Filling the Research Gap - Agricultural Nitrous Oxide Research

​The following projects are being funded under round one and round two of Filling the Research Gap to undertake research into the mitigation and measurement of nitrous oxide emissions from farm systems. Those funded under round one are part of the National Agricultural Nitrous Oxide Research Program, coordinated by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.


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Managing an integrated, data synthesis and modelling research network for reducing nitrous oxide emissions from Australian soils—Grains Research and Development Corporation — Martin Blumenthal.

Funding of $400,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will provide the overall management and reporting linkages between the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and researchers selected through the Filling the Research Gap Program in the delivery of the National Agricultural Nitrous Oxide Research Program.

National coordination of an integrated, data synthesis and modelling network for reducing nitrous oxide emissions from Australian soils—Queensland University of Technology — Peter Grace.

Funding of $1,992,259 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project aims to deliver a suite of mitigation strategies to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from Australian agricultural soils which embrace the synergies of the soil carbon and nitrogen cycles, increase nitrogen use efficiency, long-term productivity and profitability. This will be achieved through complementary laboratory and field studies, data integration, synthesis and modelling under the management of the Grains Research and Development Corporation. The project will close research gaps, improve modelling capability and link relevant rural research, demonstration and extension programs.

Mitigation of indirect greenhouse gases in intensive agricultural production systems with the use of inhibitors—The University of Melbourne — Helen Suter.

Funding of $576,446 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will quantify the mitigation of ammonia volatilisation from nitrogen fertilisers in intensive agricultural production systems (dairy, vegetables) resulting from the use of inhibitors. Micrometeorological techniques will be used to measure ammonia volatilisation. It will also obtain a nitrogen mass balance through the use of 15N labelled fertilisers on collaborative field sites, and to provide data to improve the capability of nitrogen models to simulate ammonia volatilisation. The data on the potential mitigation of ammonia volatilisation by inhibitors and nitrogen mass balance are essential for establishing methodologies to reduce indirect nitrous oxide emissions.

Reducing nitrous oxide emissions from applied nitrogen with nitrification inhibitors: identification of the key drivers of performance—The University of Melbourne — Deli Chen.

Funding of $500,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project aims to quantify reductions in nitrous oxide emissions through use of nitrification inhibitors that have different properties in a variety of climatic conditions and soils. It will determine why the inhibitors work only in some soils and develop algorithms describing inhibitor impact on nitrous oxide emissions for existing models. It will also verify model predictions using field trials. The project will lead to a clear set of soil and environmental factors for determining the potential of nitrification inhibitors for decreasing nitrous oxide emissions across a range of soils and climates while using less nitrogen and maintaining yield.

The use of inhibitors to improve nitrogen cycling and reduce nitrous oxide losses from intensively grazed pasture systems—Department of Primary Industries, Victoria — Kevin Kelly.

Funding of $700,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will address both productivity and emission mitigation implications of inhibitor use in dairy systems in south eastern Australia. The project will evaluate the potential of nitrification inhibitors to reduce direct emissions from urine on pasture. It will examine the impact of feeding the inhibitor dicyandiamide to livestock, and evaluate the mitigation potential of inhibitor coated inorganic fertiliser applied to pastures in dairy systems. It will also evaluate the efficacy of inhibitors with re-use of dairy effluent streams on farm. Project outputs will contribute significantly to the development of methodologies for recognition of emission offsets by the use of inhibitors under the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Does increasing soil carbon in sandy soils increase soil nitrous oxide emissions from grain production?—The University of Western Australia — Louise Barton.

Funding of $707,221 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

The project will investigate if increasing the amount of carbon stored in the soil will alter emissions of nitrous oxide, affect crop production or alter the amount of nitrogen fertiliser needed to produce a profitable crop. Understanding how increasing soil carbon affects soil nitrous oxide emissions and crop production will enable us to assess the suitability of soil carbon sequestration for abating greenhouse gas emissions from land.

Quantifying nitrous oxide losses and nitrogen use efficiency in grains cropping systems on clay soils with contrasting soil carbon status and land management—Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation / University of Queensland — Mike Bell.

Funding of $1,598,997 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

Declining soil organic matter and mineralisable nitrogen reserves characterise grain cropping soils in Queensland. Management responses include increasing fertiliser nitrogen use or increasing soil organic matter and mineralisable nitrogen with pasture leys, manures and more frequent use of leguminous species. The effectiveness of these strategies on sustainably and efficiently meeting system nitrogen demand, maintaining or improving soil carbon stocks and minimising losses of nitrous oxide have not been determined. This project will quantify the effects of these strategies on fertiliser nitrogen requirement, gaseous nitrogen losses and soil carbon status.

An integrated assessment of management practices for reducing nitrous oxide emission and improving nitrogen use efficiency for subtropical dairy systems—Queensland University of Technology — David Rowlings.

Funding of $500,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will determine the fate of applied nitrogen fertiliser to a subtropical dairy production system at the paddock and farm scales and examine the effectiveness of methane, nitrous oxide and nitrogen loss mitigation strategies. This study will produce high quality datasets and whole-farm modelling, costs and/or benefits of mitigation, and practical strategies for developing Carbon Farming Initiative offset methodologies to reduce nitrous oxide and methane emissions whilst maintaining productivity.

The effect of fertiliser nitrogen breakdown inhibitors and nitrogen rate on greenhouse gas emissions, nitrate leaching and nitrogen use efficiency in intensive dairy pasture systems in hot dry climates—NSW Department of Primary Industries — Graham Denney.

Funding of $731,614 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will quantify the effect of fertiliser nitrogen breakdown inhibitors and nitrogen fertiliser rate on greenhouse gas emissions, nitrate leaching and nitrogen use efficiency. Two field experiments will be undertaken using automated chambers to provide high resolution emission data. The research site at Camden, New South Wales is representative of the hot-dry climate of a large part of New South Wales and northern Victorian dairying. This research will generate scientifically defensible data on the effect of inhibitors and applied nitrogen rate on greenhouse gas emissions for hot-dry dairying environments that will contribute to development of offset methodologies for the dairy industry under the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Effective management practices to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from sugarcane soils— Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts — Weijin Wang.

Funding of $1,000,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will identify best management practices for mitigating nitrous oxide emissions in sugarcane production. The research will use state-of-the-art approaches including automatic gas sampling chambers, big manual chambers, stable isotope tracing and modelling to provide robust scientific data and evidence-based advice. Environmentally effective and economically efficient mitigation strategies for different ecological conditions and management regimes will be identified and communicated to stakeholders through strong government and industry participation. These activities will help promote low-emission farming practices in the sugar industry.

Options for reducing nitrous oxide emissions from the New South Wales dryland grains industry—NSW Department of Primary Industries — Graeme Schwenke.

Funding of $1,603,371 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will reduce nitrous oxide emissions from dry land grains cropping in northern and southern New South Wales through improving the nitrogen use efficiency of applied nitrogenous fertiliser, substituting fertiliser nitrogen with legume-derived nitrogen and modification to soil tillage. Treatments will include split application of fertiliser nitrogen, fertiliser containing inhibitors, and tillage by rotation practices. Measurements of nitrous oxide will be field based, primarily using automated greenhouse gas sampling chambers. Results will be modelled to improve capability for predicting nitrous oxide emissions from dry land cropping. Project outputs will contribute to the development of Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies for more efficient nitrogen fertiliser use.

Improving nitrous oxide abatement in high rainfall cropping systems—Department of Primary Industries, Victoria — Rob Harris.

Funding of $1,415,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will improve our understanding of the interactions between management, soil carbon and nitrogen and their contribution to productivity and nitrous oxide emissions. Management strategies that manipulate soil carbon to reduce nitrous oxide whilst delivering adequate nitrogen to meet crop demand following pasture will be assessed. Crop response to different nitrogen fertiliser management strategies (including inhibitors) and nitrous oxide emissions will be measured across a range of soils. This knowledge will facilitate the development of new Carbon Farming Initiative offset methodologies that help landholders simultaneously achieve greater nitrogen fertiliser use efficiencies and reduced nitrous oxide emissions in high rainfall environments.

Assessing opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from irrigated broad-acre cropping systems in the southern Murray-Darling Basin—CSIRO — Wendy Quayle.

Funding of $750,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will quantify year-round greenhouse gas, water and nutrient fluxes in irrigated, broad-acre cropping systems of the southern Murray-Darling Basin. Current and emerging irrigation, fertiliser and stubble management practices with and without chemical inhibitors to mitigate greenhouse gas emission from these rotations will be investigated. Fluxes will be monitored using automated chambers over crops in weighing lysimeters and manual chambers and eddy covariance methods at field sites. The datasets will be used to calibrate and validate models. The result will be a framework for predicting greenhouse gas emissions in irrigated broad-acre cultivation for use in mitigation strategy development and inventory accounting.

Improved carbon and greenhouse gas outcomes through better understanding and management of soils and plant inputs at the farm scale—The University of Sydney — Mark Adams.

Funding of $700,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will develop methodologies for auditable quantification of carbon-equivalent benefits of management practices. Practices will include tillage and incorporation of legumes in crop rotations and pastures, with emphasis on the effects of management on soil structure and chemistry of soil organic matter. Methodologies include farm- or paddock-scale (flux) measures of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide as well as soil carbon sequestration. Outcomes of this phase of research will be incorporated into newly developed models that include temperature and moisture regimes determined using remote sensing. Final outcomes will be predictive tools that can be applied to the major cropping and grazing regions of New South Wales.

Advanced process level understanding of factors controlling gaseous nitrogen partitioning to reduce nitrous oxide losses from Australian agricultural soils—Queensland University of Technology — Clemens Scheer.

Funding of $498,761 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will improve the level of understanding of the interaction of the carbon and nitrogen cycles on nitrous oxide emissions, specifically the variation in the nitrous oxide to nitrogen ratio during emissions events. The partitioning between nitrous oxide and nitrogen gas emissions is influenced by soil moisture, carbon and nitrogen availability, and is a major area of uncertainty when predicting nitrous oxide emissions in response to management. Models are absolutely critical for the development and verification of practical abatement strategies to reduce nitrous oxide emissions under the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Characterising nitrous oxide emissions from nitrification—CSIRO — Ryan Farquharson.

Funding of $144,398 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This project will improve understanding and modelling of nitrous oxide emissions from nitrification by measuring potential nitrification rates and nitrous oxide emissions in laboratory incubations of a range of soils from various production systems. The assumption that a constant proportion of nitrified nitrogen is emitted as nitrous oxide will be tested and updated model algorithms will be provided. This will allow improvement of models that in future may underpin the development and assessment of mitigation strategies.

Development of a low-emission nitrogen fertiliser based on slow release of ammonium from clay-modified activated charcoal—The University of Newcastle — Scott Donne.

Funding of $300,000 ex GST (funded under round one from June 2012 to June 2015)

This is a one-year proof of concept project to further develop a novel nitrogen fertiliser that limits availability of substrate for denitrification. High emission agro-climatic regions are typified by high soil carbon and nitrogen input in high rainfall or irrigated zones (e.g. dairy, sugarcane, subtropical horticulture). By reducing the rate of nitrogen release to plants, via controlled desorption of ammonium from clay-modified activated carbon, the substrate for denitrification can be limited without reducing crop productivity. The fertiliser will be tested in controlled and field conditions, and data made available for Carbon Farming Initiative methodology development.

Mitigation of nitrous oxide emissions in the national vegetable industry—La Trobe University.

Funding of $1,811,361 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to June 2016)

This project is investigating options to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions in the national vegetable industry by assessing new fertiliser technologies and management strategies which have potential to increase nitrogen use efficiency. Comparisons will be made with benchmark values measured on current vegetable cropping systems.

A simple indicator of potential nitrous oxide loss from agricultural soils—Queensland University of Technology.

Funding of $485,920 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to June 2016)

The project is quantifying the relationship between active carbon and potential nitrous oxide loss in a laboratory situation. A rapid in-field soil test will be developed to assess the suitability of soil type for nitrous oxide reducing practices in the field.

Reducing nitrous oxide emissions in key perennial tree crop industries—University of Tasmania.

Funding of $612,961 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to June 2016)

This project is investigating ways of reducing nitrous oxide emissions in key perennial tree crop industries in cool and temperate climates of southern Australia. Products and practices most likely to reduce nitrous oxide losses will be identified, and findings will allow horticultural producers to establish baseline data for greenhouse gas emissions and improve data on emissions factors.

Low-emission nitrogen fertilisers based on clay-modified activated charcoal—The University of Newcastle.

Funding of $925,045 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to June 2016)

This project is investigating the low emission potential of nitrogen fertilisers based on clay-modified activated charcoal. It is focusing on reducing emissions of nitrous oxide from fertiliser application in high-emission agro-climatic zones by developing new fertiliser technology and practices. It is also examining the important relationship between nitrogen and carbon in the production of nitrous oxide.

Can advances in mid-term weather forecasts reduce emissions from nitrogen fertiliser?—Queensland University of Technology.

Funding of $652,144 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to July 2016)

This project is investigating whether advances in mid-term weather forecasts can better inform farm management practices that will reduce emissions from nitrogen fertiliser. The project is also assessing how different fertiliser regimes can be used to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions under forecast scenarios.

Indirect emissions of nitrous oxide from broad-acre irrigated agriculture—Cotton Research and Development Corporation.

Funding of $677,884 ex GST (funded under round two from July 2013 to July 2016)

This project is measuring the indirect emissions of nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide from the surface waters of each of the major water supply components of an irrigated cotton farm. The project will consider the effects of water management and nitrogen application rates on emissions and will also investigate indirect nitrous oxide losses to deep groundwater.