JS Axley JH 1990 Effects of urea-potassium chloride and nitrogen transformations on ammonia volatilization from urea. Soil Science Society of America Journal 54 1768 1772

Gioacchini P Nastri A Marzadori C Giovannini C Antisari LV Gessa C 2002 Influence of urease and nitrification inhibitors on N losses from soils fertilized with urea. Biology and Fertility of Soils 36 129 135

Hatch D Trindade H Cardenas L Carneiro J Hawkins J Scholefield D Chadwick D 2005 Laboratory study of the effects of two nitrification inhibitors on greenhouse gas emissions from a slurry-treated arable soil: impact of diurnal temperature cycle. Biology and Fertility of Soils 41 225 232 doi:10.1007/s00374-005-0836-9

Havlin JL , Beaton JD , Tisdale SL , Nelson WL (2005) ‘Soil fertility and fertilisers. An introduction to nutrient management.’ (Prentice Hall: New Jersey)

Hewitt AE (1998) New Zealand soil classification. Landcare Research Science Series 1.

Magalhaes JR Wilcox GE 1984 a Ammonium toxicity development in tomato plants relative to nitrogen form and light intensity. Journal of Plant Nutrition 7 1477 1496

Magalhaes JS Wilcox GE 1984 b Growth, free amino acids, and mineral composition of tomato plants relative to nitrogen form and growing media. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 109 406 411

McKenzie HA Wallace HS 1954 The Kjeldahl determination of nitrogen: A critical study digestion conditions—temperature, catalyst, and oxidizing agent. Australian Journal of Chemistry 7 55 70

Merino P Estavillo JM Graciolli LA Pinto M Lacuesta M Munoz-Rueda A Gonzalez-Murua C 2002 Mitigation of N2O emissions from grassland by nitrification inhibitor and Actilith F2 applied with fertilizer and cattle slurry. Soil Use and Management 18 135 141

Mosier AR Duxbury JM Freney JR Heinemeyer O Minami K 1998 Assessing and mitigating N2O emissions from agricultural soils. Climatic Change 40 7 38

Prakasa Rao EVS Puttanna K 1987 Nitrification and ammonium volatilisation losses from urea and dicyandiamide-treated urea in sandy loam soil. Plant and Soil 97 201 206 doi:10.1007/BF02374942

Prasad R Power JF 1995 Nitrification inhibitors for agriculture, health, and the environment. Advances in Agronomy 54 233 281 doi:10.1016/S0065-2113(08)60901-3

Puttanna K Nanje Gowda NM Prakash R 2001 Regulation of nitrification by benzotriazole, o-Nitrophenol, m-Nitroaniline and dicyandiamide and pattern of NH3 emissions from citronella and field fertilized with urea. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 131 11 17 doi:10.1023/A:1011919007867

Saggar S Andrew RM Tate KR Hedley CB Rodda NJ Townsend JA 2004 Modelling nitrous oxide emissions from dairy-grazed pastures. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 68 243 255 doi:10.1023/B:FRES.0000019463.92440.a3

Saggar S Hedley CB Giltrap DL Lambie SM 2007 Measured and modelled estimates of nitrous oxide emission and methane consumption from a sheep-grazed pasture. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 122 357 365 doi:10.1016/j.agee.2007.02.006

SAS (2003) ‘SAS package.’ (SAS Institute: Cary, NC)

Singh J (2007) The role of inhibitors in mitigating nitrogen losses from cattle urine and nitrogen fertiliser inputs in pastures. Massey University, New Zealand.

Singh J , Bolan N , Saggar S (2003) A method for simultaneous measurement of ammonia volatilization and nitrous oxide emissions from intact soil cores In ‘Applications to agriculture and environmental quality’. Palmerston North, New Zealand. (Eds LD Currie, JA Hanly) pp. 224–231. (Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University: Palmerston North, New Zealand)

Statistics NZ (2006) ‘Fertiliser use and the environment.’ (Statistics New Zealand: Wellington, New Zealand)

Vogeler I Blard A Bolan N 2007 Modelling DCD effect on nitrate leaching under controlled conditions. Australian Journal of Soil Research 45 310 317 doi:10.1071/SR06177

Wang FL Alva AK 1996 Leaching of nitrogen from slow-release urea sources in sandy soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal 60 1454 1458

Wang X Below FE 1996 Cytokinins in enhanced growth and tillering of wheat induced by mixed nitrogen source. Crop Science 36 121 126

Williamson JC Jarvis SC 1997 Effect of dicyandiamide on nitrous oxide flux following return of animal excreta to grassland. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 29 1575 1578

Wulf S Maeting M Bergmann S Clemens J 2001 Simultaneous measurement of NH3, N2O and CH4 to assess efficiency of trace gas emission abatement after slurry application. Phyton 41 131 142

Zaman M Di HJ Cameron KC Frampton CM 1999 Gross nitrogen mineralization and nitrification rates and their relationships to enzyme activities and the soil microbial biomass in soils treated with dairy shed effluent and ammonium fertilizer at different water potentials. Biology and Fertility of Soils 29 178 186

Zaman M Nguyen ML Blennerhassett JD 2007 Reducing NH3, N2O and NO3-N losses from a pasture soil with urease or nitrification inhibitors and elemental S-amended nitrogenous fertilizers. Biology and Fertility of Soils 44 693 705 doi:10.1007/s00374-007-0252-4

Zerulla W Barth T Dressel J Erhardt K von Locquenghien KH Pasda G Rädle M Wissemeier A 2001 3,4-Dimethylpyrazole phosphate (DMPP)—a new nitrification inhibitor for agriculture and horticulture. An introduction. Biology and Fertility of Soils 34 79 84 doi:10.1007/s003740100380

Export Citation