Transcript of the Nitrous Oxide Research Program (NORP), Southern

​This eight minute video was produced to communicate the outcomes of the Climate Change Research Program from the Nitrous Oxide Research Program (NORP) in Southern Australia. It provides information to help land managers understand possible ways they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop new ways to measure and manage nitrous oxide.  This research has been funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to help prepare Australia’s primary industries for climate change and build the resilience of Australia’s agricultural sector.

Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry
Transcript – NORP South (Final) – Nitrous Oxide Emissions: no longer such a mystery.

13 June 2012


  1. Voice Over:
    Results three years into a national research program are not only quantifying Australia’s nitrous oxide emissions, but also helping farmers to develop new ways to manage the gas.

    Professor Peter Grace who heads the Australian Government’s Australia’s Farming Future Nitrous Oxide Research Program (NORP) said that more than half of nitrous oxide emissions come from human activities, with the majority of these resulting from agriculture.

    Pie Chart graphic:
    Total Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Emissions in Australia
    6% Industrial process
    2% Waste
    15% Transport
    49% Stationary energy
    6% Land use change and forestry
    18% Agriculture
    4% fugitive emissions

    Professor Peter Grace, Institute for Sustainable Resources, Queensland University of Technology (QUT):
    Nitrous oxide has a global warming potential three hundred times that of carbon dioxide. So it is a very potent greenhouse gas.

  2. Voice Over:
    While traditional emissions research has focussed on soil carbon and carbon dioxide, Professor Grace said research data regarding Australian Nitrous Oxide soil emissions from Australian soils is limited, and that’s why the NORP is so important.

    Professor Peter Grace, Institute for Sustainable Resources, QUT:
    What we wish to achieve is, to develop simple tools and some practical guidelines for growers to reduce their nitrous oxide emissions, but at the same time increase their nitrogen use efficiency and productivity.
    We can’t make generalised management strategies that will work for everyone. That is why we have gone into six areas in the first instance and hope to go into more in the future to get more exact information.

  3. Voice Over:
    These six core field sites include Mackay and Kingsthorpe in Queensland, Tamworth in New South Wales, Hamilton and Terang in Victoria and at Wongan Hills in Western Australia.

    Graphic: Map of Australia
    NORP core field sites:
    • Mackay, QLD
    • Kingsthorpe, QLD
    • Tamworth, NSW
    • Hamilton, VIC
    • Terang, VIC
    • Wongan Hills, WA

    Professor Peter Grace, Institute for Sustainable Resources, QUT:
    In the majority of cases we feel that too much fertiliser is being applied at any time.
    It’s efficiency can be greatly increased by better management of the fertiliser, the potential use of inhibitors, we also look at other management practices that growers have a direct hand on.

  4. Voice Over:
    The main drivers of nitrous oxide emissions from Australian agricultural soils are
    • soil carbon content
    • nitrogen inputs
    • soil moisture content and
    • temperature
  5. Voice Over:
    Associate Professor Richard Eckard, director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre explains:

    Associate Professor Richard Eckard, Director, Primary Industries Climate Challenge Centre:
    Nitrous oxide emissions are heavily influenced by the soil-water content, that’s the degree of oxygen in the soil, by the temperature, so during the winter period here in southern Victoria nitrous oxide is higher because the soils tend to be more saturated but they are colder, so it does reduce the amount of nitrous oxide being lost.

    Across different agricultural enterprises you’ll find very large differences.
    What we find in dairy systems and sugarcane systems is very large fluxes of nitrous oxide whereas in some of the extensive grain production systems and some of the cotton systems that are in lower rainfall regions or at lower rates of nitrogen, the emissions of nitrous oxide are much lower.

    Almost half of the emissions of nitrous oxide from intensive grazing systems are sourced from urinary sources. This is why this research has focussed on mechanisms to improve the efficiency of urinary nitrogen.

  6. Voice Over:
    At Terang in Victoia, NORP researchers have discovered that applying the chemical dicyandiamide (DCD) to pasture can almost halve the rate of nitrous oxide emissions in high-rainfall dairy systems. Kevin Kelly, senior research scientist (Agronomy) with DPI Victoria said while dairy farmers are aware they have a nitrous oxide emission issue, it isn’t high on their agenda.

    Mr Kevin Kelly, Senior Research Scientist, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria:
    Dairy farmers are well aware that they do have greenhouse gas losses on their farm, be they methane or nitrous oxide. They are often quite surprised when they find that nitrous oxide losses, when you compare them on carbon equivalents, maybe 15 to 25% of their total greenhouse loss. And then, when you turn around and say, okay, half of that is probably coming from urine deposited by your cows, that's when their ears start to prick up. So what were trying to do is see whether inhibitors applied to pastures can reduce nitrous oxide emissions and improve nitrogen cycling.

  7. Voice Over:
    Senior Research Scientist Graeme Ward of DPI Victoria explains one of the unique challenges of the project.

    Mr Graeme Ward, Senior Research Scientist, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria:          
    Well, one of the requirements of the project is that we use real cow urine that is collected on the farm and we found through a bit of trial and error, that the easiest way was at milking while the cows are being milked. We are there with buckets collecting cows when they just naturally urinate.

    Mr Kevin Kelly, Senior Research Scientist, DPI Victoria:
    Once we've collected the urine and we know what nitrogen content it is, we’ll apply that at a known rate which is equivalent to what might happen in the field at a urine patch level. So we’ll apply that to this sort of chamber, this chamber base. Within these we measure soil water in the surface because it's one of the drivers of nitrous oxide production and soil temperature. When it’s drawing gas out of one of these chambers, the lids on top will close, when those lids close we look at the build up of the concentration of the gas in there and from that we can calculate a flux.

  8. Voice Over:
    While DCD has been around for the past 50 years, it has only been in the past decade that scientists have been looking at its potential value in reducing nitrous oxide emissions.

    Mr Kevin Kelly, Senior Research Scientist, DPI Victoria:
    To date we been applying mostly winter based treatments with the inhibitor because that’s the time where it will have its highest efficacy. We’re seeing reductions of 35 to 45 % for urine that went on at the same time as the DCD or up to a month later.

  9. Voice Over:
    Mr Kelly said the experiments have also looked at whether applying DCD could have a beneficial effect on pasture production.

    Mr Kevin Kelly, Senior Research Scientist, DPI Victoria:
    Unfortunately we haven't been able to show major increases in pasture production associated with the use of the inhibitor. They've been, in fact, quite low.

  10. Voice Over:
    Although DCD has been proven to reduce nitrous oxide emissions, there are several drawbacks to the chemical including the fact that it isn’t very soluble and requires to be sprayed out in high levels of water.

    Mr Kevin Kelly, Senior Research Scientist, DPI Victoria:
    In terms of the application of DCD unless it's in a different formula to what we can currently buy in Australia we would have issues associated with the volume of water needed to get it to dissolve.

  11. Voice Over:
    Temperature also plays a role in the efficacy of DCD.

    Mr Kevin Kelly, Senior Research Scientist, DPI Victoria:
    10 or 15° and below is around it’s optimum for maintaining its efficacy. So bearing that in mind where we have tried this in northern Victoria in irrigated conditions very short lived - at 45 to 60 days, whereas down here in southern Victoria up to 90 days we’re seeing an impact.

    Agriculture is seeing the need to be able to reduce its greenhouse gases and this may be the sort of research that may lead us to one way in animal production systems where we can have a direct impact on nitrous oxide emissions at a farm level.

    Professor Peter Grace, Institute for Sustainable Resources, QUT:
    The overall benefit of this program will be growers will have a clearer picture of how they manage their resources on-farm. They’ll be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially gain some credit through carbon farming initiatives, but more importantly they’ll have a better handle on resource use efficiency and that is the key to profitability.

  12. Voice Over:
    The Climate Change Research Program funds research projects and on-farm demonstrations to help prepare Australia’s primary industries for climate change and build the resilience of Australia’s agricultural sector into the future.

    The Nitrous Oxide Research Program is supported by funding and in-kind support from the following partners:

    Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)
    Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
    Sugar Research and Development Corporation (SRDC)
    Victorian Department of Primary Industries (VIC DPI)
    University of Western Australia (UWA)
    Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA)
    Dairy Australia
    University of Melbourne
    Incitec Pivot Fertilisers Pty
    Cotton Catchment Communities CRC

    Thank you to the following participants of this video:

    Professor Peter Grace – QUT
    Associate Professor Richard Eckard – Uni of Melbourne
    Mr Kevin Kelly – VIC DPI
    Mr Graeme Ward – VIC DPI


Last reviewed: 7 October 2020
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